Asparagus – one of the best foods you can eat

This little vegetable looks interestingly funny doesn’t it? It looks more like a green weapon than something you cook and eat. I used to always see asparagus as a dish garnish, usually for steak or other meat, and never thought of eating it. Only recently have I discovered the wonders of this amazing vegetable.

The health benefits of asparagus is quite a long list, and I believe is one of the best vegetable to be eating if you are guilty of not eating enough vegetables and fruits, because just in this one food alone it contains most of the key vitamins you need. Below are some of the health benefits from eating asparagus.

Detoxification

Asparagus have 288 milligram of potassium, and potassium is good for reducing fats in the tummy area. It has low sodium content, no fat or cholesterol, and 1 cup of serving only contains 40 calories. It also contains an amino acid named, Asparagine, that cleanses the body of all toxins. Asparagine is the culprit for making your urine smell really pungent after eating asparagus.

The diuretic effect helps in kidney related problems and water retention, making it good to eat during pregnancy or menstruation. Many pregnant women are advised to take asparagus to lower risks of birth defects too.

Anti-aging properties

Asparagus is rich in folate, vitamin A and high in glutathoine (GSH) which is a compound containing potent anti-oxidant properties and protect cells from free radicals. It also helps fight brain cognitive decline. For those suffering from hair loss, taking asparagus regularly will help stimulate hair growth as well.

Mood boosting food

It fights depression and boosts your mood in general after taking it because it balances insulin levels, ensuring a stabilized general mood.

High in folate

Because asparagus is high in folate, it is said to reduce risks of heart diseases, reduces inflammation and pain, and as a important protection against cancer.

Preventing osteoporosis and osteoarthritis

Being the number 1 source of vitamin K, it provides what is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, which is the protein in bone tissues. Vitamin K also aids in bone formation and repair.

Ways to prepare Asparagus

I prefer mine steamed and plain. But if you like to have more flavor I would suggest lightly steaming the asparagus and then wrap a slice of smoked salmon around it. It isn’t enough to make a meal but would make an excellent healthy snack.

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Is the media still indirectly promoting smoking?

Everyone knows smoking is bad in today’s times. But why are people still smoking? I don’t believe the reason is due to lack of awareness in the dangers from smoking as there are many adverts and campaigns around that talks about that, even the packets of cigarettes themselves have pictures and labels of warning. You still see young people smoking like it’s something cool. If the campaigns and education on smoking being bad are effective, we shouldn’t be seeing this at all. So where is the new contributor of misinformation, that smoking is good, coming from then?

Most advertising and product placements are in television and movies. Maybe 10 years ago it would be strange to have so many adverts in a single show, but today, you cannot avoid adverts even if you want to. They are not only in television and movies, there are everywhere on the street, on websites, on your phone, on newspapers, and especially in music videos. One can only be led to believe that such product placements work, that’s why these advertising methods have prevailed over the years.

Now, when it comes to smoking, many governments have openly admitted it is bad. But do they stop or remove the tobacco industry? Nope. The tobacco industry is a very rich and powerful one, maybe that’s why. Outside of anti-smoking campaigns and adverts, there are movies and television shows that reaches the mass public regularly. Television is there 24 hours a day, everyday of the week. Movies are no longer something that is a treat, people have access to movies any time and every where they want. So is it that surprising to think the media is indirectly sending messages that smoking is fine?

When you think of movies with people who smokes in it, what kind of characters come to mind? It’s usually the bad guys, cool, aloof characters, lone rangers, the very misunderstood underdog character in the movie right? With young children to teenagers, those characters appear cool and enable teenagers to relate to themselves. These kids, with minds susceptible to what they are exposed to, often grow up accepting smoking as a character trait rather than a health risk. It is only when they get older that they are exposed to the information on bad effects smoking have on the body. But because the knowledge of smoking as a bad thing comes later in their understanding of that activity, it becomes harder to change their perception on it.

Educating children on the bad effects of smoking is the responsibilities of parents, not the country, I agree with that. However, how is all the educating in the world going to work if the media keeps portraying smoking as nothing harmful? To some, the difference is distinct between entertainment you see on television and in the cinema, but to children, they see both as one.

The 7 ingredients I always avoid

There are many ingredients around the web that tout as the dirty dozen list to avoid at all cost. Even though there are some truth in what most of these websites are saying, my advice to you is to know what ingredient irritates you in a certain way and then make note to avoid them. Some people are more particular with the ingredients in their products than others, and some are pretty much alright with most ingredients except for a few that they may be allergic or sensitive to.

For myself, there are these 7 ingredients that I avoid no matter what, as I found that when I use products with any of these ingredients in them, my skin gets extremely dry and/or irritated.

1. Alcohol, Isopropyl (SD-40)

Alright, even though I list this as the first, I tend to be more lenient on this ingredient if the other ingredients in the list are from natural organic sources, or if it doesn’t feel too drying on my skin. Most ladies I know avoid alcohol in their products, and I would too if not for the fact that it’s kind of hard to find products for combination skin that doesn’t have alcohol in it.

It is said to be a very drying, irritating solvent and dehydrator that strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making you more prone to viruses entering and may even promote brown spots and premature aging of skin.

2. Anionic Surfactants

Examples of anionic surfactants are: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS), ammonium laureth sulfate (ALES), TEA (triethanolamine) lauryl sulfate, TEA (triethanolamine) laureth sulfate, lauryl or cocoyl sarcosine.

Some shampoo that claims to be SLS free usually have ALS to replace it, and that ingredient is no better than the notorious SLS. These ingredients are under the same category of surfactants that may be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Surfactants can pose serious health threats and are used for quick and effective cleansing properties.

You can find these ingredients in shampoos, body wash, facial wash and basically about 90% of personal care products that foam, but did you know that these ingredients are also used in car washes, as garage-floor cleaners and engine degreasers? I particularly avoid these ingredients because they always dry out my skin and trigger my eczema.

3. DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and will lead to eye problems, dryness of the skin and hair over prolonged usage. Could be toxic and potentially carcinogenic if absorbed into the body over a period of time. Because of its known carcinogenic effects, these chemicals are already restricted in Europe. 

4. Mineral oil/paraffin oil/paraffin wax/petrolatum/liquidum paraffinum

Derived from petroleum by-product, this ingredient covers the skin like plastic, suffocating and clogging pores while interfering with the skin’s ability to eliminate toxins. By slowing down skin functions and cell development, it could promote acne growth and premature aging. Mineral oil derivatives can be contaminated with cancer causing PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and it is said that the only reason companies use it is solely because it’s cheap.

5. Phthalates

It is a toxic chemical found in certain plastics and containers. Could be found in some hairsprays, cosmetics and nail varnishes, all which are readily absorbed by the body. When research and tests were done in controlled groups, an astonishing amount of people found phthalates in their body. Avoid products in plastic that bears the recycling symbols (the little triangle made with arrows and a number inside) 3,6, and 7.

6. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds and propylene glycol/butylene glycol 

These potentially carcinogenic petroleum-derived ingredients are known to penetrate the skin and weaken protein and cellular structure. Again, this ingredient can cause premature aging and leave your skin vulnerable to bacteria. In cases that requires workers to handle these ingredients, the EPA warns against skin contact to prevent consequences such as brain, liver and kidney abnormalities, and made workers wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles to dispose of these solutions quickly by burying them in the ground.

While these health hazard warnings are everywhere in manufacturing companies that handle these ingredients, not one warning label is on the products that made it to our houses and used on our very own bodies, such as deodorants.

7. Parabens preservatives (methyl-, propyl-, butyl-, and ethyl-)

Most people are aware that parabens, used as preservatives to prolong the shelf life of products, are toxic and known to cause allergic reactions and even skin rashes, but hardly anyone is reading the ingredient list of the next lip product they are buying. Most ladies end up consuming these chemical preservatives that are from their lip products, and you guessed it right, parabens are also found in most humans’ bodies when tests were done.

B for BANANAS!

Bananas are good for you in more ways than it is widely known for. They are one of the superfoods you can integrate into your daily eating habits. Compared to the more popular fruit, the apple, bananas have five times as much vitamin A and iron, three times as much phosphorus and is very rich in potassium. Here are some of the benefits of bananas you might not have known.

Image taken from ‘http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20464846,00.html’

  • Bananas give you energy boosts that are better than caffeine and sugary snacks
  • Potassium in bananas give you maximum performance when exercising or doing tasks that requires physical exertion
  • Potassium is also good for regulating blood circulation in the body, reducing stroke and maintain a regular heartbeat
  • Bananas have fiber that regulates bowel movements
  • Bananas have a chemical called Tryptophan that boosts your mood and makes you feel happier (note to guys: feed your partner bananas when it’s nearing *that* time of the month)
  • Bananas greatly reduce menstrual cramps
  • Bananas help you focus better at work
  • Bananas cure fatigue and hangovers, again, it’s a healthier alternative to coffee
My favourite way of preparing bananas is making it into a smoothie! Here are a couple of recipes you can try using bananas with.
Banana and honey smoothie
Add 2 bananas, 1 tablespoon of organic Manuka honey, and 3 tablespoon of organic yogurt with 4 ice cubes and mix in blender. This takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and it tastes sooo good. Even typing this recipe out now is making me crave for it! This is best taken before or after exercising as it replenishes your body after losing fluids through sweat.
Banana and berry smoothie
Add 2 bananas, 1 cup of frozen blueberries, 3 tablespoon of organic yogurt (optional) and mix in blender. If you want it colder just throw in a couple more of ice cubes. This is perfect for a morning perk-me-up in summer (which is practically everyday here in Singapore. Pfft.)
Frozen banana “ice cream”
I just peel the banana, put it in a ziplock bag and freeze it in the freezer. When it’s thoroughly frozen, the texture is almost like ice cream and tastes delicious and it’s a natural food! You can mash it up in a bowl and put some real ice cream with it if you’re in for a real treat.
*UPDATE* After typing this delicious entry, me and my partner both ended up indulging in ice cream!!!

The correlation between emotions and food

It had only recently occurred to me that wanting to eat healthy and making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle requires a minimal amount of contentment with one’s current state of mind. For the longest time there has been a link between eating disorder and depression, but not many articles focus on the opposite. There could be some sort of sub-conscious activity in ourselves that perceives what we deserve to have and what we don’t. Take for example, people suffering from depression or low self esteem often indulge in binge eating or are bulimic. Their mentality is that they are not good enough, and their eating habits are often a passive aggressive way of punishing themselves.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is not one that happens accidentally. It takes good planning and minding to make it happen. The choice of wanting to be healthy stems from a certain wanting to love yourself that can only deprive from being happy. Speaking from experience, I was not always happy and healthy. If you’ve read the short little introduction on myself on this site, you would know that I led a complete opposite kind of lifestyle to how I’m living now. And during that period in my life, to say the very least, I was not happy at all, I was in a bad place and was figuring my life out. Looking back on my past eating and lifestyle choices now, I realize they were extremely poor.

I know, back then, that even if I had the knowledge of food like I have now, I wouldn’t be bothered to do anything about it because it wasn’t the top of my priority. It is very much a mental state of mind that determines what kind of lifestyle you subconsciously choose for yourself.

I am now very contented with my life, even though it’s not perfect and I’m still figuring things out, but I know I am happy. It is a kind of happiness that comes from inside and drives you to take even better care of yourself and your loved ones around you. Quoting Paul H Dunn, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination; happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it’s too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow.”

How about you? Do you have any related food stories to share?

How I improved my eczema

I used to think having eczema was like having a certain trait of the body that I cannot change and that I have to live with it. For years my skin was sensitive, prone to itchiness and hives, and was told that because it’s genetic, there’s nothing much I can do about it. How wrong that was.

While it is true that I cannot completely eradicate eczema, I can significantly reduce its flare ups and the inconvenience that it causes. The first thing I did was replace my body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, and facial wash with organic ones and they were not only gentler on skin but also free of sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) especially. There’s also the famous ‘dirty dozen’ ingredients in the products that I replaced, but that’s another story in another post. For me, SLS was the largest irritant for my skin and I assume for most people with eczema, that would be too.

Simply by removing these items my skin seemed calmer during and after showers. There wasn’t any more ‘squeaky’ clean feeling after, which was what triggered the itch in my skin. From there, I started keeping a little notebook to note my diet whenever I get an eczema flare up. Sounds tedious, but really, it doesn’t take more than a minute just to write down what you ate.

I found out eliminating dairy, grains, and gluten and wheat free products helped tremendously in preventing an eczema flare up. Also, eating foods rich in B6 and B12 foods will boost the healing of your eczema over time. Not only did that prevent flare ups, i found that I barely needed moisturizing as much as I did before. I also avoid refined carbohydrates such as white rice and white sugar. If I have to, I’d take brown rice over white rice.

Avoid white rice if you can

Sadly, I find not eating white rice the hardest because in Singapore it seems everyone eats white rice. Whenever I’m with relatives and they see that I haven’t touched my rice, they tend to make fun of me, thinking I’m afraid to put on weight. Frustrating as it is, I stuck by it.

Only recently I realized I’m allergic to corn too, as I had quite a severe bout of eczema just hours after eating it that lasted a couple of days. That recent hiccup made me realize how much my eczema improved because in the past, I loved to eat corn and i never remembered having a significant flare up after eating because my skin was always itchy! But now it’s as clear as night and day.

If you too suffer from occasional bouts of eczema flare ups, try changing your diet instead of focusing on topical solutions. You may find that it works even faster and more efficiently.

The new drug of the century: Junk Food

The struggle with preventing and controlling obesity is nothing new. In Singapore, more and more people are having health problems even before they reach obesity. It doesn’t take an obese person to be unhealthy in today’s times. An average sized person who eats badly, can be inviting a host of physical problems very quickly in the near future.

Some of the main reasons people cite as to why they are not as food conscious as they should be, points at the lack of time in their lives. Processed, packaged foods are much faster to prepare and requires almost no washing up after, according to busy working adults. It seems like convenience is the key to the choice of foods these days. 

Apart from convenience in preparation, taste could be a factor in buying these junk foods, as they often contain high sodium and sugar levels. Working adults aren’t the only ones consuming more junk food, it seems that children are exposed to consuming junk in younger ages and in larger amounts in recent years.

Researches have found that burgers, chips and sausages have built the human brain into craving more sugar, salt, and fat laden foods as our taste buds adapt. It is found that overconsumption of high calorie foods actually trigger an addiction-like response in the brain that is similar to that of drugs.

A three year research on rats have presented “the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms”.

The rats were divided into three groups. The first were fed healthy amounts of food to eat, the other was given restricted amount of junk food, while the third had unlimited amount of junk food. The third group, as you would imagine, got fat very quickly and started bingeing.

Apparently, eating junk food registers as ‘pleasure’ in the brain, and the more they ate over time, the larger the quantity it takes in order to reach the same amount of ‘pleasure’ registered by the brain. The brain practically got immune to the intake of junk food, and needs more to reach the same ‘high’ it felt the first time, just like drug addicts. This pretty much sums up the act of overeating, and may very well be the cause of obesity.

The addiction to junk food, whether we acknowledge it or not, has even been compared to the famous tobacco history, as smoking was not always admitted as a health risk especially the misinformation through advertising and marketing by the large companies.

However, not everyone thinks the research results are enough. Lobbyists for food industries insists there’s no such thing as a food addiction. Richard Adamson, consultant for the American Beverage Association said, “I have never heard of anyone robbing a bank to get money to buy a candy bar or ice cream or pop.”

Well, yeah sure, those people are too busy getting fat and stuffing their face with foods to do that, in case you didn’t notice, Mr Adamson.

What’s a good life to you?

Image from 'http://blog.tmcnet.com/blog/rich-tehrani/4g/att-wireless-service-improves.html'

My question to you today is exactly what my title presents – what is a good life to you? It’s nothing new that everyone wants different things in life, and if you get to choose, what kind of life do you want? I think it’s safe to be practical, but once in a while it’s good to take a breather and do something that makes you happy.

It’s also not uncommon to see tons of massive advertising and  marketing on the streets of Singapore. It’s at every bus stop and every train station to say the least. The message these adverts send out is “consume, consume, consume”, and sometimes, they use fear to target your insecurities, and in turn, you buy their products to assure yourself and feed that fear that never existed in the first place. It’s these subtle things that gear you towards a direction that is far from what you wanted in life as a kid.

Why do you think girls are piling on more and more makeup and products on their face these days? It irks me to no end when I see young girls with makeup so thick you aren’t even sure how she really looks like, and ladies who dresses like they work the streets at night. What about that worker drone who does nothing with his life but clock in and out of work daily? And of course, a good family that isn’t aware of what is in their food, stocking up on processed food for the week, feeding their lovely kids these junk.

Image taken from 'http://georgiem-onster.deviantart.com/art/Zombie-Doesnt-Like-Dumb-Girls-266262247'

What I’m trying to say here is, the generation today is one that I can’t say I fully agree with. To me, a good life is when one is brought up with good morals and beliefs (no matter what our beliefs may be), is smart and able to think with common sense (you’d be surprised at how this is severely lacking today with the younger generation) and not needing to spend and want excessively in order to feel happy.

I’m suspecting this is a strongly written article because of my bad encounters with a group of teenagers last night that led to this build up of angst. Despite all that angst, I understand that it’s this difference in thinking that makes the human race distinct and interesting from the other species, I guess. Don’t wait till your mid life crisis before you realize what you really, really want to do with your life. Start realizing yourself today.

Not all vegetarians are healthy

I, myself, eat more vegetables than meat nowadays. But I don’t believe I can eliminate from eating meat entirely even if I wanted to. Most vegetarians and people who suffer from eczema, needs vitamin B12 which can only be found from natural animal sources. I have occasional flare ups from eczema, thus, can never do without vitamin B12 and besides, I don’t believe in taking supplement pills. My point here is, being vegetarian is a healthy choice. However, just like everything else, you have to take in a good variety of foods to be healthy and this rule applies to vegetarians as well.

I’ve known a couple of vegetarians before I was food conscious and they (not every vegetarians) were always weak, tired and stressed. They weren’t exactly healthy at all, or so it seemed like it. It’s only now as I start being more aware of what I eat, that I realized those friends of mine, who are vegetarians, consume as much (maybe even more!) junk and processed foods as those who weren’t vegetarians. Yes, I understand some vegetarians choose not to eat meat because of the morals and ethics of slaughter houses. But really, I think it’s a very bad thing to do to yourself when you limit yourself to all foods that do not contain animal products, but eat everything else.

I do promote people to eat more vegetables and fruits than meat, but the message I’m sending is to be healthy, love your body, and learn to treat your body better. So whatever your diet may be, as long as you are getting the nutrients you need, that’s all there is to it. EAT YOUR VEGGIES AND FRUITS!! 😀

Are we so superficial that even foods have to look a certain way to be sold?

How many of you have heard of the wonky food controversy in 2008? No? Well neither have I, until a couple of days ago. It seems that The European Commission had a certain set of rules that were launched in 1989 regarding standardizing the quality of our fruits and vegetables. However, years and years down the road, these rules have now been distorted, resulting in tons of food wastage. Today, it seems like our never ending quest to acquire beauty has involved even the foods we eat.

Supermarkets, or rather, companies running these supermarkets, refuse to accept fruits and vegetables from farmers that do not meet their standard requirements of how they look, and this can be measured in terms of texture, height and length of it, and the size of it. Their reason is that consumers do not want weird looking foods, even when consumers say this is not the case. While it seems to be an excuse rather than a reason, I start to see a vicious cycle in that statement.

For the longest time since the late 80s, people have been used to seeing fruits and vegetables in their ‘standard’, ‘fresh’ looking states, and would probably think a product is abnormal or spoilt when faced with an odd looking one. What makes this quest of beautifying our food terrible is that these odd looking ones are perfectly edible and no different from the normal looking ones. In fact, many of these ‘defected’ fruits and vegetables that have been rejected by supermarkets, are not even spoilt or unfit for consumption, they are rejected solely by the way they look. Talk about solving world hunger issues!

After the news got wind of this situation, there have been efforts in many places attempting to do right by these fruits and vegetables by demanding they put the wonky looking ones back in the shelves. And in 1st of July, 2009, The European Commission has lifted the ban of food standardization law on 26 fruits and vegetables. This list includes:

26 items (restrictions on shape and size repealed without qualification) – apricots, artichokes, asparagus, aubergines, avocados, beans, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, cherries, courgettes, cucumbers, cultivated mushrooms, garlic, hazelnuts in shell, headed cabbage, leeks, melons, onions, peas, plums, ribbed celery, spinach, walnuts in shell, watermelons, and witloof/chicory.

There is another list of 10 items that the ban has not lifted entirely but restrictions lifted subject to labeling to distinguish them from ‘class 1’ or ‘class 2’ produce. These 10 includes:

Apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches/nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

I think it is a start with these bans being lifted, but we still have a long way to go. As far as these reports are concerned, i believe it applies mainly to the U.K. Because guidelines for foods deem fit for our supermarkets are different from theirs, this ban that has been lifted may or may not have been applied to us. I have been trying to access the website of Singapore’s AVA site but hadn’t been successful, and will do an update of this post the moment I can access it.

On an end note, when was the last time you saw a wonky looking fruit or vegetable on sale in a supermarket in Singapore? Could mother nature really have been consistent in her works that none of the wonky ones ever appear in Singapore?