Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has been used as a folk remedy for various ailments for many years, and also as a beauty treatment. Little scientific research has been carried out on the uses of apple cider vinegar – however, most of the problems it is used to treat are minor, and you are unlikely to suffer any ill-effect by at least trying apple cider vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar is said to be effective against dandruff. Vinegar should be applied straight to the scalp and massaged into the roots, before being left for an hour and then rinsed out. An alternative treatment is to mix equal amounts of vinegar and water and apply it to the scalp, and then leave it to dry – although this method means that you will smell of vinegar! In either case, the theory is that the vinegar will lower the pH of the scalp – or increase the acid present on the skin – and thus reduce dandruff.

Some women believe that apple cider vinegar can be used in a douche to treat vaginal thrush – the theory is that the acid in the vinegar kills the bacterium that produces the itchy discharge. Conversely, other women argue that apple cider vinegar can actually make the condition worse – live yoghurt may be a more reliable traditional remedy.

Apple cider vinegar is also meant to help sunburn. The person suffering from burns should sit in a bath with around a cupful of vinegar diluted within the water. Alternatively, apple cider vinegar can be applied to the burned area as a compress.

Skin complaints have traditionally been treated with apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar can be mixed in equal measures with water, and daubed on the face as a toner. This method is also believed to cure and reduce acne, particularly when suffered by teenagers. Apple cider vinegar is also believed to assist in the treatment of warts. Another folk remedy is to apply apple cider vinegar to the wart for a compress, or soak the wart in apple cider vinegar for fifteen minutes every day, until it disappears. Apple cider vinegar is also believed to cause cellulite and age spots to become less noticeable or disappear.

Some people believe apple cider vinegar promotes health loss by increasing the metabolism, and try to consume a teaspoon diluted in a glass of water on a daily basis. A more practical – and palatable – way to consume it is as part of a salad dressing. Simply toss a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar – and, if wishes, a small amount of olive oil and garlic – with a green salad. Whether or not apple cider vinegar promotes weight loss or not, the salad will be a delicious low calorie accompaniment to grilled chicken.

Apple cider vinegar is also thought to reduce stomach upsets and calm diarrhoea – try a small teaspoon the next time your stomach is playing up, to see if it works.

Apple cider vinegar is not associated with any health risks, and does not appear to have any side effects. The only exception is that consuming a great deal of apple cider vinegar may discolor your teeth – try diluting it with water to prevent this happening.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Asparagus is a long, thin green vegetable, about the length of a finger. The knobbly tips are the best-tasting part of the plant – some people discard the other ends, which can become woody. It can be boiled, but also roasted, griddled or fried with olive oil and butter, and goes particularly well with salmon and new potatoes. It tastes delicious, but how does it benefit your body?

One of the main benefits of asparagus is that it’s great when detoxing. It is low in calories, which is perfect if the aim of your detox is to lose some weight. It is also a very good source of vitamin E, which promotes skin regeneration, and fibre, which helps your body process toxicants you may have previously consumed; it is also low in sodium. In short, asparagus is one of nature’s detox foods.

Asparagus, like other green vegetables, has high levels of folates. These are particularly vital for women who are trying to conceive or who are pregnant. Eating folates reduces the risk of birth defects and spina bifida, as well as reducing the likelihood of having a premature birth. Although pregnant women are well advised to take a folic acid supplements, eating plenty of asparagus is a good way to up your folate intake. Asparagus is also said to increase milk flow in nursing mothers, and act to reduce cramps in women who are pre-menstrual. There’s also a bizarre urban myth in circulation that eating asparagus can cause a false positive on a pregnancy test – this is untrue.

Since ancient times, asparagus has also been believed to be an aphrodisiac – perhaps because of its phallic appearance! Although its unlikely to have an instant effect, asparagus is full of potassium, vitamins and other minerals which are essential for a healthy sex life. Although asparagus is traditionally linked to the male libido, and in some cultures was given to the bridegroom ahead of his wedding night, many of its vitamins are also essential to women.

Although asparagus is noted for causing strange-smelling urine, it actually does more good than harm to your body’s ability to process liquids. Asparagus is excellent at preventing urinary tract infections. It also acts to reduce the risk of kidney stones and problems with the bladder, and generally helps to flush out toxicants from your body

Some men believe that asparagus can halt their hair loss – or at least reduce the speed at which they become bald. There’s very little scientific research to support this. However, the folates, sulphurs and other vitamins which cause the more established benefits of asparagus are also linked to healthy hair growth. At the very least, it’s unlikely to be harmful to your locks!

Asparagus can be found in most supermarkets, and usually comes into season in late spring or early summer. It is also readily available canned or in olive oil. However, it’s said to be particularly healthy when the raw fruit is juiced and consumed either on its own or as part of a smoothie.

Health Benefits of Blueberries

Blueberries are a tasty addition to any breakfast cereal, and a handful at the end of any meal will go down a treat. They’re also a popular addition to muffins and other baking products, and go well in smoothies. They’re easy to store, too – freezing blueberries has no effect on many of the benefits you get from consuming them. These benefits are as follows:

Blueberries are beneficial to type 2 diabetes patients, as they help with regulating the level of sugar present in the blood. If you are on diabetes medication, speak to your doctor about blueberries before making any changes to your maintenance regime.

Studies have shown that, in older adults, blueberries can improve and retain the condition of the brain. A regular consumption of blueberries, either whole or juiced, will help senior citizens improve their memory and cognitive functions.

Blueberries are incredibly good for your cardiovascular system.  The sheer number of antioxidants found in blueberries appears to be related to their brightly colored hue. This means that they’re good for lowering the risk of serious conditions, including heart diseases, strokes, and some forms of cancer, as they reduce harmful cholesterol found in your body and boost ‘good’ cholesterol. Blueberries are also very good for repairing and retaining muscle quality. Studies have shown that blueberries are excellent for maintaining blood pressure at healthy levels, for both genders and at all ages. All in all, they are one of the best foods that anyone can eat to maintain a healthy heart.

These magic berries are excellent news for your eyes too. Their antioxidant content, as well as protecting your heart, also protects your retina from the stress and damage of bright light, including sunlight. A regular intake of blueberries will help keep your eyes safe from oxygen damage.

Blueberries help to guard against harmful free radicals, which are found in the environment and in substances like caffeine. Among other things, free radicals can age your skin – so blueberries are good for your beauty regime as well as your health.

Blueberries are also also full of fibre, like most whole foods. Fibre keeps your digestive system functioning well, and keeps you regular! A good fibre intake is essential to avoid constipation, and also more serious diseases like bowel cancer. If bowel cancer is a concern, then bear in mind that some of the antioxidants in blueberries are particularly healthy for the colon, which means that blueberries pack a double whammy in reducing your risk of developing this condition.

Blueberries are grown commercially and available from supermarkets all year round, although become particularly prevalent in summer. To get the maximum benefits from blueberries, you should eat them raw. However, although the look very  appealing sitting on the shelf, bear most blueberries have been grown using pesticides. You shouldn’t eat them straight out of the packet, but should wash them when you get home, to make sure that you’re not inadvertently consuming any harmful chemicals. Organic blueberries are particularly healthy because they’re grown without any chemicals. Keen gardeners may also be interested in growing their own – blueberries were originally found in North America, but are now grown all over the world.

Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is a type of chili pepper. It is named after a city in French Guiana, and is also sometimes called the red pepper or cow-horn pepper. It is found in Tex Mex, Mexica, Szechuan and Cajun food. Fresh chillies can be sliced and added to dishes, although cayenne is most-often found in powdered form. This has an attractive red color, and is sometimes sprinkled on top of food as much for aesthetic reasons as for its flavor.

Cayenne’s main marketed health benefit is that it stimulates blood circulation. This can reduce the risk of varicose veins, promote healing in the body, and encourage the blood supply to rid itself of toxins. Cayenne is said to be the most powerful herb or spice available over the counter when it comes to increasing circulation. And the hotter the variety you consume is, the greater the effect on your circulation.

Cayenne pepper can help assist with peristalsis, the muscular mechanism that squeezes food along the gut. This means that its excellent if you are constipated. Equally, if you’ve got a slightly dodgy stomach, cayenne pepper and other hot spices have been known to cause diarrhoea. If you have IBS or are recovering from a bout of diarrhoea and vomiting, cayenne may be best avoided.

Cayenne pepper stimulates the metabolism too. It is sometimes used as part of detox and weight loss program for this reason – however, you are highly unlikely to lose weight purely by consuming more cayenne pepper.

The major side effect of cayenne is that it is an irritant. If you are handling fresh cayenne peppers or the dried powder, be aware that your skin can become burnt and itchy for several hours afterwards, and there is very little you can do apart from wait for the inflammation to subside. Be particularly careful not to rub your eyes or scratch any other sensitive parts of your body after handling cayenne pepper. As with any other chili, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves if you have to chop or otherwise handle large amounts.

The irritant side effect of cayenne is sometimes recommended as a counter to the effects of arthritis. However, it seems unlikely that this would do much good, apart from replacing one form of discomfort with another.

If consumed in large quantities, cayenne pepper can contribute towards stomach ulcers forming. If you have, or suspect you have, a stomach ulcer, then you should stop taking cayenne pepper until you have spoken to your doctor about how your ulcer will be treated and whether or not cayenne is likely to do any harm. In most circumstances, however, cayenne is perfectly fine to eat, and you would have to consume enormous quantities for the spice to do you any harm.

Cayenne pepper can be found at most supermarkets. It can be cheaper to buy it from Asian food stores, however.

Health Benefits of Celery

The humble celery is often used to provide a base flavor in sauces, soups and stews – it’s a workaday vegetable that most people would probably not associate with trendy superfoods. But celery has a surprising number of health benefits.

Celery, like black coffee and a handful of other foods, has a negative number of calories when consumed. This is because the energy that is used to process celery through your body is actually greater than the energy gained from doing so. Celery is therefore a great choice to tuck into if you’re on a diet. Although you’d have to eat vast quantities to actually burn significant amounts of energy through celery consumption alone, it will make you feel full with little or no gain in weight. If celery by itself is a little too austere, then try it with tzitziki or any other other dip that can be based on low-fat yogurt.

Celery is a diurectic – in other words, it encourages your body to produce a lot of urine. This can be used if you have a problem with fluid retention, which are caused by pre-menstrual tension or some drugs which alter your body’s natural hormones. This property of celery can also be utilised when detoxing, as it encourages your body to flush itself of toxins. Celery also reduces the likelihood of developing kidney stones, urinary tract infections and other common problems associated with the urinary system.

Like many vegetables, the consumption of celery is said to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers developing within the body. Celery has high levels of vitamins and minerals, which lower cholesterol and guarg against various cancers, particularly those affecting the bowl and gut. If you are concerned about developing cancer, then ask your doctor for more advice.

If you suffer from constipation, then it will be useful to know that celery is packed with fibre, which encourages food and waste to be processed through your body. This adds to its effect in guarding against cancers of the bowel and other parts of the digestive system

Celery is full of naturally-occurring chemicals called ‘coumarin compounds’. Their main role in the body is to regulate blood pressure – so celery may be useful in reducing high blood pressure. It also may be useful it reducing the likelihood and severity of migraines. Scientific research in this area is limited, however, but it may be worth checking the health benefits of celery with your doctor if you have problems with either of these conditions.

Celery is also rich in natural sodium. Although it will not cause any health risks for those who have to stick to a low-sodium diet, this property of celery give the vegetable its distinctive taste. Celery can therefore be added to dishes to impart flavor, and thus reduce the amount of additional salt that needs to be included.

If you want to up your vitamin C consumption, then celery has plenty of the stuff. Vitamin C is considered essential to boosting the immune system and reducing the likelihood of catching colds and other common infections and illnesses.

Celery can be found in almost any supermarket or greengrocer. Although its usually cooked before consumption, it can also be consumed raw or juiced as part of a smoothie. Eating it without cooking it is said to retain much more of the vitamins contained in the vegetable than including it in soups or stews.

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The tropical coconut tree, native to tropical climates the world over, has been a diet staple in equatorial areas for hundreds of years. In fact, many of these cultures – especially those in South Asia – get most of their dietary saturated fat from coconut oil. This includes nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. The reason coconut oil is so prevalent, aside from its availability, is its usefulness in cooking. Because coconut oil is very stable under high temperatures, it is perfect for the purposes of frying. Additionally, this high stability helps coconut oil to keep fresh for a longer duration than other oils.

In the West, coconut oil isn’t typically seen as a health food. It has a high concentration of saturated fat, which has been linked to increased LDL (or “bad cholesterol”) levels and an increased risk for heart disease. As a result, the governments of many countries have in fact warned their citizens against consuming too much of it. But, in the realm of nutrition, there are often trade-offs that one wouldn’t necessarily suspect. A respectable amount of medical evidence points to certain health benefits of coconut oil when consumed in moderation.

Coconut Oil Might Be a Better Saturated Fat Choice Than Other Oils

It’s undeniable that just about any oil stable enough to use for frying is high in saturated fat. And while the intake of this substance should definitely be limited, medical studies indicate that not all saturated fat is necessarily created equal. Different oils, it seems, may have different effects on the body when consumed. In testing performed in 2009, women with “abdominal obesity” were observed. One group was given a diet that included a 30mL serving of soybean oil (another popular frying oil), while the other was given the same diet with a 30mL serving of coconut oil. The women whose diets were supplemented with soybean oil saw an increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and a decrease in HDL (good cholesterol) despite a steady diet and 50 minutes of light exercise daily. The women who ingested coconut oil did not experience these same negative effects on cholesterol. The conclusion, albeit preliminary, seems to suggest that coconut oil may not have the same drawbacks as other dietary forms of saturated fats. In fact, the researchers concluded that coconut oil may actually help in the fight against obesity.

It is important to note that coconut oil, in this study, was compared only to other sources of saturated fat. Healthier oils, such as olive oil, contain mostly unsaturated fat – which is without a doubt safer to consume in moderate amounts. The role of coconut oil in cholesterol and fat reduction is solely seen as a supplemental saturated fat source, which should be restricted in a healthy diet. So, while coconut oil is good as a substitute for things fried, for instance, in soybean oil, it should not be used in place of unsaturated fats.

Non-Dietary Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The stability of coconut oil and its resistance to turning rancid isn’t just effective for storage purposes. A well-known health benefit of this coconut oil property is that it can be used topically as a treatment for certain skin conditions. Lipids, because they repel water (or are hydrophobic) can effectively seal in moisture in the skin. Therefore, conditions whose symptoms include excessively dry skin might actually be soothed with the occasional application of coconut oil.

A 2004 medical study was conducted on the skin condition Xerosis, which is identified by scaly skin, severe itchiness, and excessive dryness. In the study, coconut oil was used as a treatment with surprisingly effective results. Test subjects with the condition were directed to use coconut oil on affected areas for a two week period. At the end of the two weeks, effects including an increase in skin moisture content and better skin lipid levels were observed. In addition, none of the subjects experienced any adverse side-effects from the application of coconut oil. Though the study was limited (there were only 34 subjects) the sample did seem to indicate that there are legitimate health benefits of coconut oil when applied on dry skin.

In more cosmetic terms, these effects of coconut oil application also may prove useful for hair care. In situations where one is experiencing dry scalp, dry hair, and dandruff, the use of coconut oil to treat hair after washing may increase overall moisture retention, which in turn keeps the hair and scalp healthier. With the uptick in popularity of more natural personal care products, one can simply look at the labels of shampoo and hair care products to see if coconut oil is included in their ingredients list.

Coconut Oil and Lauric Acid

In cultures where coconut oil is harvested and consumed at relatively high rates, it is appreciated for its pathogen fighting properties. The most widely accepted explanation for this is the oil’s high concentration of lauric acid. Chemically, it is a fatty acid that has both antibacterial and antiviral properties, which works in the body when consumed. While its consumption won’t necessarily cure a bacterial or viral infection, it is generally that lauric acid can help the immune system in working against the growth, multiplication, and spread of these pathogens. As previously mentioned, it is essential to remember coconut oil’s high saturated fat content. When sick, coconut oil is useful is small amounts, and should never be consumed liberally in any situation.

Despite its reputation for “bad” fats, coconut oil, when consumed in moderation, does actually have some significant health benefits. Though no saturated fat sources are particularly beneficial to the cardiovascular system, it seems that coconut oil is the lesser of the many evils when considering substances used to fry food. Even outside of the kitchen, this tropical plant’s oil can be quite useful to those suffering from conditions that involve dry skin. So, before writing off coconut oil as wholly unhealthy and terrible for consumption, consider the health benefits it does have to offer. You might be surprised at just how advantageous its use, in moderation, can be.

Health Benefits of Coriander Seeds

Coriander seeds, which are called cilantro seeds in some parts of the world, are very different from the plant’s pungent leaves. Many people who find the leaves unpalatable can happily consume sauces containing the seeds, which are one of the most-used spices in Indian curry powder. They are also used in many other cuisines to add a spicy and fragrant taste to dishes. They have many health benefits as well as culinary uses. Some of these are as follows:
Coriander has a historical role in treating diabetes, and its believed that the plant’s natural properties help to regulate the body’s insulin supply. At the moment, scientific research into the area is in its infancy – however, initial studies on mice support the notion that coriander can reduce blood sugar level. However, diabetics should check with their doctor and not rely on coriander seeds instead of their prescribed medication.

Coriander is also very good for various stomach problems. The high fibre content of the spice means that it helps with constipation – for best effect, try consuming a lentil curry with plenty of coriander in the spice base. It is also a useful ingredient to use against flatulence. Coriander can also settle your stomach, and helps to prevent indigestion. Conversely, coriander may also be able to reduce the likelihood of diarrhoea and food poisoning.
High cholesterol levels are also said to be improved by the consumption of coriander seeds, as they are believed boost the production of ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce the production of ‘bad’ cholesterol. These properties mean that coriander can help to guard against cancer and heart disease. Preliminary research suggests that coriander may be of particular use against colon cancer, although scientific research in this area is limited.

Another way that coriander can be used to reduce the risk of heart disease is through its flavour. Foods flavoured with coriander and other spices are more satisfying than bland food – where you be be tempted to add more oil or fat to make it taste better. Increasing the spice content of a dish means that you have to add relatively little fat to enjoy a full flavoured meal. While this won’t work with your average takeaway curry, it is true that you can make very appetising and tasty meals using spices and very little fat.

Some ancient societies, including ancient Greeks, believed that coriander acts as an aphrodisiac, and added it to wine to help things along later in the evening! There’s little scientific evidence to whether or not this works. It’s worth a try – although coriander seeds may be more palatable as an ingredient in mulled wine, rather than the traditional Greek method of adding it to white wine.

Coriander seeds are traditionally used to combat bad breath. If you have halitosis then a visit to your dentist is a good idea to check for underlying causes, but try chewing on a small number of coriander seeds to cover the worst of the symptom.

Coriander seeds are also said to reduce the impact of heavy menstrual periods. Try boiling a couple of teaspoons of coriander in water, straining the water, adding sugar and then drinking the resulting mixture in the run up to your period to see if it works.

The essential oils and acids contained in coriander seeds are said to be at the heart of many of its health benefits, and also are the source of coriander’s distinctive flavour. To release the essential oils, which are very aromatic, try toasting a small amount of coriander seeds in a dry frying pan. Remove the seeds from the heat after their aroma begins to release, but before they burn – you’ll need to keep a close eye on them.

In addition to their use as a base for curries and marinades, coriander seeds can also be toasted and used in salads. Coriander seeds are found everywhere, and you’ll find both ground and whole spices in your local supermarket . However, storing them as whole seeds means that the essential oils, which are crucial for many health benefits, will be better preserved. If you buy whole seeds, you are likely to need a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar to grind the spices as needed. Coriander seeds are sold as in Asian food shops as ’dhania’, or a similarly spelled variant thereof.