Wednesday, February 24, 2010

by Susanna Lyle
David Bateman Ltd
rrp $34.99

Many of us know the importance of eating a wide range of fruit, vegetables and nuts for well-being. But less well-known are the specific beneficial health properties of plants. Plant foods are powerful – they can lower your blood pressure, improve brain function, protect against certain cancers, repair nerve damage... the key is knowing which plants pack the most punch. Dr Susanna Lyle’s new book does just that.
Taking more than 100 commonly available plant foods, she advises which can help with particular medical conditions or which will maximise your intake of essential fats, vitamins and minerals for optimum health.

‘Many people think that eating healthily means dull meals. I wanted to write a book that sent that idea packing. Eat Smart Stay Well shows you that power foods are easily found, can be cheap to buy or grow and can be made into delicious meals,’ says Dr Lyle.

It has been estimated that 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer could be avoided through eating a healthy diet, along with regular physical activity.

Eat Smart Stay Well contains:

· Comprehensive and easy-to-read analysis of what is in 115 of the most health-giving foods and their specific benefits, for a range of health issues.
· Reveals foods that are proven to significantly reduce the development, and sometimes even reverse the progression of many modern-day diseases.
· For each food, unbiased, scientific information is given.
· Recipe suggestions accompany many of the entries and tables list plants by vitamin and mineral strength and health benefits for easy reference.

Eat Smart Stay Well is an eye opener; you’ll be amazed at what the humble apple, apricot and avocado can do for you – and that’s just A!
Below. with the publisher's permission I have reproduced the page on Ginger from the large A-Z of Power Foods section of the book. I found the alphabetical approach the author has taken makes the book especially easy to use.

About the author

Susanna Lyle has a PhD in plant and soil science and has been involved in both the practical and academic study of plants for more than 25 years. The health value obtained from natural foods has been a particular interest and she has combined her science background with many years of horticultural experience to report the latest research on plant foods.

She regularly edits biological and horticultural science works and is the author of the internationally selling books: Discovering Fruit & Nuts and Discovering Vegetables, Herbs & Spices.
Born and educated in the UK, Dr Lyle now lives in The Bay of Islands, Northland where she grows many of the plants described in her books.

Excerpt from book:

Ginger is the root tuber of an attractive tropical plant that has been used for >4000 years for its medicinal properties and as a flavouring in many food and drink recipes. Today, it is cultivated in many tropical regions of the world and is particularly popular in many Asian-style recipes.

What it contains
Contains ~3% essential oil, which gives ginger its flavour and medicinal properties. The oil consists mainly of terpenes (spicy zingerone and aromatic bisabolene), plus the alkaloid farnesene, which gives it much of its flavour. These three compounds are also the main compounds that ease nausea. It contains abundant flavonoids, adding to ginger’s distinctive flavour and aroma, plus oleoresin, a mix of oil and resin, which is also used in pepper sprays.

What it does
Its flavonoids have anti-cancer activity – colorectal may help prevent and also possibly fight existing cancers. Ginger also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, which are being investigated as a safe and cheap treatment for bacterial-caused diarrhoea. Zingerone appears to block a toxin produced by Escherichia coli which causes diarrhoea. It also has antibacterial reactions against other bacteria (e.g. Staphylococcus aureus).
Ginger is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory – it may reduce heart disease by preventing platelets clotting together and seems to reduce cholesterol levels. Ginger has relaxant and analgesic properties – it can soothe coughs and inflamed bronchial passages. Research suggests ginger may also have the ability to treat diverse complaints such as arthritis, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. It has been used externally to treat rheumatism, psoriasis, migraines and strains. Its wonderful warm aroma means it is used in cosmetic scents and fragrances.

How it is used
The fresh, young roots are juicy and have a mild flavour; older roots are drier and hotter. Grated or finely diced it is used in a multitude of Asian and Indian recipes, including curries, marinades, soups and stir-fries. It is usually not added until the meal is nearly cooked to prevent ginger losing its freshness and flavour. It is pickled in Asia and is used as a relish on many dishes, including tofu-based recipes. Ginger goes wonderfully with garlic and lime, and is great added to fish and chicken recipes. It mixes well with vegetables such as carrot, citrus and pumpkin and can be preserved in syrup or sugar to make a sweet candy – a traditional Christmas treat in the West. Some add ginger to drinking chocolate, coffee or tea. Candied ginger in dark chocolate is delicious, as are ginger cake, ginger snaps and gingerbread.

Warning: Ginger can cause skin sensitivity in some.

· Ginger has been used for thousands of years to ease digestive problems and feelings of nausea, either brought on by motion sickness or pregnancy. Recent trials confirm its usage for motion sickness and, so far, it has been shown safe to take for morning sickness. It can also be taken to reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting.
· Cold, ‘real’ ginger beer is terrific. You will need to source a ginger beer plant – a yeasty culture that is fed with sugar and ginger, and then share it with friends.

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