Manuka Honey

The market for Manuka honey has recently exploded, thanks to the perceived benefits of its natural antibacterial properties. But what evidence is there to support the claims?

In this article, we explore what Manuka honey is, what its properties are, and how it differs from other types of honey.

We also look at the evidence available to assess whether Manuka honey really is the next great superfood.

Historical use of honey

Honey has been used to treat wounds since ancient times, as detailed in a document dating back to 1392. It was believed to help in the fight against infection, but the practice fell out of favor with the advent of antibiotics.

As we face the challenge of a growing worldwide resistance to antibiotics, scientists are examining the properties and potential of honey.

Qualities of Manuka honey

The leaves of the Manuka tree, also known as a tea tree, have been known for centuries among the indigenous tribes of New Zealand and southern Australia for their healing powers.

Bees that collect nectar from this tree make Manuka honey, which harbors some of the healing properties.

All Honey contains antimicrobial properties, but Manuka honey also contains non-hydrogen peroxide, which gives it an even greater antibacterial power.

Some studies have found Manuka honey can also help to boost production of the growth factors white blood cells need to fight infection and to heal tissue.

Manuka honey contains a number of natural chemicals that make it different:

  • Methylglyoxal (MGO): This has been shown to be effective against several bacteria, including Proteus mirabilis and Enterobacter cloacae.
  • Dihydroxyacetone (DHA): This is found in the nectar of Manuka flowers and converts into MGO during the honey production process.
  • Leptosperin: This is a naturally occurring chemical found in the nectar of Manuka plants and a few close relatives.

Manuka honey and wound care

Medical grade honey, used by healthcare professionals as part of a wound dressing, can help some kinds of wounds to heal.

Experts believe that because Manuka honey has added antibacterial and healing properties, it may be even more effective. At the moment, however, there is little evidence to support the theory.

A Cochrane Review looked at all the evidence available to support the use of honey in wound care. Published in 2015, the study said the differences in wound types made it impossible to draw overall conclusions about the effects of honey on healing.

The study found strong evidence that honey heals partial thickness burns around 4 to 5 days more quickly than conventional dressings. There is also evidence indicating that honey is more effective than antiseptic and gauze for healing infected surgical wounds.

Another study concluded that honey has rapid diabetic wound healing properties, but recommended more research to confirm that honey can be used as the first line of treatment for these types of wounds.

While some research does show that honey can help improve certain conditions, more studies are needed to confirm honey’s benefits for:

  • mixed acute and chronic wounds
  • pressure ulcers
  • Fournier’s gangrene
  • venous leg ulcers
  • minor acute wounds
  • Leishmaniasis

Manuka honey and bacteria

Antibiotics are used to prevent and treat bacterial infections all over the world. However, the bacteria the drugs are deployed to kill can adapt and become resistant.
Manuka honey has antibacterial properties and may be able to fight superbugs resistant to most standard antibiotics.

This resistance is currently happening all over the world, and a growing number of infections are becoming harder to treat. This leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and ultimately, more deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed resistance to antibiotics as the one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development.

The natural antibacterial properties of honey may be useful in this fight. In the lab, Manuka honey has been shown to be able to inhibit around 60 species of bacteria. These include Escherichia coli (E. coli) and salmonella.

Some studies have shown that Manuka honey can fight so-called superbugs that have become resistant to antibiotics. These include Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA-15) and Pseudomonas aeruginosin.

This line of investigation is still in its infancy. These have been small, lab-based tests which combined medical grade Manuka honey with antibiotics.

There is still a lot of work to be done before scientists can come to a conclusion.

Other health benefits

There are many other potential health benefits of Manuka honey. These include:

  • reducing high cholesterol
  • reducing inflammation
  • reducing acid reflux
  • treating acne

There is, however, limited evidence for its use in these areas.

Using Manuka honey

The medical grade honey used to dress wounds is very different from the honey sold in stores.

Medical grade honey is sterilized, with all impurities removed, and prepared as a dressing. Wounds and infections should always be seen and treated by a healthcare professional.

Store-bought Manuka honey can be used in the same manner as any other honey: on toast, on porridge, or to sweeten drinks.

There is no clear evidence that people who consume Manuka honey in this way will notice any benefit to their health. It is not clear how the active ingredients that provide Manuka honey with its healing properties survive in the gut.

Risks

Honey is usually around 80 percent sugar, mainly supplied by glucose, fructose, and sucrose, so moderate intake is recommended. This is particularly true if you have diabetes.

Due to the recent trend for Manuka honey, it can be expensive, so it is important to make sure you know what you are looking for.

When buying Manuka honey from the store, look for the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) mark. This means the honey has been produced by one of the 100+ beekeepers, producers, and exporters licensed by the UMF Honey Association.

The number displayed next to the UMF mark represents the quantity of Manuka key markers, leptosperin, DHA, and MGO. Consumers are advised to choose UMF 10+ and above.

Nine Diabetes Superfoods and How to Prepare Them

Diabetes is a disease that causes elevated blood sugar levels due to a lack of insulin, the body’s inability to use insulin, or both.

Poorly managed diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerve cells, which may lead to foot problems and a condition called neuropathy. High blood sugar levels can also cause damage to the eyes and kidneys, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Foods that can help manage blood sugar

People with diabetes should first make sure that they have a regular eating routine. Having a source of fiber, slow-digesting carbohydrate, lean protein, and healthy fat with each meal helps to control blood sugar levels throughout the day.

People should limit quick-digesting carbohydrates like white bread and pasta. Instead, they should opt for slower-digesting carbohydrates with extra nutrients like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and berries. These cause a smaller spike in blood sugar.

Nine diabetes superfoods

Here are nine examples of foods that can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet for people with diabetes.

1. Walnuts

Hands holding walnuts.
Walnuts contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

The combination of fiber, protein and healthy fats in walnuts makes them a great alternative to simple carbohydrate snacks like chips or crackers.

The fatty acids in walnuts can increase good cholesterol while decreasing harmful cholesterol. This may reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack. People with diabetes are at a greater risk for these conditions.

People whose diets include large amounts of nuts put on less weight than those that do not, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Weight loss can help to reduce blood sugars.

  • Add crushed walnuts to yogurt, oats, or salad
  • Make a trail mix treat with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate chips

2. Avocado

The avocado is the only fruit that is a good source of healthy fat. Avocados also provide about 20 different vitamins and minerals and are especially high in potassium, vitamins C, E, and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.

Eating foods that contain healthy fats may help increase fullness. Eating fat slows the digestion of carbohydrates, which helps to keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Avocado is high in fiber too, with half a fruit containing 6-7 grams. According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intake is associated with a significantly lower risk for diabetes.

Eating high-fiber foods can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve weight loss, and make insulin more efficient.

  • Spread avocado on toast in the morning instead of butter
  • Use avocado instead of mayonnaise in chicken or egg salad

3. Ezekiel bread

A loaf of Ezekiel bread.
Ezekiel bread has a higher protein and nutrient content than other bread.

Ezekiel bread and other sprouted grain bread are less processed than standard white and whole wheat bread. The grains in Ezekiel bread are soaked and sprouted, allowing for higher protein and nutrient content. Bread made from sprouted grains tends to contain more B vitamins, fiber, folate, and vitamin C than other bread.

Ezekiel bread is often found in the freezer section. Sprouted grain bread have a denser consistency and are best when toasted.

  • Toast Ezekiel bread and top with avocado, a sliced hard-boiled egg, and black pepper
  • People can also find sprouted grain bagels, English muffins, pizza crust, and tortillas

4. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium. The body needs magnesium for over 300 processes, including breaking down food for energy.

A lack of magnesium is linked to insulin resistance, a main cause of diabetes. For every 100-milligram-a-day increase in magnesium intake, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes falls by around 15 percent.

Two tablespoons of pumpkin seeds contain 74 milligrams of magnesium. This is around a quarter of the recommended daily amount.

  • Brush pumpkin seeds with olive oil, season with cumin, and bake until brown and toasted
  • Make pumpkin seed butter by blending whole, raw pumpkin seeds in a food processor until smooth

5. Strawberries

One study found that fisetin, a substance contained in strawberries, prevented both kidney and brain complications in mice with diabetes.

Other human studies have suggested that a higher intake of berries lowers the risk of diabetes.

One cup of fresh strawberries contains 160 percent of an adult’s daily needs for vitamin C at only 50 calories. Several studies have shown a link between lack of vitamin C and diabetes.

  • Make a superfood salad by mixing strawberries, spinach, and walnuts
  • Add frozen strawberries to a smoothie with milk and peanut butter

6. Chia seeds

Chia seeds are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.

High-fiber diets are linked with stable blood sugar levels and a lower risk of developing diabetes. Despite this, most adults are still not meeting their daily fiber needs.

Just 1 ounce of chia seeds provides 10 grams of fiber, almost half the daily recommendation for a woman over 50.

  • Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt, cereal, and oats.
  • Chia can be a substitute for eggs in baking. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia with 3 tablespoons of water. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes. The seeds will absorb the water and form a gel that can be used instead of an egg.

7. Ginger

A cup of ginger tea.
Ginger may reduce fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory diets and foods can help to treat and relieve symptoms and reduce the risk of long-term diseases like diabetes. Plant-based foods that are high in antioxidants are at the top of the anti-inflammatory foods list.

Ginger has been shown to be high in antioxidants and healthy compounds that enhance its anti-inflammatory powers.

Studies on ginger and diabetes are limited. However, research has shown that ginger reduces fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

  • Steep peeled fresh ginger in boiling water to make ginger tea
  • Add fresh or dried ginger to a stir-fry or homemade salad dressing

8. Spinach

Low potassium intake is linked with a higher risk of diabetes and diabetes complications.

Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, with 839 milligrams per cup when cooked. One cup of banana has about 539 milligrams of potassium.

  • Throw a handful of spinach into a smoothie
  • Add spinach to sandwiches instead of iceberg lettuce

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to lower blood sugars in people with diabetes, though not all studies agree. Participants in one study who took a high dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 percent to 8.0 percent. Participants who took a low dose of cinnamon reduced their average blood sugar levels from 8.9 to 8.2 percent. Participants who did not take cinnamon saw no change.

  • Try cinnamon on sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, and butternut squash
  • Stir cinnamon into tea or warm milk

Example superfood meal plan

Breakfast

  • Toasted Ezekiel bread (complex carbohydrate)
  • Avocado (healthy fat)
  • Spinach (antioxidants)
  • Hard-boiled egg (lean protein and healthy fat)

Lunch

  • Leafy greens
  • Quinoa (complex carbohydrate and lean protein)
  • Roasted beets (antioxidants)
  • Lean protein (like tuna or chicken)

Snack

  • Chopped apple (complex carb)
  • Walnut and pumpkin seed mix (healthy fat and lean protein)

Dinner

  • Salmon (lean protein and healthy fat)
  • Fresh ginger (antioxidants)
  • Sweet potato (complex carb) topped with cinnamon
  • A choice of veggie

Acerola

Acerola is an edible tropical fruit native to Latin America. Also known as acerola cherry or by its scientific name Malpighia emarginata, this sour red berry has been proven to contain extremely high amounts of vitamin C, a fact that has earned acerola the accolade of one of the world’s greatest superfoods. In countries like the US and UK, acerola fruit is usually sold in health food stores in supplemental form, typically as concentrated acerola powder made from freeze-dried acerola fruit. Those who swear by the health benefits of acerola powder use this increasingly popular natural supplement to improve the nutritional profile of cold soups, yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, and even home-made energy bars.

Did you know…that the acerola cherry benefits can help you lose weight, protect against cancer and heart disease, and boost your immune system with more vitamin C power than an orange?

Similar in appearance to a red cherry, the acerola cherry benefits originates from Mexico and from Central and South America. It contains over 150 phytonutrients and is one of the richest sources of vitamin C on the planet.

In fact, it far surpasses oranges in vitamin C potency!

Green, unripe acerola cherry packs 1500 to 4000mg of vitamin C for every 100g compared to oranges, which contain only 50mg of vitamin C per every 100g.

Oranges fall short in essential vitamins and minerals as well, containing only half the amounts of magnesium, potassium and pantothenic acid.

acerola-treeThe Importance of Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps fight infections, strengthen the immune system, prevent blood clots, regenerate damaged skin tissues, build collagen and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Acerola fruit is a traditional remedy for scurvy, a disease caused by vitamin C deficiency.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin-C rich diets help to reduce your risk of cancers, especially of the breast, skin, and cervix. Such plentiful concentrations of vitamin C make it an excellent preventative for heart disease.

Acerola regulates cholesterol levels, protects against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and stops blood clots from forming. The anthocyanins in acerola (responsible for the fruit’s red hue) also help treat the common cold, gum infections, sore throat, and hay fever.

Anthocyanins have proven anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve headaches and fever as well as ibuprofen or aspirin do.

Acerola cherry benefits provide a highly absorbable form of vitamin C because it contains bioflavonoids, which help the body more readily assimilate antioxidants.

Valuable Health Benefits

Acerola cherry benefits have been shown to improve metabolism and normalize blood pressure and heart rhythm. Its folate content helps to regenerate new cells, and the copper it contains aids in iron absorption.

ACEROLA CHERRY IS ALSO BRIMMING WITH VITAMIN A AND BETA-CAROTENE; TWO ANTIOXIDANTS THAT HELP:

      • improve vision
      • prevent cataracts and retinal hemorrhages
      • alleviate arthritis
    • act as anti-cancer agents

The dietary fiber in acerola cherry helps clear waste from the intestines, thereby soothing constipation, diarrhea, and many kidney and liver conditions. Acerola cherry benefits can even activate anti-stress hormones, making the fruit a useful treat when depressed or anxious.

Acerola cherry benefits can even aid weight loss. Not only is it low in calories, fat, and sodium, it’s high in nutrition. In addition, it speeds your metabolism and regulates cholesterol and blood sugar levels; it helps reduce your risk of obesity and supports your weight loss goals.

Acerola cherry has also been praised for its antiviral and astringent properties.

It is used in cosmetic products to help fight aging, wrinkles, hyper-pigmentation and acne.

What Science Says About Acerola Cherry

The few studies have been conducted so far on acerola cherry have provided some impressive findings. One study published in 2011 in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition proved that the acerola fruit protects against oxidative stress, which causes premature aging and disease.

The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology published a study that found that acerola cherry extract helped stop the growth and spread of lung cancer.

Adding acerola cherry benefits to your daily fruits and veggies may help boost your health.

If the taste is too tart, dip the fruit in honey or chocolate for a tasty treat. Cheers to your health!

SUMMARY

Known as extremely high in vitamin C and antioxidants, acerola fruit is also high in iron, calcium, beta carotenes and phosphorus. Acerola juice is as popular in Brazil as orange juice is in America.

Source: https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/acerola-berry-powder/profile

 

Watercress: Health Benefits

Watercress is a dark, leafy green grown in natural spring water. For the past few decades, watercress has been used as little more than a plate garnish; however, it is now seeing a resurgence in popularity as one of the next big super foods.

An ancient green said to have been a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers, watercress is a part of the cruciferous (also known as brassica) family of vegetables along with kale, broccoli, arugula, and Brussels sprouts.

In fact, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used watercress to treat his patients. It was widely available until the 19th century and watercress sandwiches were a staple of the working class diet in England.

As more varieties of salad leaves were cultivated over the next 100 years, watercress became known as a poor man’s food and was eventually shoved off our plates. Its newfound popularity is partly due to its high ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index). The ANDI score measures vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content.

To earn high rank, a food must provide a high amount of nutrients for a few calories. Watercress received the highest rank possible. If you are looking for food to eat to improve your health and shrink your waistline, look no further than watercress.

Fast facts on watercress

Here are some key points about watercress. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Watercress was fed to the Roman army
  • One cup of watercress contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K
  • A chemical in watercress may help protect against the negative effects of cancer treatment
  • The calcium, magnesium, and potassium in watercress may help bring down blood pressure

Nutritional breakdown of watercress

watercress
An ancient green said to have been a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers’ diets.

Watercress, along with beetroot and other leafy greens, contains a very high level of dietary nitrate.

High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, and enhance athletic performance. Moderate intakes do not appear to have the same effects.

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, two cups of fresh watercress (about 68 grams) contains only 7 calories.

Two cups of watercress also provide:

  • 1.6 grams of protein
  • 0.1 grams of fat
  • 0.9 grams of carbohydrate (including 0.3 grams of fiber and 0.1 grams of sugar)

Consuming 2 cups of watercress will meet the following level of daily requirements:

  • 212 percent of vitamin K
  • 48 percent of vitamin C
  • 44 percent of vitamin A
  • 8 percent of calcium
  • 8 percent of manganese
  • 6 percent of potassium

Plus, 4 percent of vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, magnesium, and phosphorus.

elainePossible health benefits of consuming watercress

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds is associated with a reduced risk of a number of adverse health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods, like watercress, decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Cancer prevention and treatment

Studies have consistently shown that a compound in cruciferous vegetables known as 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) has protective effects against cancer, but a recent study shows there is also hope for using it as a shield to protect healthy tissues during cancer treatment.

In a study conducted at Georgetown University, rats were given a lethal dose of radiation. Some were left untreated, and others were treated with a daily injection of DIM for 2 weeks. All the untreated rats died, but over 50 percent of those receiving the DIM remained alive at the 30-day mark.

The same researchers did the experiment on mice and found similar results. They were able to determine that the DIM-treated mice had higher counts or red and white blood cells and blood platelets, which radiation therapy often diminishes.

Eating high amounts of cruciferous vegetables has also been associated with a lower risk of lung and colon cancer. Studies have suggested that the sulfur-containing compounds (namely sulforaphane) that give cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite are also what give them their cancer-fighting power.

Sulforaphane is now being studied for its ability to delay or impede cancer with early promising results associated with melanoma, esophageal, prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancers. Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment in the future.

Watercress also contains high amounts of chlorophyll, which may be effective at blocking the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines generated when grilling foods at a high temperature.

Lowering blood pressure

People who consume diets that are low in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium are more likely to have high blood pressure. These minerals are thought to bring blood pressure down by releasing sodium out of the body and helping arteries dilate.

It is important to note that taking these minerals in supplement form will not provide the same health benefits as when they are consumed in food. Watercress contains all three of these healthy minerals and can help improve intake.

According to a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, foods containing dietary nitrates like watercress have been shown to have multiple vascular benefits, including reducing blood pressure, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preserving or improving endothelial dysfunction.

In general, a diet rich in all fruits and vegetables has been shown to help maintain healthy blood pressure.

Maintaining healthy bones

Low intakes of vitamin K are associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health by acting as a modifier of bone matrix proteins, improving calcium absorption, and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.

Eating just one cup of watercress would meet your daily need for vitamin K.

Treating diabetes

Watercress contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.

Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also shown decreases in peripheral and autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.

Of note, most studies have used intravenous alpha-lipoic acid, there is uncertainty whether oral supplementation would elicit the same benefits.

How to incorporate more watercress into your diet

watercress soup
Try making watercress soup or mix watercress into soup near the end of cooking.

Watercress is most commonly consumed fresh in salads but can also be incorporated into pasta, casseroles, and sauces just like any other green.

Watercress will sauté faster than tougher greens like kale and collard greens because of its tenderness and lends a mild, slightly peppery taste to any dish.

Choose watercress with deep green crisp leaves and no signs of wilting. Store in the refrigerator and use within a few days of purchase.

  • Throw a small handful of watercress and blend into your favorite fruit juice or smoothie.
  • Add watercress to your next omelet or egg scramble.
  • Make a pesto using watercress.
  • Chop watercress and add it to pasta sauce.
  • Sauté watercress in a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil and season with ground black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Eat as a side dish or top your baked potato.
  • Add watercress to your wrap, sandwich, or flatbread.
  • Mix watercress into soup near the end of cooking.

Potential health risks of consuming watercress

For individuals taking blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important not to suddenly begin eating more or fewer foods containing vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood clotting.

If improperly stored, nitrate-containing vegetable juice may accumulate bacteria that convert nitrate to nitrite and contaminate the juice. High levels of nitrite can be potentially harmful if consumed.

Consult with your doctor before starting a high-nitrate diet if you have cardiovascular disease or associated risk factors. A high-nitrate diet may interact with certain medications such as organic nitrate (nitroglycerine) or nitrite drugs used for angina, sildenafil citrate, tadalafil, and vardenafil.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, very high intakes of cruciferous vegetables have been found to cause a decrease in thyroid hormone function in animals. There has been one reported case of an elderly woman developing severe hypothyroidism after eating an estimated 1 to 1.5 kilograms per day of raw bok choy for several months.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.