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, Natural Alternatives, Issue #07-05
December 02, 2005
Hello, and welcome to this edition of my Natural Alternatives Newsletter!
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IN THIS ISSUE:
1) HEALING IN THE NATURAL WORLD
2) ORANGES: THE KING OF WINTER FRUITS
1) HEALING IN THE NATURAL WORLD
Growing up in southern England and Wales, we always lived close to the woods, streams, and hills of the nearby countryside. The towns were built to be dense and tight, so it was relatively easy to walk out of the buildings and away from traffic into a land of kingfishers, beech trees, and marsh marigolds. It was “smart growth” before anyone had invented the term. Today, I live in a clearing with a small, organic nursery in a recovering, second-growth forest, just north of Victoria. On a typical winter day, we see ravens, tree frogs, a Cooper’s hawk, hummingbirds, blue jays, and woodpeckers, as well as worms, spiders, and a host of smaller birds. And, of course, the forest.
In the August 6 issue of New Scientist, Joan Maloof, a biology professor at Salisbury University in Maryland, describes how the Japanese have a word to describe the particular air of a forest. They call it shinrin-yoku: “wood-air bathing.” Maloof writes: “Japanese researchers have discovered that when diabetic patients walk through the forest, their blood sugar drops to healthier levels. Entire symposiums have been held on the benefits of wood-air bathing and walking.”
I’m able to enjoy shinrin-yoku all the time, but for those who live in concrete canyons, amidst a soundscape of car alarms and sirens, instead of the croak of frogs and the wind, it has become a distant experience.
In Emily White’s article Greening the Blues, published in the October issue of The Ecologist, White writes about depression and the aspiration of drug companies and their medical colleagues to turn it into a clinical illness that should be treated with drugs. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020, depression will be second only to heart disease as a cause of disability.
White notes that during her career, she was transferred from a downtown Toronto law firm to a government office in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, in the Arctic. Although she took along her stash of SSRIs to treat her depression, with 24 hours of daylight, she started hiking the tundra, taking photos, and exploring the surrounding world. Her anxiety decreased, her mood improved, and she found herself becoming interested in things. According to White, it wasn’t that she was getting more exercise: “It was that the landscape around me was so vibrant and solid that I began to feel that way as well.” In her article, she offers some intriguing evidence for one’s capacity to heal in a natural environment.
In work with autistic children and people with organic brain diseases, when animals are introduced the subjects have an improved attention span, laugh and talk more, and demonstrate less aggression. When people are shown photos of natural settings, their blood pressure drops, their heart rates fall, their muscles relax, and they report feeling less stressed and anxious. In hospitals, when post-operative patients are given a room with a view of trees, they need fewer painkillers, develop fewer complications, and check themselves out sooner than patients in rooms with an urban view. In a long-term study of the type of wall art typically destroyed by psychiatric patients, while abstract images were often attacked, not once in 15 years had a patient destroyed a picture of a natural scene.
Now, let’s return to Joan Maloof’s work. As a biologist, she has delved into the science of all of this, and notes that researchers in the Sierra Nevada of northern California have found that the air in the forested mountains contains 120 chemical compounds. Some of these compounds derive from bacteria and fungi in the soil, but most come from the trees, which release them from pockets between their leaf cells. They also produce edible monoterpenes (MT), fragrances, which have been shown to both prevent and cure cancer. When we inhale them, they become part of our bodies, and the forest becomes part of us.
Having evolved along with nature for five million years or so, our bodies and souls are part of nature. There is something within us that longs for the forest and the stream. Until this last, tiny micro-slice of time, we have always lived in close proximity to the animals, Our cities, suburbs, colleges, and schools should offer many more green spaces, trees, and urban farms. The first remedy for depression should be a zoology lift, not Zoloft.
When we attack nature, by clear cutting forests or paving farmland, we attack ourselves. There is a reason why our health care budget is spinning out of control: we are cutting ourselves off from nature’s drugs, which are natural and free, and handing the responsibility for our health over to the drug companies, which produce anything but free products.
Guy Dauncey is author of the award-winning book Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change. He is editor of EcoNews, and president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org). He lives in Victoria.
2) ORANGES: THE KING OF WINTER FRUITS
“Orange is a lemon sold for a penny…” goes an old rhyme. Well, oranges may not be sold for a penny these days, but the citrus fruit, the king of winter fruits, is certainly all over the market this season. The fruit is popular not only for its tangy taste that never fails to tickle the taste buds, but also for its nutritional value.
Orange trees are semitropical non-deciduous trees and, like other citrus fruits, they probably originated in Southeast Asia. We take oranges for granted now, but at one time they were expensive and only rarely available in cooler climates. According to a recent study, if orange is your favourite fruit, it speaks of a person who has enduring patience and willpower. You like to do things slowly; but very thoroughly and are completely undaunted by hard work. You tend to be shy; but are a reliable and trustworthy friend. You have an aesthetic bent of mind. Now how’s that for a character analysis!
Orange has a bitter peel that is highly scented and contains aromatic oils. Inside, the fruit is segmented and encloses a juicy flesh. Despite the name, oranges are not always orange; they can also be tallow or mottled with red. The size can vary too – an orange can be as large as a football or as small as a cherry – and the flavour can range from sweet to intensely sour. Like other citrus peels, orange rind contains essential oils, which are used both in cooking and perfumery. Oranges fall into two distinctive groups. Bitter oranges have to be cooked before they can be eaten. Sweet orange can be eaten raw.
More than any other fruit, the orange is associated with--and valued for- its vitamin C content. But oranges have more to offer nutritionally than just this one nutrient. A small orange contains generous levels of folate (folic acid), potassium, and thiamin, as well as some calcium and magnesium. And compared to other citrus fruits, oranges have a broader range of uses: They can be added to various cooked or cold dishes, eaten as snacks, or squeezed for their delicious juice.
“Eating just one orange will meet your entire day’s requirement for vitamin C, provide three grams of fibre, as well as folate, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Oranges also contain health-promoting flavonoids and terpenes, which may help fight off cancer. You get all of that for around sixty (60) calories!” says Dr Mukta Kute, a practicing dietician.
Oranges contain the maximum amount of vitamin C amongst fruits and vegetables put together. Vitamin C helps prevent scurvy and also aids in the body's overall natural healing process. “Oranges are popularly consumed in the form of juice, which provides 140% of the suggested daily intake of vitamin C. However, if you choose to eat a whole orange instead of drinking a glass of juice, you'll get about the same amount of vitamin C with the added benefit of more than 3 grams of dietary fibre,” says Dr Abhay Khanna, a physician.
One medium orange contains 260 milligrams of potassium. Potassium plays a key role in many important health functions. Plus it provides energy for the body, which is necessary for the body's growth and maintenance. Oranges are a good source of folate too. This nutrient helps to prevent neural tube birth defects, and guards against anaemia. Eating a medium-size orange provides 28 percent of the recommended daily value for dietary fibre. Oranges are an excellent source, providing more fibre than any of the top 20 consumed fruits or vegetables. Clearly important is the role of soluble fibre in maintaining already healthy cholesterol levels and promoting cardiovascular health along with helping the digestive process.
The white skin under the peel contains the Bioflavonoids for which citrus fruits are noted, so eating even this part of the orange is very good for your health.
There are so many wonderful ways to eat oranges. The easiest way is to cut a whole orange into quarters. With loose skin varieties like navels, you also can easily peel off the skin and divide into sections. You can also peel and slice oranges to add to salads. Of course you can also enjoy the sweet refreshing taste of oranges by drinking their juice, but you get less fibre from the juice versus the whole fruit.
“Orange juice is the most nutrient-packed fruit juice - a nutrition powerhouse in a glass! One serving provides 110 calories and contains all the vitamin C you need in a day. It's also a good source of potassium, folate and thiamin. And there's more - vitamin B6, niacin, riboflavin and magnesium. Pure orange juice does not contain fibre and is higher in calories than fresh oranges. Even so it is exceptionally nutritious,” says Dr Kute.
Orange juice has been shown to improve some cardiovascular disease risk factors also. A recent study has produced promising results for improving HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol). High blood pressure is often called a "silent killer" because it can develop without any warning signs. A healthy eating plan including potassium-rich foods may help. And oranges are one good source of potassium.
Choose firm oranges that are heavy, as they usually contain more juice. In general, smaller oranges are juicier than larger ones. Colour is not a good indication of quality. Sometimes a greenish orange may actually be sweeter than a fully orange fruit.
So, should you go for the juice or the whole fruit? “The whole fruit has more fibre to fill you up and is chock full of nutrients. Juice is low in fibre, but is high in folate, which may help lower homocysteine levels which helps lower the risk of heart attack. Calcium-fortified orange juice is an excellent source of well-absorbed calcium,” answers Dr Khanna.
How to choose the best oranges? According to Dr Kute, the different varieties of oranges will be at their best during the midpoint of their growing seasons. Choose oranges that are firm, heavy for their size (they will be juiciest), and evenly shaped. The skin should be smooth rather than deeply pitted. Thin-skinned oranges are juicier than thick-skinned varieties, and small- to medium-sized fruits are sweeter than the largest oranges. There is no need to worry about ripeness because oranges are always picked when they are ripe.
Skin colour is not a good guide to quality: Some oranges are artificially coloured with a harmless vegetable dye, while others may show traces of green although they are ripe. Through a natural process called "re-greening," the skins of ripe oranges sometimes revert to green if there are blossoms on the tree at the same time as the fruit. Oranges that have "re-greened" may actually be sweeter because they are extra-ripe.
Superficial brown streaks will not affect the flavour or texture of the fruit, but oranges that have serious bruises or soft spots, or feel spongy, should be avoided.
Oranges can be kept for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. But they are good almost as well at room temperature also, retaining nearly all of their vitamin content even after two weeks. They will also yield more juice at room temperature. Their sturdy peel protects them and they require no further wrapping. In fact, if oranges are placed in un-perforated plastic bags the moisture trapped inside may encourage mould growth. If you like to eat oranges chilled, by all means refrigerate them.
Nutritious, delicious and beautiful, oranges are a pleasure of the season. So what are you w.aiting for? Go paint the town orange! Lakshmi Subramanian
PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!
Thank you for reading.
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This newsletter is for educational purposes only. It is your right to educate yourself in health and medical knowledge, to seek helpful information and make use of it for your own benefit, and for that of your family. You are the one responsible for your health. You must educate yourself in order to make decisions in all health matters. My views and advices are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medicine, but simply a help you to make educated changes in order to help your body heal itself. If you have a medical condition or concern you should consult your physician.
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