Food Facts : Magic Tea

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (October 2015)

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The Hype

A foreign princess is responsible for the Brits’ love of tea – in the 17th century, Catherine of Braganza, in Portugal, brought her tea-drinking custom to the English court, as the queen of Charles II.

Today, we drink 165 millions cups of tea every day in the UK (compared with 70 million cups of coffee), and the number of different varieties of tea, from rooibos to camomile and lapsang to matcha, has risen by 82 per cent in the last 10 years.  When once you just had to choose between milk or sugar with your cuppa, today, the myriad herbal, flower, fruit, black, white and green options has meant that supermarkets now dedicate half an aisle to tea.

The ancient Chinese proverb attests that it is ‘better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one’.

The Facts:

  1. ‘All tea starts its life as a leaf from the same plant: the Camelia sinensis’, say Krisi and Mike, founders of Bluebird Tea Co. ‘The type of tea those leaves eventually end up as (black, green, white) is influenced by which part of the plant they are picked from, and what treatment they have been through once they are picked.  This also influences the caffeine content.  The amount of caffeine that actually ends up in your body is on a wide varying scale with many influencing factors such as age of leaf, water, temperature, steeping time and so on.’
  2. ‘Green and white tea is usually steeped at a lower temperature and for a shorter time, which gives the caffeine less chance to dissolve into the water.  This doesn’t mean the original tea had less caffeine, just that less of it was released into the water,’ say Krisi and Mike.  If you’re looking to avoid caffeine, it’s best to choose a naturally caffeine-free tea such as rooibos, which still contains catechins and polyphenols – potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals and help boost health.
  3. For the latter benefits however, it’s the new breed of ‘superteas’ that are really causing a stir.  Matcha is a 100 per cent green tea that has been ground to form a very fine powder.  Doing so concentrates the potency of the leaves, giving matcha its vivid green hue.  As the whole leaf is ingested, matcha is a far more potent source of nutrients than it’s steeped counterparts.  It also contains a naturally occurring amino acid called L-theanine which, together with caffeine, appears to increase alertness.

TeaThe Verdict

  • A study in 2011 also showed that decaffeinated tea hydrates you just as efficiently as water – with the added benefits of those antioxidants, too.
  • Fluoride is important for dental health and tea is one of the best sources of fluoride in the diet.  Research presented by Dr Carrie Ruxton to the UK Nutrition Society shows that the current average intake of tea falls short of the European fluoride recommendation, suggesting that tea intake should increase to access the benefits of fluoride for dental health.
  • Both black and green tea have been linked with improved cognitive function, according to a new study.  Commenting on the new research, Dr Tim Bond from the Tea Advisory Panel notes, ‘Tea has been associated with many mental health benefits such as improved mental attention, clarity of mind and relaxation.’
  • The polyphenols and flavonoids in camomile tea have been proven to protect against thyroid cancer, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.  Researchers found that camomile tea consumed two to six times a week reduced the risk of thyroid cancer by 700 per cent and benign thyroid disease by 84 per cent.
  • Matcha contains a unique polyphenol called EGCG which has been shown to boost metabolism and slow or halt the growth of cancer cells.
  • The evidence is clear; our ancestors were on to something.  Drink tea for its abundant health benefits – just be sure not to consume too much of the caffeinated variety.

 

Food Focus : Bounteous broccoli

Article courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (March 2019) and written by Eve Kalinik. (evekalinik.com)

broccoliBroccoli may be dubbed the ultimate ‘green machine’.  Indeed, this cruciferous powerhouse has a whole lot of natural ammo.

Firstly, broccoli contains a compound called idole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is derived from a type of phytochemical present in all cruciferous vegetables that becomes active when we chop or chew them.  This compound helps to support detoxification pathways in the liver and may have beneficial effects on hormone balancing.  Chewing broccoli also releases sulforaphane, which gives it that distinct ‘sulphurous’ taste and smell, that supports healthy cell turnover, including arresting the development of what could turn into potentially unhealthy cells.  If that’s wasn’t amazing enough, broccoli is also a massive boost for our gut since it contains plenty of fibre, which is welcome news for our gut microbes as they love the stuff.  Additionally, some of the active chemical antioxidant compounds mentioned above also support a healthy microbiome.

Let’s also not forget that broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, important for bone and cardiovascular health; vitamin C to provide antioxidant ‘protective’ support for our cells and a wealth of B vitamins, which have a role in energy production as well as working as co-factors for hormonal health and neurotransmitter functioning for brain power … come to think of it, broccoli does have somewhat of a cerebellum look!

You can get broccoli in numerous varieties including purple (or yellow) sprouted, Tenderstem, in shoot-like sprout form (also the highest form of sulforaphane) or in just the regular green variety.

Purple sprouted works really well with a dressing of sesame oil and tamari; broccoli sprouts are excellent toppers for salads, whereas the regular florets pan-fried with some thin slices of garlic, lemon juice and a generous drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil are simply heavenly.  Generally, it is better eating your broccoli lightly cooked rather than eating lots of it raw, since cooking negates the possible effects it can have on thyroid functioning, particularly if you have any underactive thyroid issues.  It’s tastes better that way, too.

Grow:
You can grow your own sprouts at home.  Get yourself a germinator like below A Vogel BioSnacky Germinator Seed Jar.

Source:
Broccoli is a veg that we have in abundance in the UK and it’s great if you can get to your farmers’ market and check out the varieties in season.  For farmers’ markets, see http://www.farma.gov.uk

Cook:
Anna Jones has taken veg-centric food to another level with her book, “The Modern Cook’s Year”.  And her broccoli recipes do not disappoint!

Food Focus : Mushy for Peas

Courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (August 2019)

Peas

The bright garden hue and punchy sweet flavour of garden peas win favours with even the most veg-phobic people.  Indeed, peas will happily be consumed and even relished when other veggies fail to make the cut.  Fresh green peas invoke a sense of cheeriness in their appearance and within the pod there is much to rave about.

Garden peas are part of the legume family, which means they have some of the same benefits as green beans.  They provide a decent serving of plant-based protein, as well as fibre, which helps support energy, blood sugar levels and gut health.  Peas are also bursting with vitamins C and A – important for immunity and skin as well as providing protective antioxidant benefits.  They contain vitamin K and B vitamins that can support a healthy heart and, since they are a good source of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, they also have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Peas are considered environmentally friendly, given that they essentially give back to the soil in which they are grown, which helps with the rotation of other crops.  Impressive nutritional stats and generous, given their small, or petits, size.

Peas are encased in pods and need to be shelled before eating and, while best fresh, frozen peas can also be enjoyed in which case I urge you to have petits pois for more flavour and less starch.  When peas are in season, from late spring to the end of autumn, you can often find them at farmers’ markets.

The ways in which to enjoy peas are myriad and marvellous.  Simply prepared – lightly steamed and served with fresh mint, butter and black pepper – peas are a game-changing veggie side dish.  Add them to an omelette with feta for a delicious quick meal or chuck them into stir-fries for a pop of sweetness.  You can even turn them into fun and flavoursome desserts.  (Pea mousse, anyone?)  Like peas in a pod, the saying goes …. I, for one, want to be in that gang!

Cook:
If cooking, your peas from frozen, opt for petits pois and add at the last moment – frozen peas thaw quickly and you will want to maximise their delicious flavour in your dish.

Create:
Poisfection!   There is a recipe for Pea and Mint Ice Lollies with Chocolate from The Art of Eating Well by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley. Everyone will be licking their lips!

Drink:
Try: Seedlip Garden 108 Non-alcoholic Spirit, which highlights hand-picked peas as one of the key ingredients. Serve with tonic for a refreshing and uplifting summer drink.

Article by Nutrition editor: Eve Kalinik evekalinik.com; @evekalinik

Bone Broth

Recipe courtesy of Psychologies Magazine (September 2015).

Health trends – Bone broth ?

IMG_1818The Hype

Despite having been a staple in cooking pots for centuries, bone broth has recently gained new momentum.  It’s revival can be partly attributed to the growing popularity of the Paleo diet and its superfood status is believed to be due to its easily digestible protein composition.  The protein comes from collagen found in the bones and connective tissue, which transforms into a nutrient-dense gelatin as it cooks.  A cupful is said to ensure a hit of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium and minerals that are known to help strengthen hair and nails, improve skin texture, heal your digestive system and prevent insomnia, fatigue and anxiety.

The Facts

    1. Foodies argue that bone broth is simply stock that’s had a fashionable makeover, but bone broth takes much longer to cook than stock; chicken carcasses simmer between six and 12 hours, and beef bones for up to 24 hours to ensure they fully dissolve into the water, providing bioavailable minerals to the body.
    2. Cassandra Barns, from NutriCentre, believes that bone broth an live up to the hype. ‘The minerals it contains can directly support healthy hair, skin and nails.  In addition to glycine and proline, the gelatin in bone broth is a source of substances like glucasamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.  These are known to support the joints, ligaments and tendons’.
    3. Lily Simpson from The Detox Kitchen Bible, points out that bone broth is often treated as a meal replacement, yet it’s not a sufficient meal in itself, as it’s so low in calories. ‘I would treat bone like miso soup and serve as a nourshing low-calorie snack during the day to boost your nutrient intake.’

The Verdict

Bone broth is a great source of bio-available nutrients.  Rob Hobson from The Detox Kitchen Bible says, ‘There isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest bone broth can treat conditions such as IBS.  However, gelatin found in bone broth forms a key component of the GAPS (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) diet designed to improve digestive health.  Collagen makes up connective tissue in joints, so that may help in the case of osteoarthritis, but I wouldn’t consider it a reliable treatment.’