Posts Tagged ‘Fruit’

Edible Sunscreen

Rainbow Foods Spiral Photo from the Internet, copyright not found

I have to admit I wonder about some odd things. This week CNN reported that July 2012 is officially the hottest month recorded in over 100 years. This got me thinking: how is it that plants can stay out in the blazing sun day after day without burning to a crisp? It’s not like they can pull up roots and run for shade. Plants need protection from the sun just like we do. They survive thanks to color pigments, which along with nutrients from the soil enable them to withstand their harsh environment.

You’ve heard these terms before: beta carotene, chlorophyll, and lycopene, members of an extensive  group of plant compounds known as antioxidants. We hear and see these terms so much that we are becoming numb to them.  The take home message about antioxidants is they are among the plant’s weapons of survival. When we eat plants these benefits are conveyed to us which, along with other nutrients from our food, strengthens our ability to fight disease in our own challenging environment.

Experts advise us to eat ‘from the rainbow’ each day.  Pick a day to sample from the yellow colored fruit and vegetable group, and another day from the blue group – each has their own contributions. The orange group lends protection to the skin, such as peaches, carrots, cantaloupe, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato and mango. We know this because if you eat too much beta carotene (from the orange group) your skin may actually turn orange. Red fruits and vegetables help protect from sunburn, including watermelon, tomatoes, and red peppers.

The Archives of Dermatology Research reports that by eating more cocoa, onions, apples, and grape seed (through grapes & grapeseed oil), as well as drinking more tea, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer. These foods contain polyphenols – another group in the antioxidant arsenal that may even reverse skin tumor growth.

If you enjoy lessons from nature a must read is “Wild Health” by biologist Cindy Engel, Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia. She and colleagues studied animals and plants in the wild to determine how they heal themselves. Some animals self medicate, others know which plants will heal wounds. And who would believe that trees, such as those favored by the giraffe, can sense an animal coming and produce a bitter tasting chemical in their leaves to discourage the predator from lingering? Meanwhile these trees are also releasing scents that are carried on the wind to warn others of their species that danger is near.  I distinctively remember my socks being blown off while reading this book. There is much to respect about plants. In many ways our survival depends on them.

Avocados RULE

Welcome to avocado season! Let the celebration begin now that the emerald gems are on sale for as low as a dollar a piece. Not just any avocados mind you, but the HASS avocado. We can also thank Cinco de Mayo for this glorious windfall, which officially launches the spread of guacamole from now through Super Bowl Sunday.   

Sure, we can be frivolous with money in the presence of such abundance, but buyers beware. If you’ve ever spent $2.49 on an off-season avocado – only to find rot and disappointment inside, you’ll want to learn my selection secret: only buy the ones that have a stem attached.  That’s the little stubby knob that most avocados still have when they reach the market.

Why does this matter?  Some noteworthy facts:  The thick avocado skin is almost impervious to damage. It is one of the few fruits that do not ripen on the tree, making it smart to harvest early and store until needed. Avocados are harvested by hand with special sheers that often leave a stubby nub behind. This is a boon for merchants and consumers because the nub protects the only entry into the fruit from bacterial invaders.

Once the nub is removed, the opening sounds a siren for micro organisms to wreak havoc on the inside of the fruit, virtually undetectable from the outside (you might see some depressions in the skin). Select your avocado with a snugly fitting stub without removing it (bright green around the nub is another indicator of freshness). To tell if the fruit is ripe, squeeze it gently. If it gives under pressure it is ripe and ready to eat (or refrigerate for a day or two). If it doesn’t give under pressure it is not quite ready. Check each day for a change in firmness.

It is just a tremendous bonus that avocados are a healthy food or I’d be hard pressed to drop it from my diet. Of about 500 varieties of avocados on the global market, the Hass is the most highly prized for its rich, nutty flavor and velvety texture, thanks to a healthy dose of healthy fat. 

In closing, the avocado gifts us with a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6. Half of an avocado is 160 calories with about 15 grams of unsaturated fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and no cholesterol.  To learn more about avocados visit the California Avocado Commission website, (image from their website) or just ask me. I have a PowerPoint. 🙂