Monday, January 31, 2011

Black pepper belongs to the family Piperaceae. It is a native of tropical India and is cultivated in many tropical regions. Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of black pepper. Black pepper is dried and used as a spice. Table salt and the black pepper are the most commonly seen things in every dinner table in our world. A spice is a spice and it must be used in small quantities. It is not there to use in excess. Pepper chicken or pepper steak is prepared with the immature black peppercorns, the green peppercorns.

The health benefits include:

• Improves digestion by increasing the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach
• Gives relief in gas problems
• Alleviates constipation
• Increases appetite
• Anti-bacterial effect
• Has powerful antioxidant effect
• Helps free radical scavenging, thus can have anticancer effects
• Helps to treat vitiligo, a skin disease that cause areas of the skin to lose their pigment
• Improves the absorption of nutrients
• Has antidepressant properties
• Gives relief from cold and cough, used in Ayurveda to treat these health problems

With all the above mentioned positive health effects, black pepper is still a spice and should be used in small quantities to achieve these benefits. The dose makes the poison and so excess black pepper can have risks to our health.

The possible health risks include:

• Production of excess hydrochloric acid
• Production of excess pepsin
• Loss of potassium
• Mucosal micro bleeding in the intestine
• There are contradictory reports about piperine, the alkaloid present in black pepper. It may be anticancer or cancer promoter. More research must be done on this.

Patients who had abdominal surgery must avoid black pepper in food because of the irritating effects of it on the intestines. People who have ulcer must also avoid black pepper.

As a spice, in small quantities, it is good for all. Avoid excess use. I like pepper very much and use it regularly without any problem.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Yes, your cholesterol is high and you have 13 kg overweight. Your cholesterol must be brought below 200 mg and you must reduce your weight, 15 to 17 kg within a period of one year. This can be achieved with proper food and enough physical activity. Overweight and high cholesterol can lead to heart diseases and type-2 Diabetes.

The food recommendations include:

• Reduce the intake of rice, wheat and other carbohydrates
• Reduce the amount of meat or chicken (without skin), twice in a week, 150 g each time is enough
• Eat twice in a week fish, 150 g
• Eat more vegetables, leafy vegetables are very good. Avoid excess root-vegetables
• Eat fruits everyday
• Pulses, beans, nuts and seeds must be eaten regularly
• Reduce the intake of local sweets and chocolates

The risk factors that must be avoided include:
• Excess alcohol
• Smoking
• Overweight
• Stress

Daily physical activity – one hour quick walking or any other exercises you like

Excess carbohydrates and excess protein are finally converted into fat in the liver. This blood fat is also dangerous.

Homocysteine is another risk factor for heart diseases. If it is not possible to estimate homocysteine, vitamin B6, folic acid and vitamin B12 in blood you can take every day one vitamin B complex to keep the homocysteine in the reference level. Note that all the 8 B vitamins are present in your B complex tablet.

Above all the genes play a vital role here. Be very careful when known heart and sugar problems are there in the family.

Cholesterol is very important to the body. If you avoid it totally the liver produces the necessary amount.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lycopene is a phytochemical and comes under the group of carotenoids. Although chemically it is a carotene, it has no vitamin A activity. It is a safe food coloring agent. The eleven conjugated double bonds present in lycopene are responsible for its antioxidant activity. Lycopene is the most powerful quencher of singlet oxygen free radical. It is 100 times more powerful than vitamin E in experiments.

The health benefits of lycopene include:

• Heart protective
• Good antioxidant to control free radicals
• Supports bone health
• Important for eye health
• Reduces the risk of prostate, lung, stomach and breast cancer
• Good for anti aging
• Good antioxidant to treat male infertility

More research is needed to understand the value of lycopene for human health.

Tomato is the rich source for lycopene. Lycopene is present in tomato skin and so the bioavailability is bad from fresh tomato. Tomato juice and processed tomato have the highest amount of lycopene.

Foods rich in lycopene include:

• Tomatoes
• Processed tomato products such as tomato juice, tomato soup, tolmato sauce, tomato paste, tomato ketchup
• Watermelons
• Pink grapefruits
• Pink guavas
• Apricots
• Papaya

Lycopene is useful with other micronutrients and plant chemicals present in the food. Therefore, as a food supplement it may not have all the benefits that you get from tomato or other fruits.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

In 2009 I was in Tamil Nadu, India for more than 4 months. That was my last long stay there. The present journey was only for three weeks and was packed full to visit places, family members, relatives and friends. I could meet many friends there and unfortunately I couldn’t also meet many. It is difficult to predict there what will and will not happen there and we have to accept that as we have to accept our fate.

Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Sattur (my native place), Sivakasi, Thirunelveli, Thiruchendur, Kanyakumari, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Vaitheeswarankoil are the places visited by me.

The economical changes are great. The roads are full. The prices are shooting up. Many earn well, but nobody has time. Many have no time for themselves, to their families and friends. This quick life brings also many problems. The standard of life is increased and for many it means more food and alcohol. Heart attack reached the people in their thirties. All want to be healthy and do a lot, but without a solid basis.

I had the chance to talk to people who are known to me for a long time. Most of them eat 70% to 90% only carbohydrates. Meat is consumed in large quantities. Many take the advice of the dieticians. But, an individual advice is rare to get. Vegetables and fruits are consumed less because of the high prices. It is applicable to pulses and beans too. Local groundnuts are cheap and many don’t eat because of the high fat in them. Almonds are almost 80% costlier than in Germany.

Local sweets and chocolates are taken in huge quantities. Many are addicted to this.

To conclude, many have deficits in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It is easy to get these with a right mix of available foods there. I hope they get the right information and above all, they must be in a position to change their food habits.

“You are what you eat”. It is only in your hands to give all the necessary nutrients to your body to be healthy.

The positive changes that I expected there are not taking place quickly. They need time, more time.

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