Eat Eggplants to Protect Your Brain 

Growing up, my mother never cooked or grew eggplants.  I’ve heard stories of my late grandfather growing it, which he referred to them as Garden Eggs. In my adult life, I’ve grown to love the taste.  I grow and cook them, and I even got my mother to enjoy growing and cooking with them too.  Eggplants are extremely healthy and versatile to cook with.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, copper, manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K.  Eggplants also contains phytonutrients; such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid.  The nasunin is the antioxidant responsible for providing your brain with food.

In animal studies, nasunin has been found to protect the lipids (fats) in brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are almost entirely composed of lipids and are responsible for protecting the cell from free radicals, letting nutrients in and wastes out, and receiving instructions from messenger molecules that tell the cell which activities it should perform. Nasunin is located in the purple skin of the eggplant so don’t peel it.  It’s job is to search and defeat free radicals.

According to Rice University, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons and can be formed when oxygen interacts with certain molecules. Once formed these highly reactive radicals can start a chain reaction, like a dominoe effect. Their chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane.  Free radicals are basically bad for you and they are everywhere.  They can break down healthy cells and multiply.

What are free radicals?

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that damage living cells. These can come from everyday pollution and other common stressors, like the ones listed below:

  • Everyday air pollutants
  • Smog / UV rays
  • Up to 80% of free radical damage is caused by the sun (1). Always wear a broad spectrum SPF!
  • Lack of sleep and exercise
  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol & Tobacco
  • Pesticides

Oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals running amuck.  It leads to stressed out cells that are broken down and weakened. Then, diseases like cancers, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ulcers and a boatload of other inflammatory diseases can developed.

Free radicals are also associated with aging skin.  That’s right!  Sunblock isn’t the only defense for aging.  What you feed your body/cells is extremely important too. Eating dark leafy greens and high pigmented fruits that are rich in vitamin C helps to protect your cells and support fighting off free radicals.  Don’t forget to eat up your eggplant too because it will protect your skin from aging prematurely.

Did you know?

The high purple skin pigment on eggplants is also a form of protection for the plants. Researchers at the US Agricultural Service in Beltsville, Maryland, have found that eggplants are rich sources of phenolic compounds that function as antioxidants. Plants form such compounds to protect themselves against oxidative stress from exposure to the elements, as well as from infection by bacteria and fungi. If we eat the eggplant, these antioxidants protects us. Can you name a fast food chain that can do that? I think, NOT!

Resources:  
Protective effects of dietary nasunin on paraquat-induced oxidative stress in rats.

Eggplant: Medical News Today

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Fruit Fact: Grapefruits Fight Free Radicals

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Free radicals causes cells in our bodies to breakdown, and foods that are high in vitamin C can significantly reduce and prevent oxidative stress on our cells. Thus grapefruits, carrots, oranges and tomatoes to name a few, are exceptionally high in vitamin C.

Oxidative stress is now thought to make a significant contribution to all inflammatory diseases (arthritis, vasculitis, glomerulonephritis, lupus erythematous, adult respiratory diseases syndrome), ischemic diseases (heart diseases, stroke, intestinal ischema), hemochromatosis, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, emphysema, organ transplantation, gastric ulcers, hypertension and preeclampsia, neurological disorder (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy), alcoholism, smoking-related diseases, and many others.

An excess of oxidative stress can lead to the oxidation of lipids and proteins, which is associated with changes in their structure and functions.

Oxidative stress also causes premature aging and wrinkles. If you don’t want to look old before your time, choose the right foods.

The foods we choose to eat contributes to the health of our cells. What we put in our bodies everyday significantly affects us on a cellular level. If you choose to smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs, your cells will be damaged. If you choose to eat processed foods and junk foods, your cells will be damaged. It’s easy science. Know the facts and make wiser choices.

To read more about oxidative stress and to obtain the article where I found this information click here.

Fresh Bowls of Fruits

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Starting the day off with a fresh bowl of fruit sets the tone for my day. It energizes me and makes me feel full. Having a fruit bowl also reminds me of a hot summer day especially, during these winter snowy days we’ve been having here in New York City. These bowls really brightens up my mornings. I couldn’t tell you when was the last time I had a bacon egg and cheese on a toasted bagel for breakfast. For the past three years my morning breakfasts have been much healthier and much more nutritious.

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A healthy breakfast should contain fruits or vegetables, nuts for added protein and sometimes a whole grain bread or oats. This type of combination of fiber, protein, and a small amount of fat will help provide the nutrients you need to carry you through the day. But for me, a fruit bowl does that same thing.

I can get really creative with my fruit bowls. Depending on what’s in season, I add in one or two citrus fruits, some berries, melons, bananas, apples and even some nuts. Fruit provides vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and potassium.

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If you notice in all of these picture, I mostly included orange and red colored fruits. Well, according to the International Carotenoid Society, these colors are known to be essential for plant growth and photosynthesis, and are a main dietary source of vitamin A in humans. They are thought to be associated with reduced risk of several chronic health disorders including some forms of cancer, heart disease and eye degeneration. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a natural color pigment that contributes to the red color of tomatoe and various other fruits and vegetables. The yellow/red fruits and vegetables contain mostly hydrocarbon carotenoids (carotenes). The common yellow ones are apricot, cantaloupe, carrot, pumpkin, and sweet potato that are the primary sources of beta-carotene and beta-carotene and several other hydrocarbon carotenoids.

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In part, the beneficial effects of carotenoids are thought to be due to their role as antioxidants. Antioxidants supports cellular activities by fighting off other chemicals known as free radicals.

Consider adding the following orange/red hue fruits and vegetables to your diet for more antioxidants.
Apricots, carrots, oranges, papaya, peaches, pumpkins, cantaloupe, sweet potato, winter squash, tangerines, nectarines, mangoes and butternut squash.
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Food Fact: Grapefruit

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According to the WHFood’s website, grapefruit is rated one of the worlds’s healthiest foods. Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin C, a vitamin that helps to support the immune system. Vitamin C-rich foods like grapefruit may help reduce cold symptoms or severity of cold symptoms; over 20 scientific studies have suggested that vitamin C is a cold-fighter.

Vitamin C also prevents the free radical damage that triggers the inflammatory cascade, and is therefore also associated with reduced severity of inflammatory conditions, such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. As free radicals can oxidize cholesterol and lead to plaques that may rupture causing heart attacks or stroke, vitamin C is beneficial to promoting cardiovascular health.

Owing to the multitude of vitamin C’s health benefits, it is not surprising that research has shown that consumption of vegetables and fruits high in this nutrient is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

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Prevent Kidney Stones
Want to reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones? Drink grapefruit juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when women drank 1/2 to 1 liter of grapefruit, apple or orange juice daily, their urinary pH value and citric acid excretion increased, significantly dropping their risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.

Fresh is always best! Juicing citrus fruits is much more beneficial than buying the boxed version. I eat a lot of citrus fruits for their nutritional values.

Drug Reaction: Check with your healthcare practitioner about consuming grapefruit juice if you’re taking pharmaceutical drugs. Certain pharmaceutical drugs combined with grapefruit juice become more potent.

References:
Study: Phytochemical in citrus fruits
Study: Grapefruit and oroblanco enhance hepatic detoxification enzymes in rats: possible role in protection against chemical carcinogenesis.
Study: British Journal of Nutrition
Warnings: Drug Reaction
More on: Vitamin C Rich Foods