Monday, May 24, 2010

Honey for Health

I have already talked about honey as a sweetener in my post Sweet 'N' Lowdown so I'm going to focus on the health benefits of honey in this post. Honey can speed wound healing, act as a cough medicine, relieve diarrhea and constipation, and even treat ulcers.

Honey was commonly used to treat skin wounds up until World War II when antibiotics started to be more widely used. Now, honey is being used once again in mainstream medicine—to help fight skin infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The sugar in honey helps absorb moisture which bacteria need to survive; honey contains varying amounts of hydrogen peroxide; finally, raw honey contains propolis which kills bacteria.

Honey is an effective cough suppressant. Research has shown it to be more effective at relieving cough than dextromethorphan ("DM") and also improved sleep quality better than diphenhydramine (Benedryl). I would dose a two year old with ½ teaspoon and a child over 6 with 1 teaspoon.

Honey is very useful in the treatment of diarrhea & constipation. Mixed with water, honey becomes an electrolyte replacement with the added benefit of having antimicrobial properties that can kill off the microbes in the digestive tract that may be causing the problem. Honey can be helpful with constipation because it contains large amounts of fructose that sometimes arrives undigested in the large intestine. This undigested fructose draws water into the colon acting as a laxative.

A specific type of honey called Manuka, made by bees feeding on a flowering shrub from New Zealand, has been found effective at killing Helicobacter pylori—a bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. To be effective, this honey must be taken raw.

A folk remedy recommends eating local raw honey to help treat allergies and hayfever—the idea being that the honey will contain small amounts of local pollens and may work similar to an allergy shot to reduce symptoms. Unfortunately, there is little research on this topic and the research there is doesn't show honey to be any more effective than placebo. A rare but serious possible side effect is anaphylaxis if the honey contains enough of a pollen you are particularly allergic to.

A word of caution: because honey may contain trace amounts of Clostridium botulinum—the bacteria that causes botulism—honey should never be given to infants under 1 year of age.

So, you may want to start using your honey for more than just sweetening your tea! My personal favorite use for honey is to make beer—my favorite homebrew, Rocky Raccoon's Crystal Honey Lager—is made with honey in addition to the malt. I've got to say, it's a particularly refreshing way to take your honey!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Sweet Honey Baby

After my son turned one we started experimenting with honey. Honey in yogurt, honey on toast, honey in oatmeal. "Unee? Unee?" were the most common words out of his mouth when he was 18 months old. Needless to say honey is a staple in our house. We have also started using Low Sugar Red Raspberry Jam from Smucker's. The great thing about this jam is that there is less sugar than in regular jam and no artificial sweeteners, and although it is sold as a "diet" jam it is perfect for families that want to lower their sugar intake but also want to avoid artificial sweeteners.

But I digress… the real reason we are here is to talk about honey. So if we combine the honey discussion with the jam discussion we get Honey-Strawberry Jam.

4 cups strawberries, trimmed & crushed (about 2 quarts whole berries)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1 package powdered fruit pectin

1 ¾ cup honey

Combine the berries and lemon juice and pectin in a 6-8 quart saucepan.

Place over high heat and stir until mixture comes to a boil.

Immediately add honey and stir until mixture comes to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Start timing at this point for approximately 10-12 minutes.

Continue to stir slowly.

Jam will foam at first, then subside and, when ready, will feel thick and sticky when stirred. The color becomes a deep garnet red.

Ladle into hot, scalded half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace, and seal.

Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 4 half-pints

A special thanks to my neighbor, Charlotte, for loaning me the book Stocking Up: The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide
, and for making the recipe originally that got such great reviews.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I love quinoa. It's true—I love the way it pops in my mouth when I eat it; I love the nutty flavor; I love that it is high in protein so I feel good about feeding my body. Quinoa is a food that I am constantly encouraging my patients to try. It's an excellent choice for diabetics because it doesn't spike blood sugar and for pregnant women because it's a good source of protein. It is gluten-free so it's a good choice for those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease. Like rice, it is a great carrier of flavor—you can eat it with anything. Unlike rice, as Chef Brett mentioned in her post, quinoa is a complete protein—this means that it contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies require for building muscle, proteins & enzymes. Quinoa contains 5 grams of protein per half cup serving and is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid important for tissue growth and repair (it also is important for preventing herpes outbreaks). In addition to protein, quinoa is also high in iron: 4 milligrams (40% of the RDA) in a half cup serving. Compare this to brown rice which only has 1 milligram of iron per serving. Quinoa is also a good source of magnesium and riboflavin, both important to heart health. So, quinoa truly is aptly named by the Inca as the "mother grain."

I'm going to share with you 2 ways that I most enjoy quinoa. I do have a disclaimer—I am not a chef (I leave this to my dear Chef Brett) and thus do not have "recipes" per se. I rarely measure ingredients unless I'm baking or making a dish for the first time. And, when I make up a recipe, I rarely write it down so it's never quite the same twice. The good news is, there is a lot of room for experimentation in the kitchen so you can take my suggestions and make them your own!

One of my favorite breakfasts is quinoa and black beans topped with fried eggs, avocado, sour cream, salsa, and fresh cilantro. Unlike Chef Brett, I do rinse my quinoa (that is how I learned to make it so that's how I continue to make it). I usually sauté some diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add the rinsed and drained quinoa and stir it around a bit before adding chicken stock (water works too), cover and simmer 20 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. For the beans, I also sauté diced onion and minced garlic in a little olive oil, add a can of rinsed and drained black beans, salt and pepper, a handful of fresh cilantro leaves, and a decent amount of cumin. I let this simmer on low to let the flavors mingle while the quinoa cooks. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, fry 2 eggs in some butter with salt and pepper. To serve, put a scoop of quinoa in a wide shallow bowl, top with a scoop of beans, the 2 fried eggs, diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, salsa (preferably fresh) and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

Another way I love to eat quinoa is in a cold salad. Cook quinoa in water with a bit of salt or in broth. While still warm, stir in diced green onions, diced fresh mango, diced red bell pepper, and lots of fresh cilantro. Make a dressing with olive oil, fresh mango juice squeezed from off the pit, the juice of 1 lime, your favorite vinegar (I like either seasoned rice vinegar or white balsamic vinegar), salt and pepper, and curry powder to taste. Stir the dressing into the quinoa mixture until well coated. Adjust seasonings as desired and serve warm, at room temp, or chilled.

I hope you have fun experimenting with quinoa and we'd love to hear about your favorite ways to eat it!

Yours in health!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quin – what?

QUINOA, pronounced keen-wah, is a seed of the Goosefoot plant which was originally cultivated in South America as far back as 3000 B.C. Beets, spinach, swiss chard, and lamb's quarters are all relatives of quinoa. Quinoa is used like a grain because it cooks so similarly to a grain. The thing that makes it stand out from a typical grain, like rice or barley, is the protein content. Quinoa is considered a complete protein and is gluten free so it is a great alternative grain from a health standpoint (which my good friend Dr. Crystal will address I am sure).

Quinoa is the size of millet but it has a flat shape. When it is cooked there is a little white curl that springs off the side that gives it its distinctive look and texture; the main part of the grain is soft but the curl has a bit of a crunch to it. There is a resin like coating on the grain that gives it a bitter flavor so before cooking quinoa it is important that it is rinsed. As quinoa has become more widely known and used the production and packaging of it has become more commercial and so the process of rinsing is mostly taken care of before you purchase it. There will be instructions for rinsing the quinoa repeatedly on the package but I must admit that I typically skip this step and have had no bitter tastes in my final product.

I recently discovered that you can buy quinoa at Costco, so on my next trip I plan on picking up a package and replacing the basmati rice I would typically use with stir frys or soups with the quinoa. This will be a great way to get more protein into my toddler's diet, assuming he will eat it (although I have discovered he will eat anything as long as I feed it to him with chopsticks). The recipe I am going to share with you today is a cold salad and is a modified recipe from The original recipe is called Quinoa and Bulgur Salad with Feta, we were trying to avoid wheat for the meal that I was preparing that evening so I left out the bulgur and added some more vegetables.

Quinoa Salad with Feta (makes 4 side dish servings)

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled or 1 ½ teaspoons fresh mint, minced
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and cut into slivers
  • 4 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli

Cook the quinoa as you would cook rice: boil the water and add the quinoa then reduce the heat to low and cover, cook for 20 minutes

When the quinoa is done spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool.

Meanwhile whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, and pepper and set aside.

Boil 3-4 cups of water then add the frozen peas, when it comes to a boil again add the broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is al dente. Drain.

Now toss it all together, the cooled quinoa, olive oil mixture, broccoli and peas, radishes, olives, and feta.

This can be served as is or served on top of a green salad.

Referenced: and