Monday, October 28, 2013

My Gray Porridge

As I sat at my desk today with my bowl of breakfast, I couldn’t help but notice a few funny looks as I set my bowl down.  Why? My regular breakfast choice looked quite discoloured. It was slate gray colour with black grains throughout.

One of my co-workers finally came up to me and said, “A wha dat?”  

Blue Cornmeal Porridge with Quinoa Grains

“Blue cornmeal!” I chimed.

His confusion did not subside with my clear response. “Blue cornmeal?” he repeated.

I went on to explain to him, that, yes, blue cornmeal does exist. And, in addition to the commonly known yellow and white varieties, there is also a red variety. Its not a genetically modified food but grows naturally in parts of Mexico and the United States.  I must admit that I wasn’t surprised about the reaction in my office. Its was only last week while browsing through my nearby health food store that I came across this treasure. I followed up with some research and went back to purchase it. Below are a few fun facts about blue cornmeal:

  • Blue cornmeal is ground from whole blue corn.
  • Grown in northern Mexico and Southwestern United States, particularly in Mew Mexico and Arizona.
  • It is an essential part of Hopi (Native American) dishes as well as New Mexican cuisine.
  • It’s had a sweeter and nuttier flavour than yellow or white corn.
  • According to the New Mexico Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service, blue corn has more of the essential amino acids, which makes it a more complete source of protein than white and yellow varieties.
  • In another study featured in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2007), scientists found that starch in blue corn tortillas were less digestible than that founding white corn tortilla chips. The slower rate of starch digestion to glucose in blue corn samples resulted in a lower predicted glycemic index, making blue corn a healthier choice for people living with diabetes.

Blue cornmeal is just as versatile as its yellow and white counterparts. It csn be used to make cornbread, porridge, corn crusted fish and muffins. I can't wait to try this ingredient for my fried festivals, dumplings and pancakes!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Childhood Obesity: Who's at Fault?

About two week ago, I came across the article   The 'real shape of the American man: Dudes, you're porky! (Bill Briggs, 2013). The article featured a computer-generated diagram of the shape of the average 30-39 year-old man from four different countries, including the U.S. The diagram showed, that compared to the three other countries, American men are a lot heavier or "porkier" than men from the Netherlands, Japan and France. According to one source sixty-nine percent of American men over that age of 20 years old are easier overweight or obese. This fact was further underlined by the illustration by Nickolay Lamm.  

This got me thinking about Jamaica and our current battle against the bulge. Something I find even more disturbing than obesity among adults is that which faces the younger generation and our nation's future. Kids today look so different from when I was growing. Whereas the chubby kid in class was the exception, they've now become the norm. And the numbers don't lie either.  According to the National Non Communicable Disease Committee,  11 percent of Jamaican children ages 10 to 15 years and 35 percent of teenagers ages 15 to 18 years are either overweight or obese. The future that lies ahead does not seem so promising as overweight and obesity during childhood are common indicators for obesity in adulthood. some health impacts include increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes and several types of cancers.  

While the NCD committee strives to tackle the issue, I can't help but wonder who really is responsible  in fighting this epidemic. The Jamaican government through the NCD committee tries to get handle on the problem, I wonder if there will be any real success. As they pointed out, this is a multilateral issue.

As a society, we can't escape the role that we play. Society as a whole has a very hands-washing approach to childhood obesity. "My kids aren't fat, so it's not my problem." Whilst that may be seem correct, we all shoulder the financial cost of childhood obesity. In the US, childhood obesity alone cost $3 billion. Is that number big enough to make it our problem? Another problem is discussion about weight has become so taboo. We've come to point in society where accept me as I am is the order of the day. So who are you to criticize my weight? I'm fluffy and fabulous! But avoidance of talking about weight is not the right way to go. If parents are afraid to talk with their kids about eating habits and weight issues, how are they maintain a healthy weight? If we indulge his every craving because he's a "growing kid", how will they learn self-control? Are we okay with others, such as educators in our school system, addressing the issue if we don't want to?

Clearly, each of us has a part to play. What do you think?  


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bye Bye Dark Spots! DIY Turmeric & Honey Face Mask

Lately I’ve realized that I’m becoming more and more open to a more natural approach to beauty. I’ve decided to forego the chemical way to dealing with my hair as well using other natural products to care  for my hair. I’ve also become fascinated with a more natural approach to skin care. Maybe its because I’m fed up of expensive products that never seem to work or since I’m getting older, I’m searching for  a less complicated routine. Whatever the reason, I enjoy researching simple do-it-yourself recipes that claim to take care of my various skin woes. One of my biggest issues is my hyperpigmented skin and dark spots.

I found a simple recipe hat claims to help with my pigmentation as well as dark spots without bleaching the skin. It’s the turmeric and honey mask. There are many variations of this mask but since these were the only two ingredients I had at the time, I decided to give this one a try.


1 tbsp. turmeric

1 tbsp. honey

Apply paste evenly to the skin. Let the mask sit for 30 minutes. Make sure you do this when wearing an old T-shirt since turmeric stains.

Benefits of Turmeric

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Anti-bacterial

  • Lightens and evens out dark spots

  • Antioxidant

Benefits of Honey

  • Helps to reduce infections
  • Anti-septic, when diluted with water, it forms hydrogen peroxide which is a mild antiseptic
  • Soaks up impurities from the skin
  • Moisturizer
  • Protects skin from sun damage
  • Antioxidant

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Coconut Oil: What You Didn't Know

Food choices consist of everything that is important to people;  and culture plays a very important role in the types of foods we eat, how we prepare it and how we present it. Our choices represent who we are and where we come from which is a beautiful thing.

One of the things I love most about living in Caribbean is that coconut is one of our most beloved food. From our Sunday rice and peas to refreshing coconut water as well as, let's not forget, good ol' coconut drops. However, what's more remarkable about this fruit is how nutritious and beneficial it is to your health. Though it has gotten a bad reputation in the past, current research have shown that it's time for this "prodigal" fruit to return to our diet.    

Here are 10 healthy facts about this wonder-fruit:

1.     Coconut oil contains short term medium-chain saturated triglycerides (MCTs), which is a "healthy" form saturated fat. Unlike trans fat, which is linked to heart disease,  depression and high cholesterol levels, MCTs is immediately converted to energy by the liver instead of being stored as fat.

2.     It boosts metabolism and increases energy. Therefore it is more likely to be burned as fuel than stored as body fat. Try adding one to two teaspoon of coconut oil to your salads and you'll be on your way to losing those pounds.   

3.     Because of its MCT properties, coconut oil is ideal for cooking at high temperatures. Unlike olive oil which oxidizes and converts to free radical at high temperatures, coconut oil has a high smoking point and subsequently maintains its healthy authenticity.

4.     A component of coconut oil is lauric acid  which contains anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties to boost the immune system. At a workshop conducted by the HEAL Foundation, acclaimed celebrity nutritionist and obesity consultant Ms. Naini Setalvad says, "The next best source of monolaurin after mother's milk is coconut oil with 50% of its saturated fat being lauric acid".

5.     Coconut oil has been found to benefit digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome and bacterial related stomach issues. Fatty acids in coconut oil contain anti-bacterial properties, which have a soothing affect on bacteria or parasites that cause poor digestion.

6.     Due to its fatty properties, coconut oil is more satisfying than carbohydrates or simple sugars. In fact, frequent hunger is a major clue that our bodies are not being fed properly.  consuming the right amounts of fats and protein will fuel our bodies adequately so we won't feel the need to indulge in sweet treats so often. 

7.     Coconut oil can also be used as an anti-aging product. it hydrates the skin and keeps the skin's connective tissues strong. This leads to fewer lines and wrinkles.  For healthy, glowing skin, Apply just a small amount of coconut oil directly to your skin on a daily basis. Be sure you use virgin coconut oil with no additives.

8.     Coconut oil fights bacteria to blame for tooth decay.  Lead researcher Dr Damien Brady, of the Athlone Institute of Technology in Ireland, suggests, ‘Incorporating enzyme-modified coconut oil into dental hygiene products would be an attractive alternative to chemical additives, particularly as it works at relatively low concentrations.’ 

9.     Protects against heart disease. Animal studies have shown that coconut oil in particular lowered total cholesterol, lipoproteins and phospholipids. The reason for this is that coconut oil is composed of medium chain triglycerides which are rapidly metabolized in the liver into energy and does not participate in the biosynthesis and transport of cholesterol.

10.   It tastes great with everything!