What is a Jujube?

Jujube (pronounced joo-joo-bee) is also known as a red Chinese date. It’s a fruit with a name that’s not only fun to say, but it has health benefits that have long been recognized in Chinese herbal medicine. The jujube fruit can be eaten fresh or dried. If you get the chance to try one fresh, you’d be surprised how similar it tastes to a sweet mini apple. It’s crispy like an apple and it holds a seed inside, so don’t forget to spit that out. When jujubes are allowed to dry in the sun until they shrivel and brown, they are still edible, but they will taste more like a date. Commonly, the dried versions are used to make jams, desserts, teas or soups. This fruit is originally cultivated mainly in South Asia, however nowadays, it grows well throughout most of the southern half of North America. To buy them, they’re usually available at Chinese or Korean grocery stores, Chinese medicine halls, and Amazon.com.

Aside from its good taste, curious to learn more about this fruit’s health benefits? There’s good reason to add this into your diet. Keep reading to find out the great benefits it can provide.

  1. Its high in Vitamin C and fiber. Just a 3-oz (100-gram) serving of fresh jujube, or about 3 fruits, provides 225 to 530 milligrams (mg) of Vitamin C and 10 grams of fiber. For adults, the recommended daily amount for vitamin C is 65 to 90 mg a day, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day. For fiber intake, it is recommended to have 25-35 grams of fiber a day.
  2. It may help promote better sleep. In Chinese herbal medicine, jujube has been traditionally prepared as a tea that was used against insomnia. While there’s a lack of strong evidence to support its effectiveness in fighting insomnia, people without insomnia may find it supportive of healthy sleep throughout the night.
  3. Antioxidants content may boost immunity. Jujube is rich in vitamin C, which is thought to have powerful antioxidant effects. In addition, this fruit is rich in several antioxidant compounds, including polyphenols and flavonoids, compounds that are naturally found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, spices, herb, tea, dark chocolate, and wine. They can act as antioxidant to neutralize harmful free radicals that would damage our cells and increase our risk of conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
  4. Improve blood circulation. The fruit contains minerals like potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, and zinc, a combination of these minerals are necessary for maintaining a good heart health. Eating jujubes may help improve the blood flow in the body.

Intrigued to try jujubes? Have them fresh or used dried in a recipe. Below are some of my favorite recipes.

An easy Chinese red date (Jujube) tea (Credit to doyou.com)
Jujube tea with goji berries (Credit to foodbaker.com)
Jujube ginger tea (Credit to Golubkakitchen.com)
Chinese ginseng chicken herbal soup (Credit to Yummly.com)
Watercress pork soup (Credit to Yummly.com)

sweet potatoes

All about sweet potatoes

Are Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes the Same Thing?

Sweet potatoes are starchy root vegetables native to South America. They thrive in humid and moist weather conditions and they grow in different varieties including color variations: red, yellow, orange or purple. Sweet potatoes look like regular potatoes and may even be mistaken for potatoes. While they share similar characteristics and they are both tuberous foods, they originate from two different plant families. Potatoes belong to the Solanaceae, also known as the deadly nightshade, family. All of the leaves and stems of the plants are poisonous. Sweet potatoes are part of the flowering plants called the morning glory family.  Unlike potatoes, the leaves of the plant are edible. Sweet potatoes and potatoes also have a different taste. As the name says, sweet potatoes are slightly sweet.

Nutritional Value of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber as well as containing several vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, and selenium. They are also a great source of an antioxidant known as beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A when consumed.

The recommended daily amount of fiber for an average adult is 25 grams. In each medium sweet potatoes, there is about 6.6 grams of fiber. They contain soluble fiber which absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance as it moves through our gastrointestinal tract. The gel-like substance it forms help slow the passage of food and helps us feel full for longer. Soluble fiber has also been found to help lower cholesterol, reduce risk of heart disease and regulate blood glucose levels. Sweet potatoes also contain insoluble fiber, which bulks up our stool and help it move through the digestive tract. This helps reduces our risk for constipation, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.

The phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals) and antioxidants found in sweet potatoes may have health promoting effects such as boosting our immune system, fighting viruses and other pathogens, controlling inflammation, inhibiting tumor growth, protecting against effects of aging.

Sweet potatoes are not only readily available, versatile and generally inexpensive, they are also delicious! Whichever variety you decide to eat, they are packed with many health benefits to them, so enjoy them and know you’re doing good for your body!

Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges Recipe

Approximate prep time: 10 minutes
Approximate cook time: 40-45 minutes

Ingredients
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking pan with tinfoil (shiny side up) and set aside.
2. Wash the sweet potatoes well. Keep them peeled or unpeeled. Slice the sweet potatoes into wedges.
3. Place the sweet potato wedges in a large bowl, then add the olive oil, salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. Mix them all together and make sure each wedge is coated with the oil and spices mixture.
4. Arrange the sweet potato wedges in a single layer on the lined baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Then for them to turn slightly brown and crispy, turn on the broiler for another 3-5 minutes. Watch closely, as the potatoes may burn if the broiler is on for too long.
5. Remove the sweet potato wedges from the oven. Allow them to cool on the pan for a few minutes then serve!

travel

Relief tips for traveler’s constipation

Picture this: You’re away on vacation and you’re having a great time, but soon realize that you haven’t had a bowel movement in over 3 days! Yes, over 3 whole days. Keep in mind, constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. By now, you might be feeling the discomfort, bloating, and gas associated with constipation. And this might make you anxious because your bowel movements are usually regular when you’re back home, so why now?

Don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. In fact, many people, as much as 40% of travelers, can relate to this scenario. It’s called traveler’s constipation. The key to winning this stressful battle is knowing what it is and preparing ahead of time. To start your preparation, let’s review some reasons WHY we get traveler’s constipation

  • Reason 1: There’s a sudden disruption to your usual meal times.
  • Reason 2: Traveling can cause a shifted sleeping schedule, or jet lag kicks in and changes your body’s circadian rhythm and affect your digestive process.
  • Reason 3: You experience anxiety of being in a new environment/bathroom or even being around new people and not being able to relax enough to relieve yourself.
  • Reason 4: Common travel factors including dehydration and/or alcohol consumption can contribute to constipation.

Now that we understand why we get traveler’s constipation, for your future travels, follow these recommendations to keep you regular while traveling:

  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and clear liquids, even more than you usually would because traveling, especially on a plane, tends to dehydrate you. Try to keep a reusable bottle or stop for frequent water breaks every 30 minutes or so to keep the fluids flowing through your body. While all fluids count toward your fluid intake, water is your best choice. Pay attention to your urine, mouth, skin and lips. If your urine is dark colored, mouth is dry, skin is cracking and lips are chapped, it may indicate that you are already dehydrated.
  2. When you’re traveling on the road, it might be tempting to keep driving for long stretches without enough breaks so that you get to your next destination quicker, but this may be a factor contributing to constipation. It is important to stop and stretch because long periods of sitting can cause strain to your bowel. In addition, incorporate physical activity while traveling to keep your digestive system moving.
  3. Take in plenty of fiber. Pack convenient, fiber dense snacks or supplements for your travels. Examples are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, chia seeds, low sugar granola bars, psyllium fiber, Metamucil, flaxseed, whole grain breads, dried fruits and beans.
  4. Add some probiotics into your diet. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can be added to your gastrointestinal tract and are essential in our digestive health and immune system. You can try probiotic supplements or eat/drink foods that contain probiotics such as yogurt with live strains or a fermented beverage such as kombucha. Remember to carefully review the instructions for care as some products will require refrigeration.
  5. Get plenty of rest. Traveling can be a strain on our sleeping schedule, so make sure you schedule at least 6-8 hours of sleep each night. You can also take mini power naps while you travel. And don’t forget to pack ear plugs and an eye mask if you are sensitive to noise or light.
  6. If you find that you continue to have a long, difficult battle with constipation even after trying several relieving techniques, consider packing some laxatives, but I would suggest checking with your primary provider before use. Make sure to use them wisely, as directed and only for a short period of time. Keep in mind, certain foods can be natural laxatives so if you would rather stay away from medications, try prunes, prune juice or papaya.