Cucumbers are one of those “go to” salad ingredients that everyone enjoys. They are refreshing to eat and will help rehydrate the body. They have good amounts of vitamin K, C, B, manganese, potassium and copper. Below I have put together a list of their main benefits and why you should eat them on a regular basis.
Pinky And The Brains
One of the main benefits of cucumbers is that they contain antioxidants called fisteins. Fisteins are vitally important for brain health as they prevent inflammation. It is also great for improving memory and preventing damage to nerves in the brain, one of the leading causes of degenerative diseases like alzheimer’s.
As well as fisteins, cucumbers are packed full of other essential antioxidants incusing beta-carotene and vitamin C. Flavonoids are also abundant in the form of kaempferol, apigentin, luteolin and quercetin. Quercetin is great for people who have hay-fever and other allergies as it helps prevent histamine being released in the body, making it a great natural antihistamine. Kaempferol has been shown to protect you from the two leading causes of death (cancer and heart disease).
They Help Prevent Inflammation
A really cool thing about cucumbers is that they target enzymes that cause inflammation in the body after they have carried out their roles. This is particularly great if you are already suffering from inflammatory diseases, which most people are!
They Help Prevent Cancer
Cucumbers are packed with lignans, a type of polyphenol (or an antioxidant). Many leading studies have demonstrated that people who regularly consume foods that contain lignans had a much lower risk of developing prostate, breast and ovarian cancers. Cucumbers are also loaded with cucurbitacins, a chemical compound contained in plants that also helps ward of cancer growth.
To have a healthy gut you need to provide it with an abundant supply of fibre and water. Cucumbers provide a rich source of both. The water helps hydrate the digestive tract and the fibre adds bulk to your stools and speeds up transit times. They are also great for relieving the symptoms associated with IBS and acid reflux.
Avoid Dog Breath
If you are struggling with bad breath then it is probably caused by a poor diet. Having said that, some people are often afflicted with bad breath as a result of conditions such as tonsil stones. Cucumbers can help reduce the odours produced by bacteria. Simply place a slice of cucumber in your mouth and swish it around while it dissolves. By doing this it will help remove some of those unwanted odours!
Avoid The Stress
People who have low levels of certain B vitamins are generally more prone to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and stress. Cucumbers contain a good amount of B1, B5 and B7 that will help reduce some of the symptoms associated with these conditions.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
There are basically no calories in cucumbers. But their fibre content will make you feel fuller for longer, making them a great snaking food throughout the day. Cucumbers also break down into a gel-like texture as the body digests them. This texture slows down the digestive process slightly, making your feel fuller for longer.
A Healthy Heart
To maintain a healthy heart function you need a diet rich in potassium. Potassium helps maintain a regular beat as well as maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Potassium is also an electrolyte and interacts and regulates sodium in the body. This process is essential for a healthy heart contractions and overall heart health.
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1. Lost your appetite recently? Eat some fresh ginger on an empty stomach before a meal and it will stir up your appetite. Particularly effective if you have recently been unwell and have a very poor appetite.
2. Ginger has been shown in many studies to assist the absorption of many essential nutrients.
3. It keeps the lymphatic system moving and prevents your glands becoming clogged.
4. Not a keen flier? Chew on a cube of ginger and it will take away some of that nausea.
5. Regular ginger consumption has been shown to improve the symptoms of IBS and flatulence.
6. Always have a gurgling stomach? Then chew on ginger!
7. Suffer with joint problems? Ginger is great as it has fairly potent anti-inflammatory properties. Eating lots of ginger will help reduce the inflammation as will adding ginger essential oil to your bath.
8. Feeling congested? Drink a cup of fresh ginger and honey tea to clear the nose and throat. Particularly good during those long winter months.
What health benefits do you normally get from ginger?
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In this 3 part series we will look at how stress, diet and exercise affect our cellular ageing processes and how you can limit the damage to your DNA and talomeres.
In a recent article I looked at whether diet or exercise was more important for your longevity prospects. (See: What’s More Important? Diet or Exercise?). We know that diet wins hands down in terms of reducing risk factors. But you should never underestimate exercise and stress management. Pioneers like Dr Dean Ornish and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn where among the first to show that if you combined a low fat, plant based diet, with walking and stress management, not only could you prevent and reverse heart disease (and many other chronic conditions), but you could also increase telomerase activity. But what is telomerase activity and why is it so important?
On the end of chromosomes we have these little caps called telomeres. You can think of telomeres as like the plastic on the end of shoe laces that prevents the lace from fraying. When you increase telomerase activity you increase the enzyme activity that slows down the ageing of our cells. If you get the balance right you can slow down the ageing process. For many years there has been a contentious debate over whether it was diet, exercise or stress management that enabled increased telomerase activity. Recent studies over the last 10 years have actually offered some interesting clues on the matter. Today we look at stress, Monday, exercise and Tuesday, diet. So here we go…..
We all know that stress is no good for us. But do stressed people have shorter telomeres? This is what researchers looked at in the study: Accelerated Telomere Shortening in Response to Life Stress. The researchers measured the length of telomeres from parents with chronically ill children. There probably isn’t many more stressful situations in life. They found an unexpected correlation: The longer the parents had spent time caring for their chronically sick children, the shorter their telomeres were. The correlation showed that this telomere shortening process was comparable to a decade of ageing. So in simple terms, the more stressed you are, the shorter your life will potentially be.
Similar telomere shortening correlations can be seen in those who experience constant stress at work, those who go through any bereavement, those caring for ill parents and even those with anxiety or other mental health conditions. This was a particularly worrying finding. It meant that the more stress you had in life the greater the likelihood that you would lead a shorter lifespan. But is there anything you can do about this? If you reduce your stress levels can you grow these telomeres back?
In a word yes 🙂 In a 2011 study, researchers looked at Intensive Meditation Training, Immune Cell Telomerase Activity, and Psychological Mediators. The researchers analysed those who who went off to meditation retreats and measured their telomere activity after meditating for 500 hours. They found massive increases in telomere length and activity. That’s great if you have 500 spare hours. But what if you want the same benefits in a shorter time-frame? How long would you need to meditate for?Recent studies have answered this dilemma. A pilot study of yogic meditation looked at those who meditated while looking after family members with dementia. They found that those who meditated over a period of 8 weeks for just 12 minutes a day had significant increases in telomere activity. But not only that, these subjects also experienced greater mental and psychological function. Happy days 🙂 Who can’t spare 12 minutes a day 🙂
Tomorrow we look at exercise.
Enjoy the rest of your STRESS FREE weekend!
If you ask most people why they drink milk you will generally get the response “because it contains lots of calcium and is good for bones”. “It contains essential proteins”. “It’s something we have always done”. While these statements are true, many people are unaware that milk also contains other constituent parts that can have detrimental effects on our health.
Milk often contains non dioxin-like PCBs, different industrial pollutants and growth and steroid hormones (such as IGF-1) that can mimic hormone functions in the body and cause tumours to proliferate. Recent studies have shown that some samples also contained pesticides that have been banned for a number of years. Milk also contains large amounts of saturated fat and very low levels of antioxidants. In fact, milk is on par with a can of coke in terms of antioxidant content!
Milk has also been shown to block the absorption of other essential vitamins and minerals. Ironically, it has been shown in recent studies that increased consumptiondoesn’t actually improve bone density (different to the marketing we often hear!). We also know that drinking milk can dramatically increase your chances of developing acne. It can also lead to increased weight gain and increased phlegm and mucus production. We also know that mothers who drink milk in the period leading up to conception have higher chances of conceiving twins (vegan women have 5 times fewer twin births). This is thought to be a result of the extra growth hormones circulating in the women’s body. There is also growing evidence linking milk consumption with autism, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS (cot death),Parkinson’s and heart disease. And we also know that many industry led studies purporting health benefits have intentionally presented biased information.
So if milk has increased health risks associated to it, what other sources can you get calcium from, I hear you cry? Well funnily enough there are lots of other healthier sources of calcium. Leafy greens, such as kale, for example, contain up to 150 mg of calcium per 100 grams, whereas milk contains around 120-125 mg (See my article:Facts Everyone Should Know About Kale). Leafy greens also contain other benefits that are absent from milk: folate, fibre, phytonutrients and many other nutrients. There is also a growing trend for nut milks, such as almond and soy milk. One cup of almond milk provides up to 300 mg of calcium, which is approx 25%-30% of your RDA (depending on country).
The choice – as they as say, is yours……..!
If you want to lead a long and healthy life then one thing you need to ensure you are doing is getting adequate levels of antioxidants in your diet. We know that from the last 25 years worth of research that antioxidants are vital for your longevity prospects. Other benefits include slowing down the ageing process, reducing inflammation throughout the body, preventing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and preventing most types of cancers. Sufficient levels of antioxidants also help prevent the stiffening of arteries(leading to heart disease) and increasing your stool size (which helps prevent digestive diseases such as IBS). So what are antioxidants and where do you get them from?
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit and block harm caused by chemicals (also known as free radicals) in the body. Free radicals can be highly destructive to nearby cells and cause chain reactions whereby cells start mutating in an unnatural manner (leading to cancer growth).
Antioxidants are mainly found in fruits and vegetables (fruits and vegetables contain up to 64 times more antioxidants than meat, fish and eggs) . The most common antioxidants are:
1. Vitamin A & Carotenoids (just think of fruits and vegetables that are bright in colour such as sweet potatoes, tomatoes and carrots).
2. Vitamin C. Citrus based fruits (oranges and lemons), leafy greens (such as kale) and tomatoes and green peppers.
3. Vitamin E: Leafy greens, nuts, beans and seeds.
4. Selenium: Fish, meats, eggs and garlic.
5. Other common antioxidants include: Flavoniods and polyphenols, (red wine and grapes), Lycopene (watermelon), Lutein (broccoli) and lignin (flax seed or porridge).
You should be aware that cooking can destroy the antioxidant content in some foods, so try and include raw fruits and vegetables in your diet to negate some of these loses.
There is no upper limit for antioxidants (so you should try and get as many a day as you can cram into your diet). Try and aim for at least 9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day to dramatically reduce the risks associated with many chronic diseases. This is also particularly important during periods when we are under stress. Also avoid processed foods and cigarettes that will increase the levels of free radicals in the body.
Finally, try and get your antioxidants from natural foods and drinks sources as some products such as antioxidant vitamin supplements and some Noni juices can cause more harm than good.