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Columbus reportedly said that papaya was like the "food of the angels". I agree that it is indeed heavenly! Papaya is a fruit grown in tropical regions of Mexico, Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia. If you're confused as to whether there is a difference between papaya and pawpaw, you're not alone. The terms are sometimes used interchangably, but in fact they are distinct varieties. Red papaya has the darker, redder flesh, tends to be smaller and has a yellow-orange skin. Yellow pawpaw by contrast is larger, has yellow flesh, orange-coloured skin and tends not to be as sweet. Papaya is also picked when unripe and green to use in stews, casseroles and curries.
Nutritionally both are pretty impressive. They are packed with vitamin C, with a cup of diced fruit (~150g) providing well over your daily requirement. The yellow and red colour of the flesh comes from the presence of several carotenoids, including beta-carotene (of carrot fame), lutein and zeaxanthin (essential for eye health) and the powerful antioxidant beta-crytoxanthin. Some of the carotenoids present can also be converted to vitamin A in the body. They're also a terrific source of folate with a cup providing 14% of an adult's daily requirement. You'll also find small but significant levels of magnesium, B group vitamins, iron, zinc and calcium. And you get all this for only 180kJ, 10g of carbohydrate and 3.4g of fibre.
Green papaya contains an enzymes called papain that starts to break down the protein in meat. This is probably why green papaya has been used in cooking for centuries since it acts as a natural meat tenderiser.
Add sliced papaya to your breakfast cereal/muesli, chop and mix into a summer salad, mix with jalapeno chillies to make a salsa to accompany meat, or enjoy with yoghurt for a healthy desert. Since it is not terribly sweet it also works really well in salads, while the green fruit is excellent in cooking. But my personal favorite is to simply cut the fresh fruit in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with fresh lime juice and eat it directly out of its skin.
Have you ever applied Paw-Paw cream when you have a sore or burn? Or perhaps you use it as a lip salve as I do. Derived from the papaya fruit, Paw-Paw cream is a popular natural medicinal remedy. Papaya’s unique profile of enzymes and antioxidants can help to reduce inflammation, provide moisture and aid healing.
The humble oat is hard to beat when it comes to a complete nutritional package. They have a low to moderate GI, depending on the form, and they are also relatively high in protein. In fact about 12% of the energy in oats comes from protein making them an especially valuable grain for vegetarians.
Oats are fibre-rich, and they contain a partcular type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan. These have been shown to reduce cholesterol reabsorption in the gut, helping to improve blood cholesterol profiles.
They also contain a relatively high amount of fat compared to other grains - about 20% of the total energy comes from fat. But this is almost all healthy unsaturated fat. The fat present also carries fat-soluble vitamin E, a key player in the team of disease-fighting anti-oxidants in the body. 100g of raw oats provides roughly 20% the RDI for vitamin E for women, and 15% that for men.
Oats provide a whole host of other micronutrients including the B group vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese and the anti-oxidant mineral selenium.
You can buy oats as rolled oats, where the nutritious outer husk is relatively intact as the grain is lightly steamed and pressed into flat flakes. As steel cut oats - these are roughly cut groats (the whole grain). They undergo little processing and consequently are an excellent source of fibre and nutrients. Or as oatmeal which is made from roughly ground oats. The only ones I would avoid are the instant porridges. These have a much higher GI and usually have added sugar and other flavourings added. It really doesn't take long to make traditional porridge and it's well worth the effort.
There has been some controversy over the years as to whether oats can be included in truly gluten-free diets. Oats do not contain the same protein - gluten - as found in wheat and other grains. They contain a similar protein called avenin. Research has shown that most people with coeliac disease are not affected by avenin.
However oats are usually produced in the same factories as other grains and so contamination is highly likely. Recently there has been a rise in the number of oat products being sold as gluten free, with claims that they are produced separately to other grains.
International authorities are divided. Coeliac UK states that most people with coeliac disease can consume gluten-free oats, whereas Coeliac Australia advises a more prudent approach and avoidance until there is more research. For that reason I have not labelled oats as gluten free here. However if you are just lowering your gluten intake (ie not coeliac), oats are certainly a good choice.
Almonds are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats - the same family of fats found in olive oil. They are also fibre rich and provide some plant protein. This makes them an excellent snack as they help to cut hunger pangs and keep you satisfied until mealtime. Despite their relative energy density, almonds as with all nuts are associated with better weight control. Make sure you therefore you are not choosing low fat processed snack foods in place of all natural, nutrient dense almonds.
Almonds are head and shoulders above other nuts for vitamin E. A handful is pretty much all your need for your daily vitamin E quota. Vitamin E is the major fat-soluble antioxidant in the body.
Almonds provide you with calcium - especially important if you don't consume any dairy foods. They're great for many B group vitamins, especially riboflavin and folate, minerals including magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and copper. You'll also benefit from a significant amount of iron and zinc - both commonly low in Western diets. That's a pretty impressive package for a single natural whole food!
Recent research has shown that eating a handul of nuts a day is associated with living longer! It's one of the easiest and tastiest ways to improve your health. I add almonds to my homemade muesli, sprinkle over my kids porridge and snack on them in the afternoon while I drink my green tea. Thank goodness the low fat days are long gone!
Although people are often divided on whether milk is healthy, really it comes down to your own body. We can certainly live without milk, but for most of us milk offers a good package of quality protein, calcium, and several other nutrients. It’s a great choice after your gym session as it can help your muscles recover.
In choosing whether you buy low or full fat milk, here are the facts. Full fat milk is more energy dense - it has about double the kilojoules of skim milk with a cup providing 730kJ compared to 370kJ in skim. In the low fat era of the last few decades, skim milk was always recommended for this reason, and the fact that full fat milk has a high level of saturated fats. However more recently the association between saturated fats and heart disease have been questionned. When we look just at the dairy research, it seems that when dairy is consumed as milk, cheese or yoghurt, where lots of protein and calcium is also present, the saturated fats do not have a detrimental effect on blood cholestero levels. Neither is full fat dairy consumption associated with being overweight - in fact the contrary, research shows that all dairy can actually help you to lose weight as part of kilojoule conttrolled diet. There may be components of the fatty part of milk that has benefit (e.g. CLA) or it may be that when you eat the full fat version it's more filling and so you eat less of other things.
Personally I don't like full cream milk - although strawberries and cream is pretty fabulous - and I much prefer skim milk. I'd rather get my kilojoules and my fat elsewhere. To me skim milk is literally just the creamy layer skimmed from the top of the milk. It's not a food that has been manipulated and processed to be low fat, usually with undeisrable additives to make the product palatable. Those I don't recommend. Ultimately it's up to you to choose which you prefer. My advice is simply that in the absence of an allergy or intolerance, there is much nutrition to be gained from milk and why would we not consume it.
Milk is rich in quality protein, one of the best sources of calcium, and is a good source of phosphorus, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B12. Full fat milk is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D and provides a small amount of preformed vitamin A.
If you get a tummy ache and find yourself running to the loo after too much milk, you may be lactose intolerant. This is a genetic trait. If your family comes from an area in the world where milk has been consumed for thousands of years, you will more than likely continue to produce the enzyme that breaks down milk lactose and you won’t have this problem. If you are lactose intolerant, you can buy lactose-free milk that has the lactose already broken down for you.
You could also have an allergy or intolerance to the proteins in milk. In this case my suggestion is to try A2 milk. The A2 refers to one of the proteins found in milk and this is the original type that was present in milk when we first started consuming it thousands of years ago. Somewhere along the line a natural mutation in the cows caused a change and this protein changed to A1, such that regular milks these days all contain a mixture of A1 and A2. Why does this matter? Well evidence is emerging to suggest that A1 may be a problem to some people. We still need much more research to fully understand what is going on, but meantime if you’re avoiding milk because it doesn’t agree with you, it might be worth giving A2 a go.
Almond Butter is literally a paste made from whole or blanched almonds. Look for one made with the whole almonds, as many of the beneficial plant compounds found in the nut are in the skin and the skin adds fibre.
Almond butter is energy dense - a tablespoon provides about 420kJ - but it's also very nutrient dense making it well worthy of a place in your pantry.
The kilojoules mostly come from the fats present, and these are dominated by healthy monounsaturated fats (the same family of fats found in olive oil and avocado). Of 9g of fat per tablespoon, 6g are monounsaturated fats. These have been shown to be of benefit in reducing belly fat and are thought to be a key component leading to the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet.
Almond butter is a rich source of manganese and magnesium, and a signficant source of phosphorus, copper, iron, calcium, zinc, iron and several B group vitamins.
Try almond butter on wholegrain toast with sliced banana on top and a glass of milk or dairy alternative for a quick, easy breakfast.
I often hear nuts being touted as great for protein, however the amounts are actually pretty small in tree nuts. A tablespoon of almond butter will provide only 2g pf protein. If you are vegan however this can be a significant contribution to your day's intake and provides a balance of amino acids to complement your other plant sources. But this is why I classify nuts in my Fats category for the purposes of the Dr Joanna Plate.
Yoghurt is simply fermented milk and it probably came about as a method of making milk last longer. In doing so there were unexpected side effects and they were beneficial. Many cultures (excuse the pun) around the world from Nepal and India to the Middle East and Europe have long considered yoghurt a medicinal food and for good reason.
Yoghurt is rich in top quality protein, an excellent source of calcium and gives you a serious boost in several B group vitamins including riboflavin, magnesium and zinc.
While many people cut out dairy foods from their diet while trying to lose weight, this is quite contradictory to what the research shows. Studies where dairy foods are included as part of an energy restricted diet show that they promote better weight loss, and most importantly they seem to help improve body composition. That means they help you to lose fat and keep your muscle. Exactly what you want for a lean and fit body. Just what it is about dairy that is responsible for this effect is not fully understood, but it seems to be a combination of the protein and in particular the amino acid leucine high in dairy including yoghurt, along with calcium.
Dairy foods can also help to reduce blood pressure and big population studies show associations with lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
But of course not all yoghurts are the same. They have different levels of fat, added sugars, may have fruit and other additions, and some are thickened with gums or have other additives. Always read the ingredients list to know exactly what you are getting. Your absolute best options are natural yoghurts with live cultures, and nothing else in the ingredients list.
If you buy yoghurt with live cultures (probiotic bacteria) these have the potential to boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut while minimising the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The knock on benefits to your health includes a stronger immune system with fewer coughs and colds, and a healthier gut.
The live bacteria in the yoghurt also help to break down the milk carbohydrate lactose. This means that if you are lactose intolerant, as many adults are, you might well find that while you are running to the loo after milk, you can eat yoghurt.
Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a group of related trees and has a long history of use as both a flavouring in food and for its medicinal value. Cinnamon is a rich source of antioxidants and has antibacterial and antiviral effects.
Cinnamon has been reported to help with blood sugar control, but studies have not been conclusive as yet. If there is an effect it comes not from ‘true’ cinnamon but from cassia cinnamon grown in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. Be sure to check the labeling of the cinnamon you purchase to ensure you have the right type.
We can't eat an unlimited amount of cinnamon as it contains a potentially toxic substance called coumarin. This does not present us with any issues in the usual doses of cinnamon, but there are upper levels that can be used in cinamon flavoured products for that reason.
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