Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin: Super Fall Vegetable

Pumpkin comes with fall....courtesy of
Pumpkins make good luminaries—Jack-O-Lanterns are synonymous with Halloween. They make beautiful fall decorations and if you’re into eating (who isn’t?)—there are pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin scones.  Every culinary magic has been done to pumpkin from frying them up as fritters to mashing them to make pasta. In the colonial days, pumpkin was used to make pie crust, not the filling. 

Then, there is the medicinal aspect of it. It was once used to treat freckles and snake bites. It was also reported that dried pieces of pumpkin were ingeniously put together to make floor mats. Wow—people can get creative. 

What makes pumpkin so special? This fall vegetable is quite a celebrity in the world of vegetables. It may not look quite a star, but it has no lack of nutritional star quality.

First, the color is a giveaway. The bright orange color is indicative of the presence of beta-carotene, a carotenoid that gets converted to vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant. Meaning? It keeps the damaging free radicals from wrecking cellular damage and triggering off various forms of cancer and degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease. Current research also shows that beta-carotene offers protection against cardiovascular diseases. 

That’s the most obvious fact about pumpkin. However, it is not a one-trick vegetable. It has other nutrients that boost health. It is has iron to build strong blood, zinc for proper growth and maintenance, potassium for the proper functioning of cells, tissues and organs and fiber. 

If you’re looking for ways to enjoy pumpkin, consider the following:

Use in Culinary Preparation
Put them in soups, roast them and toss them in salads, puree them and put them in pies, bread or muffins. Pare away the hard exterior and slice them up—fry them in tempuras, sautee them with pieces of meat, bake them or grill. My mother used to cut pumpkin into cubes and cook them with a little brown sugar for a sweet dessert. 

Beauty Purposes
Pumpkin moisturizers, pumpkin mask and beauty products with pumpkin are rather common these days. You can make your own beauty aid with freshly pureed pumpkin. Add a little honey, milk or yogurt—they’re all skin enhancers. 

Pumpkin Seeds
Don’t discard seeds—they’re actually very nutritious. They are high in essential fatty acids, vitamin E and A. When you scoop out the seeds, wash out stingy slimy part, toss with olive oil and a little salt (if desired) and roast at 350 degree Fahrenheit for approximately 15 minutes. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Uses for Argan Oil

Dry Hair...and skin too? Freaked out? courtesy of

Dry skin, dull hair, brittle cuticles—do they freak you out? If you’ve been wondering just how to get rid of these annoying problems, you don’t have to look high and low in the cosmetic aisle. There is a natural oil, taken from the argan nut that has amazing cosmetic and therapeutic properties. Although the Berber women of Morocco have long known this beauty secret, the world is just catching on. In fact, argan oil is now used in various cosmetic products including moisturizer, soaps and hair products.

So what the hype about? Let’s find out.

 Interesting Facts About Argan Oil:

  • Argan oil is extracted from the nuts of the Argan trees, Argania spinosa.
  • Argan trees grow exclusively on the southwestern part of Morocco.
  • The oil is extracted by hand and it’s labor intensive. The raw form is used for beauty and cosmetic purposes. The oil extracted from the roasted nuts is used for cooking purposes, so look for raw organic argan oil if you’re using it for your skin and hair.
  • The oil, also known as liquid gold because of its magical healing and therapeutic capabilities, is rich in skin-rejuvenating nutrients, hydrating essential fatty acids, powerful antioxidants and polyphenols that are three times higher than vitamin E.

What’s so Special about Argan Oil? Argan oil has the following:

Vitamin F

Vitamin F which is made up of two essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids and omeg-6 fatty acids). In terms of skin health, vitamin F brings about cell rejuvenation to keep skin looking supple and young. It fights wrinkles, dryness and premature aging.

Vitamin E

Helps to protect against ultraviolet radiation and promote cutaneous micro-circulation, keeping skin nourished and healthy.


Phenols are powerful antioxidants. They also exert anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial capabilities. As such, argan oil is often used to treat skin problems such as acne, scars, eczema and psoriasis. It can also provide relief for rheumatism, arthritis and sore muscles.


 Is a necessary component of skin surface lipids and it helps to promote healthy and youthful-looking skin.

How Can You Use Argan Oil for Your Benefit?


Since argan oil is rich in skin-rejuvenating nutrients, use argan oil to moisturize skin. Simply add a drop of argan oil and mix it with your moisturizer to moisturize skin. You can also use it on its own, under makeup. Argan oil has an inbuilt sun protection factor, so it’s ideal for daywear. Since argan oil is very rich, a little goes a long way. People with very dry skin may also use it at night to revitalize skin.


If you’re out in the sun a lot or you treat your hair with chemicals often, hair can become dry and damaged. Rescue poor hair health by applying argan oil. Start with the ends and work your way to the scalp. Wrap hair with towel and shampoo off after 30 minutes.

Therapeutic Effects on Body

When used as massage oil, argan oil may ease tired, stressed muscle, joint pain and aches. Add argan oil to body moisturizer and massage into skin after a shower. Alternatively, fix up a massage blend using carrier oils (such as sweet almond oil, olive oil, avocado) and argan oil and massage body for a relaxing experience.

Other Uses

Rub argan oil on brittle cuticles to promote healthy nails. Chapped lips? Inflamed, sunburned skin?—apply argan oil and allow the healing properties of argan oil to do its work.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Pick Olive Oils with the Most Phenols

Extra Virgin Olive Oil has the highest levels of phenols.

There's no denying the health benefits of including olive oil in your diet. The Mediterranean diet with its generous use of olive oil is  often touted as one of the healthiest of diets. Health reports gushed with its many health benefits--lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, fights cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease and weight gain and reduces various forms of cancer.. According to Northwestern’s Medill report, these health benefits are due to the presence of phenols in olive oil. The phenols found in olive oil are phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticoagulant properties. Not all olive oil has the same levels of phenols and here are some criteria to help choose olive oil phenols.

Highest Levels of Phenols

There are many grades of olive oil—extra virgin, virgin or refined. Extra virgin olive oil is made by pressing (technical term, milling) the olives to extract oil without heat or chemicals. As such, the highest levels of phenols are found in extra virgin oil, since no heat or chemicals are used to destroy nutrients found in the olives. On the other hand, virgin, pure or refined olive oil may use chemicals or heat to process olive oil, thereby lowering its phenols content.

Factors Affecting Phenols Content

Even among extra virgin olive oil, the levels of phenols can vary according to the climate conditions, the type of olive tree and when the fruits are harvested. For instance, fruits picked while they are green and at their peak of growth will yield higher levels of phenols.  You may want to check for place of manufacture, type of olives used in the label. Lab tests can reveal its level of phenols but you can also use your taste buds to help you. Olive oil with a pungent and robust taste usually has higher phenols than those with medium, mild or fruity taste.


Some foods like wine and cheese get better with age. Not olive oil—its phenols levels are highest when it is fresh. Why? Age can destroy nutrient value and cause it to go rancid. When buying a bottle of olive oil, choose a dark bottle as light destroys nutrients. Look for one that is not sitting in front or on top of shelf, expose to store lighting.  It is important to check for expiration date. Look for “best before” label and use it within the date specified. Olive oil has a lifespan of about a year to 18 months of harvesting. 

Quality Olive Oils

Premium olive oils may have even higher concentration of phenols. These olive oils usually have some form of certification or seal from a government agency or an independent certifying body. Examples include the North American Olive Oil Association or the California Olive Oil Council. They tend to be more expensive as the cultivation and production process require more care to ensure better flavor and higher source of phenols. 

Check out more benefits of Olive oil:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Make Your Own Sunscreen

The sun is out and you're happy to feel the warm and heat on your back. You enjoy basking in the sun or just sitting by the pool. Although some degree of sun exposure is healthy--they help the body produce vitamin D, too much sun exposure can be hazardous to health. Health experts warn that UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun can infliit cellular damage to your skin, eyes and even suppress your immune system. To be specific, UV rays can cause wrinkles, premature skin aging,age spots, skin cancer and eye problems such as cataracts, pigmentation and macular degeneration.

Concerned? We should be. UV rays are not visible to the eye and their harmful effects are often overlooked. However, don't let that fool you. Take steps to minimize the damaging effects of UV radiation.--protect, protect and protect!

  • Protect your skin by slathering on sunscreen. Wear protective clothing and gear (such as hats, shades) when in the sun for long periods of time and always look for shades during the time when UV rays are the strongest (10AM to 4PM). 
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses, preferably with ones with close to 100% protection against UV rays.
  • Protect your skin by eating lots of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin B, C and E--they help to counteract against UV radiation.

The sunscreen you buy from the local pharmacy or grocery store may have a wide UV spectrum protection. But are you concerned about the number of chemicals used to do the task? Are you allergic to the chemicals? Or do you simply prefer a greener more natural way to protect your skin, after all, your skin is drinking it some of the stuff.

If you're concerned, just as I'm--you need despair no more. I was surfing the net for natural ways to make your own sunscreen when I stumble upon Sophie Uliano of the Gorgeously Green fame. She makes one fine looking natural sunscreen and it seems so easy, I thought I share it here:

You can use the basic recipe shown in the video and use other oils instead. Nature has endowed us with more choices of oils that offer natural sun protection. Although the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is not high in most of these oils, you can always kick it up a notch by adding zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, natural minearl  sun filters that don't cause photosensitivity disorders. You can buy them on line.

  • Avocado oil (SPF 6 to 8): My personal favorite and I use it under foundation.
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil (SPF 28 to 50)
  • Cannabis Oil (SPF 6)
  •  Macadamia Oil (SPF 6)
  •  Jojoba oil (SPF 6)
  • Hemp Seed oil (SPF 6)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Luo Han Guo

Call it monk's fruit or longevity fruit, Luo Han Guo didn't get the names from nothing. It is said that monks first discovered how beneficial  the fruit can be--hence the first name. Luo Han Guos are plentiful in the mountains of Guilin in Southern China, where the trees thrive in the misty cool of the mountains. Residents around these mountains are reported to live rather long lives, hence the second name--the longevity fruit. In recent years, Luo Han Guo has been recognized for another contribution--it is fast becoming a popular natural sweetener.The Food and Drug Administration has approved its use as a food ingredient, sweetener and flavor modifier.

Luo Han Guo--crack it open and you'll find lots of seeds and brown pulp. Courtesy of

For centuries, the Chinese have valued Luo Han Guo for its medicinal value. The dried fruit is often used to make sweet deserts and herbal brew to treat sore throat, coughs,  internal heat, constipation and gastrointestinal problem.  In recent years, the natural sweetness is used to make natural sweetener --one that doesn't cause sugar spike or questionable side effects (like some artificial sweeteners do). This is good news for people suffering from diabetes and are consciously trying to reduce sugar intake. Sugar has been identified as a major contributing factor to weight gain.

What makes this fruit a good candidate for a natural sweetener? It is the presence of mogrosides, a group of terpene glycosides, which is 300 times sweetener than sugar that sets this fruit apart. In addition to its sweetness, Luo Han Guo is also high in vitamin C, protein and 18 amino acids. There is more --Luo Han Guo is also rich in antioxidants and exerts anti-inflammatory properties. In recent years, Luo Han Guo extract has been used to blend with other herbal teas to boost immune system and reduce risks of cancer. It is important to note that these health claims are inconclusive, though users have reported favorable results.

If you're looking for the fruit, the fresh fruit is seldom used due to its short shelf life and its rather unpleasant flavor. However, when dried, the fruit has a nutty flavor, more akin to a caramel toffee-like flavor. You can find these dried fruits in Chinese health stores. Crack them open and boil them in water for a sweet tea brew.

Here's how you can make Luo Han Guo Herbal Tea:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fight Cellulite the Natural Way.

Are those cellulite staring at you again? They tease you and taunt you to no end. They crunch up under your skin, forming milky ways up and down your thighs, your butt and even across your abdomen. Milky way may look magical, even spell-bounding up in the sky, splashed across the midnight canvas, but what are they doing on your skin?

What are they, anyway? They are deposits of fat that pushes up between the skin's dermal cells. But fret no, you can tame them, suggests UCLA professor, Howard Murad, M.D. with food. Yes, food!

Here are three favorites you can add to your grocery list:


Fresh cayenne pepper, chili pepper, chili powder or chili flakes. Spice your food with these "spicy" ladies. They are spicy because they contain a chemical, called capsaicin that can boost circulation and metabolism. They are notorious fat busters to boot. So blast the lumpy dimples with a dash of spice.


They make delicious orange julius. Or you can simply cut them into wedges and munch on them. What's the deal? They contain lecithin, which can help to strengthen skin cells,preventing the fat cells from making their appearance at the skin level.


Go nutty and your skin will be thankful. Nuts are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids which promote skin's elasticity. The more elastic your skin is, the smoother it gets. So, trade in your chips for some wholesome nuts...walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds...mix and match and enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sulfur Soap

Sulfur soaps? If you’re wondering what they are and what they are used for, here are some quick facts about sulfur soap.

What is Sulfur?

Sulfur is a yellow nonmetallic mineral found in nature. If you’re ever smelled rotten eggs, that’s the smell. It is the stuff found in gunpowder, in the manufacture of rubber products, such as tires, insecticides and pharmaceuticals. If you ever light a match, it’s the sulfur that produces the flame.

Sulfur Soaps
Sulfur is also used in the making of antiseptic, antibacterial soap to treat many skin conditions. It usually constituted about 10 percent of the soap. The rest of the soap is made of fragrance and neutral soap base. Certain agents may be added to the sulfur soaps to target certain skin conditions.

According to PubMed, sulfur has been utilized to treat various skin conditions for centuries. These include:

• Fungal infections
• Scabies
• Psoriasis
• Eczema
• Acne
• Seborrhoeic eczema
• Cutaneous disorders

How Does Sulfur Soap Works
Sulfur soap works as a topical salicylate. When it is applied to the affected area, it will cause the skin to swell and soften, making it easy to slouch or peel away the affected skin. In addition, sulfur has an active ingredient, kertolytic, that has antibacterial action.

Clears Acne
According to Mayo clinic sulfur soap may be used to treat acne. Such acne sulfur soaps usually have other active ingredients such salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or resorcinol. They work together to remove dead skin cells that are clogging the pores and by removing excess oil.

Treats Seborrheic Dermatitis
If you have red, scaly, itchy skin on the scalp and stubborn dandruff, you may have Seborrheic dermatitis. It can also affect face, upper chest, back and any oily areas of the body and is caused by a fungus. It is commonly referred to as cradle cap in infants. Although it is generally harmless, it can be annoying, embarrassing and uncomfortable. Using sulfur soap can reduce the amount of fungus since sulfur soap is antifungal.

Precaution to Take When Using Sulfur Soap
Before using sulfur soap, make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients found in the soap. Always consult your doctor if you’re not sure. Sulfur soap can be drying, so be sure to use a moisturizer in conjunction with sulfur soap use. There are also milder sulfur soaps with 3 percent sulfur content.