Food as Medicine: Carrot (Daucus carota, Apiaceae)

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Ubiquitous at any supermarket, the common root vegetable carrot (Daucus carota, subsp. sativus) is a biennial plant that is an excellent source of vitamin A (one cup contains approximately 600% of the recommended daily value) and fiber.1 Indigenous to Europe as well as parts of Asia and northern Africa, carrots now are cultivated commonly in a wide range of environments as they can withstand frosts.2 The colorful varieties of carrots, as well as their hardiness, make them popular with home gardeners.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Favored for their sweet flavor and versatility, carrots not only supply an impressive array of vitamins and minerals, but also contain carotenoids such as alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopene, and the flavonoid quercetin. Though the orange carrot is the most well known in modern times, carrots appear in a number of colors including white, yellow, red, and purple.3 In fact, purple was the prevailing color for carrots until about four hundred years ago, when popular theory claims that the unusual orange variety was cultivated in Holland as a sign of Dutch nationalism to honor William of Orange. The exact reason why the orange cultivar became the dominant variety is unknown, though genetic evidence suggests that orange carrots developed from yellow ones.4

The different colors of carrots reveal their various concentrations of phytochemicals.5 Carotenoids give yellow, orange, and red carrots their colors, while anthocyanins produce the deep purple variety. Orange carrots contain high quantities of beta-carotene. Yellow carrots contain low quantities of beta-carotene, but higher levels of lutein, which may protect from age-related macular degeneration and be beneficial for eyesight. Red carrots contain lycopene — a potent antioxidant with potential anti-cancer activity — in concentrations similar to that of tomatoes. Red carrots also contain moderate levels of alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein. Purple carrots contain high levels of anthocyanins, antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory and cardio-protective properties. The white variety has low levels of these phytochemicals but contains high levels of potassium.

Historical Uses

The record of the use of carrots in herbalism dates back to the 10th century, with mentions in the Old English Herbarium and the Leech Book of Bald indicating the use of the root as an emmenagogue as well as a treatment for smallpox and cough.6 Around the world, both root and seed have documented historical uses, typically to promote menstruation or as a diuretic. A different species, the wild American carrot (D. pulsillus), has an ethnobotanical history among many American native tribes as a remedy for colds, fevers, itching, and snake bites.7

Modern Research

Current research suggests that carrots may possess anti-cancer properties,8-10 as well as benefits for people with high blood pressure11 and cardiovascular disease.12 Beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A and is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the body from free radicals and maintaining healthy skin and eyes.13

Consuming large amounts of beta-carotene, especially from carrots, can result in a harmless side effect called carotenemia, which temporarily yellows the skin.13 Infants, whose commercial foods often contain carrot puree as an added ingredient, are most likely to get carotenemia. The yellowing effect subsides as the body processes the excess beta-carotene.

Carrots can be enjoyed cooked or raw, as they retain their nutrients during the cooking process.14 Their sweetness adds to their versatility and supports their use in both sweet and savory dishes. A sweet-and-spicy pickle, for example, enhances the carrot’s natural flavor and a pleasing crunch.


Nutrient Profile

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup raw carrots)

52 calories
1.26 g protein
12 g carbohydrates
0.23 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup raw carrots)

Excellent source of:

Vitamin A: 34,317 IU (~686% DV)
Vitamin K: 16.1 mcg (20% DV)

Very good source of:

Vitamin C: 11.4 mg (18% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g (14.6% DV)
Potassium: 394 mg (11.3% DV)

Good source of:

Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (9% DV)
Manganese: 0.2 mg (8.5% DV)
Molybdenum: 6.1 mcg (8.1% DV)
Thiamin: 0.1 mg (8.0% DV)
Niacin: 1.1 mg (5.6% DV)
Phosphorus: 53.7 mg (5.4% DV)
Magnesium: 18.3 mg (4.6% DV)
Folate: 17.1 mcg (4.3% DV)

DV = Daily Value, as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.


Recipe: Spicy Pickled Carrots

Adapted from Alton Brown15

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. baby carrots
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 2 dried red chilies

Directions:

  1. Place carrots and garlic in a 1-quart, spring-top glass jar.

  2. In a non-reactive

    sauce pan

    , bring the water, sugar, cider vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, and dried chili flakes to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Boil for 4 minutes.

  3. Slowly pour the pickling liquid into the jar, covering the carrots and garlic completely. Submerge the

    chilies

    in the jar and cool before sealing.

  4. Refrigerate for two days (for a milder pickle) or a week (for a spicier pickle). These will get hotter the longer they are kept.

References

  1. Basic Report: 11124, Carrots, raw. US Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  2. Taxon: Daucus carota L. Germplasm Resources Information Network – (GRIN) [Online Database]. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  3. History of the Carrot Part Three: From Medicine to Food – A.D. 200 to 1500. World Carrot Museum website. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  4. History of the Carrot Part Five: The Road to Domestication and the Colour Orange. World Carrot Museum website. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  5. Arscott SA, Tarnumihardjo SA. Carrots of many colors provide basic nutrition and bioavailable phytochemicals acting as a functional food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. March 2010;9(2):223-239. Available here. Accessed December 3, 2014.
  6. What the Ancient Herbalists Said about Carrots. World Carrot Museum website. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  7. Moerman DE. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1998.
  8. Bhanot A, Sharma R, Noolvi M. Natural sources as potential anti-cancer agents: A review. International Journal of Phytomedicine [serial online]. April 2011;3(1):9-26.
  9. Aggarwal B, Shishodia S. Molecular targets of dietary agents for prevention and therapy of cancer. Biochemical Pharmacology [serial online]. May 14, 2006:1397, 1421.
  10. Rana Z, Malcolm R. C, Christine L. Le M. Bioactive Chemicals from Carrot (Daucus carota) Juice Extracts for the Treatment of Leukemia. Journal of Medicinal Food [serial online]. November 2011;14(11):1303-1312.
  11. Potter AS, Foroudi S, Stamatikos A, Patil BS, Deyhim F. Drinking carrot juice increases total antioxidant status and decreases lipid peroxidation in adults. Nutr J. September 24, 2011;10:96.
  12. Buijsse B, Feskens E, Kwape L, Kok F, Kromhout D. Both α- and β-Carotene, but Not Tocopherols and Vitamin C, Are Inversely Related to 15-Year Cardiovascular Mortality in Dutch Elderly Men. Journal of Nutrition [serial online]. February 2008;138(2):344-350.
  13. Vitamin Library: Beta-Carotene. Andrew Weil, MD website. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2014.
  14. Rock CL, Lovalvo JL, Emenhiser C, Ruffin MT, Flatt SW, Schwartz SJ. Bioavailability of beta-carotene is lower in raw than in processed carrots and spinach in women. J Nutr. 1998;128:913-916.
  15. Firecrackers. Food Network website. Available here. Accessed December 3, 2014.

Coconut Oil – Countless Uses!

Coconut oil has been a dietary and beauty staple for millennia. It’s a powerful destroyer of all kinds of microbes, from viruses to bacteria to protozoa, many of which can be harmful, and provides your body with high-quality fat that is critical for optimal health.

Around 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature. In fact, coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on Earth.

Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV and herpes, influenza, measles, gram-negative bacteria, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia.

This is undoubtedly part of what makes it so medicinally useful—both when taken internally and applied externally.

Coconut oil is comprised of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) that are easily digested and readily cross cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat. This is in part why I recommend coconut oil as an ideal replacement for non-vegetable carbohydrates.

Coconut oil is easy on your digestive system and does not produce an insulin spike in your bloodstream, so for a quick energy boost, you could simply eat a spoonful of coconut oil, or add it to your food. In the video above, I also share my recipe for a scrumptious yet healthful chocolate treat, courtesy of the healthy fat from coconut oil.

To get more coconut oil into your diet, you can add it to your tea or coffee, in lieu of a sweetener. It will also help improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, so taking a spoonful of coconut oil along with your daily vitamins may help boost their effectiveness.

Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils (olive oil, for example, should not be used for cooking for this reason).

Furthermore, coconut oil does not go rancid, which is a huge boon when you’re making homemade concoctions. Coconut oil that has been kept at room temperature for a year has been tested for rancidity, and showed no evidence of it. Since you would expect the small percentage of unsaturated oils naturally contained in coconut oil to become rancid, it seems that the other (saturated) oils have a powerful antioxidant effect.

GENERAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF COCONUT OIL

In all, coconut oil offers a truly impressive array of health benefits when included in your daily diet. In addition to its antimicrobial properties, coconut oil is beneficial for:

Promoting heart health Supporting proper thyroid function
Promoting healthy brain function Strengthening your immune system
Providing an excellent “fuel” for your body and supporting a strong metabolism that can aid in weight loss Maintaining healthy and youthful looking skin

While coconut oil is an ideal food for fostering health and beauty from the inside out, it also has a staggering number of other uses, from topical beauty applications to first aid treatments, to general household cleaning.  Once you’re done reading through this article, you’ll probably be inspired to stock up for all eventualities!

COCONUT OIL CAN REPLACE DOZENS OF BEAUTY AND PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS

 

One of the best personal care products you’ll ever find may be sitting in your kitchen cupboard right now. The video above, featuring HolisticHabits blogger and coconut oil aficionado Sarah, recounts many of its beauty uses. The second video includes a recipe making your own coconut oil-based deodorant. A previous article by Delicious Obsessions also lists no less than 122 creative uses for this household staple, including 21 DIY coconut oil skin care recipes. For example, coconut oil can be used to replace the following personal care and beauty products.

Makeup remover: Swipe on with a moist cotton ball. Wipe off with a clean cotton ball or wet washcloth.
Facial cleanser: Massage a dollop of coconut oil onto face and neck. Wash off with a wet washcloth and pat dry.
Body scrub: Mix equal parts coconut oil with organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath.
Facial scrub: Instead of sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub.
Shaving lotion: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on the area to be shaved, and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also serve as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving.
Face and body moisturizer: You can use it either by itself or add your favorite essential oil. (Make sure you’re using a high-quality essential oil that is safe for topical application.) The featured article also suggests whipping the coconut oil with an electric mixer to produce a fluffy moisturizer that stays soft and spreadable even in cooler temperatures.

When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.

Eye cream: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to soften wrinkles and counteract thinning, sagging skin.
Cuticle cream: Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas.
Deodorant: Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep odors at bay, courtesy of the oil’s antibacterial properties. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder. For directions, see the second video above. DeliciousObsessions.com also lists additional deodorant recipes using coconut oil as the base.
Bath soak: Adding coconut oil to your bath can help moisturize dry itchy skin (Make sure to scrub your tub afterward to prevent slipping!). Make sure the water is warmer than 76 degrees Fahrenheit though, otherwise the oil will turn to a solid.
Soap: Coconut oil is one of the base ingredients in many homemade soap recipes, such as this one by NourishingJoy.com
Lip balm: You can either apply a small amount of coconut oil, as is or make your own lip balm using coconut oil as one of the base ingredients. You can find all sorts of recipes online, but here’s one by The Liberated Kitchen.
Toothpaste: Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action may help keep harmful bacteria in check. For recipes using essential oils to spruce up your toothpaste, seeDeliciousObsessions.com.
Insect repellent: Mixing coconut oil with high-quality essential oils may help keep biting insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Effective choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella(Java Citronella), geraniol, catnip oil (according to one study, catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET), and/or clear vanilla oil

HAIR’S BEST FRIEND

Coconut oil is also known for its hair benefits. Most women seem to prefer using it as a pre-shampoo conditioner. Simply massage the coconut oil onto dry hair and leave on for about an hour or longer. You could even leave it on overnight. Just wear a shower cap to protect your pillow. Then, wash and style as usual.

When applied in this manner, the coconut oil inhibits the penetration of water into the hair strands, which would otherwise cause the cuticle, or surface of the hair shaft, to rise, making it prone to damage and breakage. Furthermore, when applied as a pre-wash treatment, a small amount of the coconut oil is able to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft during the wash, when the hair fiber swells slightly.

This can also explain why so many rave about the oil’s ability to prevent “the frizzies” in humid weather—this is another feature of its hydrophobic activity. More porous types of hair may find coconut oil particularly beneficial, such as African and chemically treated hair, as well as those suffering with any type of scalp problems, including dandruff.

ORAL HEALTH BENEFITS

As mentioned above, coconut oil mixed with baking soda makes for very simple and inexpensive, yet effective, toothpaste. It’s also a great alternative if you want a fluoride-free toothpaste but don’t want to spend the extra money, since they tend to cost more than most regular, fluoridated toothpaste brands.

Another oral health technique where I believe coconut oil can be quite beneficial is oil pulling. This technique has significantly reduced my plaque buildup, allowing me to go longer between visits to the dental hygienist. (Adding fermented vegetables to my diet has been another game-changer in my oral health.)

Oil pulling is a practice dating back thousands of years, having originated with Ayurvedic medicine. When oil pulling is combined with the antimicrobial power of coconut oil, I believe it can be a very powerful health tool. Sesame oil is traditionally recommended, but it has relatively high concentration of omega-6 oils. Therefore, I believe coconut oil is far superior, and, in my mind, it tastes better. But from a mechanical and biophysical perspective, it is likely that both work.

Oil pulling involves rinsing your mouth with the oil, much like you would with a mouthwash. The oil is “worked” around your mouth by pushing, pulling, and drawing it through your teeth for a period of 15 minutes. If you are obsessive like me and want even better results, you can go for 30-45 minutes. This process allows the oil to “pull out” bacteria, viruses, fungi and other debris. The best time is in the morning before eating breakfast, but it can be done at any time. I try to do it twice a day if my schedule allows. When done, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with water. Avoid swallowing the oil as it will be loaded with bacteria and whatever potential toxins and debris it has pulled out.

When done correctly, oil pulling has a significant cleansing, detoxifying and healing affect, not only for your mouth and sinuses but for the rest of your body as well. Candida and Streptococcus are common residents in your mouth, and these germs and their toxic waste products can contribute to plaque accumulation and tooth decay, in addition to secondary infections and chronic inflammation throughout your body. Oil pulling may help lessen the overall toxic burden on your immune system by preventing the spread of these organisms from your mouth to the rest of your body, by way of your bloodstream.

COCONUT OIL TO THE RESCUE

Besides its usefulness in the kitchen and bathroom, coconut oil deserves a place in your medicine cabinet as well—again courtesy of its antimicrobial and anti-viral activity. For example, coconut oil may be helpful in the treatment of:

Ear infections: Place a couple of drops into each ear canal. If the coconut oil has solidified, you can easily liquefy it by placing a small amount in a shot glass or other small container and placing it into a cup of hot water Skin rashes and irritations, including chicken pox and shingles: Simply apply a small amount to the affected area
Fungal and/or yeast infections, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm. For fungal infections, you can mix in a small amount of oregano oil or tea tree oil Bug bites and bee stings
Cold sores: mix in a small amount of oregano oil, and apply at the first signs Frequent nosebleeds may be improved by regularly applying a small amount to the inside of your nostrils
Thrush Hemorrhoids and piles: You may add a small amount of lavender essential oil for added healing power
Vaginal dryness Perineal massage: Expectant mothers can use it to massage the perineum daily, starting about a month or so before your due date, to help reduce your chances of tearing and/or the need for an episiotomy

COCONUT OIL—MORE EFFECTIVE THAN PERMETHRIN FOR HEAD LICE

According to research published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, a combination of coconut oil and anise was found to be nearly twice as effective as the commonly prescribed permethrin lotion for the treatment of head lice. According to the authors:

“We designed a randomized, controlled, parallel group trial involving 100 participants with active head louse infestation to investigate the activity of a coconut and anise spray and to see whether permethrin lotion is still effective, using two applications of product 9 days apart. The spray was significantly more successful (41/50, 82.0%) cures compared with permethrin (21/50, 42.0%…). Per-protocol success was 83.3% and 44.7%, respectively. Thirty-three people reported irritant reactions following alcohol contact with excoriated skin. We concluded that, although permethrin lotion is still effective for some people, the coconut and anise spray can be a significantly more effective alternative treatment.” [Emphasis mine]

Isn’t it wonderful to see how nature provides us with so many effective solutions to so many of our ills? And does so in a way that is oftentimes more effective than our chemical drug concoctions! Another anecdotal Hawaiian head lice treatment is to first soak your hair in vinegar and leave it in to dry (don’t rinse). Next, coat your hair with coconut oil over night. I’d recommend sleeping with a shower cap to protect your bedding. The following day, the nits reportedly comb out easily.

14 SURPRISING USES FOR COCONUT OIL AROUND THE HOUSE

Last but not least, coconut oil can be used for a number of household tasks otherwise relegated to more costly, and potentially toxic, alternatives. Following are 14 creative yet practical uses for this fantastic oil:

1. Clean, condition and sanitize your wooden cutting board. Use whenever the wood starts to look dry.
2. Use when making compost tea for your garden to reduce foam.
3. Use as a metal polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
4. Moisturize and soften leather goods as you would using other leather conditioners.
5. Season your cast iron pots and pans using coconut oil in lieu of lard or corn oil.
6. Lubricate squeaky hinges and sticky mechanisms with coconut oil instead of WD-40.
7. Clean and condition wooden furniture in lieu of furniture polish. Make sure to test a small area first.
8. Lubricate your guitar strings.
9. Clean soap scum from your shower using a small dollop of coconut oil on a damp cloth. Spray the area with white vinegar and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
10. Clean your hands and paint brushes with coconut oil after using oil-based paints, in lieu of mineral spirits.
11. Clean and condition the inside of your car by adding a small amount to a soft lint-free cloth. Rub in and wipe off excess.
12. Clean and sanitize your mouth guard by applying a thin layer of coconut oil. Leave the coconut oil on when not in use. Rinse before using.
13. Cleanse and add a glossy finish to indoor plants by wiping the leaves with a small amount of coconut oil on a lint-free cloth.
14. Remove chewing gum from virtually any area, including carpets and hair.

What Is Citron?

The citron is a large fragrant citrus fruit with a thick rind, botanically classified as Citrus medica by both the Swingle and Tanakabotanical name systems. It is one of the four original citrus fruits (the others being pomelo, mandarin, and papeda), from which all other citrus types developed through natural hybrid speciation or artificial hybridization.

The fruit’s English name “citron” derives ultimately from Latin, citrus, which is also the origin of the genus name.

Other languages

A source of confusion is that citron or similar words in French, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Finnish, Latvian, the West Slavic languages, and all Germanic languages but English are false friends, as they refer to the lemon. Indeed, into the 16th century, the English name citron included the lemon and perhaps the lime as well.[3][not in citation given] In Italian, it is known as a cedro.

In Persian languages, it is called Turunj, as against “Naraj” (bitter orange); both names borrowed by Arabic and introduced into Spain and Portugal after their occupation by the Muslims in AD 711, whence it became the source of the name orange. In Syria it is called Kabbad; in Japanese, it is called Bushukan (maybe referring only to the fingered varieties).

While the lemon or orange are peeled to consume their pulpy and juicy segments, the citron’s pulp is dry, containing a small quantity of insipid juice, if any. The main content of a citron fruit is the thick white rind, which adheres to the segments and cannot be separated from them easily. The citron gets halved and pulped, then its rind (the thicker the better) is cut in pieces, cooked in sugar syrup, and used as a spoon sweet, in Greek known as “kitron glyko” (κίτρον γλυκό), or it is diced and caramelized with sugar and used as a confection in cakes.

In Samoa, a refreshing drink called “vai tipolo” is made from squeezed juice. It is also added to a raw fish dish called “oka” and to a variation of palusami or luáu.

Today the citron is used for the fragrance or zest of its flavedo, but the most important part is still the inner rind (known as pith or albedo), which is a fairly important article in international trade and is widely employed in the food industry as succade, as it is known when it is candied in sugar.

The dozens of varieties of citron are collectively known as Lebu in Bangladesh, where it is the primary citrus fruit.

In Iran, the citron’s thick white rind is used to make jam; in Pakistan, the fruit is used to make jam but is also pickled; in South Indian cuisine, some varieties of citron (collectively referred to as “Narthangai” in Tamil) are widely used in pickles and preserves. In Kutch, Gujarat, It is used to make the pickle, wherein entire slices of fruits are salted, dried and mixed with Jaggery and spices to make sweet spicy pickle. In the United States, citron is an important ingredient in holiday fruitcakes.

Medicinal

From ancient through medieval times, the citron was used mainly for medical purposes: to combat seasickness, pulmonary troubles, intestinal ailments, scurvy and other disorders. The essential oil of the flavedo (the outermost, pigmented layer of rind) was also regarded as an antibiotic. Citron juice with wine was considered an effective antidote to poison, as Theophrastus reported. In the Ayurvedic system of medicine, the juice is still used for treating conditions like nausea, vomiting, and excessive thirst.

The juice of the citron has a high Vitamin C content and used medicinally as an anthelmintic, appetizer, tonic, in a cough, rheumatism, vomiting, flatulence, hemorrhoids, skin diseases and weak eyesight.

There is an increasing market for the citron for the soluble fiber (pectin) found in its thick albedo.

Religious

In Judaism

The citron is used by Jews (the word for it in Hebrew is etrog) for a religious ritual during the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles; therefore, it is considered to be a Jewish symbol which is found on various Hebrew antiques and archaeological findings. Citrons used for ritual purposes cannot be grown by grafting branches.

In Buddhism

A variety of citron native to China has sections that separate into finger-like parts and is used as an offering in Buddhist temples.

Perfumery

For many centuries, citron’s fragrant essential oil has been used in perfumery, the same oil that was used medicinally for its antibiotic properties. Its major constituent is limonene.

Description and variation

Fruit

The citron fruit is usually ovate or oblong, narrowing towards the stylar end. However, the citron’s fruit shape is highly variable, due to the large quantity of albedo, which forms independently according to the fruits’ position on the tree, twig orientation, and many other factors. The rind is leathery, furrowed, and adherent. The inner portion is thick, white and hard; the outer is uniformly thin and very fragrant. The pulp is usually acidic but also can be sweet, and even pulpless varieties are found.

Most citron varieties contain a large number of mono-embryonic seeds. They are white, with dark inner coats and red-purplish chalazal spots for the acidic varieties, and colorless for the sweet ones. Some citron varieties are also distinct, having persistent styles, that do not fall off after fecundation. Those are usually promoted for etrog use.

Some citrons have medium-sized oil bubbles at the outer surface, medially distant to each other. Some varieties are ribbed and faintly warted on the outer surface. There is also a fingered citron variety called Buddha’s hand.

The color varies from green, when unripe, to a yellow-orange when overripe. The citron does not fall off the tree and can reach 8–10 pounds (4–5 kg) if not picked before fully mature. However, they should be picked before the winter, as the branches might bend or break to the ground, and may cause numerous fungal diseases for the tree.

Plant

A pure citron, of any kind, has a large portion of albedo, which is important for the production of Succade.

Citrus medica is a slow-growing shrub or small tree that reaches a height of about 8 to 15 ft (2 to 5 m). It has irregular straggling branches and stiff twigs and long spines at the leaf axils. The evergreen leaves are green and lemon-scented with slightly serrated edges, ovate-lanceolate or ovate-elliptic 2.5 to 7.0 inches long. Petioles are usually wingless or with minor wings. The clustered flowers of the acidic varieties are purplish tinted from outside, but the sweet ones are white-yellowish.


Varieties and hybrids

The acidic varieties include the Florentine and Diamante citron from Italy, the Greek citron and the Balady citron from Israel. The sweet varieties include the Corsican and Moroccan citrons. Between the pulpless are also some fingered varieties and the Yemenite citron.

There are also a number of citron hybrids; for example, ponderosa lemon, the lumia and rhobs el Arsa are known citron hybrids, some are claiming that even the Florentine citron is not pure citron, but a citron hybrid.

Origin and distribution

Despite the variation among the cultivars, authorities agree the citron is an old and original species. There is molecular evidence that all other cultivated citrus species arose by hybridization among four ancestral types, which are the citron, pomelo, mandarin and some papedas. The citron is believed to be the purest of them all, since it is usually fertilized by self-pollination, and is therefore generally considered to be a male parent of any citrus hybrid rather than a female one.

Today, authorities agree that all citrus species are native to Southeast Asia, where they are found wild and in an uncultivated form. The story of how they spread to the Mediterranean has been reported by Francesco Calabrese, Henri Chapot, Samuel Tolkowsky, Elizabetta Nicolosi, and others.

The citron could also be native to India where it borders on Burma, in valleys at the foot of the Himalayas, and in the Indian Western Ghats. It is thought that by the time of Theophrastus, the citron was mostly cultivated in the Persian Gulf on its way to the Mediterranean basin, where it was cultivated during the later centuries in different areas as described by Erich Isaac. Many mention the role of Alexander the Great and his armies as they attacked Persia and what is today Pakistan, as being responsible for the spread of the citron westward, reaching the European countries such as Macedonia and Italy.

Antiquity

Leviticus mentions the “fruit of the tree hadar” as being required for ritual use during the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:40). According to Rabbinical tradition, the “fruit of the tree hadar” refers to the citron, which the Israelites brought to Israel from their exile in Egypt, where the Egyptologist and archaeologist Victor Loret claimed to have identified it depicted on the walls of the botanical garden at the Karnak Temple, which dates back to the time of Thutmosis III, approximately 3,000 years ago.

The citron has been cultivated since ancient times, predating the cultivation of other citrus species.

Theophrastus

The following description on citron was given by Theophrastus

Illustration of fingered citron with the leaves and thorns that are common to all varieties of citron.

In the east and south there are special plants… i.e. in Media and Persia there are many types of fruit, between them there is a fruit called Median or Persian Apple. The tree has a leaf similar to and almost identical with that of the andrachn (Arbutus andrachne L.), but has thorns like those of the apios (the wild pear, Pyrus amygdaliformis Vill.) or the firethorn (Cotoneaster pyracantha Spach.), except that they are white, smooth, sharp and strong. The fruit is not eaten, but is very fragrant, as is also the leaf of the tree; and the fruit is put among clothes, it keeps them from being moth-eaten. It is also useful when one has drunk deadly poison, for when it is administered in wine; it upsets the stomach and brings up the poison. It is also useful to improve the breath, for if one boils the inner part of the fruit in a dish or squeezes it into the mouth in some other medium, it makes the breath more pleasant.

The seed is removed from the fruit and sown in the spring in carefully tilled beds, and it is watered every fourth or fifth day. As soon the plant is strong it is transplanted, also in the spring, to a soft, well watered site, where the soil is not very fine, for it prefers such places.

And it bears its fruit at all seasons, for when some have gathered, the flower of the others is on the tree and is ripening others. Of the flowers I have said[41] those that have a sort of distaff [meaning the pistil] projecting from the middle are fertile, while those that do not have this are sterile. It is also sown, like date palms, in pots punctured with holes.

This tree, as has been remarked, grows in Media and Persia.

Pliny the Elder

Citron was also described by Pliny the Elder, who called it nata Assyria malus. The following is from his book Natural History:

There is another tree also with the same name of “citrus,” and bears a fruit that is held by some persons in particular dislike for its smell and remarkable bitterness; while, on the other hand, there are some who esteem it very highly. This tree is used as an ornament to houses; it requires, however, no further description.

The citron tree, called the Assyrian, and by some the Median apple, is an antidote against poisons. The leaf is similar to that of the arbute, except that it has small prickles running across it. As to the fruit, it is never eaten, but it is remarkable for its extremely powerful smell, which is the case, also, with the leaves; indeed, the odour is so strong, that it will penetrate clothes, when they are once impregnated with it, and hence it is very useful in repelling the attacks of noxious insects.

The tree bears fruit at all seasons of the year; while some is falling off, other fruit is ripening, and other, again, just bursting into birth. Various nations have attempted to naturalize this tree among them, for the sake of its medical properties, by planting it in pots of clay, with holes drilled in them, for the purpose of introducing the air to the roots; and I would here remark, once for all, that it is as well to remember that the best plan is to pack all slips of trees that have to be carried to any distance, as close together as they can possibly be placed.

It has been found, however, that this tree will grow nowhere except in Media or Persia. It is this fruit, the pips of which, as we have already mentioned, the Parthian grandees employ in seasoning their ragouts, as being peculiarly conducive to the sweetening of the breath. We find no other tree very highly commended that is produced in Media.

Citrons, either the pulp of them or the pips, are taken in wine as an antidote to poisons. A decoction of citrons, or the juice extracted from them, is used as a gargle to impart sweetness to the breath. The pips of this fruit are recommended for pregnant women to chew when affected with qualmishness. Citrons are good, also, for a weak stomach, but it is not easy to eat them except with vinegar.

Legumes May Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health concern in the United States and across the globe. New research shows that a high consumption of legumes significantly reduces the risk of developing the disease.
[various types of legumes]
A new study suggests that a high consumption of legumes can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 35 percent.

The legume family consists of plants such as alfalfa, clover, peas, peanuts, soybeans, chickpeas, lentils, and various types of beans.

As a food group, they are believed to be particularly nutritious and healthful. One of the reasons for this is that they contain a high level of B vitamins, which help the body to make energy and regulate its metabolism.

Additionally, legumes are high in fiber and contain minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They also comprise a variety of so-called phytochemicals – bioactive compounds that further improve the body’s metabolism and have been suggested to protect against heart disease and diabetes.

Finally, legumes are also considered to be a “low glycemic index food,” which means that blood sugar levels increase very slowly after they are consumed.

To make people aware of the many health benefits of legumes, the year 2016 has been declared the International Year of Pulses by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pulses are a subgroup of legumes.

Because of their various health benefits, it has been suggested that legumes protect against the onset of type 2 diabetes – a serious illness that affects around 29 million people in the U.S. and more than 400 million adults worldwide. However, little research has been carried out to test this hypothesis.

Therefore, researchers from the Unit of Human Nutrition at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, together with other investigators from the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED) study, set out to investigate the association between legume consumption and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study also analyzes the effects of substituting legumes with other foods rich in proteins and carbohydrates, and the findings were published in the journal Clinical Nutrition.

High intake of lentils lowers risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 percent

The team investigated 3,349 participants in the PREDIMED study who did not have type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study. The researchers collected information on their diets at the start of the study and every year throughout the median follow-up period of 4.3 years.

Individuals with a lower cumulative consumption of legumes had approximately 1.5 weekly servings of 60 grams of raw legumes, or 12.73 grams per day. A higher legume consumption was defined as 28.75 daily grams of legumes, or the equivalent of 3.35 servings per week.

Using Cox regression models, the researchers analyzed the association between the incidence of type 2 diabetes and the average consumption of legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, dry beans, and fresh peas.

Overall, during the follow-up period, the team identified 266 new cases of type 2 diabetes.

The study revealed that those with a higher intake of legumes were 35 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their counterparts who consumed a smaller amount of legumes. Of all the legumes studied, lentils had the strongest association with a low risk of type 2 diabetes.

In fact, individuals with a high consumption of lentils (defined as almost one weekly serving) were 33 percent less likely to develop diabetes compared with their low-consumption counterparts – that is, the participants who had less than half a serving per week.

Additionally, the researchers found that replacing half a serving per day of legumes with an equivalent portion of protein- and carbohydrate-rich foods including bread, eggs, rice, or potatoes also correlated with a reduced risk of diabetes.

The authors conclude that:

“A frequent consumption of legumes, particularly lentils, in the context of a Mediterranean diet, may provide benefits on type 2 diabetes prevention in older adults at high cardiovascular risk.”

Food as Medicine: Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus, Cucurbitaceae)

History and Traditional Use


Range and Habitat

The watermelon is the largest edible fruit grown in the United States: an annual trailing plant with fruits that can grow from 5-50 pounds and vines that can reach up to 20’ in length. Each fruit forms from a yellow flower, and the spherical or ovoid fruit is typically smooth and green or green with lighter banded stripes. The watermelon is native to the Kalahari Desert in Africa, and it thrives in well-draining, sandy soil. Currently, watermelons are cultivated all over the world, with Asia producing 60% of watermelons globally. The United States ranks fifth in global watermelon production. Forty-four states grow watermelons, including Texas, Florida, Georgia, and California, which collectively produce 2/3 of all the watermelons domestically.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Watermelon contains an array of important vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, potassium, and beta-carotene. Watermelon also contains the important bioactive compounds citrulline and lycopene. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and anti-cancer agent. Watermelon’s vitamin C content may be linked to reducing blood pressure, as does its smaller amounts of vitamins B6 and E. The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyes, a strong immune system, and healthy skin. Vine fruits like watermelon are a good source of potassium, a crucial electrolyte for nerve and muscle function. Potassium is an essential nutrient as the body ages, as it decreases high blood pressure and reduces the risk of kidney stones, stroke, and bone density loss.

Citrulline is a precursor to the amino acid arginine and is involved in the process of removing nitrogen from the blood and eliminating it through urine. Arginine is a precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide in the body, which is a vasodilator (blood vessel-widening agent). Conditions that benefit from vasodilation, such as cardiovascular diseases, erectile dysfunction, and headaches may benefit from increased arginine intake. Arginine also helps the body make protein, which boosts muscle growth, enhances wound healing, combats fat accumulation, and stimulates the immune system.

Though the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) is more well-known as a source for lycopene (and in fact, its name is derived from lycopersicum), lycopene is a carotenoid found in many red foods, including watermelon, papaya (Carica papaya), pink grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi), and red carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativus). A powerful antioxidant, lycopene may help prevent heart disease and has shown a potent ability to protect the body from “free radicals,” which may play a role in the development of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many cancers. Lycopene may also boost sperm counts and lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Historical and Commercial Uses

Though native to the African Kalahari desert, where the watermelon gourd was often used as a canteen, the cultivation of watermelon spread quickly, and other cultures adopted it as a beneficial, healing food. Ancient Egyptians used watermelon to treat reproductive problems such as erectile dysfunction and prostate inflammation. The peoples of Russia and Central Asia used watermelon as a diuretic and to cleanse the blood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, watermelon is considered cooling and moistening, producing a diuretic effect, and commonly is used to treat thirst, edema, and inflammation of the kidney and urinary tracts.18 Because watermelon is 92% water, many traditional uses of watermelon overlap with current uses, including hydration, cleansing, and eliminating impurities. Since watermelon is digested relatively quickly, the folk traditions of the Papua New Guinea aborigines known as Onabasulu advised against eating watermelon and other juicy fruits after a heavy meal or if suffering from a stomachache.

African cuisine treats the watermelon as a vegetable and uses the entire fruit: seeds, rinds, and flesh. The seeds are eaten as snacks added to dishes or ground into flour for use in baked goods. The rind can be stir-fried, stewed, candied, pickled, or grilled. The flesh is eaten or juiced, but it can also be fermented into alcohol; in the southern part of Russia, the juice is combined with hops to make beer.

Modern Research

The traditional uses for watermelon as a medicine are beginning to gain scientific confirmation, particularly in regards to its applications against erectile dysfunction, dehydration, kidney disease, and anti-aging concerns. Watermelon’s antioxidant and nutrient content defend against many different conditions.

Current research shows that citrulline in watermelons has beneficial effects on the heart, dilating the blood vessels and improving blood flow. In one clinical study, obese participants with pre-high blood pressure or stage-one high blood pressure significantly reduced their ankle and brachial systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and carotid wave reflection with ingestion of citrulline from watermelons. A review of consumption of citrulline from watermelon demonstrated improvements in glycemic control and circulatory problems in diabetics, a reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, and increased levels of arginine, an essential amino acid. Because arginine is involved in maintaining the health of the reproductive, pulmonary, renal, gastrointestinal, hepatic, and immune systems, citrulline is of increasing interest in the realm of scientific study. Studies show that citrulline is more bioavailable in the body than arginine, making it a better candidate for arginine deficiency diseases such as renal carcinoma, chronic inflammatory diseases, or blood cell diseases like sickle cell anemia and malaria. Citrulline research also has shown promising results of becoming a biomarker for bowel problems of the small intestine as well as kidney failure.13

Lycopene’s powerful antioxidant properties have been shown to reduce the risks of prostate, lung, gastric, and colorectal cancers. However, due to its antioxidant effect, it seems to interfere with chemo and radiation therapy. In addition to being an antioxidant, lycopene has been shown to be heart-protective and lowers LDL cholesterol. In one study, lycopene ingestion showed a reduction in the risk of stroke, especially ischemic strokes in men. Finally, lycopene has been linked to a reduction in cardiovascular risks.

Nutrient Profile


Macronutrient Profile
(Per 1 cup diced watermelon [approx. 152 g]):

46 calories
1 g protein
11.5 g carbohydrate
0.2 g fat

Secondary Metabolites (Per 1 cup diced watermelon [approx. 152 g]):

Excellent source of:

Vitamin C: 12.3 mg (20.5% DV)
Vitamin A: 865 IU (17.3% DV)

Very good source of:

Potassium: 170 mg (4.9% DV)

Also provides:

Magnesium: 15 mg (3.8% DV)
Vitamin B-6: 0.07 mg (3.5% DV)
Thiamin: 0.05 mg (3.3% DV)
Vitamin E: 0.08 mg (3% DV)
Manganese: 0.06 mg (3% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 0.6 g (2.4% DV)
Iron: 0.4 mg (2.2% DV)
Phosphorus: 17 mg (1.7% DV)
Folate: 5 mcg (1.3% DV)
Calcium: 11 mg (1.1% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.


Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rinds

Adapted from Bon Appétit


For an equally delicious condiment without the wait, use these ingredients to make watermelon rind chutney: increase sugar to 1 ½ cups, water to 1 cup, and finely mince the ginger. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a large pan, then simmer for 45-60 minutes until the rind is translucent and tender and the liquid reduces and thickens. Remove whole spices before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs of watermelon
  • 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2-star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough green outer rind from watermelon; discard.
  2. Slice watermelon into 1”-thick slices. Cut away all but 1/4” of flesh from each slice; reserve flesh for another use. Cut rind into 1” pieces for roughly 4 cups of the rind.
  3. Bring chili, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water to a boil in a large, non-reactive saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt.
  4. Add watermelon rind. Reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, setting a small lid or plate directly on top of rind to keep submerged in brine, if needed.
  5. Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container; cover and chill at least 12 hours.

“Low-Content” Nutritional Claims on Packaged Goods Misleading for Consumers

No fat, no sugar, no salt? What does it mean? Today, supermarket shelves are filled with products that make a variety of claims related to their perceived health benefits. As many Americans try to make better food choices, companies have been quick to adopt packaging that makes “low-content” nutrient claims such as “low-fat” or “low-sodium.” Because there is no uniformity to what these statements mean, consumers are often left confused and ill-informed. A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that simply making a low-content claim on the label was not a reliable indicator of a product’s actual nutritional quality and that these claims may give consumers a false sense of confidence about the healthfulness of their food.

Investigators wanted to examine what effects these low-content claims had on purchasing habits, as well as what relationship they had to the actual nutritional content of foods. After looking at data that included over 80 million food and beverage purchases from over 40,000 households, they found that 13% of food and 35% of beverage purchases had a low-content claim, and that “low-fat” was the most common claim, followed by “low-calorie,” “low-sugar,” and “low-sodium.” While the data revealed that products with some sort of claim had lower mean energy, total sugar, total fat, and sodium densities, they did not always represent the best nutritional value. The study suggests that because labels only need to make claims relative to other similar foods and not a standard definition of what “low” means, these claims do not offer consumers any real information or give a good indication of the general healthiness of the food.

“Our results demonstrate that for overall packaged foods and beverages, purchases featuring a low-/no-nutrients claim do not necessarily offer better overall nutritional profiles or even better profiles for the particular nutrients that are the subject of the claim, relative to other choices with no claim,” explained lead investigator Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, researcher assistant professor, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “This is likely due in part to “low” or “reduced” claims being relative within brands or specific food categories.”

Because there is, for example, no agreement about what constitutes a low-sugar cookie, researchers say consumers need to be cautious. A cookie that is marked “low-sugar” may contain less sugar than the “regular” version, but that low-sugar claim doesn’t guarantee it contains less sugar than other cookies. “In other words,” remarked Dr. Taillie, “a low-/no-nutrient claim means different things for different foods. This could potentially lead to confusion if consumers focus on seeking out products with specific nutrient claims or use a claim to justify the purchase of less-healthy foods. In fact, these results suggest (but are not conclusive) that in some cases, products that tend to be high in calories, sodium, sugar, or fat actually may be more likely to have low-/no-content claims.”

While the study focused on whether these claims had any connection to the actual nutritional value of the food and beverage items, investigators also looked at the groups who were more likely to purchase foods that made these statements. They found that while differences in purchasing patterns by race/ethnicity were not significant, non-Hispanic white households were the most likely to buy products with a “low-calorie” claim and that Asian households preferred foods with “low-fat” or “low-sodium” claims. Non-Hispanic black households were the least likely to purchase food groups with any low-content claim.

There was also a connection between socioeconomic status (SES) and food purchases. Researchers found that high- and middle-SES households were more likely to purchase food and beverages with low-content claims.

As consumers try to navigate an ever-increasing number of food and beverage choices, being able to parse what these claims mean will become even more critical. These findings show how the lack of consistency about what these statements mean can lead content claims to be used to sell generally unhealthy foods as a healthier alternative. “A key question for future research will be to examine how these claims affect consumer choice, as well as how claims interact with other common strategies, like sales or price promotions, to influence purchasing behavior and ultimately, dietary quality,” concluded Dr. Taillie.

This work was conducted at the Duke-UNC USDA Center for Behavioral Economics and Healthy Food Choice Research (BECR) and funded by Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Article: No Fat, No Sugar, No Salt . . . No Problem? Prevalence of “Low-Content” Nutrient Claims and Their Associations with the Nutritional Profile of Food and Beverage Purchases in the United States, Lindsey Smith Taillie, PhD, Shu Wen Ng, PhD, Ya Xue, PhD, Emily Busey, MPH, RD, Matthew Harding, PhD, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2017.01.011, published online 15 March 2017.

Food as Medicine: Grapes (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae)

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Vitis vinifera means “the vine that bears wine” and belongs to the Vitaceae family. Grapes are perennial climbers that have coiled tendrils and large leaves. They contain clusters of flowers that mature to produce small, round, and juicy berries that can be either green (“white”) or red.1 There are seed and seedless varieties, although the seeds are edible and packed with nutrition. The juice, pulp, skin, and seed of the grape can be used for various preparations.2

Grapes are a vine and must be trained to grow along a fence, wall, or arbor.3 The fruit does not ripen after harvesting; therefore, it is important to harvest well-colored and plump berries that are wrinkle-free and still firmly attached to the vine. They are best stored in the refrigerator since freezing will decrease their flavor.1,4 Pesticide use is common in vineyards, and careful washing is recommended when purchasing conventionally grown grapes.

As one of the leading commercial fruit crops in the world in terms of tons produced, grapes are cultivated all over the world in temperate regions. The top producers are Italy, France, Spain, the United States, Mexico, and Chile.1,5 Annually, worldwide grape production reaches an average of 60 million metric tons, 5.2 million of which are grown in the United States.

Phytochemicals and Constituents

Antioxidants are enzymes and nutrients that prevent oxidation, meaning they neutralize highly reactive ions or molecules known as free radicals in the human body by donating electrons or modulating enzymes that metabolize free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally through metabolism as part of normal physiological functions (e.g., a defense mechanism against pathogens), but may be produced in excess, creating a situation where they adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA, and trigger a number of human diseases. Grape and grape products are good sources of beneficial antioxidant compounds.

Grapes contain phytochemicals called polyphenols. Polyphenols are the most abundant source of dietary antioxidants and are associated with numerous health benefits.2,6 The phenolic compounds are more concentrated in the skin of the berry, rather than in the flesh or seeds, and the content tends to increase as the fruit ripens. Grapes contain polyphenols from the classes of flavonoids, stilbenes, and phenolic acids. Red wine and grapes are rich in flavonoids such as anthocyanins and catechins, stilbenes such as resveratrol, and phenolic acids such as caffeic acid and coumaric acid. Red grapes have higher concentrations of these phenolic compounds than red wine grapes. Different grape varietals contain varying amounts of phenolic compounds.

Anthocyanins are flavonoids that naturally occur in the plant kingdom and give many plants their red, purple, or blue pigmentation. Vitis vinifera may contain up to 17 anthocyanin pigments, which are contained in the skins.2,7 Grapes also contain other flavonoids, including catechins, epicatechin, and proanthocyanidins. Attempts to study the benefits of individual phytochemicals in humans has been difficult since these phytochemicals are complex and often interact with one another to increase their overall benefits.

There are numerous studies using animal models in phytochemical research.8 Animal models have shown that anthocyanins protect against oxidative stress, which can be the beginning stages of many chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Grape seeds are a particularly rich source of proanthocyanidins, a class of nutrients belonging to the flavonoid family. Proanthocyanidins, also known as condensed tannins, are polymers (naturally occurring large molecules) with flavan-3-ol monomers as building blocks. The term oligomeric proanthocyanidin(OPC), which also is commonly used to describe these compounds, is not well-defined and is debated among various members of the scientific community.

Grape seed extract is available as a nutritional supplement. Partially purified proanthocyanidins have been used in phytomedicinal preparations in Europe for their purported activity in decreasing the fragility and permeability of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain.9

Grapes have a high stilbene, specifically resveratrol, content. Resveratrol, which is found in the skin and seeds of red grapes as well as in red wine, is produced as the plant’s defense mechanism against environmental stressors.1,2,10,11 Resveratrol first gained attention as a possible explanation for the “French Paradox” — the observation that French people tend to have a low incidence of heart disease despite having a typically high-fat diet.1 The antioxidant activity of grapes is strongly correlated with the amount of resveratrol found in the grape.10 Studies have found resveratrol to be anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and cardioprotective in animal models.11 However, in a human study in which healthy adults consumed resveratrol, it was determined that the compound was readily absorbed, but it metabolized quickly, leaving only trace amounts.12

In addition to their high resveratrol content, grapes are also an excellent source of vitamin K and provide moderate amounts of potassium, vitamin C, and B vitamins.

Historical and Commercial Uses

Grapes have been consumed since prehistoric times and were one of the earliest domesticated fruit crops.1,13According to ancient Mediterranean culture, the “vine sprang from the blood of humans who had fought against the gods.”14 But according to archaeological evidence, domestication took place about 5,000 years ago somewhere between the Caspian and Black Seas and spread south to modern-day Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt before moving towards Europe.5,13 After the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, when Christianity became dominant, wine was associated with the Church and the monasteries soon perfected the process of making wine.1

About 300 years ago, Spanish explorers introduced the grape to what is now the United States, and California’s temperate climate proved to be an ideal place for grape cultivation.1

The grape is, famously, the most common ingredient in wine-making. A naturally-occurring symbiotic yeast grows on the grapes, making them easier to ferment and well-suited to the wine-making process.4 Popular wine cultivars of V. vinifera include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, and Viognier.10

Wine often has been used as a medium for herbal remedies, due to the solvent nature of the alcohol. Both the Chinese and Western traditions made use of medicated wines (though ancient recipes in China, which date to the Shang Dynasty [ca 1600-1046 BCE], would have been made with rice [Oryza sativa, Poaceae] wine rather than grape wine).15 Many aperitifs and liqueurs originally were digestive aids made with wine and fortified with herbs such as wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae) and anise seed (Pimpinella anisum, Apiaceae).16 Medicated wines are less potent and usually require a higher dosage than tinctures made with higher-proof alcohol.

Grapes are generally sweet and are used as table grapes, juice, jam, jelly, or for wine-making.13,17 About 99% of the world’s wine comes from V. vinifera.14 Grapes can also be dried in the vineyard and turned into raisins. To accomplish this, ripe grapes are plucked from the vine and placed on paper trays for two to four weeks. Afterward, they are sent to the processing plant to be cleaned, packaged, and shipped.5

Modern Research

Grapes have been the subject of numerous studies focused on many of their bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, stilbenes, and phenolic acids. Researchers have observed antioxidant, anti-tumor, immune modulatory, anti-diabetic, anti-atherogenic, anti-infectious, and neuroprotective properties of the fruit.11 Research suggests that grape product consumption could possibly benefit those with cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide.18 However, more human studies are needed to support any of these purported benefits.

An in vitro study showed that antioxidants from a variety of grape product extracts performed as well as or better than BHT, tocopherol, and Trolox in radical scavenging activity, metal chelating activity, and inhibition of lipid peroxidation.7 Water and ethanol seed extracts had the highest amount of phenolic compounds of any of the extracts used in the study.

Grape seed extract (GSE), which has a growing body of study behind it, has gained attention for its possible use in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease, especially in pre-hypertensive populations.19 Unlike grape skins, where only red grapes contain anthocyanins, seeds from both white and red grape contain beneficial compounds. A standardized GSE made from white wine grapes recently was studied for its effects on gastrointestinal inflammation.20 While most studies focus on GSE and cardiovascular health, the preliminary results were promising enough to warrant a future human trial.

Cardiovascular Disease

Polyphenols have been found to protect the body from inflammation, which is common in people with heart disease.11 In a recent meta-analysis, the acute effects of polyphenols on the endothelium (inner lining of the blood vessels) were investigated. The analysis found that blood vessel function significantly improved in healthy adults in the initial two hours after consuming grape polyphenols.21 Another analysis found that the polyphenol content in every part of the grape — fruit, skin, and seed — had cardioprotective effects.22In animal, in vitro, and limited human trials, grapes showed beneficial actions against oxidative stress, atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in arteries), high blood pressure, and ventricular arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

Cancer Chemopreventive Effects

Although the causes of and treatments for cancer are complex and multifaceted, studies have been done on the antioxidant activity of polyphenols and their cancer chemopreventive effects. These antioxidants demonstrate the ability to protect the body from cancer-causing substances and to prevent tumor cell growth by protecting DNA and regulating natural cell death.8,11,23

Diabetes

In a randomized, double-blind controlled clinical study, healthy overweight/obese first-degree relatives to type 2 diabetic patients were given grape polyphenols to counteract a high-fructose diet. After nine weeks of supplementation, grape polyphenols protected against fructose-induced insulin resistance.24 In another study, diabetic patients who consumed a dealcoholized Muscadine grape wine had reduced fasting insulin levels and increased insulin resistance.25

 

Nutrient Profile26

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 150 g [approx. 1 cup] grapes)

 

104 calories

1.1 g protein

27.3 g carbohydrate

0.2 g fat

 

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 150 g [approx. 1 cup] grapes)

 

Excellent source of:

Vitamin K: 22 mcg (27.5% DV)

 

Good source of:

Potassium: 288 mg (8.2% DV)

Vitamin C: 4.8 mg (8% DV)

Thiamin: 0.1 mg (6.7% DV)

Riboflavin: 0.1 mg (5.9% DV)

Dietary Fiber: 1.4 g (5.6% DV)

Manganese: 0.1 mg (5.5% DV)

Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg (5% DV)

 

Also provides:

Phosphorus: 30 mg (3% DV)

Magnesium: 11 mg (2.8% DV)

Iron: 0.5 mg (2.8% DV)

Vitamin A: 100 IU (2% DV)

Niacin: 0.3 mg (1.5% DV)

Vitamin E: 0.3 mg (1.5% DV)

 

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

 

Recipe: Rosemary-Roasted Grapes and Cashew Cheese Crostini

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
  • 1 pound seedless red grapes, washed and removed from stem
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small baguette or other loaf, sliced diagonally in 1/4 inch thick slices

Directions:

  1. Soak cashews in enough water to cover by an inch for at least 4 hours. Drain.

  2. Make cashew “cheese” by placing soaked cashews, garlic, water, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and salt into a food processor and blend until smooth.

  3. Heat oven to 400°F. In a baking dish, mix grapes, olive oil, remaining lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Place on center rack and roast 10-12 minutes or until skins are soft. Remove and set aside.

  4. Move the oven rack to the top setting and increase the heat to broil. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in oven to toast for 1-3 minutes, monitoring carefully to prevent burning.

  5. Assemble crostini by spreading each toast with a layer of cashew cheese and topping with the grape mixture. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm.

References

  1. Murray MT, Pizzorno J, Pizzorno L. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books; 2005.
  2. Yang J, Xiao YY. Grape phytochemicals and associated health benefits. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2013;53:1202-1225.
  3. Damrosch B. Grapes. In: The Garden Primer: Second Edition. New York, NY: Workman Publishing; 2008:353-359.
  4. Wood R. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Resource for Healthy Eating. New York, NY: Penguin Books; 1999.
  5. Ensminger AH, Ensminger ME, Konlande JE. The Concise Encyclopedia of Foods & Nutrition. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1995.
  1. Tiwari B, Brunton NP, Brennan CS. Handbook of Plant Food Phytochemicals. London, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013.
  1. Keser S, Celik S, and Turkoglu S. Total phenolic contents and free-radical scavenging activities of grape (Vitis vinifera L.) and grape products. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2013;64(2):210-216.
  1. Lila MA. Anthocyanins and human health: An in vitro investigative approach. J Biomed Biotechnol.2004;2004(5):306-313.
  1. Yamakoshi J, Saito M, Kataoka S, Kikuchi M. Safety evaluation of a proanthocyanidin-rich extract from grape seeds. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2002;40:599-607.
  1. Burin VM, Ferreira-Lima NE, Panceri CP, Bordignon-Luiz MT. Bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity of Vitis vinifera and Vitis labrusca grapes: Evaluation of different extraction methods. Microchemical Journal. 2014;114:155-163.
  1. Yadav M, Jain S, Bhardwaj A, et al. Biological and medicinal properties of grapes and their bioactive constituents: An update. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2009;12(3):473-484.
  1. Walle T, Hsieh F, DeLegge MH, Oatis JE, Walle K. High absorption but very low bioavailability of oral resveratrol in humans. Drug Metabolism and Disposition. 2004;32(12):1377-1382.
  1. Myles S, Boyko AR, Owens CL, et al. Genetic structure and domestication history of the grape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. 2011;108(9):3530-3535.
  1. McGovern PE. Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press; 2007.
  1. Chan K, Cheung L. Interactions Between Chinese Herbal Medicinal Products and Orthodox Drugs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2000.
  1. Hoffmann D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions; 1998.
  1. Onstad D. Whole Foods Companion: A Guide for Adventurous Cooks, Curious Shoppers, and Lovers of Natural Foods. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing; 2004.
  1. The top 10 causes of death – fact sheet no. 310. World Health Organization website. May 2014. Available here. Accessed November 23, 2015.
  1. Park E, Edirisinghe I, Choy YY, Waterhouse A, Burton-Freeman B. Effects of grape seed extract beverage on blood pressure and metabolic indices in individuals with pre-hypertension: a randomized, double-blinded, two-arm, parallel, placebo-controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2015;16:1-13.
  1. Starling S. White wine extract shows gastro benefits in vitro. Clinics planned for 2016. NutraIngredients-USA website. November 12, 2015. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2015.
  1. Li SH, Tian HB, Zhao HJ, Chen LH, Cui LQ. The acute effects of grape polyphenols supplementation on endothelial function in adults. PLOS ONE. 2013;8(7):e69818.
  1. Leifert WR, Abeywardena MY. Cardioprotective actions of grape polyphenols. Nutrition Research. 2008;28:729-737.
  1. Waffo-Téguo P, Hawthorne ME, Cuendet M, et al. Potential cancer chemopreventive activities of wine stilbenoids and flavans extracted from grape (Vitis vinifera) cell cultures. Nutrition and Cancer. 2001;40(2):173-179.
  1. Hokayem M. Grape polyphenols prevent fructose-induced oxidative stress and insulin resistance in first-degree relatives of type 2 diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 2013;36:1455-1461.
  1. Banini AE, Boyd LG, Allen JG, Allen HG, Sauls DL. Muscadine grape products intake, diet and blood constituents of non-diabetic and type 2 diabetic subjects. Nutrition. 2006;22:1137-45.
  2. Basic Report: 09132, Grapes, red or green (European type, such as Thompson seedless), raw. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Available here. Accessed November 19, 2015.

What’re the Best Probiotic Sources for Vegans?

Your gut is home to good and bad bacteria, and maintaining that balance is more important than you think. Sure, maybe you already know taking probiotics (the “good” bacteria) can promote healthy digestion, but did you know recent studies suggest even more positives, like an immune system boost and mental health support?  If you’re feeling a little run down and you’re not sure why maybe probiotics could help.

Vegan Probiotic Sources

But how can you get those probiotics from a vegan diet? Because veganism cuts out all animal products, proper nutrition—especially for the new vegan—can be tricky. If you’re planning on getting your probiotics from food sources, there are some options out there that aren’t exactly vegan-friendly. For example, a dairy-based yogurt is no longer an option; however, you can always make or buy your own live-cultured non-dairy yogurt. Coconut milk yogurt is becoming more common in the grocery stores today, and are a much better option (health-wise) than soy-based yogurts.

Here are some vegan foods that you can try right now that are also high in naturally-occurring probiotics:

Pickled/Fermented Vegetables

A well-known choice is certainly the traditional pickle, but any vegetable that’s been pickled or fermented with bacterial cultures (in addition to salt and spices) can be a great probiotic source. Kimchi, for example, is an excellent probiotic choice for this reason. Always keep in mind, though, pickled and fermented vegetables can contain high levels of sodium.

Kombucha Tea

Fermented from black tea, kombucha also has sugar, yeast, and—you guessed it—probiotics. It’s a popular item in stores right now, but always be sure you’re looking for a product that’s been tested; this helps rule out the presence of “bad” bacteria.

Fermented Soy Products

Most of you have probably heard of fermented soy products like miso and tempeh. And as many sources of B-12 are in non-plant based foods, many vegans might find it difficult to get enough of the vitamin. Tempeh, an excellent substitute for tofu, is also a reliable source of B12.

One Final Thought

As one of the healthiest diet options, veganism can be extremely rewarding for your health. A poorly planned vegan diet, however, can definitely be nutritionally deficient. Finding reliable probiotic sources—like the ones listed above—can help with that, as can a good vegan supplement.

A daily probiotic supplement is a reliable way to get consistent probiotic support. Currently, I recommend and use two different products: Latero-Flora which is the B.O.D. Bacillus Laterosporus strain and a more advanced formula, Floratrex, which contains active cultures from 23 different probiotic strains. Either of these is a solid choice and I’ve been extremely satisfied with them both.

9 Best Fermented Foods for Your Gut

Fermented food has made a comeback in recent years, partially thanks to the popularization of Weston A. Price teachings. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi aren’t considered to be the most appealing types of food; however, research exploring these and other fermented products on gut, brain, and body health has revitalized public interest. The fermentation process encourages essential bacteria such as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria to flourish. This makes fermentation a good source of probiotics for vegans since many fermented foods are plant based. Vegetables are submerged in a salty brine during preparation to kill off dangerous, pathogenic bacteria. The good bacteria break down lactose and other sugars and starches in the food, making digestion easier. And once they reach your gut, they continue to help break down food and keep out bad guys like E. coli and C. difficile.

The Best Fermented Foods

When it comes to fermented foods, your options aren’t limited to sauerkraut or fermented soy. There are other fantastic options that are considered “fermented,” including tea, yogurt, and various vegetables. Here are 9 fermented foods you should include in your gut.

1. Yogurt

Yogurt has many benefits, mostly due to its rich probiotic content. Brands of yogurt that contain billions of live active cultures may support digestion, and some research indicates it could even benefit the skin. Raw, unpasteurized yogurt is ideal if you can handle dairy. Personally, I tend to skip dairy altogether, but you can find dairy-free yogurt options at many stores these days, some of which are made from coconut and almond milk. Be sure you’re choosing yogurt that contains live active cultures, and try to choose plain, full-fat versions in order to avoid sugar. Yogurt that contains sugar can be counterproductive, as sugars feed pathogenic bacteria and contribute to sugar overload.

2. Natto

Natto is prepared with soybeans and is fermented so it forms the beneficial bacteria Bacillus. It’s an excellent source of calcium, iron, dietary fiber, and vitamin K2. You may not have heard a lot about it, but K2 is essential for heart health as it keeps calcium out of your arteries and gets it to your bones where it’s needed. Natto also contains nattokinase, a powerful anti-clotting agent that protects your heart and brain and lowers your blood pressure.

3. Kefir

Kefir is a bit like yogurt, except that it’s more of a drinkable consistency. Researchers report kefir may reduce irritation in the intestines, preventing toxins and other pathogens from getting into the blood. If you’re choosing to drink dairy kefir, make sure it’s organic and isn’t loaded with refined sugar. There are options for making your own dairy-free water kefir, and many health food companies online sell kefir grains specifically for this purpose. You can also check out our recipe for making coconut milk kefir.

4. Kombucha

Made from tea, clean water, sugar, yeast, and bacteria, kombucha has become popular recently for its probiotic qualities. Its fizzy bite is also popular among those used to drinking soda. Research finds this fermented tea fights off E. coli and Staph bacteria in the digestive tract, possibly protecting against illness and aiding digestion.

5. Sauerkraut

Traditional sauerkraut preparation uses water, salt, and cabbage, and very little heat is applied to the final product in order to prevent killing off beneficial microbes. The sour taste comes from lactic fermentation or the breakdown of lactose by the probiotic bacteria native to the cabbage. A serving gives you a powerful dose of healthy probiotics that aid digestion and research has found raw sauerkraut prevents cancer cells from forming. Be sure to purchase raw sauerkraut, or better yet, make it yourself with organic cabbage and Himalayan salt.

6. Kimchi

This spicy Asian fermented cabbage, similar to sauerkraut, provides you with loads of probiotics. Extensive research indicates it contributes to colon health, lower cholesterol, better thinking, a stronger immune system, healthy skin, and weight loss. Additional research also shows it has anti-oxidative, anti-aging, and immune-supporting properties.

7. Tempeh

This Indonesian ‘cake’ has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, and because of this, it is often used as a replacement for meat in many vegan recipes. Traditionally made from soybeans and a yeast starter, it undergoes controlled fermentation that makes it a great source of probiotic bacteria. Tempeh is also a great source of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

8. Pickles

Raw pickles, much like sauerkraut, are a great introduction to fermented foods. Pickles made by lactic fermentation are a delicious snack that aid digestion and support a strong immune system.

9. Lassi

Yogurt and fermented dairy play an important role in Indian cuisine. Lassi is made by combining yogurt and milk (or water) and sometimes fruit and spices to create a great probiotic-rich drink. It digests quickly, helps restore friendly gut bacteria, and soothes irritation in the colon. Again, I don’t recommend consuming conventional dairy, especially from cows. If you are going to drink lassi, it’s best to find a product using grass-fed, free-range goat milk. Goat milk tends to digest more easily. If you’re vegan, try finding or making lassi with organic coconut or almond milk yogurt.

Other Tips to Support Digestion

Each of these 9 probiotic foods will help restore balance to your intestinal ecosystem, but they’re not the only way to support digestion. Prebiotics, or foods containing inulin, sustain your current gut bacteria by providing them the foods they need to thrive. Probiotic supplements like Floratrex, my advanced formula with over 23 probiotic strains with prebiotics, are a great way to support your digestive system.

Food as Medicine: Mango (Mangifera indica, Anacardiaceae)

History and Traditional Use

Range and Habitat

Mangifera indica (Anacardiaceae) is a tropical tree that grows from 33 feet to 131 feet in height and produces large, oval-shaped fruits that are red and gold when ripe, though some cultivars are green or yellow.1 The smooth-edged leaves of the mango tree are reddish when young, becoming dark green and shiny as they mature. The tree produces small pinkish-white flowers that precede the fruit.2,3 The mango fruit is a drupe, or stone fruit, containing a large single seed surrounded by fleshy pulp and a thin, leathery skin.4 The mango tree begins to bear fruit four to six years after planting and continues to produce fruit for about 40 years.3,4 Trees older than 10 years tend toward alternate or biennial bearing, producing fruit every other year.5

While the most commonly used part of the plant is the fruit, the mango tree has a variety of traditional uses that make use of the roots, peel, stem bark, leaves, flowers, and seed kernels. These parts typically contain greater amounts of bioactive compounds, including mangiferin, than the fruit.4 Belonging to the same plant family as the cashew (Anacardium occidentale) and pistachio (Pistacia vera), the mango is native to India and Burma, and has been cultivated since 2000 BCE.2 The mango was introduced to Africa about 1,000 years ago and to tropical America in the 19th century.1,2 Wild fruits have a minimal resemblance to the cultivated mangos, having a much smaller size and unpleasant turpentine-like taste. Currently, mangos are grown in tropical and warm temperate climates.3 India remains the largest producer, growing 65% of the world’s mango crop.5

Phytochemicals and Constituents

The macro- and micronutrient composition and bioactive compounds present in M. indica contribute to its many health benefits. Mango fruits are a rich source of vitamins A, B and C. Mangos are also a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.3 Soluble fiber can help prevent cardiovascular disease and improve gastrointestinal health.

Mango is a source of many pharmacologically and medically important chemicals, including mangiferin, mangiferonic acid, hydroxy mangiferin, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and carotenes.6 Different parts of the plant have different chemical compositions. The bark, for example, contains catechins, amino acids, and phenolic and triterpenoid compounds.7,8 Due to these constituents, mango bark extract has shown antioxidant, immune system-enhancing, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activities, which correspond to many of mango’s traditional medicinal uses.7 The xanthone mangiferin is found in many different plants across the Anacardiaceae family and shows promising results in the areas of antitumor, anti-diabetic, and anti-microbial actions.

The health benefits of the fruit pulp are due to its high concentration of antioxidant nutrients and phytochemicals, such as carotenoids. Carotenoids play an important role in protective health mechanisms against some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration, as well as improving immune health.9 Specifically, mangos are high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A. Mango also contains smaller amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids important for maintaining eye health and preventing macular degeneration. These phytochemicals are antioxidants, meaning that they slow or prevent the oxidative process, thereby preventing or repairing damage to cells in the body.10

The polyphenols that have been identified in the mango fruit include gallic acid, gallotannins, quercetin, isoquercetin, mangiferin, ellagic acid, and beta-glucogallin. These polyphenols have powerful antioxidant activity as well as other potentially therapeutic effects. Gallic acid, for example, is known to have anti-inflammatory and antitumor activities, while ellagic acid has been found to exhibit antimutagenic, antiviral, and antitumor effects.4

The most biologically active compound that has been studied in the mango tree is mangiferin. Mangiferin is synthesized by the plant as a chemical defense compound.6,11 Plant parts that contain the highest amounts of mangiferin include the leaves, stem bark, heartwood, and roots. Currently, researchers are investigating potential methods of processing mango bark and peel into a palatable ingredient or food additive. Magneferin (not to be confused with the previously mentioned mangiferin) is one of a number of enzymes present in mangos that improves digestion. Others include catechol oxidase and lactase.3

Historical and Commercial Uses

Mangiferaindicia has been used in Ayurveda, India’s primary system of traditional medicine, for more than 4,000 years. The mango was thought to have aphrodisiacal properties and is still viewed as sacred today.3A variety of the plant’s parts are used as a paste or powder for cleaning the teeth, and the juice of the mango is considered a restorative tonic, as well as a treatment for heat stroke.6 Numerous parts of the mango tree are used in Ayurvedic medicine as an antiseptic, an astringent to tone lax tissues, a laxative, a diuretic, and to increase sweating, promote digestion, and expel parasitic worms or other internal parasites.12 The seeds have been used as an astringent and as a treatment for asthma. Fumes from the burning leaves are used as an inhalant to relieve hiccups and sore throats.6 The bark is used as an astringent in diphtheria and rheumatism (disorders of the joints and connective tissues), and the gum was used in dressings for cracked feet and for scabies (an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite [Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis]).

Current Ayurvedic practices use various parts of the mango for different ailments. For diarrhea, mango leaves are pounded together and taken with rice water.13 For nosebleeds, the juice of the mango seed is placed into the nostrils. For an enlarged spleen, ripe mango juice is consumed with honey. To treat gonorrhea, mango bark is pounded and added to milk and sugar. In some tropical countries, mango is actually used as meat tenderizer, due to the power of the proteolytic enzymes that break down proteins.3In traditional ethnoveterinary medicine, all parts of the mango are used to treat abscesses, broken horns, rabid dog bites, tumors, snakebites, stings, heat stroke, miscarriage, bacterial illness, blisters and wounds in the mouth, inflammation of the inner ear, colic, diarrhea, liver disorders, excessive urination, tetanus, and asthma.14

Among the Tikunas, an indigenous people of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, a mango leaf decoction was used as a contraceptive and abortifacient. Reportedly, taking a cupful on two successive days during menstruation acted as a contraceptive, and taking it for three days caused abortion.11,15

Mango fruit is processed at two stages of maturity. Green fruit is used to make chutney, pickles, curries, and dehydrated products like dried mango, amchoor (raw mango powder), and panna (green mango beverage). Ripe fruit is processed into canned and frozen slices, pulp, concentrate, juices, nectar, jam, purée, cereal flakes, toffee, and various dried products.4

Modern Research

Studies indicate that M. indica possesses myriad therapeutic properties, including antidiabetic, antioxidant, antiviral, cardiotonic, hypotensive, and anti-inflammatory.6 Each of the mango’s parts — fruit, pulp, peel, seed, leaves, flowers, and bark — can be used therapeutically.

A 2000 study found that mango stem bark extract showed a powerful scavenging activity of hydroxyl radicals and acted as a chelator of iron.6 Although iron is an essential mineral, it is toxic in excessive amounts. Iron chelators could be an important approach to lessen iron-induced oxidative damage and prevent iron accumulation in diseases in which accumulation is prevalent, such as hemochromatosis, a metabolic disorder in which the body absorbs too much iron, and thalassemia, a rare, inherited blood disorder caused by a lack of hemoglobin, which results in fewer healthy red blood cells.4 This same study found a significant inhibitory effect on the degradation of brain cell membranes in an animal model, and prevented DNA damage caused by some chemotherapy treatments.6,16

Polyphenolic compounds and related bioactivity are higher in the mango peel than the fruit, and higher still in the leaves and stem bark.4 The bark is one of the main parts of the tree used for medicinal purposes. A standardized aqueous extract of M. indica stem bark called Vimang (LABIOFAM Entrepreneurial Group; La Habana, Cuba) has been developed in Cuba. This extract has shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties and has been used in many countries for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding, diarrhea, syphilis, diabetes, scabies, cutaneous infections, and anemia.4,7

Much of the current research looks at extracts of mango bark or seed. There is a limited amount of literature that looks into the consumption of the mango fruit itself. However, a 2011 study looked at the consumption of freeze-dried mango fruit and its effects on weight loss and glucose tolerance, compared to hypolipidemic and hypoglycemic drugs, in mice fed a high-fat diet.17 In the study, consumption of freeze-dried mango prevented the increase in fat mass and the percentage of body fat. Compared with controls, mice given the freeze-dried mango had improved glucose tolerance and lowered insulin resistance.

Functional and medicinal properties of the non-fruit portions of the mango provide promising data for future uses of the plant, and may allow for less waste of the non-edible parts of the mango. The mango peel, for example, constitutes about 15-20% of the mango fruit and typically is discarded prior to consuming the fruit. In commercial processing, the discarded peels become a wasteful by-product.18 A 2015 study conducted chemical analysis and determination of the bioactive compounds in a flour made from green mango peel.19 The mango peel flour had 54 g of total dietary fiber per 100 g of dry sample, compared to 1.8 g of total dietary fiber in wheat flour. The mango peel flour also contained 21.7 mg/g of total phenolic contents and 22.4 mg/g of total flavonoid contents.

The results of this study suggest that the mango peel flour exhibited functional properties similar to wheat flour, and could serve as an acceptable substitute in baked goods and other flour-containing foods. Dietary fiber in mango peel has been shown as a favorable source of high-quality polysaccharides due to its high starch, cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, and pectin content combined with its low fat content.18 In vitrostarch studies suggest low glycemic responses from mango peel fiber, which suggests potential use for diabetic individuals.

Mango kernel oil has recently attracted attention due to its unsaturated fatty acid composition.18 Mango kernel oil has been widely researched for its function as an antioxidant and antimicrobial agent due to its high polyphenolic content.4 The major phenolic compounds in mango seed kernels are (in order of decreasing concentration): tannins, vanillin, coumarin, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, gallic acid, and mangiferin, all providing antioxidant protection.

Health Considerations

Possibly explained by its distant relation to poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, Anacardiaceae) and poison ivy (T. radicans), mango peel may be irritating to the skin,3 particularly to people who are highly sensitive to these plants. This is due to the presence of alk(en)ylresorcinols, a mixture of substances that can cause contact dermatitis to those who are allergic or sensitive to it.20 Alk(en)ylresorcinol is similar to urushiol, the toxic resin that causes an itchy rash in those who come into contact with poison ivy. These allergens are more prevalent in the peel than the flesh. In one study, four patients developed hives and eczematous rash after exposure to mangos or mango trees. Children and other persons with food allergies should take caution when handling and consuming mango. Although allergy to mango is infrequent, mango has been identified as an allergy-provoking food in some individuals with other food allergies.


Nutrient Profile21

Macronutrient Profile: (Per 1 cup mango fruit)

99 calories
1.35 g protein
24.7 g carbohydrate
0.63 g fat

Secondary Metabolites: (Per 1 cup mango fruit)

Excellent source of:
Vitamin C: 60.1 mg (100.2% DV)
Vitamin A: 1,785 IU (35.7% DV)

Very good source of:
Folate: 71 mcg (17.75% DV)
Dietary Fiber: 2.6 g (10.4% DV)
Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (10% DV)

Good source of:
Vitamin K: 6.9 mcg (8.63% DV)
Potassium: 277 mg (7.9% DV)
Vitamin E: 1.48 mg (7.33% DV)
Niacin: 1.1 mg (5.5% DV)

Also provides:
Magnesium: 16 mg (4% DV)
Riboflavin: 0.06 mg (3.53% DV)
Thiamin: 0.05 mg (3.33% DV)
Phosphorus: 23 mg (2.3% DV)
Calcium: 18 mg (1.8% DV)
Iron: 0.26 mg (1.44% DV)

DV = Daily Value as established by the US Food and Drug Administration, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Recipe: Mango and Watermelon Salad

Adapted from Mango.org22

Ingredients:

  • 2 large, ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 cup watermelon, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 cup fresh arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Combine mango, watermelon, onion, pepper, tomato, and arugula in a large bowl. Toss to combine.

  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients and taste, adjusting seasoning if necessary. Drizzle dressing over the salad, toss to

    combine,

    and serve.

References

  1. Van Wyk B-E. Food Plants of the World. Portland, OR: Timber Press; 2006.
  2. The National Geographic Society. Edible: An Illustrated Guide to the World’s Food Plants. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society; 2008.
  3. Murray M, Pizzorno J, Pizzorno L. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books; 2005.
  4. Masibo M, He Q. Mango bioactive compounds and related nutraceutical properties: A review. Food Rev Int. 2009;25:346-370.
  5. Morton JF. Mango. In: Morton JF. Fruits of Warm Climates. Miami, FL: J.F. Morton; 1987:221-239.
  6. Shah KA, Patel MB, Patel RJ, Parmar PK. Mangifera indica (Mango). Pharmacogn Rev. 2010;4(7):42-48.
  7. Wauthoz N, Balde A, Balde ES, Damme MV, Duez P. Ethnopharmacology of Mangifera indica L. bark and pharmacological studies of its main c-glucosylxanthone, mangiferin. Int J Biomed Pharma Sci. 2007;1(2):112-119.
  8. Hamid K, Algahtani A, Kim MS, et al. Tetracyclic triterpenoids in herbal medicines and their activities in diabetes and its complications. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(23):2406-2430.
  9. Hewavitharana AK, Tan ZW, Shimada R, Shaw PN, Flanagan BM. Between fruit variability of the bioactive compounds, B-carotene and mangiferin, in mango. Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013;70:158-163.
  10. Johnson EJ. The role of carotenoids in human health. Nutr Clin Care. 2002;5(2):56-65.
  11. Schultes RE, Raffauf RF. The Healing Forest: Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia.Portland, OR: Dioscorides Press; 1990.
  12. Johnson EJ. The role of carotenoids in human health. Nutr Clin Care. 2002;5(2):56-65.
  13. Amra (Mangifera indica) National R&D Facility for Rasayana website. Available here. Accessed May 19, 2016.
  14. Williamson EM. Major Herbs of Ayurveda. London, UK: Elsevier Science Limited; 2002.
  15. Duke JA, Vasquez R. Amazonian Ethnobotanical Dictionary. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1994.
  16. Martinez G, Delgado R, Perez G, Garrido G, Nunez Selles AJ, Leon OS. Evaluation of the in-vitroantioxidant activity of Mangifera indica L: extract (Vimang). Phytother Res. 2000;14:424–7.
  17. Lucas EA, Li W, Peterson SK, et.al. Mango modulates body fat and plasma glucose and lipids in mice fed a high-fat diet. Brit J Nutr. 2011;106:1495-1505.
  18. Tiwari BK, Brunton NP, Brennan CS. Handbook of Plant Food Phytochemicals: Sources, Stability and Extraction. West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013.
  19. Abidin NSA, Mohamad SN, Jaafar MN. Chemical composition, antioxidant activity and functional properties of mango (Mangifera indica L. var Perlis Sunshine) peel flour. Appl Mech Mater. 2015(754-755):1065-1070.
  20. Knödler M, Reisenhauer K, Schieber A, Carle R. Quantitative determination of allergenic 5-Alk(en)ylresorcinols in mango (Mangifera indica L.) peel, pulp, and fruit products by high-performance liquid chromatography. J Agric Food Chem. 2009;57:3639-3644.
  21. Basic Report, 09176, Mangos, raw. Agricultural Research Service, USDA website. Available here. Accessed May 19, 2016.
  22. National Mango Board. Mango and watermelon salad. Mango.org website. Available here. Accessed May 18, 2016.