On celery, seduction, science and salad

Recently, I posted a little poem by Ogden Nash on my Facebook page.

celery by ogden nash www.cookingforhealth.biz

Seeing this, one of my friends asked me about the health benefits of celery and whether it makes any difference if you eat it raw or cooked.

So here are some answers to these questions.

But first some celery background and a story of seduction.

Botany and history

Celery (Apium graveolens L.) is a member of the same botanical family as carrots, parsley and fennel – the Umbelliferae.

celery botanical drawing

Celery is a member of the Umbelliferae

Modern celery originated from wild celery, native to the Mediterranean, where its seeds were once widely used as a medicine (1).  It was not cultivated as a food plant until 1623.

Wild celery was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey in about 850 BCE (2).

decorative line

Odysseus and his companions were on their way to their beloved Ithaca, but Poseidon, the moody god of the seas, became angry with the hero. So he sank all the ships of Odysseus and drowned his companions.

Shipwrecked, Odysseus was tortured for nine days and nights, until the waves took him to a beautiful island called Ogygia, believed to be in Western Europe.

There he was seduced by a nymph called Calypso, who fell in love with him and would not allow him to leave.

Jan Brueghel-Calypso's Cave

Calypso’s Cave by Jan Brueghel

Eventually, after seven years, Zeus – King of the gods – sent his messenger Hermes to tell Calypso to let Odysseus go.

So Hermes travelled over the endless breakers, until he reached the distant isle, then leaving the violet sea he crossed the land, and came to the vast cave where the nymph of the lovely tresses lived, and found her at home.

A great fire blazed on the hearth, and the scent of burning cedar logs and juniper spread far across the isle. Sweet-voiced Calypso was singing within, moving to and fro at her loom, weaving with a golden shuttle. Around the cave grew a thick copse of alder, poplar and fragrant cypress, where large birds nested, owls, and falcons, and long-necked cormorants whose business is with the sea. And heavy with clustered grapes a mature cultivated vine went trailing across the hollow entrance. And four neighbouring springs, channelled this way and that, flowed with crystal water, and all around in soft meadows iris and wild celery flourished.

Celery was considered an aphrodisiac by the Ancient Greeks and Romans (3).

Some have speculated that Calypso was rendered ravenous by her celery-rich diet and pounced on Odysseus, detaining him for years of amorous activity.

Is there any scientific evidence to support the use of celery as an aphrodisiac?

More on that later.

There is however no doubt that, for whatever reason, celery was highly prized in ancient times and its leaves were used as garlands for the winners at the Isthmian and Nemean games.

In both Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt, celery leaves were also used as garlands for the dead. Dried inflorescences and leaves of celery were reportedly found in the tomb of Tutankhamun (4).

But back to the story…

Calypso was not best pleased when Hermes explained his mission. She ranted and raved and accused him of jealousy.

Realising, however, that it was futile to argue with Zeus, Calypso sorrowfully followed the order.

She gave Odysseus enough tools to build a solid raft.

Odysseus loaded the raft with plenty of water and food and finally made his farewells to embark on a world of new adventures.

decorative line

Health benefits of celery

So what can celery do for you?

My friend said he thought celery was a pointless food – nothing but water, which takes more energy to digest than it provides.

How true is this perception?

Nutritional content of celery

Well it is true that celery contains a lot of water – 95 per cent water to be precise.

Celery is also, however, rich in vitamin C and fibre. It is a very good source of potassium, folic acid and vitamins B6 and B1; and a good source of calcium and vitamin B2 (5).

Whilst celery does contain more sodium than other vegetables, this is offset by very high levels of potassium.

One 8-inch (20 cm) celery stalk contains approximately 32 milligrams of sodium and 104 milligrams of potassium, whilst providing only 6 calories as carbohydrate (5).

This reminds me to address one common question about celery.

Celery stalks www.cookingforhealth.biz

Is it true that you burn more calories eating celery than it provides?

A search of the internet uncovers all manner of speculation on this subject but very little scientific evidence to support it.

What we do know from science is that approximately 10 per cent of the calories we consume each day are used up in the process of eating and digesting food.

This energy ‘waste’ is called the thermogenic effect of food, dietary-induced thermogenesis, the ‘specific heat of feeding’, or the thermic effect of food.

All this means is that every time we eat, some of the calories contained in the food are lost as heat.

The exact amount of heat lost during eating can be measured by putting someone in a whole body calorimeter, giving them food to eat, and recording the change in temperature.

To my knowledge, nobody has actually measured a person’s heat production after eating a meal of celery alone, so we are left to guess what might happen from the results of other experiments.

Measurements show that some foods are digested with little heat loss, for example, fat-based foods.

High protein foods are the opposite and generate a lot of heat – presumably because the body has to work harder to digest protein.

Celery consists of mostly water and fibre. So what is the thermogenic effect of water and fibre?

Almost nothing.

In fact, if you put someone in a whole body calorimeter and give them a high-fibre diet, their post-food heat production is actually reduced compared to a normal diet (6)(7)(8).

Supplementing a balanced 240 kcal meal with 3 grams of fibre (equivalent of five celery stalks) reduces the overall thermogenic effect of the meal by 19 kcal. This effectively means that of the 30 calories gained from eating your celery stalks, 19 calories fewer are used processing it than if it did not have the fibre in it.

So, after being chewed, the fibre in celery gets passed through the gut and out the other end without the body doing too much to it on the way. Although it may take you a while to chew the celery stalks, the gut does not waste much time on it.

So, sorry dieters, but it is unlikely that eating celery burns more calories than it provides.

You could go for a walk whilst munching celery; that would work.

decorative line

For those of you who like geeky information, here is a detailed breakdown of the nutrients in raw celery.

Nutrient Unit   Value per 100 g
     
Water g 95.43
Energy kcal 16
Protein g 0.69
Total lipid (fat) g 0.17
Carbohydrate, by difference g 2.97
Fibre, total dietary g 1.6
Sugars, total g 1.83
     
Minerals    
Calcium, Ca mg 40
Iron, Fe mg 0.2
Magnesium, Mg mg 11
Phosphorus, P mg 24
Potassium, K mg 260
Sodium, Na mg 80
Zinc, Zn mg 0.13
     
Vitamins    
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 3.1
Thiamin mg 0.021
Riboflavin mg 0.057
Niacin mg 0.32
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.074
Folate, DFE µg 36
Vitamin B-12 µg 0
Vitamin A, RAE µg 22
Vitamin A, IU IU 449
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) mg 0.27
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) µg 0
Vitamin D IU 0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) µg 29.3
     
Lipids    
Fatty acids, total saturated g 0.042
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 0.032
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 0.079
Cholesterol mg 0
     

Phytochemical content

In addition to the nutrients listed above, celery contains literally hundreds of powerful phytochemicals (9).

Celery seeds contain 1.5 to 3 per cent volatile oil responsible for the characteristic aroma of celery.  The chemical constituent of celery seed volatile oil was found to be 60–70 per cent limonene, phthalides and β-salinene, coumarins, furanocoumarins (bergapten) and flavonoids (apiin, apigenin).

Some of the phytochemicals identified in celery are listed below (10).

Compound
Percentage
Limonene
72.16
beta-Selinene
12.17
n-butyl phthalide
2.56
Lingustilide
2.41
alpha-Selinene
2.05
Linalool
1.48
alpha-Pinene
1.05
Myrcene
0.95
Sabenene
0.76
r-Cymene
0.74
Epoxycaryophyllene
0.55
Eudesmol
0.29
Caryophyllene
0.17
Thymol
0.17
Isopulegone
0.16
Cinnamic aldehyde
0.15
Carvone
0.09
alpha-lonone
0.05
Geranyl acetate
0.04
beta-Phellandrene
0.02
Pentyl benzene
0.02
Camphene
Traces
beta-Pinene
Traces
3-carene
Traces
alpha-Phellandrene
Traces
(Cis) beta-Ocimene
Traces
(Trans)beta-Ocimene
Traces

Use as a herbal medicine

Traditionally, wild celery was used as an herbal medicine with a range of alleged properties (11) (12), including:

  • Aphrodisiac
  • Anthelmintic
  • Anti-inflammatory, for rheumatic conditions
  • Antiseptic, especially for urinary tract infections
  • Antispasmodic,
  • Carminative – prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue, stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus
  • Laxative
  • Sedative
  • Stimulant
  • Tonic

Modern scientific studies have revealed that many of the phytochemicals found in celery and other plants possess interesting biological activity (13).

It is important to note that most studies to date have used animal models and effects in humans have yet to be proven.

That said, there is some interesting evidence developing for various potential health benefits of celery.

Celery seed

Celery seed

Scientific evidence for health benefits of celery

Anti-hypertensive – lowers blood pressure

In animal studies, extracts of celery have been shown to reduce blood pressure (14, 15).

The flavone apigenin and the isobenzofuranone, 3-n-butylphthalide, are two of the phytochemicals best studied in this respect.

In one experiment, a very small amount of 3-n-butylphthalide, equivalent to that in four stalks of celery, lowered blood pressure by 12 to 14 per cent (16).

In animals, 3-n-butylphthalide appears to lower blood pressure by acting as both a diuretic and vasodilator (causes the blood vessels to expand) by influencing the production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, as well as acting in a similar manner to calcium-channel blockers (17).

Apigenin has also been shown to affect vasodilation by stimulating calcium channels in rat cell membranes (18).

Hypolipidemic – lowers cholesterol and triglycerides

3-n-butylphthalate has also been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the formation of arterial plaque in preclinical studies (animal and in vitro studies) (19) (20).

This effect may increase the elasticity of blood vessels and also lead to lower blood pressure readings.

3-n-butylphthalate also appears to promote some effects on areas and systems of the brain that control vascular resistance (21).

Other studies in rats show that extracts of celery, containing terpenoid, tannin, alkaloid, glycoside, flavonoid and sterol phytochemicals, dose dependently inhibited total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low density lipoprotein levels, and significantly increased high density lipoprotein level (22).

Celery leaves

Celery leaves

Anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation

Extracts of celery have been investigated and found to have significant anti-inflammatory activity in animal models (23) (24).

It is proposed that the anti-inflammatory activity of celery may form a basis for the reputation of the plant as a medicinal treatment for rheumatic and arthritic diseases.

Flavonoids are reported to affect the inflammatory process and to possess anti-inflammatory as well as immunomodulatory activity in vitro and in vivo.

Since nitric oxide produced by inducible nitric oxide synthase is one of the inflammatory mediators, the effects of celery extracts containing the flavonoid apiin as a major constituent, on inducible nitric oxide synthase expression and nitric oxide production were evaluated in a cell line (25).

The extract, and apiin alone, showed significant inhibitory activity on nitrite (NO) production.

Further tests on mice showed that the extract exerted anti-inflammatory activity in vivo, with a potency seven-times lower than that of indometacin, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used as reference (25).

Luteolin, another flavonoid found in celery, demonstrates a spectrum of biological activities.

Some Chinese researchers looked at the anti-inflammatory activity of luteolin in acute and chronic models in mice.  They observed suppression of inflammation in vivo (26).

Further experiments provided evidence that luteolin  may be a potent selective inhibitor of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is the same target as that of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (26).

celery-flowers

Celery flowers

Anti-cancer

Many of the phytochemicals in celery are the subject of research for their potential anti-cancer activities (27)(28).

Luteolin, for example, is a flavonoid found in celery. It has been found to inhibit angiogenesis, induce apoptosis, prevent carcinogenesis in animal models, reduce tumour growth in vivo and to sensitize tumour cells to the cytotoxic effects of some anticancer drugs (29)(30).

Apigenin in celery has also been shown to regulate the cell cycle and thus may have benefits for cancer prevention (31).

Extracts of celery have been found to protect against chemically induced liver cancer in animal models (32).

Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), the most abundant phthalate in the environment, is known to be a reproductive toxicant. Researchers in Egypt investigated whether celery oil affects DEHP-induced testicular toxicity.  They found that celery oil partially prevented the damaging effects of this environmental toxin (33).

Antiulcerogenic – inhibits stomach ulcers

Celery oil was found to inhibit stomach ulcers in a dose-dependent manner in experimental rats, which was similar to that induced by omeprazole, a widely used drug for indigestion, acid reflux and peptic ulcers (34).  The major phyochemicals identified were β-pinene, camphene, cumene, limonene, α-thuyene, α-pinene, β-phellendrene, p-cymene, γ-terpinene, sabinene and terpinolene.

In another study with rats, pretreatment with celery extract produced dose-dependent reduction in all experimentally induced gastric lesions, with no toxic side effects or mortality over a period of 14 days. The phytochemical screening showed the presence of flavonoids, tannins, volatile oils, alkaloids, sterols and/or triterpenes. The authors concluded that celery extract significantly protects the gastric mucosa and suppresses the basal gastric secretion in rats, possibly through its antioxidant potential (35).

Celery stalks

Celery stalks

Anti-oxidant activity

Dietary plants contain variable chemical families and amounts of antioxidants.  Celery is no exception.

Antioxidants can eliminate free radicals and other reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, and these reactive species contribute to most chronic diseases. It is hypothesized that antioxidants originating from foods may work as antioxidants in their own right in vivo, as well as bring about beneficial health effects through other mechanisms, including acting as inducers of mechanisms related to antioxidant defence, longevity, cell maintenance and DNA repair (36).

The antioxidant content of celery products compared with broccoli and blueberries is shown below (36).

It is important to note the considerable variability between samples depending on environment, cultivar and type of product.

Product Antioxidant content
  mmol per 100g
Celery seeds 8.17
Celery leaves, dried 16.91
Celery raw, USA 0.06
Celery raw, Mali 0.81
Celery blanched 0
Broccoli raw, Norway 0.85
Broccoli raw, USA 0.25
Broccoli raw, Spain 0.68
Blueberries, cultivated USA 1.85
Blueberries, cultivated Norway 1.26

Anti-microbial activity

Celery is reported to have anti-bacterial and weak anti-fungal activity.

Celery extracts have been shown to have potent activity against Helicobacter pylori, a gram-negative bacterium found in the stomach (37).  H. pylori has been associated with chronic gastritis and gastric ulcers, conditions that were not previously believed to have a microbial cause. It is also linked to the development of duodenal ulcers and stomach cancer, though 80 per cent of people infected display no disease symptoms.

Essential oil of celery has also been shown to be strongly inhibitory against Escherichia coli and moderately inhibitory against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus (34).

Moderate anti-microbial activity has been shown by extracts of celery against multi-drug resistant Salmonella typhi (38).

This anti-microbial activity may explain the use of celery as a traditional herbal remedy for urinary tract and other infections.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is an age-related, progressive neurodegenerative disorder that occurs gradually and results in memory, behaviour, and personality changes.

L-3-n-butylphthalide, an extract from seeds of celery, has been shown to have neuroprotective effects on ischaemic, vascular dementia, and amyloid-beta-infused animal models (39).

Treatment with L-3-n-butylphthalide significantly improved the spatial learning and memory deficits of transgenic mice compared to the controls.

It is believed to do this by inhibiting oxidative injury, neuronal apoptosis and glial activation, regulating amyloid-β protein precursor (AβPP) processing and reducing Aβ generation (40).

Celery root

Celery root

Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory and demyelinating disease of the central nervous system which mainly affects young adults.

An animal model of multiple sclerosis called experimental allergic encephalomyelitis is used to test potential treatments for this disease.

In Iran, a herbal-marine product called MS14, containing 90 per cent Penaeus latisculatus (Western King prawn), 5 per cent Apium graveolens (celery), and 5 per cent Hypericum perforatum L (St John’s Wort) is used to slow down or halt the progression of multiple sclerosis.

Mice with induced brain inflammation were fed a diet containing MS14 (30 per cent) and monitored for 20 days. The disease was slowed down in the treated mice relative to the controls.  Moreover, while there were moderate to severe neuropathological changes in the controls, milder changes were seen in the mice treated with MS14 (41).

The precise role of celery in this remedy has not been elucidated and a great deal more work is required to determine its value for this indication.

Aphrodisiac

Earlier I recounted the story of Calypso and Odysseus, full of desire in their celery-adorned cave.

This is not the only myth implicating celery as an aphrodisiac (42).

Central to the Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde is a love potion, which they accidentally consume and are overcome with passion. This is unfortunate as Tristan is escorting Isolde on her way to marry his uncle.

Some say that their magic philtre contained celery root, though there is no direct evidence for this.  Love potions were usually made from mandrake (love apples), a poisonous member of the nightshade family, with other ingredients including orange, ambergris, vervain, briony and fern seed.

Tristan and Isolde drinking the love potion by John William Waterhouse

Tristan and Isolde drinking the love potion by John William Waterhouse

In the 18th century, Grimod de la Reyniere, an early food journalist, warned of celery’s aphrodisiac properties, advising that

it is not in any way a salad for bachelors

It is rumoured that Madame de Pompadour, maverick mistress of King Louis XV, invented a celery soup to inflame the desires of her royal lover.

So is there any scientific evidence to support these claims?

In 1979, two researchers reported that they had identified the volatile steroid, 5 alpha-androst-16-en-3-one, in the cytoplasm of parsnip and celery at concentrations of 8 nanograms per gram (8 parts per billion) (43).

This steroid is a pheromone found in both human male and female sweat and urine.  It is also found in high concentrations in the saliva of male pigs, and, when sniffed by a female pig that is in heat, results in the female assuming the mating stance.  Androstenone is the active ingredient in ‘Boarmate’, a commercial product made by DuPont sold to pig farmers to test sows for timing of artificial insemination.

mating pigs

Androstenone was the first mammalian pheromone to be identified and has thus been the subject of considerable study.

It turns out that the ability to smell androstenone is genetically determined (44).

Some people cannot smell it at all, whilst others can detect it down to levels of 0.2 parts per billion, which is 40 times lower than the concentration of androstenone reported in celery.

The speculation is that the smell of androstenone in celery acts as an aphrodisiac in sensitive individuals, though there is no direct evidence to confirm this.

The other speculation is that the action of certain phytochemicals in celery as potent vasodilators, as described above in the section on blood pressure (17), enhances male erectile function and thus sexual potency.

Again, however, there is no direct evidence to substantiate this hypothesis and, on the whole, scientists are dismissive of claims of the aphrodisiac properties of plants (45).

This does not necessarily mean that scientists are right – this is a notoriously difficult subject to study and research funding for it is hard to obtain – so, until more data are available, you will have to conduct your own experiments…

Adverse effects of celery

Celery produces phytochemicals called psoralens, which are furanocoumarins (46).

Psoralens are believed to be phytoalexins associated with celery resistance to pathogens.  High levels of psoralens are produced by celery infected with fungal pathogens.

When these compounds are exposed to long-wave UV light or sunlight the phototoxic furanocoumarins become carcinogenic agents; recognized as causally-related to skin cancer by the World Health Organization.

Photodermatitis of the fingers, hands and forearms is therefore a known occupational risk for celery handlers and field workers (47).

celery field workers

Workers in grocery stores and agricultural workers have also been reported to suffer skin reactions after handling celery and being exposed to UV light.

One case reported in the medical literature involved a 65-year-old woman who developed a severe, generalized phototoxic reaction following a visit to a suntan parlour. History taking revealed that she had consumed a large quantity of celery root one hour earlier.

Some people suffer allergic reactions to celery, caused by a protein called Api g 2; exposure can produce mild symptoms of skin irritation or cause potentially fatal anaphylactic shock.

Cooking celery does not destroy the proteins which cause the allergic reaction.

Allergy to celery seems to be linked to people with seasonal hay fever to birch and/or mugwort pollen (usually March/April) (47). This is called cross-reaction and is often an important cause of food allergies.

Celery allergy seems to be far more common in central Europe, mainly France, Switzerland and Germany, and less so in the UK and US, where peanut allergy is the most common.

Should you eat celery raw or cooked?

From a purely nutritional point of view, it is generally the case that storage and cooking of vegetables leads to loss of nutrients. The bioavailability of some nutrients, such as iron, may however be increased by cooking (48).

Loss of vitamins and minerals from vegetables is mainly because of extraction into the cooking liquid rather than their destruction. So provided that you consume the cooking liquid, as you do with soups and casseroles for example, you will still benefit from the nutrients.

Phytochemicals vary substantially in their stability to temperature, light and pH (49).

In general, the less food plants are processed and cooked the more phytochemicals remain active, but this is not always the case.

Spanish scientists investigated the influence of home cooking methods (boiling, microwaving, pressure-cooking, griddling, frying, and baking) on antioxidant activity in 20 vegetables (50).

Artichoke was the only vegetable that kept its very high antioxidant activity in all the cooking methods.

Highest losses of antioxidant activity were observed in cauliflower after boiling and microwaving; pea after boiling; courgette (zucchini) after boiling and frying; and swiss chard and pepper with all methods.

Beetroot, green bean, and garlic kept their antioxidant activity after most cooking treatments.

Celery reportedly increased its antioxidant capacity in all the cooking methods, except boiling when it lost 14 per cent.

Whether to eat celery raw or cooked is a matter of personal choice and depends on your preferences, your constitution, your condition at the time and your external environment.

In hot weather, raw celery is very cooling.

When the weather is cooler or if your digestive system is weak, it may be better to eat cooked celery in a soup or casserole.

Recipes with celery

Raw celery can be used in salads, as crudites to eat with vegetable dips, and as an ingredient in a refreshing green juice.

Cooked celery can be used in soups, sauces and casseroles.

Celery, cucumber, apple, parsley and lime juice

Green juices are a great way to include a wider variety of vegetables in your diet, are packed with nutrients and easy to digest.

Here is a delicious recipe for a refreshing, cooling green juice, ideal for a hot day.

Please click here for details: Recipe for celery, cucumber, apple, parsley and lime juice.

celery cucumber apple lime parsley juice www.cookingforhealth.biz

Celery, cucumber, apple, parsley and lime juice – Jane Philpott at http://www.cookingforhealth.biz

Pressed salad with celery, cucumber, fennel and radish

On the hottest days, we need to balance the external heat by using raw vegetables with cooling properties.  This crunchy, tangy salad using celery is easy to prepare and ideal for al fresco meals.

Please click here for details: Recipe for celery, fennel, cucumber and radish pressed salad

close up celery fennel cucumber radish salad www.cookingforhealth.biz

Celery and sweetcorn chowder

This simple, sweet, summery soup recipe can be served warm or cold.  It soothes the digestive system and helps to relax you at the start of a meal.

Please click here for details: Recipe for celery and sweetcorn chowder.

celery and sweetcorn chowder www.cookingforhealth.biz

Celery and sweetcorn chowder – Jane Philpott at http://www.cookingforhealth.biz

And finally…

Given that I have just devoted a whole blog post to extolling the virtues of celery, do I think you should rush off and start buying wholesale quantities?

Of course not.

That would be silly.

Why?

The reason is that I could choose almost any food plant and write a similar article about all the wonderful nutrients and phytochemicals it contains and the beneficial effects of these substances on your health.

All plants contain an incredible array of substances with powerful biological activity, which protect our bodies from damage and help to prevent and treat chronic disease.

These substances vary from plant to plant and it is the COMBINATION of all of them, operating together in a coordinated and often synergistic manner to regulate gene expression, which results in optimum health.

So just make sure you eat as many whole plant foods as possible and you will maximise your chances of living a long and healthy life.

decorative line

If you have enjoyed this post please leave your comments below.

If you would like to keep in touch, please click here to sign up for my free e-newsletter and browse my website.

You can also join me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, where I post interesting information which is not included in this blog.

References

(1)  Rubatzky, V.E. and Yamaguchi, M. (1997), World Vegetables, second edition, N.Y. Chapman & Hall, pp. 432–443.

(2) Homer, the Odyssey, Book V, 71-82

(3) Domeena C. Renshaw. Aphrodisiacs: The Science and the Myth. JAMA. 1986;255(1):98-99. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370010108037

(4) D. Zohary and M. Hopf, Domestication of Plants in the Old World, (3rd ed. 2000) p.202.

(5) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata

(6) Mikkelsen PB, Toubro S, & Astrup A (2000). Effect of fat-reduced diets on 24-h energy expenditure: comparisons between animal protein, vegetable protein, and carbohydrate. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 72 (5), 1135-41 PMID: 11063440

(7) Raben A, Christensen NJ, Madsen J, Holst JJ, & Astrup A (1994). Decreased postprandial thermogenesis and fat oxidation but increased fullness after a high-fiber meal compared with a low-fiber meal. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 59 (6), 1386-94 PMID: 8198065

(8) Westerterp, K. (2004). Diet induced thermogenesis Nutrition & Metabolism, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1743-7075-1-5

(9) Dr Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases  http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/index.html

(10) CU JIAN-QIN, ZHONG JZ and PAR P (1990) GCMs analysis of the essential oil of celery seed. Indian Perfumer. 34(1–4), vi-vii.

(11) Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal. 1931. Jonathan Cape Ltd, London.

(12) Duke, J.A. The Green Pharmacy. Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions. Rodale International Ltd; New edition edition (3 Jan 2003)

(13) Higdon, J. and Drake, V.J.  An Evidence-based Approach to Phytochemicals and Other Dietary Factors. Linus Pauling Institute,  Hardcover (2013), 2nd Edition, 368 pp. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/books.html

(14) Ma X, He D, Ru X, Chen Y, Cai Y, Bruce IC, Xia Q, Yao X, Jin J. Apigenin, a plant-derived flavone, activates transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 cation channel. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 May;166(1):349-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01767.x. PubMed PMID: 22049911; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3415659.

(15) Moghadam MH, Imenshahidi M, Mohajeri SA. Antihypertensive effect of celery seed on rat blood pressure in chronic administration. J Med Food. 2013 Jun;16(6):558-63. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2012.2664. Epub 2013 Jun 4. PubMed PMID: 23735001; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3684138.

(16) Le QT, Elliott WJ. Hypotensive and hypocholesterolemic effects of celery oil may be due to BuPh. Clin Res.1991;39:173A.

(17) Tsi D, Tan BKH. Cardiovascular pharmacology of 3-n-butylphthalide in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Phytotherapy Research. 1997;11:576-582.

(18) Ma X, He D, Ru X, Chen Y, Cai Y, Bruce IC, Xia Q, Yao X, Jin J. Apigenin, a plant-derived flavone, activates transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 cation channel. Br J Pharmacol. 2012 May;166(1):349-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01767.x. PubMed PMID: 22049911; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3415659.

(19) Le QT, Elliott WJ. Dose-response relationship of blood pressure and serum cholesterol to 3-n-butylphthalide, a component of celery oil. Clin Res. 1991;39:750A.

(20) Mimura Y, Kobayashi S, Naitoh T, Kimura I, Kimura M. The structure-activity relationship between synthetic butylidenephthalide derivatives regarding the competence and progression of inhibition in primary cultures proliferation of mouse aorta smooth muscle cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 1995;18(9):1203-1206.

(21) Yu SR, Gao NN, Li LL, Wang ZY, Chen Y, Wang WN. The protective effect of 3-butyl phthalide on rat brain cells. Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao. 1988;23(9):656-661.

(22) Iyer D, Patil UK. Effect of chloroform and aqueous basic fraction of ethanolic extract from Apium graveolens L. in experimentally-induced hyperlipidemia in rats. J Complement Integr Med. 2011 Sep 27;8. doi:pii: /j/jcim.2011.8.issue-1/1553-3840.1529/1553-3840.1529.xml. 10.2202/1553-3840.1529. PubMed PMID: 22718672.

(23) Lewis, D.A.; Tharib, S.M.; Bryan, G.; Veitch, A. Pharmaceutical Biology, 1985, Vol. 23, No. 1 : Pages 27-32. The Anti-inflammatory Activity of Celery Apium graveolens L. (Fam. Umbelliferae) (doi: 10.3109/13880208509070685)

(24) Al-Hindawi MK, Al-Deen IH, Nabi MH, Ismail MA. Anti-inflammatory activity of some Iraqi plants using intact rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 1989 Sep;26(2):163-8. PubMed PMID: 2601356.

(25) Mencherini T, Cau A, Bianco G, Della Loggia R, Aquino RP, Autore G. An extract of Apium graveolens var. dulce leaves: structure of the major constituent, apiin, and its anti-inflammatory properties. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2007 Jun;59(6):891-7. PubMed PMID: 17637182.

(26) Ziyan L, Yongmei Z, Nan Z, Ning T, Baolin L. Evaluation of the anti-inflammatory activity of luteolin in experimental animal models.Planta Med. 2007 Mar;73(3):221-6. Epub 2007 Mar 12. PubMed PMID: 17354164.

(27) Christensen LP, Brandt K. Bioactive polyacetylenes in food plants of the Apiaceae family: occurrence, bioactivity and analysis. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2006 Jun 7;41(3):683-93. Epub 2006 Mar 7. Review. PubMed PMID: 16520011.

(28) Ren S, Lien EJ. Natural products and their derivatives as cancer chemopreventive agents. Prog Drug Res. 1997;48:147-71. Review. PubMed PMID: 9204686.

(29) López-Lázaro M. Distribution and biological activities of the flavonoid luteolin. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2009 Jan;9(1):31-59. Review. PubMed PMID: 19149659.

(30) Lim do Y, Jeong Y, Tyner AL, Park JH. Induction of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in HT-29 human colon cancer cells by the dietary compound luteolin. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2007 Jan;292(1):G66-75. Epub 2006 Aug 10. PubMed PMID: 16901994.

(31) Meeran SM, Katiyar SK. Cell cycle control as a basis for cancer chemoprevention through dietary agents. Front Biosci. 2008 Jan 1;13:2191-202. Review. PubMed PMID: 17981702; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2387048.

(32) Sultana S, Ahmed S, Jahangir T, Sharma S. Inhibitory effect of celery seeds extract on chemically induced hepatocarcinogenesis: modulation of cell proliferation, metabolism and altered hepatic foci development. Cancer Lett. 2005 Apr 18;221(1):11-20. PubMed PMID: 15797622.

(33) Madkour NK. The beneficial role of celery oil in lowering of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate-induced testicular damage. Toxicol Ind Health. 2012 Nov 16. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23160384.

(34) Baananou S, Bouftira I, Mahmoud A, Boukef K, Marongiu B, Boughattas NA. Antiulcerogenic and antibacterial activities of Apium graveolens essential oil and extract. Nat Prod Res. 2013 Jun;27(12):1075-83. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2012.717284. Epub 2012 Aug 30. PubMed PMID: 22934666.

(35) Al-Howiriny T, Alsheikh A, Alqasoumi S, Al-Yahya M, ElTahir K, Rafatullah S. Gastric antiulcer, antisecretory and cytoprotective properties of celery (Apium graveolens) in rats. Pharm Biol. 2010 Jul;48(7):786-93. doi: 10.3109/13880200903280026. PubMed PMID: 20645778.

(36) Carlsen MH, Halvorsen BL, Holte K, Bøhn SK, Dragland S, Sampson L, Willey C, Senoo H, Umezono Y, Sanada C, Barikmo I, Berhe N, Willett WC, Phillips KM, Jacobs DR Jr, Blomhoff R. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J. 2010 Jan 22;9:3. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-3. PubMed PMID: 20096093; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2841576.

(37) Zhou Y, Taylor B, Smith TJ, Liu ZP, Clench M, Davies NW, Rainsford KD. A novel compound from celery seed with a bactericidal effect against Helicobacter pylori. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2009 Aug;61(8):1067-77. doi: 10.1211/jpp/61.08.0011. PubMed PMID: 19703351.

(38) Rani P, Khullar N. Antimicrobial evaluation of some medicinal plants for their anti-enteric potential against multi-drug resistant Salmonella typhi. Phytother Res. 2004 Aug;18(8):670-3. PubMed PMID: 15476301.

(39) Peng Y, Sun J, Hon S, Nylander AN, Xia W, Feng Y, Wang X, Lemere CA. L-3-n-butylphthalide improves cognitive impairment and reduces amyloid-beta in a transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. J Neurosci. 2010 Jun 16;30(24):8180-9. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0340-10.2010. PubMed PMID: 20554868.

(40) Peng Y, Hu Y, Xu S, Li P, Li J, Lu L, Yang H, Feng N, Wang L, Wang X. L-3-n-butylphthalide reduces tau phosphorylation and improves cognitive deficits in AβPP/PS1-Alzheimer’s transgenic mice. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012;29(2):379-91. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2011-111577. PubMed PMID: 22233765.

(41) Tafreshi AP, Ahmadi A, Ghaffarpur M, Mostafavi H, Rezaeizadeh H, Minaie B, Faghihzadeh S, Naseri M. An Iranian herbal-marine medicine, MS14, ameliorates experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. Phytother Res. 2008 Aug;22(8):1083-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2459. PubMed PMID: 18570265.

(42) Mark Douglas Hill. The Aphrodisiac Encycopedia – a compendium of culinary come-ons. Square Peg, 6 October 2011.

(43) Claus R, Hoppen HO. The boar-pheromone steroid identified in vegetables. Experientia. 1979 Dec 15;35(12):1674-5. PubMed PMID: 520500.

(44) Wysocki CJ, Beauchamp GK. Ability to smell androstenone is genetically determined. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1984 Aug;81(15):4899-902. PubMed PMID: 6589634; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC391599.

(45) Domeena C. Renshaw, MD.  Aphrodisiacs: The Science and the Myth  JAMA. 1986;255(1):98-99. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370010108037

(46) Alan Crozier, Michael N. Clifford, Hiroshi Ashihara (Editors). Plant Secondary Metabolites: Occurrence, Structure and Role in the Human Diet. Wiley Online Library. Published Online: 12 NOV 2007; Print ISBN: 9781405125093; Online ISBN: 9780470988558; DOI: 10.1002/9780470988558

(47) Deleo VA. Photocontact dermatitis. Dermatol Ther. 2004;17(4):279-88. Review. PubMed PMID: 15327473.

(48) Gadermaier G, Hauser M, Egger M, Ferrara R, Briza P, Santos KS, Zennaro D, Girbl T, Zuidmeer-Jongejan L, Mari A, Ferreira F. Sensitization prevalence, antibody cross-reactivity and immunogenic peptide profile of Api g 2, the non-specific lipid transfer protein 1 of celery. PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e24150. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024150. Epub 2011 Aug 29. PubMed PMID: 21897872; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3163685.

(49) Brijesh K. Tiwari (Editor), Nigel P. Brunton (Editor), Charles Brennan (Editor). Handbook of Plant Food Phytochemicals: Sources, Stability and Extraction [Hardcover]. Wiley-Blackwell (22 Feb 2013)

(50) Jiménez-Monreal AM, García-Diz L, Martínez-Tomé M, Mariscal M, Murcia MA. Influence of cooking methods on antioxidant activity of vegetables. J Food Sci. 2009 Apr;74(3):H97-H103. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01091.x. PubMed PMID: 19397724.

How to prevent cancer

Vegetables and FruitsSix years ago the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research published the mother of all literature reviews on food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer (1).

A panel of 21 world-renowned scientists reviewed the research evidence and drew conclusions based on in-depth analysis of over 7,000 scientific studies published on cancer prevention over the last 50 years.

As a result of this review they made a number of recommendations:

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes per day
  3. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and pulses
  5. Limit consumption of red meats and avoid processed meats
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 per day for men and 1 per day for women
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt
  8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer
  9. Do not smoke or chew tobacco
  10. Breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods
  11. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

Since then further research has been conducted to see whether compliance with these recommendations has any effect on the risk of death from cancer and other diseases.

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on 3 April 2013 (2).

Researchers investigated nearly 380,000 people in nine European countries over 12 years and examined their diet and lifestyle to see how closely they complied with seven of World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research’s (WCRF/AICR) Recommendations for Cancer Prevention.

They found that the risk of dying from several diseases, including cancer, circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases, can be reduced by 34 per cent if these recommendations are followed.

Those who most closely followed the WCRF/AICR Recommendations had a 50 per cent reduced chance of dying from respiratory disease, 44 per cent for circulatory disease and 20 per cent for cancer, when compared to the group with the lowest level of compliance.

The Recommendations with the greatest impact on reducing the risk of death from disease were being as lean as possible without becoming underweight (22 per cent reduced risk) and eating mostly plant foods (21 per cent).

In terms of cancer, limiting alcohol consumption and following the plant food recommendation reduced the risk of dying from the disease by the greatest margin, at 21 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

The study is the first to examine breastfeeding as part of a combination of lifestyle changes to see what effect it has on risk of dying.  It showed that women who breastfed for at least six months had a reduced risk of death from cancer (ten per cent) and circulatory disease (17 per cent).

Although the WRCF/AICR recommendations were focused on the prevention of cancer, this study shows that adherence to these recommendations also reduces the risk of other diseases.

The bottom line is that maintaining a lean body by consuming a predominantly plant-based diet, being physically active and minimising intake of alcohol is most likely to protect you from cancer.  Looking after yourself in this way will also help to reduce your risk of circulatory and respiratory diseases.

If you would like to learn about how to introduce more plant-based dishes into your diet why not sign up for free email updates with information, recipes and news and visit my website at http://www.cookingforhealth.biz.

You can also stay in touch by joining me on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.

References

1. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington DC : AICR, 2007.

2. Adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research guidelines and risk of death in Europe: results from the European Prospective Investigation into Nutrition and Cancer cohort study. Anne-Claire Vergnaud et al. 3 April 2013, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Pope Francis, food and the mystics

pope francisAlmost every article I have read about the new Pope Francis mentions his humility, the simplicity of his home, his dedication to serving the poor and the fact that he cooks for himself.

This led me to wonder what he eats.

According to an article in the Argentinian newspaper La Nacion in 2009, he chooses healthy frugal food and occasionally drinks a glass of wine. He is said to like fruit, skinless chicken and salads. When in Buenos Aires, he apparently never ate out in restaurants. He would eat by himself and would not even join meals at parish churches in his diocese. On the rarest of occasions, he might break from his routine of eating in his own quarters to visit a nunnery to enjoy bagna cauda – a fondue of anchovies, garlic and olive oil.

The simplicity of Pope Francis’ diet reminds me of the story of Daniel and his friends in the Christian Bible (Daniel 1).

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia attacked Jerusalem and surrounded the city. He captured King Jehoiakim and seized treasures from the Temple.

a Daniel_befrore_NebuchadnezzarNebuchadnezzar then ordered his chief official, Ashpenaz, to select some young men from the noble and royal families of the Israelite exiles to serve in his court. They had to be handsome, intelligent, well-trained, quick to learn, and free from physical defects. Ashpenaz was to teach them to read and write the Babylonian language. The king also gave orders that every day they were to be given the same food and wine as the members of the royal court. After three years of this training they were to appear before the king. Among those chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all of whom were from the tribe of Judah. The chief official gave them new names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel made up his mind not to let himself become ritually unclean by eating the food and drinking the wine of the royal court, so he asked Ashpenaz to help him. Ashpenaz was sympathetic to Daniel but was afraid of the king. So he said to Daniel, “The king has decided what you are to eat and drink, and if you don’t look as fit as the other young men, he may kill me.”

So Daniel went to the guard whom Ashpenaz had placed in charge of him and his three friends. “Test us for ten days,” he said. “Give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare us with the young men who are eating the food of the royal court, and base your decision on how we look.”

He agreed to let them try it for ten days. When the time was up, they looked healthier and stronger than all those who had been eating the royal food. So from then on the guard let them continue to eat vegetables instead of what the king provided.

God gave the four young men knowledge and skill in literature and philosophy. In addition, he gave Daniel skill in interpreting visions and dreams.

At the end of the three years set by the king, Ashpenaz took all the young men to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them all, and Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah impressed him more than any of the others. So they became members of the king’s court. No matter what question the king asked or what problem he raised, these four knew ten times more than any fortune teller or magician in his whole kingdom. Daniel remained at the royal court until Cyrus, the emperor of Persia, conquered Babylonia.

Daniel was not alone in his experience with food. Mystics of all traditions teach that diet influences spiritual awareness.

plant based diets

Many spiritual masters of the East, including Hindus, and various schools of yoga, divide foods into three basic categories: Sattvic (pure), Rajasic (kingly), and Tamasic (impure). They teach that this last category of foods, which includes all flesh foods and eggs, is to be completely avoided. A sattvic diet consists of fresh, simple foods including: grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and dairy. Sattvic foods are said to promote mental clarity, relaxation, meditation, and spiritual experience including inner visions. A rajasic diet includes very rich, spicy food, and a tamasic diet includes meat and alcohol. These are said to stimulate passions, promote mental agitation, and have an adverse effect upon concentration in meditation.

Those who take up the practices concerning the lower centres in the body, do take meat … but those who are anxious to rise above body consciousness and go into the Beyond have of necessity to eschew all that. This is the Path I have put before you. Liberation or salvation is something which starts only when you rise above body consciousness. For that reason, vegetarianism is the first essential.

(Kirpal Singh, The Night is a Jungle, published by Sant Bani Ashram of New Hampshire).

Guru Kabir, a great Master from Northern India, loved by Sufis, Sikhs, Jains, and Hindus alike, said:

The man who eats meat is a demon in human form. Keep away from him – his company will ruin your meditation.

(Kabir: the Weaver of God’s Name, Radha Soami Satsang Beas).

According to these teachers, the bad karma and other negative effects of flesh-eating apparently to some degree darkens one’s inner vision, interfering with the quality of one’s meditation, making it more difficult to reach the required deep levels of tranquility, clarity and concentration.

The concept of diet affecting spiritual awareness is not confined to Eastern mystics.

Many early Christians were vegetarian; also Clement of Alexandria, Origen, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. In some early church writings, Matthew, Peter and James (brother of Jesus and first leader of the Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem Church) were said to be vegetarian. According to the historian Eusebius, the Apostle “Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh.” Many monasteries in ancient times practised vegetarianism and continue to do so.

clement of alexandriaClement of Alexandria wrote,

It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals.

Modern day Seventh Day Adventists, for example, advocate a vegetarian diet.

Most conventional world religions in the West condone flesh-eating, but many esoteric traditions which have practised various forms of mysticism, are consistent in their agreement about the need for contemplative mystics to abstain from the flesh. The list of Western vegetarian paths includes: the Pythagoreans, followers of the Hermetic philosophy of Egypt, the Sethians, Theraputae, Essenes, the original Jewish Christians called Ebionites, the Gnostic religions, Manichaeans, some Catholic monasteries, some monasteries associated with the Orthodox Church – including the great mystery school on Mount Athos in Greece – and the Sufi mystics of Islam.

It may be no coincidence that the predominantly plant-based diet of Daniel and spiritual masters of many traditions, is virtually identical to that advocated by modern science. A diet which is believed to enhance spiritual openness also protects against cancer, heart-disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, arthritis and the general ravages of aging.

Pope Francis’s simple diet may not only have helped to deepen his spiritual practice but also given him the physical strength to take on this monumental role at the age of 76. May he prove to be as wise, knowledgeable and visionary as Daniel.

If you have enjoyed this post and would like to know more about how to cook and eat to maintain or restore your health, please sign up for free email updates.

You can also stay in touch by joining me on Facebook and Twitter.

Turmeric – spice up your health

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae.  It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C, and a considerable amount of rainfall to survive.

Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes.  The rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used in spices and curries, for dyeing, and to impart colour to mustard condiments and butter.  Its active ingredient is curcumin, which has an earthy, bitter, peppery flavour and a mustardy smell.

turmeric

Turmeric has been used for at least 4000 years in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments.

There are frequent media reports claiming medicinal properties of turmeric, some of which are supported by quality scientific data and some of which are not.

It is important to bear in mind that many studies have been done in test tubes and animals, and the herb may work differently or not as well in humans.

Furthermore, some studies have used an injectable form of curcumin, and the results may not relate well to the effects of oral ingestion of turmeric itself.

In spite of these caveats, there is promising evidence that turmeric may be helpful for fighting infections and some cancers, reducing inflammation, and treating digestive problems.

turmeric spice

The curcumin in turmeric has been shown to stimulate the production of bile by the gallbladder.

Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant.  Antioxidants protect the body from the adverse effects of very reactive molecules called free radicals, which damage cell membranes and DNA, and may even cause cell death.

In addition, curcumin reduces inflammation by lowering levels of two inflammatory enzymes (called COX-2 and LOX) in the body and stops platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.  COX-2 is the target enzyme of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, so curcumin works in a similar way to these drugs, without the side-effects.

Indigestion

At least one double-blind placebo-controlled study has shown that turmeric was effective for treating people with indigestion, reducing symptoms of bloating and gas.  In Germany, turmeric has been approved for use in treating digestive disorders.

Ulcerative colitis

In one double-blind placebo-controlled study, people whose ulcerative colitis was in remission either received curcumin or placebo, along with conventional medical treatment for 6 months.  Those who took curcumin had a relapse rate that was much lower than those who took the placebo.

Stomach ulcers

Turmeric does not appear to be helpful in treating stomach ulcers, and there is some evidence that it may increase the amount of acid in the stomach, making existing ulcers worse.

Osteoarthritis

Turmeric may be useful for relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis due to its ability to reduce inflammation.  A study of people using an Ayurvedic formula of herbs and minerals containing turmeric as well as Withinia somnifera (winter cherry), Boswellia serrata  and zinc significantly reduced pain and disability.  Due to the study design, it is not possible to know if this effect is from turmeric alone, or the combination of herbs working together.

Atherosclerosis

In animal studies, an extract of turmeric lowered cholesterol levels and kept LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol from building up in blood vessels, a process that can result in blocked arteries leading to heart attack or stroke.  Turmeric also stops platelets from clumping together, so may help to prevent build-up of  blood clots along the artery walls.  These findings need to be confirmed in clinical trials.

Cancer

There is substantial interest in turmeric’s potential anti-cancer properties.  Evidence from test tube and animal studies suggests that curcumin may help prevent, control or kill several types of cancer cells, including prostate, breast, skin and colon.  Curcumin’s effects may be due to its ability to stop the blood vessels that supply cancerous tumours from growing, and from its effects as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.  More research is needed in order to understand if turmeric is effective in preventing or treating cancer in humans.

Diabetes

When laboratory animals with diabetes were given turmeric, their blood sugar levels dropped, as did their cholesterol levels.  Researchers do not yet know if such effects will occur in human subjects with diabetes.

Bacterial and viral infections

Anti-microbial properties of turmeric have been observed in laboratory studies but there is little data available on similar effects in humans.

Uveitis

In one study of 32 people with uveitis, inflammation of the eye, curcumin appeared to be as effective as corticosteroids.

If a teaspoon of turmeric is added to the cooking water of brown rice, the rice becomes a bright yellow colour.  This yellow-coloured rice can then be used in dishes such as paella, kedgeree and rice salad, together with multi-coloured vegetables, such as red pepper, sauteed courgettes, diced carrots, peas and sweetcorn.  Children love the bright colours and this is a good way to tempt them to eat more nourishing whole grains and vegetables.

For recipe ideas, tips and information about following a plant-based diet please sign up for my free newsletter and check out my website.

You can also find me on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Jane Philpott

References

Ammon HPT, Wahl MA. Pharmacology of Curcuma longa. Planta Medica. 1991;57:1-7.

Arbiser JL, Klauber N, Rohan R, et al. Curcumin is an in vivo inhibitor of angiogenesis. Mol Med. 1998;4(6):376-383.

Asai A, Miyazawa T. Dietary curcuminoids prevent high-fat diet-induced lipid accumulation in rat liver and epididymal adipose tissue. J Nutr. 2001;131(11):2932-2935.

Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000:379-384.

Curcuma longa (turmeric). Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2001;6 Suppl:S62-S66.

Davis JM, Murphy EA, Carmichael MD, Zielinski MR, Groschwitz CM, Brown AS, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP. Curcumin effects on inflammation and performance recovery following eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Mar 1 [Epub ahead of print]

Dorai T, Cao YC, Dorai B, Buttyan R, Katz AE. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. III. Curcumin inhibits proliferation, induces apoptosis, and inhibits angiogenesis of LNCaP prostate cancer cells in vivo. Prostate. 2001;47(4):293-303.

Dorai T, Gehani N, Katz A. Therapeutic potential of curcumin in human prostate cancer. II. Curcumin inhibits tyrosine kinase activity of epidermal growth factor receptor and depletes the protein. Mol Urol. 2000;4(1):1-6.

Funk JL, Frye JB, Oyarzo JN, Kuscuoglu N, Wilson J, McCaffrey G, et al. Efficacy and mechanism of action of turmeric supplements in the treatment of experimental arthritis. Arthritis Rheum. 2006 Nov;54(11):3452-64.

Gescher A J, Sharma R A, Steward W P. Cancer chemoprevention by dietary constituents: a tale of failure and promise. Lancet Oncol. 2001;2(6):371-379.

Hanai H, Iida T, Takeuchi K, Watanabe F, Maruyama Y, Andoh A, et al. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Dec;4(12):1502-6.

Handler N, Jaeger W, Puschacher H, Leisser K, Erker T. Synthesis of novel curcumin analogues and their evaluation as selective cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) inhibitors. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2007 Jan;55(1):64-71.

Heck AM, DeWitt BA, Lukes AL. Potential interactions between alternative therapies and warfarin. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2000;57(13):1221-1227.

Johnson JJ, Mukhtar H. Curcumin for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Cancer Lett. 2007 Apr 18; [Epub ahead of print]

Kawamori T, Lubet R, Steele VE, et al. Chemopreventive effect of curcumin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory agent, during the promotion/progression stages of colon cancer. Cancer Res. 1999;59:597-601.

Kim MS, Kang HJ, Moon A. Inhibition of invasion and induction of apoptosis by curcumin in H-ras-transformed MCF10A human breast epithelial cells. Arch Pharm Res. 2001;24(4):349-354.

Lal B, Kapoor AK, Asthana OP, et al. Efficacy of curcumin in the management of chronic anterior uveitis. Phytother Res. 1999;13(4):318-322.

Luper S. A review of plants used in the treatment of liver disease: part two. Altern Med Rev. 1999;4(3):178-188; 692.

Mehta K, Pantazis P, McQueen T, Aggarwal BB. Antiproliferative effect of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) against human breast tumor cell lines. Anticancer Drugs. 1997;8(5):470-481.

Nagabhushan M, Bhide SV. Curcumin as an inhibitor of cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992;11(2):192-198.

Phan TT, See P, Lee ST, Chan SY. Protective effects of curcumin against oxidative damage on skin cells in vitro: its implication for wound healing. J Trauma 2001;51(5):927-931.

Pizzorno JE, Murray MT. Textbook of Natural Medicine. New York, NY: Churchill Livingstone; 1999:689-692.

Ramirez-Tortosa MC, Mesa MD, Aguilera MC, et al. Oral administration of a turmeric extract inhibits LDL oxidation and has hypocholesterolemic effects in rabbits with experimental atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis. 1999;147(2):371-378.

Sharma RA, Ireson CR, Verschoyle RD. Effects of dietary curcumin on glutathione S-Transferase and Malondialdehyde-DNA adducts in rat liver and colon mucosa: relationship with drug levels. Clin Cancer Res. 2001;7:1452-1458.

Stoner GD, Mukhtar H. Polyphenols as cancer chemopreventive agents. J Cell Biochem Suppl. 1995;22:169-180.

Su CC, Lin JG, Li TM, Chung JG, Yang JS, Ip SW, et al. Curcumin-induced apoptosis of human colon cancer colo 205 cells through the production of ROS, Ca2+ and the activation of caspase-3. Anticancer Res. 2006 Nov-Dec;26(6B):4379-89.

Verma SP, Salamone E, Goldin B. Curcumin and genistein, plant natural products, show synergistic inhibitory effects on the growth of human breast cancer MCF-7 cells induced by estrogenic pesticides. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1997; 233(3): 692-696.

White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998:41.

Soybean product may be of benefit in preventing Alzheimer’s disease

Scientists in Taiwan have published a paper in the February 2009 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry indicating that an enzyme, nattokinase, which is found in a fermented soybean product called natto, has powerful ability in lab experiments to prevent formation of the clumps of tangled protein (amyloid fibrils) observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 20 unrelated proteins can form amyloid fibrils in the body, which are related to various diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, prion disease, and systematic amyloidosis.  Enhancing amyloid clearance is one of the targets of the therapy of these amyloid-related diseases. Although there is debate on whether the toxicity is due to amyloids or their precursors, research on the degradation of amyloids may shed light on the prevention or alleviation of these diseases.

In this Taiwanese study, nattokinase degraded several kinds of amyloid fibrils suggesting its possible use in the treatment of amyloid-related diseases.

natto

Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans and is a popular breakfast dish.  For some, natto is an acquired taste due to its powerful smell, strong flavour and sticky consistency.

Natto is made from soybeans, typically a special type called natto soybeans.  Smaller beans are preferred as the fermentation can progress to the centre of the bean more easily.  The beans are washed and soaked in water for 12 to 20 hours, which causes the beans to swell.  Next, the soybeans are steamed for 6 hours, although a pressure cooker can be used to reduce the time.  The beans are then mixed with the bacterium Bacillus subtilis natto, known as natto-kin in Japanese.  From this point on, care has to be taken to keep the ingredients away from impurities and other bacteria.  The mixture is fermented at 40°C for up to 24 hours.  Afterwards the natto is cooled, then aged in a refrigerator for up to one week to add stringiness.  During the ageing process at a temperature of about 0°C, the bacteria develop spores, and enzymes break down the soybean protein into its constituent amino acids.  For this reason, the high protein content of the soybean is in a very digestible form. 

In addition to its high protein content, natto is rich in fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.  In common with other soybean products, natto contains significant quantities of the isoflavone phytonutrients including genistein and daidzein, which are believed to have cancer-protective properties.

Natto is believed to have numerous health benefits and there is some medical research to support this.  The enzyme nattokinase is a serine protease which may reduce blood clotting by direct fibrinolysis of clots and inhibition of the plasma protein plasminogen activator inhibitor 1[i].  Clinical trials are needed to confirm laboratory studies.  An extract from natto containing nattokinase is available as a dietary supplement.

Vitamin K, which is present in significant amounts in natto, is involved in the formation of calcium-binding groups in proteins, assisting the formation of bones and preventing osteoporosis.  Vitamin K1 is found naturally in seaweed, liver and some vegetables, while vitamin K2 is found in fermented food products such as cheese and miso.  Natto has very large amounts of vitamin K2, approximately 870 mg per 100 g natto.

Natto is reported to contain substantial levels of a natural product called pyrroloquinoline quinone, which has been shown to stimulate DNA synthesis in cultured human fibroblasts, modulate immune response, and reduce liver injury, cataract formation and lipid peroxidation[ii].   

 A study reported in 1996 suggested that natto may have benefits in reducing cholesterol levels in people whose cholesterol and triglyceride levels are high[iii].

In January 1997, a Japanese television programme called Revealed! Encyclopaedia of Living recommended two portions of natto per day as a means of losing weight in only two weeks.  With the Japanese struggling with overweight and obesity this hit a nerve, and by lunchtime the next day national stocks of natto had sold out.    Whilst it is the case that natto has a relatively low number of calories per g of protein and a high nutrient density, it will only contribute to weight loss if consumed as part of a healthy diet, high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and unsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats, salt and sugar, combined with plenty of exercise.

The most popular way to eat natto is to put it in a small bowl, add a little soy sauce and some finely-chopped spring onion and/or some mustard, mix the ingredients together and serve on some steamed rice.  Natto can also be added to miso soup to create a rich and nourishing dish, which smells a little like capuccino.

Natto can be purchased in the UK from specialist suppliers of Japanese food, such as the Japan Centre  and Japanese Kitchen.

Learn how to cook with natto and other soybean products such tempeh and tofu at popular Cooking for Health classes  held throughout the year in Somerset, UK .

Jane Philpott

 

References

[i]  Fujita M et al (December 1993). “Purification and characterization of a strong fibrinolytic enzyme (nattokinase) in the vegetable cheese natto, a popular soybean fermented food in Japan”. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 197 (3): 1340–1347.

[ii] Kumazawa, T.  et al. Levels of pyrroloquinoline quinone in various foods.  Biochem J. (1995) 307: 331-333

[iii] National Cardiovascular Center, Osake, Japan (April 2006). “Examining the effects of natto consumption on lifestyle-related disease prevention

Bananas

Approximately 760,000 tonnes of bananas are shipped to the UK each year.  In 1998, bananas overtook apples as the nation’s favourite fruit.   Around 140m bananas are consumed each week, making a total of 7bn per year.

bananas-hand

In 2000, sales of bananas reached £750m, approximately 28% of all fruit sales by value.  For supermarkets, bananas are the highest value grocery item – only petrol and lottery tickets generate higher sales and the profits on the latter are smaller.

Bananas are used as a key promotional item by the large supermarkets to attract consumers into their stores.  There is fierce competition to offer the lowest priced bananas and when one chain reduces the price, the rest usually follow.

In January this year, Asda and Morrisons slashed the price of their bananas from 87p per kg to 78p per kg.  The cost reductions are passed down the supply chain with the end result being that plantation owners receive an amount which does not cover the cost of production.

Alistair Smith, co-ordinator of the campaign group Banana Link said, “This is another blow for plantation workers and small farmers who thought that supermarkets had finally understood the consequences of pushing down prices.  The move also flies in the face of evidence that most consumers want to know that the products they buy are not traded at the cost of decent wages and conditions in developing countries”.

Purchase of Fairtrade bananas helps to provide a better income for thousands of farming families in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.

References

[i]  ‘Unpeeling the Banana Trade, Fairtrade Foundation August 2000 and UK National Food Survey 2000

[ii] The Banana Group, 2002, http://www.thebananagroup.uk.net/htmldocs/factsframe.html

[iii] Kathy Hammond, Fresh Produce Journal, “From battleground to banana domination”, April 2002