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How certain foods are used in folkloric medicine to reduce inflammation

If you've ever wondered how certain vegan foods can be used in folkloric medicine to help reduce inflammation and supply dense nutrition, some foods under the lab test nowadays are cabbage, black rice, coconut kefir, peas, and various legumes such as and lentils or chick peas, in spite of the starch in the garbanzos. Can cabbage help prevent cervical cancer? Did your grandmother always tell you to "eat up your greens"? It appears that she may have known something scientists are only now discovering. When the substances produced in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, sprouts or cauliflower are eaten, they could help in the fight against cancer.

How certain foods are used in folkloric medicine to reduce inflammation.
Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

A research team headed by Professor Alison Fiander, Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at the Wales College Of Medicine, Cardiff University in the UK a few years ago asked women in Wales to help find out if one of these substances holds the key to cancer prevention, according to the November 15, 2004 news release, " Can cabbage help prevent cervical cancer?"

A clinical trial took place back in 2004 to determine whether taking this substance as a food supplement reduces the incidence of cervical abnormalities. The supplement is called BioResponse Diindolylmethane (DIM for short) and seems to exert its effect by modifying the breakdown products of estrogen in the body and by inducing abnormal cells to self destruct.

To obtain enough DIM to benefit, at least two raw heads of cabbage would need to be eaten daily

The trial uses a capsule containing DIM, already available as a herbal remedy in the United States. The makers of this capsule in America also claim that it may help with pre-menstrual syndrome but side effects include aggravation of migraines and an increase in intestinal gas. So who would want to take a supplement to get more painful migraines and bowel gas at the same time? Not many.

Cancer Research UK sponsored the trial, run in conjunction with Dr Hilary Fielder Director Cervical Screening Wales Cervical Screening Wales. All women in the area who have either a second borderline or mildly abnormal cervical smear were invited by letter to participate. The trial involved taking DIM daily for six months while waiting for the next pap smear.

Clinics were held in the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Back in 2004, researchers invited only women with borderline or mildly abnormal smears to participate. However, if researchers saw a positive result, the research would be extended to include different groups of women, for example those with more severe abnormalities on their cervical smear. Participation in this trial had been voluntary.

Other health-related uses of cabbage or cabbage juice and various cruciferous vegetables: Minimizing cancer-causing substances in the intestine

Scientists have discovered that bacteria in certain fermented cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage help bolster the human immune system and reduce chances of acquiring cancer by minimizing cancer-causing substances in the intestine. When it comes to endorphins as your brain makes its own painkillers, can cabbage juice help and heal?

Your brain becomes its own painkiller when certain endorphins are excreted. Scientists are researching whether specific cultured, fermented foods can heal. Can cabbage juice made with its own cultured 'good' bacteria help to heal ulcers caused by 'bad' bacteria that eats away at your innards? Also check out articles on cabbage such as "Stop stomach ulcers with the miracle remedy of cabbage" and Dr. Ronald Hoffman's article on Ulcers.

Doctors know most ulcers are caused by H. pylori bacteria. What effects would cabbage juice have on bacteria?

Cabbage can be prepared mild or spicy. When is a food considered too spicy for the stomach? Or is spicy food that's also fermented a cultural preference, and what effects does spicy and fermented vegetables have on health? Check out the article, "Does Kimchi Cause Cancer - Nutrition Advice From Dr. Katz." The article suggests that if you eat a diet generally rich in fruits and vegetables of the unpickled variety, you'll lower your risk of stomach cancer. There are studies linking pickled food to stomach cancer. See, "Pickled food and risk of gastric cancer."

The dose makes the difference when it comes to pickled and spicy foods as well as genetics. But cabbage juice in its natural state, without a lot of added salt or spices is said to be helpful, according to some articles. So is fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut, if eaten in small amounts that don't build up the high salt content in your kidneys. On the other hand, you can ferment cabbage without salt by using lemon juice. See, "Lacto-fermentation Without Adding Salt." Or check out, "An Easy Salt-Free Sauerkraut Recipe."

Cabbage juice in medical studies

According to the article, "HCL Stomach Acid Test," published at the Seven Seeds Healthy Living website, Nov. 20, 2008, cabbage juice in medical studies has been shown to heal some stomach ulcers. The active ingredient is an amino acid called L-glutamine, which nourishes the cells lining the esophagus and stomach so they repair themselves.

The article also suggests juicing 4-8 ounces of cabbage and drinking it after meals. That article mentions that to avoid gas (if your body reacts that way to the cabbage juice) take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of L-glutamine, mixed with 1/4 cup of water, after eating. Dr. Robert Downs, who heads the Southwest Center of Healing Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recommends a special concoction to relieve the heartburn of a hiatal hernia: one part aloe vera juice and four parts papaya juice blended 50/50 with mineral water or club soda, sipped often during the day, according to that article. Test a little aloe vera in your body to make sure you're not allergic to it or to the papaya juice.

Herbs effective for heartburn

Members of a group of herbs called carminatives relax the lower esophageal sphincter. When that sphincter is relaxed, the stomach acids slosh back up into your esophagus when you lie down and cause acid reflux symptoms.

So stay away from the herbal mint teas such as spearmint and peppermint herbal teas or combinations of herbal teas containing these herbs because they're carminatives. Also stay away from fennel and lemon balm as they're also carminatives and sometimes found in combination herbal caffeine-free teasans.

Stomach acid test looks at food-based alternatives

Cutting back on spicy foods, onions, and acidic juices such as citrus or tomato, saturated fats-especially deep-fried foods, alcohol, coffee, tea, white sugar, and unrefined carbohydrates. The article, "HCL Stomach Acid Test," suggests the following homeopathic and alternative herbal remedies.

Please talk to your health care team before taking anything unfamiliar as you don't know whether or not you're allergic to it or might have an adverse reaction or whether it's contraindicated mixed with your other medicines or supplements. That article suggests the following information for you to research:

Aloe Vera: Aloe gel contains very large sugar molecules called mucopolysaccharides. These special sugars have been shown to help heal burns, ulcers, and inflamed intestinal walls. 600 mg capsule form or 2 Tablespoons liquid form, 20 minutes before each meal, three times a day. That article mentions these alternative possibilities:

Homeopathic-Nux Vomica: 2 tablets of a 30C potency twice daily until symptoms are gone. Thereafter use as needed for occasional symptoms. If there is no improvement within one week, stop using it.

Slippery Elm: This is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and very soothing to mucous membranes. Suck on a lozenge after each meal or as needed. 500-1,000 capsule, tincture, or tea after each meal. Caution: Avoid taking medication at the exact same time, they should be taken one hour apart.

An article in the journal Alternative Therapies, Jul/Aug 2008 Vol14. No.4, (PDF) Melatonin for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease - Encognitive.com, presented new studies of melatonin administration as a treatment for the symptoms of GERD. In the article, researchers found that the enterochromaffin cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract secret 400 times as much melatonin as the pineal gland. So it has been found to have an important role in GI functioning.

Researchers may want to keep our eye on this for a possible treatment. Read the PDF file of the article at the website, PDF] Melatonin for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Also see, [PDF] from alternative-therapies.comMR Werbach - Alternative Therapies in Health, 2008 - alternative-therapies.com.

DLPA amino acid blend from lentils and peas -- instead of pain medication?

Recently a study compared an over-the-counter prescription painkiller with a blend of amino acids taken from peas and lentils called DLPA. The pea and lentil extract boosted pain relief by boosting levels of endorphins in your brain.

Basically, your brain becomes its own painkiller when those endorphins are excreted. In fact, scientists sometimes say that brain endorphins are "at least three times stronger than morphine," according to one study noted in the article "Pain-proof your back," on page 16 of Woman's World magazine, Dec. 20, 2010.

If you want to get deeper into the study on DLPA, check out the article, "Nutritional Therapy - DLPA, Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Selenium," published at the site, 101 Alternative Healing. According to that article, "Dr. Seymour Ehrenpreis of the Chicago Medical School found that the amino acid DLPA (dl-phenylalanine) naturally protects the endorphins. Studies have shown that DLPA allows the patient's natural levels of endorphins to rise, reducing or eliminating long-standing chronic pain."

Researchers have found that the brain produces its own pain killers that resemble morphine

The chemicals are called endorphins. The problem is the body also destroys the endorphins. DLPA works to decrease pain, but it's not like a fast-acting pill because it takes from two days to six weeks for DLPA to allow your body's endorphin levels to increase enough to block some types of pain.

Scientists also found that DLPA also strengthens the painkilling effects of aspirin. You can buy this extract from peas and lentils in many health food stores. Don't take DLPA during pregnancy and/or lactation. Also don't take DLPA if you have a genetic condition called PKU (phenylketonuria. Don't take DLPA if you're on a phenylalanine-restricted diet. And don't give DLPA to anyone under age 14.

List of Foods Helping People with Acid Reflux

Here's a list of foods that generally help people with acid reflux conditions. For more information, see the Heart Burn Alliance Organization site. Notice that most of the foods are made without added fats or oils that can cause more acid to be produced to digest them.

To fight acid reflux, keep a food diary to identify foods that trigger heartburn. Some people have too little stomach acid rather than too much, or the stomach acid isn't producing enough digestive enzymes as people age. For example, people with type O blood produce a stronger stomach acid than people with type A blood, according to numerous naturopaths.

Pay close attention to portion size for all foods you eat each day. Note what quantities, if any, your stomach tolerates without acid reflux symptoms. According to the Heart Burn Alliance Organization website, "Use your “personal serving sizes” as a guide. Larger portions of any food are more likely to cause acid reflux, especially when you lie down.

9,000-year history of Chinese fermented beverages confirmed

Neolithic people in China consumed a mixed fermented beverage made of fruit, rice, and honey. Did it have health or healing benefits? Chemical analyses of ancient organics absorbed, and preserved, in pottery jars from the Neolithic village of Jiahu, in Henan province, Northern China, have revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey, and fruit was being produced as early as 9,000 years ago, approximately the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beginning to be made in the Middle East, according to the study, "Fermented Beverages of Pre-and Proto-historic China," published on-line the week of December 6, 2004 in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The food-related discoveries and their implications for understanding ancient Chinese culture

In addition, liquids more than 3,000 years old, remarkably preserved inside tightly lidded bronze vessels, were chemically analyzed. These vessels from the capital city of Anyang and an elite burial in the Yellow River Basin, dating to the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties (ca. 1250-1000 B.C.), contained specialized rice and millet "wines." The beverages had been flavored with herbs, flowers, and/or tree resins, and are similar to herbal wines described in the Shang dynasty oracle inscriptions.

The new discoveries, made by an international, multi-disciplinary team of researchers including the University of Pennsylvania Museum's archaeochemist Dr. Patrick McGovern of MASCA (Museum Applied Science Center for Archaeology), provide the first direct chemical evidence for early fermented beverages in ancient Chinese culture, thus broadening our understanding of the key technological and cultural roles that fermented beverages played in China.

Authors of the study are Patrick E. McGovern, and also Juzhong Zhang, Jigen Tang, Zhiquing Zhang, Gretchen R. Hall, Robert A. Moreau, Alberto Nuñez, Eric D. Butrym, Michael P. Richards, Chen-shan Wang, Guangsheng Cheng, Zhijun Zhao, and Changsui Wang

Fermented beverages

Dr. McGovern worked with this team of researchers, associated with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, the Institute of Archaeology in Beijing, the Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology of Henan Province, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Firmenich Corporation, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany), and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Dr. McGovern first met with archaeologists and scientists, including his co-authors on the paper, in China in 2000, returning there in 2001 and 2002. Because of the great interest in using modern scientific techniques to investigate a crucial aspect of ancient Chinese culture, collaboration was initiated and samples carried back to the U.S. for analysis. Chemical tests of the pottery from the Neolithic village of Jiahu was of special interest, because it is some of the earliest known pottery from China.

The 9,000-year old site in China also contained beverages, domesticated rice, musical instruments, pottery, and the earliest writing

This site was already famous for yielding some of the earliest musical instruments and domesticated rice, as well as possibly the earliest Chinese pictographic writing. Through a variety of chemical methods including gas and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry, and stable isotope analysis, finger-print compounds were identified, including those for hawthorn fruit and/or wild grape, beeswax associated with honey, and rice.

The prehistoric beverage at Jiahu, Dr. McGovern asserts, paved the way for unique cereal beverages of the proto-historic 2nd millennium BC, remarkably preserved as liquids inside sealed bronze vessels of the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties. The vessels had become hermetically sealed when their tightly fitting lids corroded, preventing evaporation.

Numerous bronze vessels with these liquids have been excavated at major urban centers along the Yellow River, especially from elite burials of high-ranking individuals. Besides serving as burial goods to sustain the dead in the afterlife, the vessels and their contents can also be related to funerary ceremonies in which living intermediaries communicated with the deceased ancestor and gods in an altered state of consciousness after imbibing a fermented beverage.

"The fragrant aroma of the liquids inside the tightly lidded jars and vats, when their lids were first removed after some three thousand years, suggested that they indeed represented Shang and Western Zhou fermented beverages, " Dr. McGovern noted, according to the December 6, 2004 news release, "9,000-year history of Chinese fermented beverages confirmed."

Rice and millet wines

Samples of liquid inside vessels from the important capital of Anyang and the Changzikou Tomb in Luyi county were analyzed. The combined archaeochemical, archaeobotanical and archaeological evidence for the Changzikou Tomb and Anyang liquids point to their being fermented and filtered rice or millet "wines," either jiu or chang, its herbal equivalent, according to the Shang Dynasty oracle inscriptions.

Specific aromatic herbs, for example wormword, flowers such as chrysanthemum, and/or tree resins such as China fir and elemi had been added to the wines, according to detected compounds such as camphor and alpha-cedrene, beta-amyrin and oleanolic acid, as well as benzaldehyde, acetic acid, and short-chain alcohols characteristic of rice and millet wines.

Saccarification used to break down the carbohydrates of grains into simple, fermentable sugars

Both jiu and chang of proto-historic China were likely made by mold saccharification, a uniquely Chinese contribution to beverage-making in which an assemblage of mold species are used to break down the carbohydrates of rice and other grains into simple, fermentable sugars. Yeast for fermentation of the simple sugars enters the process adventitiously, either brought in by insects or settling on to large and small cakes of the mold conglomerate (qu) from the rafters of old buildings. As many as 100 special herbs, including wormwood, are used today to make qu, and some have been shown to increase the yeast activity by as much as seven-fold.

For Dr. McGovern, who began his role in the Chinese wine studies in 2000, this discovery offers an exciting new chapter in our rapidly growing understanding of the importance of fermented beverages in human culture around the world. In 1990, he and colleagues Rudolph H. Michel and Virginia R. Badler first made headlines with the discovery of what was then the earliest known chemical evidence of wine, dating to ca. 3500-3100 B.C., from Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran.

Also see the article,"Drink and Be Merry: Infrared Spectroscopy and Ancient Near Eastern Wine in Organic Contents of Ancient Vessels: Materials Analysis and Archaeological Investigation." Editors of that article are W. R. Biers and P.E. McGovern, MASCA Research Papers in Science and Archaeology, vol. 7, Philadelphia: MASCA, University of Pennsylvania Museum, University of Pennsylvania. Dogfish Head Brewery (Rehoboth Beach and Milton, DE) recreated this ancient Neolithic beverage, which was first tasted at a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, 19 May 2005.

That finding was followed up by the earliest chemically confirmed barley beer in 1992, inside another vessel from the same room at Godin Tepe that housed the wine jars

In 1994, chemical testing confirmed resinated wine inside two jars excavated by a Penn archaeological team at the Neolithic site of Hajji Firuz Tepe, Iran, dating to ca. 5400 B.C. and some 2000 years earlier than the Godin Tepe jar. Dr. McGovern is author of Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture (Princeton University Press, 2003).

Dr. McGovern's research was made possible by support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the National Science Foundation (2000-2001; award BCS-9911128). The GC-MS analyses were carried out in the Chemistry Department of Drexel University through the kind auspices of J. P. Honovich. We also thank the Institute of Archaeology in Beijing and Zhengzhou for logistical support and providing samples for analysis.

Qin Ma Hui, Wuxiao Hong, Hsing-Tsung Huang, Shuicheng Li, Guoguang Luo, Victor Mair, Harold Olmo, Vernon Singleton, and Tiemei Chen variously advised on or facilitated the research. Changsui Wang, chairperson of the Archaeometry program at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei (Anhui Province) was untiring in his enthusiasm for the project, and personally accompanied Dr. McGovern on travels to excavations and institutes, where collaborations and meetings with key scientists and archaeologists were arranged.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. The Museum is located at 3260 South Street (across from Franklin Field), Philadelphia, PA 19104, and on the worldwide web at the University of Pennsylvania Museum website.

On another note, you also may enjoy the article, "How walnuts and flaxseeds may improve your blood pressure and your reaction to stress." Also please check out my newest Senior Nutrition Examiner column and my Sacramento Nutrition Examiner column, for more topics on nutrition and nutritional physiology and health research news, in addition to this column on senior health.

How black rice can help reduce the risk of inflammation

Black rice bran may help fight disease-related inflammation, says a study, "Protective Effects of Black Rice Bran against Chemically-Induced Inflammation of Mouse Skin," published online August 23, 2010 in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Scientists who study nutrition and health work with lab animals such as mice because these rodents share a large percent of their DNA with humans (Just 2.5% of DNA turns mice into men - 30 May 2002 - New Scientist.)

Scientists are reporting evidence that black rice — a little-known variety of the grain that is the staple food for one-third of the world population — may help soothe the inflammation involved in allergies, asthma, and other diseases. Mendel Friedman and colleagues point out that their previous research showed several potential health benefits of eating black rice bran. Bran is the outer husk of the grain, which is removed during the processing of brown rice to produce the familiar white rice. Those experiments, which were done in cell cultures, hinted that black rice bran suppressed the release of histamine, which causes inflammation, according to the October 20, 2010 news release, "Black rice bran may help fight disease-related inflammation."

In the new study, they tested the effects of black rice bran extract on skin inflammation in laboratory mice. When they injected the extract into the mice, it reduced skin inflammation by about 32 percent compared to control animals and also decreased production of certain substances known to promote inflammation. Brown rice bran extract did not have these effects, they say, according to the news release.

When the scientists fed the mice a diet containing 10 percent black rice bran, it reduced swelling associated with allergic contact dermatitis, a common type of skin irritation. The findings "further demonstrate the potential value of black rice bran as an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic food ingredient and possibly also as a therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation," the article notes. You also may wish to see the abstracts of other studies on black rice or black rice bran such as the following: "A Polysaccharide Isolated from the Liquid Culture of Lentinus edodes (Shiitake) Mushroom Mycelia Containing Black Rice Bran Protects Mice against a Salmonella Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Endotoxemia," or "Rice Brans, Rice Bran Oils, and Rice Hulls: Composition, Food and Industrial Uses, and Bioactivities in Humans, Animals, and Cells." Interestingly, another noteworthy study looks at smoked rice bran and antidiabetic effects--in mice. See the abstract of the research, "Antidiabetic Effects of Rice Hull Smoke Extract in Alloxan-Induced Diabetic Mice."

How to prepare and use black rice gravy or sauce

The secret to making a vegan gravy or sauce to put over other foods is to puree cooked black or red rice with a vegetable broth. To make the vegetable broth, simply cook onions, celery, and carrots in water until soft enough to chew. You can cook the washed, black, red, or mahogany rice with the vegetables. You may wish to check out the Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Black Rice Recipe | Epicurious.com, and substitute your own ingredients for what you prefer when it comes to seasonings. You don't have to add fats or salt. Vegans can use black rice gravy poured over vegan foods. Black rice gravy is mostly for savory foods, but you also can prepare black rice pudding or coconut black rice pudding if you want to use black rice in desserts.

Just prepare black rice as you would any other rice pudding and add grated coconut. You also can use coconut milk to make the rice pudding creamier in texture. Just prepare using any rice pudding recipe and substitute black for white or brown rice, coconut milk for cow's milk, and add grated coconut to garnish. Then chill the pudding.

Now for black rice used in savory foods, when you cook celery, onions, and carrots together it produces a vegetable broth known as mirepoix. Optional, add a little kale or collards to the water. There's a website, Red Beans And Rice With Gravy Recipes, but if you're looking for no added fats/oils alternatives, leave out the oil. The same applies for those on no added salt special diets. Just leave out the salt and season with fresh chopped parsley, garlic or garlic powder (not garlic salt) or other fresh herbs of your choice.

Now when the black rice is tender, puree everything in a blender with the liquid in which you just cooked the black rice. Now you have a rich, creamy black rice gravy or sauce that you can pour over other savory foods. You can season the water in which you cooked the rice with herbs and spices, garlic, or any of your favorite seasonings or herbs. Examples could be dill, parsley, or spinach, thyme, oregano, or pepper, as you prefer. Different people like a variety of tastes in a sauce or gravy.

If you don't want to use the pureed black rice to pour over other foods, you can sip it as a creamed soup. Or if you want to make a thick dip out of it, just add cooked lentils and puree everything into a thick, creamy dip or hummus. You don't have to add fats. If you're serving a warm, savory meal such as a casserole, you can pour some pureed black rice sauce/gravy over the top to moisten any savory food.

Old fashioned gravies traditionally were made of roux, such as browning flour in bacon fat, but for a vegan gravy/sauce/cream soup, instead of eating all that fatty liquid poured over a baked potato, any savory entree, or vegetable plate, just use black rice as gravy/sauce. In addition to black rice, gravy/sauce for savory entrees or cream soups also can be made from pureed cooked lentils, which produces a rich, brown gravy.

If you cook lentils with black rice and puree that mixture, you end up with a dark brown, rich gravy or sauce, that's hearty as a cream soup or sauce/gravy for almost any savory entree, to keep the food moist. One example is pouring it over vegetarian lasagna, noodles, or a baked vegetable, such as spaghetti squash. It's a sauce that you don't have to season with a lot of salt or add fat to in order to get a rich, dark brown sauce/gravy or creamed soup. Thicken with legumes or cooked black beans, and puree to make a dip similar to hummus or other bean dips.

Another alternative is frozen desserts made with cooked amaranth

Cook a cup of amaranth in water until it's soft enough to chew. In a blender, add two cut up apples with the cores removed. Leave out the seeds, as apple seeds are toxic. Add a small amount of pomegranate juice or coconut water, some unsweetened almond milk, and one or two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder. Then add a cup of frozen mango chunks. If you want more sweet add a pinch of stevia or a handful of dried goji berries or raisins or prunes. If it's too sweet the mango chunks should be sweet enough. Puree all these ingredients in your blender. You should have a thick, chocolate-colored creamy smoothie.

You can add a scoop of protein powder, if desired. Basically you're making a puree in your blender of cooked amaranth and liquid. The rest of the fruit added is whatever you choose to sweeten your liquid to the taste you want. Then freeze the mixture in cups or containers of your choice. The frozen dessert should taste like chocolate sorbet, but be creamy and thick from the pureed cooked amaranth. You don't have to add any fats or table sugar. Now you have a vegan frozen dessert or smoothie made with super food amaranth. You also can use cooked quinoa, but amaranth tastes better in a smoothie or frozen dessert because the grains are tinier and more easily creamed in a blender.

One serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce 'bad cholesterol' and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, says Dr. John Sievenpiper, a researcher in the Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

A daily serving of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils can significantly reduce bad cholesterol, says the new study,"Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials," published April 7, 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

And beans, chickpeas, and lentils are low on the glycemic index, meaning they don't quickly turn to sugar in the bloodstream. Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are also called pulses. The intake of dietary pulses, such as beans and lentils, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. In a meta-analysis of 26 randomized controlled trials, the authors found an overall effect but substantial variation in results between trials. They call for trials of longer duration and higher quality to verify the results of the new review.

A study unveiled on April 3, 2006 gives new meaning to the word beanpole: The findings show that people who eat beans weigh less than those who don't

Presented at the Experimental Biology conference, April 1-5, 2006, in San Francisco, the study found that adults who eat beans weigh 6.6 pounds less – yet eat 199 more daily calories – than adults who don't eat beans. Similar results were found for teenage bean eaters who consume 335 more daily calories but weigh 7.3 pounds less than non-bean-eating teens.

Data for the study came from the National Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (1999-2002). The results also show that:

  • Adult bean eaters consume less total and saturated fat than non-bean eaters and have a 22 per cent lower risk of obesity.
  • Adult and teen bean eaters have smaller waist sizes – three-quarter inch and one inch, respectively
  • The fiber intake of adult and teen bean eaters is more than one-third higher than non-bean eaters

"Beans are an excellent source of fiber and previous studies have shown that high-fiber diets may help reduce body weight, so this makes sense," says Victor Fulgoni, PhD and author of the study, according to the April 3, 2006 news release, Research shows adults and teens who eat beans weigh less. "As well, they are naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free. It's no wonder that beans have been called a 'superfood.'"

The federal government has recognized the many health benefits of beans:

  • MyPyramid, the USDA's recommended eating plan for Americans, lists beans in two food groups. Beans are listed in the Vegetable Group because they are a plant-based food that provides vitamins and minerals. Beans also are listed in the Meat and Beans Group because they are a good source of protein.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends that Americans triple their current intake of beans from one to three cups per week. (By the way, MyPyramid was replaced by MyPlate.)

In addition, other research has shown that diets including beans may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. The National Nutrition and Health Examination Survey (NHANES) is a continuous survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics with survey data released every two years. NHANES 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 contained data on the food and nutrient intake of 9,965 and 11,039 Americans respectively.

The study was featured in two Experimental Biology poster sessions ("Bean Consumption by Adults is Associated with a More Nutrient Dense Diet and a Reduced Risk of Obesity" and "Bean Consumption is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake and Lower Body Weights and Waist Circumferences in Children") and was sponsored by Bush Brothers and Company. For delicious bean recipes and serving ideas, visit the Bush Beans site. Or if you're looking for beans without added salt and not in a can, you might try the dry beans.

Soaking the beans

Soak beans overnight in your refrigerator and cook them yourself. Then store them overnight cooked in a glass jar so all you have to do in the morning is warm them up or serve cold in a salad. Or you could emulsify/puree the beans with herb and spice-flavored water in your blender and make a bean dip, or turn them into hummus by adding lemon or lime juice or some apple cider vinegar and a handful of sesame seeds, then puree them in a blender and use as a dip with crackers or bread or as a salad dressing.

When you look at studies on any particular food, many times, the studies are sponsored or funded in part by the corporations that manufacture processed versions of the food or farmers who grow the food, depending upon which food is involved in studies of how that food promotes health.

Clear labeling is a big issue that customers want when it comes to food or any other item

Experience helps restaurant managers stick with local foods, says a new study, "Restaurant's decision to purchase local foods: Influence of value chain activities," published in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management. Restaurant chefs and food purchasing managers who have bought local foods in the past are more likely to continue adding them to menus and store shelves, according to a team of researchers.

"Past experiences will have an impact on buying local foods," said Amit Sharma, according to the April 7, 2014 news release, "Experience helps restaurant managers stick with local foods." Sharma is an associate professor of hospitality management at Penn State. "Restaurant managers who buy local foods currently are significantly more likely to keep purchasing locally."

In a study of the cost and benefits of purchasing local foods in restaurants, managers and chefs indicated that certain actions of local food producers stand out as reasons why they continue to buy local foods. For instance, managers said that a local farmer's or producer's response time -- the time it took a business to respond and process an order -- was more important than delivery time -- how long it takes to actually receive the goods -- as a factor when they considered buying local food products.

"Interestingly, we did not find that delivery time mattered as much for those who purchased food, not to say that delivery time wasn't a concern at all," said Sharma. "However, what was more important to these managers was the response time of a local food producer."

Food purchasers also indicated that they would not stock local food just because it is local. Local foods must have a unique selling point, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

For instance, a special variety apple used in an apple pie may be more important to the food manager than just a locally grown apple

"Simply saying 'local food' was not enough, chefs really want to provide their customers with a dish that is unique," said Sharma, according to the news release. "You can't just slap a label on it that says it's 'local', and expect it to sell, in other words." While many studies have explored the reasons that customers would want local food, this study was focused on management's buying decisions.

"We're not discounting customer demand, we recognize that consumers have to want it -- in fact our previous studies suggest consumers are willing to pay more for local foods," said Sharma. "But the manager has to make decisions before the food is served."

Clear labeling is another selling point for restaurant managers who are purchasing foods in grocery stores and markets

The labels should be accurate and easy to read, containing specifications including weight, date and product details, for example, according to Sharma, who worked with Joonho Moon, doctoral student in hospitality management, Penn State, and Catherine Strohbehn, state extension specialist and adjunct professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, Iowa State University.

Training staff to handle local foods properly and to communicate the advantages of local foods with customer was also an important factor that could explain the decision to purchase local foods.

Commitment of a business to offer local foods

"Training tells us a lot about the commitment of an operation to local foods," said Sharma. "Local foods may or may not be delivered or processed in the same way as non-local foods, so the staff should be trained and, particularly, chefs need to be trained in developing unique menus using local foods."

Managers did not seem to think food safety was an issue with handling local food. "That's not to say food safety isn't important to managers, it just isn't an obstacle to purchasing locally," said Sharma, according to the news release. "It's not a constraint."

The researchers sent surveys to independently owned restaurants in Midwestern states to investigate management's attitudes toward the decision to purchase locally grown foods. "In this project, we investigated the cost-benefit analysis of restaurants purchasing local foods, along the foodservice value chain, which ranged from the sourcing of local food all the way to serving local foods to customers," said Sharma in the news release. The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University supported this work.

When food crises spill over

You also may wish to check out the abstract of another article also published in the May 2014 issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management. "The negative spillover effect of food crises on restaurant firms: Did Jack in the Box really recover from an E. coli scare?" In that study, the abstract notes that despite the enormous impact of food crises on restaurants, limited understanding of their long-term impacts and associated factors has undermined crisis managers’ ability to handle crisis situations effectively.

In the article, researchers investigated the long-term impact of food crises on the financial performance of restaurant firms and identified the factors that influenced this impact. This explanatory study examined the case of Jack in the Box, whose 1993 Escherichia coli scare was the first and largest restaurant-associated food crisis in modern times. An event study method was used to uncover stock price movements of Jack in the Box, in conjunction with 73 unrelated food crises that occurred from 1994 to 2010.

Stock prices of Jack in the Box exhibited significantly negative responses to other firms’ food crises, moreover, the negative spillover effect was stronger if the crisis occurred closer in time, was similar in nature, and was accompanied with no recall execution. These findings shed light on the long-term financial impact of food crises and offer insights for crisis managers to develop more effective crisis management strategies, according to the study's abstract.

Food quality

Climate change is hitting home -- in the food pantry, this time here in Sacramento. Meanwhile, in Kansas, researchers there are attempting to reverse what they consider to be a critical mistake our ancestors made some 10,000 years ago - the planting of annual crops instead of perennials. They want to replace standard wheat with wheatgrass. See, "New Wheat Crop in the Works - WTVY." But here in Sacramento and Davis, a new field study, "Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown wheat," of wheat demonstrates how the nutritional quality of food crops can be diminished when elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide interfere with a plant's ability to process nitrate into proteins. Findings from this wheat field-test study, led by a University of California - Davis plant scientist is published online since April 6, 2014, in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Food quality researchers from the University of California, Davis, say this new field study shows why food quality will suffer with rising CO2 levels. For the first time, a field test has demonstrated that elevated levels of carbon dioxide inhibit plants' assimilation of nitrate into proteins, indicating that the nutritional quality of food crops is at risk as climate change intensifies.

"Food quality is declining under the rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are experiencing," said lead author Arnold Bloom, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, according to the April 6, 2014 news release, Field study shows why food quality will suffer with rising CO2. "Several explanations for this decline have been put forward, but this is the first study to demonstrate that elevated carbon dioxide inhibits the conversion of nitrate into protein in a field-grown crop," he said in the news release.

The assimilation, or processing, of nitrogen plays a key role in the plant's growth and productivity

In food crops, it is especially important because plants use nitrogen to produce the proteins that are vital for human nutrition. Wheat, in particular, provides nearly one-fourth of all protein in the global human diet.

Many previous laboratory studies had demonstrated that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide inhibited nitrate assimilation in the leaves of grain and non-legume plants. However there had been no verification of this relationship in field-grown plants.

Wheat field study

To observe the response of wheat to different levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the researchers examined samples of wheat that had been grown in 1996 and 1997 in the Maricopa Agricultural Center near Phoenix, Ariz.

At that time, carbon dioxide-enriched air was released in the fields, creating an elevated level of atmospheric carbon at the test plots, similar to what is now expected to be present in the next few decades. Control plantings of wheat were also grown in the ambient, untreated level of carbon dioxide.

Leaf material harvested from the various wheat tests plots was immediately placed on ice, and then was oven dried and stored in vacuum-sealed containers to minimize changes over time in various nitrogen compounds

A fast-forward through more than a decade found Bloom and the current research team able to conduct chemical analyses that were not available at the time the experimental wheat plants were harvested.

In the recent study, the researchers documented that three different measures of nitrate assimilation affirmed that the elevated level of atmospheric carbon dioxide had inhibited nitrate assimilation into protein in the field-grown wheat.

"These field results are consistent with findings from previous laboratory studies, which showed that there are several physiological mechanisms responsible for carbon dioxide's inhibition of nitrate assimilation in leaves," Bloom said, according to the news release.

3 percent protein decline expected

Bloom noted that other studies also have shown that protein concentrations in the grain of wheat, rice and barley — as well as in potato tubers — decline, on average, by approximately 8 percent under elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "When this decline is factored into the respective portion of dietary protein that humans derive from these various crops, it becomes clear that the overall amount of protein available for human consumption may drop by about 3 percent as atmospheric carbon dioxide reaches the levels anticipated to occur during the next few decades," Bloom said, according to the news release.

While heavy nitrogen fertilization could partially compensate for this decline in food quality, it would also have negative consequences including higher costs, more nitrate leaching into groundwater and increased emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, he explained. What do you think is happening to the quality of wheat? Now, that's a topic to explore regarding various possible causes of the decline in food quality as revealed in recent research studies. Comparing the data is a valuable research topic in itself.

In addition to Bloom, the research team on this study included Martin Burger, currently in UC Davis' Department of Land, Air and Water Resources; and Bruce A. Kimball and Paul J. Pinter, both of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa, Arizona. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation and the National Research Initiative competitive grants program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Black bean smoothies, brownies, or frozen desserts

If your older children won't eat their plate or bowl of cooked black beans, try a black bean smoothie or frozen dessert. Mix a cup of cooked unseasoned black beans with the liquid it's cooked in along with a cup of coconut water (not from concentrate) and a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Add a 1/4 cup of organic grated coconut and two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and puree in a blender. If you add enough flaxseed meal, oat bran, or garbanzo bean flour to thicken a smoothie made from pureed black beans, you can bake the batter as a brownie. Just add enough raisins or goji berries to sweeten or other cut up fruit such as figs, prunes, apples, blueberries, or dates and bake like a brownie or thick chewy cookie.

For a black bean smoothie, add a small package of of frozen strawberries or a cup of fresh strawberries (unsweetened) and 1/4 cup of grated coconut. If you want it sweeter, add two small apples cored with the seeds removed, since apple seeds are toxic. Puree the fruit with the black beans and coconut water until you have a thick chocolate-looking smoothie. Pour into a glass and serve the smoothie chilled. Or freeze into a sorbet-like frozen dessert in small serving bowls and serve like sorbet. It tastes somewhat like a liquid brownie.

Or make a purple corn kernel punch

Make a healthy purple corn kernel punch without sugar using purple corn kernels, apples, and pineapple with a squirt of lemon juice. Make their own cheecha morada, a drink made from purple corn mixed with citrus juices and apple juice and spiced with cloves and cinnamon.

See the YouTube video, How to make cheecha morada. Instead of adding sugar as so many recipes direct you to sweeten the beverages, you can puree two apples in a blender with the juice of one lemon and add a few chunks of pineapple to adjust the sweetness. Notice the variant spellings of cheecha and chicha morada on the video titles.

Check out this YouTube chicha morada recipe video. Also see, Eva Maria Delaney, Peruvian food. Also see this other YouTube video on how to make cheecha out of quinoa grain ground into a flour in a coffee grinder or dry grinder. You can use a manual or an electric coffee grinder or a Vita-Mix dry grinder to turn quinoa or amaranth grain into meal or course flour.

Here's how to make cheecha morada and also how to make kefir. Cheecha morada is a corn and fruit drink made by mixing purple corn, spices, and fruit juices. There is a version of cheecha that's fermented and alcoholic, but this type of Cheecha Morada, served all over Peru is not fermented.

When made and consumed in its non-alcoholic form as a beverage for the entire family, Chicha Morada is a purple corn drink that is super high in resveratrol. Purple corn may contain four times more resveratrol than red wine. So if you don't drink alcohol, try Chicha Morada.

Home brewers who want to make beverages that are non-alcoholic and are more antioxidant than sugary might try making cheecha morada or kefir. Cheecha Morada is made from corn. And kefir is made from milk of any type, including coconut milk. First, here's the recipe for how to make Cheecha Morada, a Peruvian drink made from corn. The kefir recipe follows the recipe for Cheecha Morada.

According to the uTube video, How to Make the Chicha Morada (Super Peruvian Resveratrol Drink) : The Renegade Health Show Episode #607, here is the recipe for Chicha Morada. Also watch the video for the demonstration. You can see this recipe and click on the video link on the Renegade Health Blog, "How to make the chicha morada super Peruvian resveratrol drink."

Here’s the recipe for Chicha Morada:

- 1 lb dried purple corn kernels
- 4 qt cold water
- 6 Ceylon cinnamon Sticks
- 6 Whole cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh pineapple juice
- 1 c fresh apple juice
- 1/4 cup finely chopped apples

Bring the corn, cinnamon and cloves to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for an hour, drain off the liquid and let cool. Once cool add lemon juice, pineapple juice and apple juice and stir together. Serve in a nice wine glass with piece of apple. Chicha Morada usually is served to the entire family over the age of six. (Do not serve to infants, of course.)