My Nut of the Month for June, 2007: the Pecan

Nut of the Month for April, 2007: El Piñon

My Nut of the Month for March, 2007 the Peanut

March on out to the market and procure some raw Spanish peanuts. Spanish peanuts are good for you. Their skins contain oligomeric procyanidins, or OPCs, which strengthen capillaries and help to prevent varicose veins. Pycnogenol is another source of OPCs, but if you’re not unfortunate enough to be allergic to the mighty peanut, you can get your daily dose of them in a delicious way. Here is my own recipe for healthful version of Spanish peanuts: Soak raw Spanish peanuts just until they are all wet, in brine made with your preferred salt. Arrange the wet nuts on a baking sheet (avoid aluminum pans). Roast in a medium oven till they look brown–about 45 minutes. Wait until the Spanish peanuts are completely cool before testing. They ought to be crunchy, and if they aren’t, just put them back in the oven for ten more minutes. I served these at a recent party, and they were a big hit.

Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2007

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Pistachio, Magical Nut from the Near East

Pistachios are the new health nut. Research from the University of Toronto shows that they may reduce the risk of diabetes by decreasing the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. “Pistachios are high in protein, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fat,” explains study author Cyril Kendall, PhD, “all of which contribute to the slowing of carbohydrate absorption in the body.”Pistachios are delicious roasted and salted, as well as in desserts and pastries. In the U.S., pistachio-studded halvah was once only available in Brooklyn’s Middle Eastern neighborhood–I used to buy it on the famous Atlantic Avenue–but it can now be found at markets around the U.S. Of course, the ever-popular baklava-type pastries from Turkey and Persia, where pistachios originate, usually contain them mixed with aromatic honey.

Research has shown that eating 2 to 3 ounces of pistachios a day can help significantly raise your level of good cholesterol (HDL). Pistachios are full of vitamin B6 and copper, too, which help to increase your energy.

Pistachios salted and unshelled are available at a good price from Sam’s Club. I cannot remember the brand-name–it could be Sunkist–in any case, they are Californian. They’re delightfully easy to eat as a snack, and most welcome on party buffets. For baking, try to find unsalted varieties of these magic nuts.

Mail Order the Best Middle Eastern Pastries from Jordan’s Zalatimo Sweets.


Health-Enhancing Blueberries


Blueberries contain vitamins A and C, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium, are high in fiber and low in calories. The USDA Human Nutrition Center (HNRCA) has ranked blueberries at the very top of antioxidant activity within a range of forty-one fruits and vegetables.

Blueberries are rich in natural health-enhancers, including vitamin C,  vitamin A, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium. They also have many antioxidant properties, and help in the prevention of:

Blueberries have recently acquired a reputation for enhancing one’s cardiovascular health, and their antioxidants naturally help in the prevention of cancer. Recent research has added to the blueberry’s list of powerful properties.

Metabolic syndrome, or pre-diabetes, is exhibited in those with a particular combination of health anomalies,  including larger-than-normal  amounts of abdominal fat, elevated blood-sugar, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides. Together, those conditions are likely to cause diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Laboratory-rats that for 90 days consumed blueberry-enriched powder as two percent of their diet had less abdominal fat, lower triglycerides, lower cholesterol, and improved fasting glucose and insulin sensitivity than the control-group, who had no blueberry component in their diets.

Blueberry ingestion was determined to have a positive affect on specific genes related to fat-burning and fat-storage.  Where muscle tissue is concerned,  alterations in genes related to glucose-uptake were discovered to have been caused by the intake of blueberries.

Research also indicated that “metabolic syndrome” is  caused not only by abdominal fat, as previously believed by the medical industry, but by insulin resistance in one’s skeletal muscle system, an anomaly which alters energy-storage and causes metabolic syndrome.

Eating blueberries can help to prevent insulin-resistance, lower the related belly-fat, reduce cholesterol levels, and its numerous antioxidants can help to stave-off age-related brain disorders.

Blueberries  contain an antioxidant compound called pterostilbene, a compound similar to resveratrol, which has been found to reduce cholesterol as well as dangerous prescription drugs.

Just as dried cherries do, blueberries, when added to ground beef before cooking, help reduce the formation of  cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (HCA).

In Europe, the bilberry has most of the same properties as the blueberry. One of the many things they have in common is anthocyanin, the substance that makes them blue, which is beneficial to the cardiovascular system and is believed to lower blood-pressure. Bilberries have been used to enhance eyesight since World War 11, when pilots who ate bilberry jam attributed their improved night-vision to the tiny fruit. Bilberries are also said to aid in relief of varicose veins and gum-disease as they promote healthy circulation. Caution must be taken with bilberries by those who are taking blood-thinnning drugs, as they are a natural blood-thinner.

Blueberries can be added to a morning smoothie that you make with yogurt in a blender, together with whatever other fruits you have in stock. Frozen blueberries can be much less expensive than fresh ones, easier to store, and retain most of their antioxidant properties. When used in a smoothie, frozen blueberries make it ice-cold (see my photograph). This preparation makes a health-promoting breakfast, and is delicious as well. Staying well is the best thing you can do in this ailing world.

©M-J de Mesterton

M-J’s Blueberry Smoothie for Surviving Influenza Season