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Monthly Archives: February 2017

New hemp oil could be a powerful cooking alternative

A recently developed hemp plant may prove to provide the ideal cooking oil; watch out, olive oil. The University of York reported that they have developed a hemp plant that contains a significantly higher quantity of oleic acid. The new hemp oil not only offers a longer shelf life and a higher heat tolerance but also has a very similar fatty acid makeup to olive oil.

The research, published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, demonstrates that the scientists were able to traditionally breed the plants for a composition that had less polyunsaturated fatty acids and instead contained more monounsaturated oleic acids. In fact, the oil from the plant was almost 80% oleic acid. Oleic acid is an omega-9 fatty acid and is found in high quantities in olive oil and many nuts. A high monounsaturated profile accompanied by a low polyunsaturated profile makes the oil more stable and temperature-resistant, which opens doors for many industrial applications. This makes growing hemp as an oil product very intriguing for farmers, because it is a high-yielding dual-crop while also being a low-input crop.

One cardiovascular benefit that has been associated with hemp oil and its omega-3 composition is that it can help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity. Likewise, oleic acid (omega-9) has been associated with helping cells absorb omega-3s more efficiently! They also have been found to lower triglyceride levels and raise the “good” HDL cholesterol. This provides a very powerful effective combination to protect the heart. In fact, many studies have indicated that oleic acid is associated with lowered rates of heart disease. The true, complete composition of hemp oil is just starting to be recognized. For instance, a study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry detailed the numerous compounds in hempseed oil, which contains aliphatic alcohols, sterols and linolenic acids, which have all been associated with promoting good health.

The dramatically increased oleic acid content of this new hemp oil can greatly affect the marketability of hemp and provide farmers with another crop alternative. Not only is the oleic acid content of the newly developed hemp plant more heat-tolerant and more stable, which can increase its industrial and cooking uses, but this oil’s high oleic acid content can provide a very effective way of improving heart health.

New hemp plants bred to have increased oleic acid for enhanced cooking properties

The scientists, from the University of York, used fast-track molecular plant breeding, selected hemp plants that lacked the active enzyme responsible for creating polyunsaturated fatty acids. Instead, they used varieties that accumulate higher levels of monounsaturated oleic acid. The plant-breeding research is published in the journal Plant Biotechnology and outlines techniques to develop hemp plant breeds deemed “High oleic Hemp,” which could be introduced commercially as an attractive break crop for cereal farmers.

This new cooking oil could possess a longer shelf life with greater heat tolerance and be similar to olive oil in oleic acid content, making it suitable for many more industrial applications.

The new “High oleic Hemp” is 80 percent oleic acid, which trumps regular hemp oils containing just 10 percent. This will give the oil more thermal stability that is five times greater than normal, natural hemp oil. The new hemp oil could be more useful in high-temperature industrial processes.

Breeding hemp in this way limits other key components of the plant

As the agricultural sector looks to finally embrace valuable hemp farming, they will do so using a select, scientifically established breed of hemp. The natural composition ofhemp, producing 80 percent polyunsaturated fat, hass the most polyunsaturated fat among vegetable seed oils known in the plant kingdom. The new agricultural breeding process will reverse all that. The new high-oleic hemp breed will provide increased oleic acid content that stems from breeding techniques that help the hemp plant produce more omega-9 fatty acids. This will alter the plant’s properties, limiting its composition of beneficial polyunsaturated fats.

As scientists breed hemp varieties without polyunsaturated fat content, the overall value of the plant for human health is rearranged. With its increased oleic acid content, it may be good for industrial purposes, but this increase in oleic acid content steers the plant away from producing other key offerings. One of the sacrifices includes the loss of polyunsaturated fats, which means that essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 acids could be limited. These fatty acids are not produced by the body but are needed, especially for cell membrane production. They also are used to produce prostaglandin, which aids the body’s inflammatory functions. The change may be insignificant, however, since humans rarely receive beneficial omega-9 fatty acids, which will be increased in the new breed.

Europe to welcome “High oleic Hemp” in 2014 field tests

The new “High oleic Hemp” will be openly welcomed in the UK, where farming of oilseed rape has declined recently due to pests and disease. To maintain cereal yields, the UK and other European countries may embrace the “High oleic Hemp” as a quality oilalternative.

With its many other uses, hemp will be a great crop choice for farmers. The hemp straw can alternatively be used as fiber for composites, bedding, wax, biomass and textiles.

“The new line represents a major improvement in hemp as an oil crop. Similar developments in soybean and oilseed rape have opened up new markets for these crops, due to the perceived healthiness and increased stability of their oil,” says Professor Ian Graham, from York University’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products Biology Department.

The “High oleic Hemp” is set to be planted in 2014 throughout Europe, as field trials launch a new era of farming. This may be good news for agriculture, industry and cooking processes for people around the world.

The Health Benefits of Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a plant used in cooking and medicine, best known for its distinctive flavor and aroma. While frequently used as a seasoning, garlic is technically a vegetable. A member of the Allium family, it’s a close relative of onions, shallots, leeks, and chives. The benefits of garlic don’t end with adding flavor to food, it’s a legitimate superfood that has been used for an astounding variety of medical applications for thousands of years.

History of Garlic

Humans have consumed garlic as both cuisine and cure for over 7,000 years. The plant is native to central Asia, but its use and cultivation has spread around the world. Ancient Egyptians gave garlic to the laborers building the pyramids to boost stamina and prevent disease. In Ancient Greece, Olympic athletes would chew garlic before participating in the games. References to garlic can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, 5,000-year-old Indian medical texts, and the Bible. Garlic was used as food and medicine in the cultures of the ancient Romans, Chinese, Vikings, Phoenicians, Israelites, and Persians.

Now, garlic remains a popular food and flavoring. It’s a staple of Mediterranean, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The potential medical applications of garlic are even receiving renewed interest from researchers.

Garlic’s Nutritional Profile

At first glance, the nutritional capabilities of garlic may seem puzzling. If you look at the official nutrition facts for garlic, a typical serving of garlic (3-9 grams), provides no significant amount of the typically listed essential nutrients. It provides no noteworthy amount of fiber, protein, iron, potassium or vitamins A, D, E, or most of the B vitamins.

It’s a good source of selenium and contains small amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and vitamins C and B6, but there are better sources of these nutrients. You’d have to eat a lot of raw garlic to receive a substantial amount of these nutrients, and even though it’s delicious, I think very few of us are up to that challenge.

So what exactly is in garlic that makes it such a prized health-supporting tool in so many different cultures? Garlic owes its healing properties to the presence of several sulfurous phytochemical compounds. Fresh garlic contains a sulfoxide compound called alliin. When fresh garlic is chopped, crushed, or damaged, alliin is converted into allicin by an enzyme called alliinase. Allicin is responsible for much of the pungent scent of garlic. Its actual purpose is to act as a defense mechanism, protecting the plant from pests.

A head of garlic cut in half.

Allicin is unstable and further breaks down into other sulfurous compounds including diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and diallyl tetrasulfide. Inside the human body, diallyl disulfide breaks down into allyl methyl sulfide, the chief cause of garlic breath. (Sidenote: for a natural way to reduce garlic breath, try sucking a lemon wedge, drinking green tea, or eating spinach or an apple. These foods all contain substances that mask or break down the garlicky odor.)

It’s these sulfurous compounds that give garlic its healing abilities. The pest-resistant properties of allicin still work when the compound is in the human body. This makes garlic a surprisingly good defense against harmful organisms like bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungus.

Diallyl disulfide also possesses antimicrobial abilities, as well as anti-cancer and heart healthy properties. The exact mechanisms behind the health benefits of garlic are not yet fully understood, but research is ongoing. We do know that garlic can be a powerful tool for supporting a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few ways garlic can help.

Health Benefits of Garlic

1. Garlic Supports Cardiovascular Health

Garlic is among the best foods for heart health. Studies have found that garlic reduces cholesterol and lowers lipid content in the blood. Experimental and clinical studies on the cardiovascular benefits of garlic have found it to have a positive effect on atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and thrombosis.[1] Garlic also seems to possess the ability to prevent blood clots. Tests are currently underway to examine the mechanism of this effect.

2. Garlic May Help with Hypertension

Researchers have found that oral administration of garlic can lower blood pressure in both human and animal studies. Amazingly, there was a measurable response after just a single dose. Chronic oral administration of garlic has a long-term positive effect. Allicin seems to have a relaxing effect on the smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary artery, allowing the artery to open more fully.[1] This doesn’t mean that you can switch to an all-bacon diet and expect to “garlic away” the consequences, but when combined with a balanced diet, garlic can substantially improve blood pressure.

3. Garlic Is Nutritional Support Against Cancer

Around the world, studies have found a correlation between a high intake of garlic and a lowered cancer risk. An increased consumption of garlic is associated with a reduction in cancers of the stomach, colon, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, and breast.[2] The United States National Cancer Institute has said that garlic may be the most effective food for cancer prevention.[3]

4. Garlic and Diabetes

Garlic may also provide significant benefits to those suffering from diabetes. Experimental studies have shown that garlic lowers blood glucose levels and this hypoglycemic effect has been replicated in animal studies. Treatment for humans is less studied but looks promising. Garlic has been reported to lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce insulin resistance. However, further study is needed to fully understand the effect garlic has on human blood glucose levels.[3]

5. Garlic Offers Liver Protection

Garlic is one of the best foods to help cleanse your liver. It can help mitigate the effects of fatty liver disease[4] and provides hepatoprotective effects from certain toxic agents. Studies have found that garlic can protect liver cells from acetaminophen, gentamycin, and nitrates.[3]

6. Antimicrobial Properties of Garlic

For centuries, traditional medicine has used garlic for its antimicrobial properties. Modern studies have found that the antibacterial properties of garlic are effective on salmonella, staph infections, clostridium (the cause of botulism), proteus, mycobacterium, and H. pylori. Garlic has even been suggested as a treatment for drug-resistant tuberculosis.[3]

Garlic’s action against harmful organisms doesn’t stop with bacteria. It’s antiprotozoal, antifungal, and even antiviral. In vitro studies have found that garlic is effective against influenza, cytomegalovirus, rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold), viral pneumonia, rotavirus, herpes simplex 1 and 2, and even HIV.[3] Unfortunately, these results are only confirmed in test tube studies. How the active substances of garlic react to viruses inside the human system remains to be seen.

Studies of cold sufferers have found that those who consumed garlic extract experienced milder symptoms and shorter illness duration than placebo groups, but the exact mechanism behind this phenomena is still unclear.[5] Further research is necessary to more fully understand the healing power of garlic.

7. Garlic Is a Powerful Antioxidant

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage DNA and lead to poor health. Garlic contains potent antioxidants that fight these free radicals. When allicin breaks down, it produces an acid that reacts with and traps the free radicals. Researchers at Queens University in Ontario believe this may be the most powerful dietary antioxidant ever discovered.[6]

Ways to Consume Garlic

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes that include garlic. However, the best way to absorb garlic’s health benefits is to consume it raw. Raw garlic can be a little intense for some, but there are several ways to dull the piquancy while retaining the full health benefits. My favorite is to add raw garlic to a dressing like the lemon garlic dressing used in this cabbage wedge recipe or the balsamic vinaigrette of this green bean salad.

Studies show that cooking causes lung cancer

It is common knowledge today that smoking causes lung cancer, however there are many cases of lung cancer diagnosed in people who have never smoked in their lives. So if they’ve never smoked, what caused their lung cancer we might ask. Studies indicate that it could be as simple as the way they cook their food.

The undeniable link between tobacco smoking and lung cancer was demonstrated many years ago, and the dangers of smoking have been drummed into public consciousness for decades. However while lung cancer is common among smokers it is also regularly diagnosed in those with nohistory of smoking, which has led to extensive studies of lung cancer patients in an attempt to try to uncover other factors that may increase lung cancer risk.

Statistics show that lung cancer rates in non-smokers worldwide are much higher in women than in men and Chinese women have extremely high lung cancer rates even though the numbers that smoke are relatively low when compared to Western women. Because of this, several studies have been completed in China over recent years in an attempt to identify potential causes of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Fumes from stir frying food causes lung cancer

What researchers have uncovered is that the way the Chinese cook their food is a probable cause of the disease. To be more specific the stir frying of food, and the fumes released from that food while cooking, seems to be the reason for the high lung cancer rates in Chinese women. The evidence indicates that the fumes inhaled while stir frying food may cause lung cancer in non-smokers and create an even higher risk of lung cancer in smokers.

Stir frying food is traditional in Asian countries and considered by many to be one of thehealthier ways to cook food as it subjects the food to high heat for a only a short time. It leaves vegetables firmer and less ‘cooked’ than many other methods, but while stir fried dishes may be healthier for those who eat them, the evidence is pointing to an increased risk of lung cancer for those who cook them.

One study focused on the fumes released from stir frying meat while others have focused on fumes from oils used to cook food. While these studies indicate that the cooking of stir fried food is a very real risk with regard to lung cancer, they have reached no specific conclusions as to which foods pose a risk to those cooking them. However there is some evidence that the fumes released by Rapeseed oil in particular may be of concern.