Tweaklet #60 – Celery

Some people are going to want to run in the other direction today because I am going to talk about Celery and celery is one of THE most hated vegetables in the world!

I love pretty much all foods so I am very curious when people express a strong dislike of something and celery is one that comes up often.

People who hate celery are generally not picky eaters. They will often say I eat everything, just not celery!

Those of us who like it can’t understand what all the fuss is about. We know it contains excellent fibre and makes a great crudité to use in dips. It’s virtually calorie free, so that’s a bonus and medicinally it’s been used for centuries because of its anti-inflammatory properties to treat things like gout, arthritis to lower cholesterol and to provide pain relief. Celery helps protect our hearts our livers prevent ulcers and improve digestion.

Lovers of celery think it tastes quite sweet and mild, with no particular smell. Celery haters describe a strong soapy, dirty rainwater taste and an odour that cannot be masked even when wrapped and bagged and stuffed way in the back of the fridge or sneakily buried under a strong tasting sauce!

And if you try to convince a celery hater to give it another try, all they hear is BLAH BLAH BLAH as they try to block out what you’re saying.

I am not mocking you celery haters, honest. In fact you’ve inspired me to do more research on foods people hate, so thank you. I am only sorry I have not found any useful research on why celery tops the hate list.

It is a member of the Umbellifer family and as well as carrots and parsnips, other members include spices like dill, parsley, caraway, cumin (which some people have an issue with. Someone I know says cumin smells like sweaty armpits!) and another member of the same family is Coriander, which in its leafy state is another food that’s top of the most hated list! Is there a correlation between Celery and Coriander? I don’t know. But one of you might, so if you have some good information on this topic, please let me know. And if you have a violent dislike of any particular food I’d love to hear about that too.

So dear Tweakleters I will leave you in peace. I won’t go on any more about celery, at least not today!

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Tweaklet #49 – Chilli

Do you like spicy food? Do you always reach for the chilli sauce or chopped chilli to go with your main meal? Or are you the opposite and shy away from anything spicy?

I love spicy food but I can’t handle spice that burns the back of my throat and makes me break out into a sweat. But according to new research, eating hot chillis could be the secret to a longer life!

Chillis, otherwise known as hot peppers, have been grown and used in food for thousands of years and like a lot of spices they have excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

They’re also good for weight loss as they speed up your metabolism, stop cravings and are natural appetite suppressants.

The capsaicin found in spicy foods actually lowers cholesterol levels by reducing cholesterol accumulation in the body. And chilli’s anti-inflammatory properties make it great for heart health generally.

So what’s your spice level? If you’re new to chilli ease in gradually or you’ll put yourself off and that would be a shame. Build up gradually and try some ground spices like paprika and cayenne and if you’re buying fresh peppers, do your research to find out just how hot each variety is. Remember some of the smallest in size can be the most fiery!

A little tip, from painful personal experience, is when you’re chopping up fresh chilli peppers remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards and even then don’t go touching your eyes! Boy did I learn that one the hard way several times!

So, whilst we wait for further research on whether spicy food will help us live longer, let’s just get on and enjoy experimenting with adding some heat to our food. Time to spice up our lives Tweakleters!

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Tweaklet #48 – Coconut Oil

In the last few years, there has been a growing interest in coconut oil. It’s no longer found just in Asian supermarkets, it’s in every supermarket!

But there’s still a lot of confusion about coconut oil and whether it’s actually good for you. We are still often told that it raises cholesterol. So let’s explore.

Yes, coconut oil is largely composed of saturated fat but it behaves very differently in the body to other types. Recent studies show that coconut oil does not adversely affect LDL, or what we think of as bad cholesterol, whatsoever, and it’s the only saturated fat that significantly increases the good HDL cholesterol.

There are currently over 1500 studies proving that when used in moderation, coconut oil is very healthy food.

Here are some interesting things I’ve learned about coconut oil – it is a natural anti-microbial, which helps to kill bad viruses,  bacteria…, Fungi, yeast and parasites. This is great news for gut health because it helps to weed out unwanted organisms and allow healthy bacteria to flourish.

Plus the type of fat that coconut oil is means it is readily burned as energy and not stored, so it promotes weight loss by increasing the burning of calories.

I love using coconut oil. It adds a slight nutty rich flavour and it has a higher smoke point so it’s great to use in Asian stir-fries and just for medium heat pan-frying generally. It goes equally well in sweet dishes and you can make delicious bliss balls and other sweet treats. You can add coconut oil to smoothies, to oatmeal, to tea and coffee, to homemade mayonnaise and to scrambled egg.

In winter coconut oil goes rather solid and in summer is completely liquid. If you find it annoying to shave off chunks of it in winter, then here’s a tip from The Coconut Mama .com who suggests freezing portions in an ice tray and popping one out as you need it. Thanks, Coconut Mama!

And a big shout out to Dr Michael Murray at Doctor Murray.com, whose up to date knowledge and research on coconut oil is invaluable.

As always look for the best quality coconut oil you can find. It isn’t all about price and you will find good quality brands that don’t cost a fortune.

And that’s it fellow Tweakleters! Another tiny food tweak to get us thinking more about how we can use coconut oil.

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Tweaklet #41 – Cholesterol: Natural Solutions

Cholesterol is a big subject and the cause of it isn’t just food related but today we’re just going to focus on some simple food tweaks that can help lower cholesterol.

Essentially the mix is including a range of healthy fats, quality vegetables
Firstly there’s olive oil which is loaded with heart-healthy saturated fats which has been shown to drop bad cholesterol levels.

Good old vegetables are next as they are nutrient dense and high in vitamins and minerals.

Nuts are great all-rounders in lowering all the bad cholesterol markers. And they are high in fibre and healthy fats. Seeds like flax seeds are also excellent for heart health.

Fatty fish like salmon are packed with beneficial omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol.

Then there’s spices like Turmeric and garlic that play their valuable part. Other vegetables like beans and legumes and sweet potatoes contain active cholesterol-lowering compounds. Avocados are excellent too, as are persimmons, that unusual fruit.

Green tea, which is rich in antioxidants can be used to good effect as can gluten-free whole grains. The usual things to avoid apply – caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and trans fats. To help with cholesterol, like COQ10 and fish oil…….and essential oils that help lower and manage cholesterol levels.

Once diagnosed cholesterol is something many of us can manage successfully with some tweaks to our diet and it certainly can’t hurt to tweak things in that direction anyway.

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Tweaklet #32 Cinnamon – World’s No.1 Spice

Let’s take a look at what is generally referred to as the world’s Number One Spice – cinnamon.

Cinnamon has been used medicinally for thousands of years and in cooking it’s sweet and warming and delicious.  It’s well known for its protective antioxidant properties, but also for being antibacterial, antifungal and anti-diabetic!

Cinnamon actually comes from the oily part of a tree so the popular powdered form is actually tree bark. Interesting huh? And of course, it’s really easy to get and so easy to use, just try to get it from a good source and keep replacing it periodically so that it retains its freshness and potency.

And cinnamon really is potent! As little as half a teaspoon a day can positively affect blood sugar and cholesterol…..digestion and overall immunity.. Cinnamon is also effective in reducing the risk of heart disease……., diabetes……and cancer.

You can keep infections and viruses at bay and maintain healthy brain function through the inclusion of cinnamon in your diet.

When we were talking about cutting out sugar cinnamon is one of the spices that can be a helpful replacement, adding loads of flavour and warmth to food without needing to sweeten it.

Grated fresh cinnamon is great but cinnamon sticks also add real depth of flavour to sweet and savoury dishes or add one to hot water to infuse for a hit of cinnamon tea. Ground cinnamon is wonderful and not just for sprinkling over desserts or oatmeal or yoghurt, it’s also excellent to sprinkle into savoury dishes like soups and stews.

You can also buy cinnamon capsules and as an essential oil.

So, I invite you into the wonderful world of cinnamon and all its medicinal and foodie delights.

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