In Pictures: Home-cooked Vegetarian Dishes

Mexican Breakfast Scramble

5 Ingredient Black Bean Soup

Veggie Miso Tofu Soup

Cheesy Brown Rice Vegetable Casserole

Teriyaki Bowls

One Pot Chili

Udon Stir Fry with Bok Choy and Vegetables

Black Bean Pasta Bowl


Minestrone with Pesto


6 cups vegetable stock or water or a combination of both 45ml/3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small dice
1 bay leaf
1 fresh thyme sprig or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
4 oz peas, fresh or frozen
2-3 courgettes (zucchini), finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups cooked or canned beans such as cannellini
3 tbsp pesto sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the stock or water to simmering.
  2. In another saucepan, heat the olive oil. Stir in the onion and leek and cook for 5-0 minutes, or until the onion softens. Add the carrots, celery and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, then pour in the hot stock or water and stir well. Add the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Stir in the peas, if using fresh ones, and the courgettes. Simmer for 5 minutes more. If using frozen peas, add them now along with the tomatoes. Cover the pan and simmer for 5-8 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. About 10 minutes before serving the soup, remove the lid and stir in the beans. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the pesto sauce.Taste for seasoning. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. Allow the soup to stand for a few minutes before serving with the grated Parmesan.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Delicious and Fresh Essential Vegetarian

Is Hydroponic Food as Healthy as Traditional Soil Grown Food?

Rachel Tinker-Kulberg, PhD wrote . . . . . .

The USDA estimates that 23 million people have inadequate access to healthy and affordable food and as a result food-related illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity are currently on the rise in this country.

Organically soil grown produce is gaining popularity because consumers are carefully scrutinizing what they are putting into their bodies and want to buy food that is not treated with hazardous chemicals. Organic certification of produce grown hydroponically, a form of agriculture where plants are grown in water and a fertilizer solution (i.e. soil-less), has been mostly prohibited due to the chemically-synthesized nature of the nutrient solutions (inorganic mineral salts) and because the growing substrates are usually not sustainable (i.e. like rockwool). Frustrated because they believe this has no bearing on the quality or safety of their produce, hydroponic growers are now experimenting with “organic” nutrient mix solutions to seek certification but many are running into problems since these substances don’t dissolve easily and must be broken down through microbial action which is not possible in a standard “sterile” hydroponic set-up.

Putting aside the bureaucratic definitions of the “organic” labeling, another growing concern among consumers is whether hydroponic produce is as healthy as produce grown organically in the soil.

By providing a complete diet of minerals required for plant growth via chemical fertilizers, plants grown hydroponically have been shown to achieve higher growth rates and yields. Some hydroponic proponents assume these ideal growing conditions must produce healthier plants, after all a complete diet of plant minerals should translate into higher “nutritional” plant content – right? The truth is that plant physiology is not that simple and scientists and educators in the field of agriculture need to address critical questions related to nutritional value of plants since mass food production trends using soil-less hydroponic systems are on the rise in order to meet the demand of rising populations and limited availability of arable land.

The experimental question of whether hydroponic crops raised on a perfect mix of macro- and micro-nutrients result in a more nutritional rich product compared to soil-grown produce is hard to address experimentally since many hydroponic growers use different nutrient formulas depending on the crop being grown and their environmental parameters can also vary.

Soil farmers experience these same type of variations with respect to soil health and fluctuations in environmental conditions. For example, water quality and variations in temperature and humidity can place stress on crops potentially changing their biochemical make-up regardless of the growing method being used. Because of these variations, studies to date comparing the nutritional content of produce grown hydroponically to soil-grown have had mixed results- with some studies showing no difference between the two methods, while others showing that soil-less systems fared either better or worse than soil grown controls in the nutrients levels being tested. As you can imagine experimental design and conditions varied widely between these studies and depending on how they were designed affected the outcome and the significance of the findings.

For example, one recent study by Treftz, 2015 compared the difference in nutritional quality in strawberries and raspberries grown in soil and soil-less conditions. The hydroponic nutrient solution used was a general commercial hydroponics standard (Flora series) and the soil used was a mixture of Nevada topsoil and Miracle-Gro potting soil (1:1 mixture) that was re-fertilized with Miracle Grow fertilizer every six weeks. Miracle grow is a synthetic fertilizer and therefore cannot serve as an organic soil amendment control, in fact some growers believe that it has the potential to kill beneficial microorganisms in the soil due to its high ammonia and excess mineral salt content. Healthy soil containing beneficial soil microorganisms allow plants to maintain optimal nutrient content in the face of environmental stresses through their interactions with root-based transport systems. Therefore the proper experimental design where the health of soil microbes is considered is crucial to evaluate differences between soil-less and soil-based growing systems.

Nevertheless, the results from this study showed that the “healthy” anti-oxidant compounds (e.g. Vitamin C, tocopherol and total polyphenolic compounds) were significantly higher in hydroponically grown strawberries compared to the soil-grown but the opposite was true for raspberries! Interestingly, earlier studies by Premuzic 1998 showed that tomato fruit grown in healthy organic soil (100% or 50% vermicompost) contained more Vitamin C than the same fruit grown hydroponically while other studies by Buchanan, 2013 showed that hydroponically grown lettuce contained more Vitamin C than soil-grown varieties. In this latter study, no reference was made in the exact type of soil that was used other than remarking that it was a “noncommercial soil enriched by natural composed material”. Interestingly, in many of these peer-reviewed comparison studies, the levels of sugar (fructose & glucose) were higher in the soil grown fruit which might explain why hydroponic produce is sometimes characterized as “less tasty” than soil-grown.

It seems that no real “broad” conclusions can be drawn from the experimental results from these and other past comparison studies.

For these experiments to be truly valuable, future researchers need to be more careful with their “soil grown” controls so that they actually mimic standard organic farming practices which maintain the integrity and health of the soil. This is no easy task, since the standard practice of adding organic matter to the soil and the conversion of this matter into essential nutrients by microbes and worms is usually liberated gradually over time into the soil. Perhaps by collaborating with well-established growers in both these farming industries and taking random product samplings from them and various marketplaces, researchers can help refine their scientific studies.

Lastly, there is a growing body of evidence that plants have evolved to up-regulate healthy anti-oxidant compounds during stressful conditions to help them survive environmental insults.

It stands to reason that if hydroponics operations provide “perfect” conditions for plants by giving them everything they need to grow, perhaps these anti-oxidant compounds, and others we have yet to characterized, will be induced at a lower levels (or not at all) compared to plants grown in “less than ideal” conditions of soil farming where stressful environmental conditions are inevitable? One classic example of this phenomenon is when tomatoes are put under osmotic or salt stress, the beneficial phytochemical called lycopene was shown to increase significantly. In fact, closed-loop water recirculation systems like hydroponics and aquaponics (the coupling of fish production with vegetable production) may in fact offer an advantage over soil-based growing since the water chemistry of both these systems can be manipulated to boost natural plant bioactives for health benefits. Growing these types of “superfoods” are becoming the focus of hydroponic researchers since they not only offer a food product with high nutritional value, but also have the potential of demanding a higher market price for the grower.

As we move toward the high-tech world of food production, we need to make sure we have performed the proper scientific research to ensure that these advancements are also protecting the health and nutritional content of our food as well as our environment.

Future nutritional research evaluating eco-friendly sustainable growing methods like aquaponics and Integrated agri-aquaculture systems (IAAS) is also critical in order to optimize production of nutrient-rich field crops as well as aquatic species (fish & shrimp) while also protecting our environment since the health and access of food – as an outcome of food security – is after all also vulnerable to environmental degradation.

Source: Abundance North Carolina

Read more:

Nutritional quality of hydroponics vs. soil grown veggies and fruit . . . . .

New Laser Therapy for Low-risk Prostate Cancer Shows Promise

“A drug activated by laser light successfully destroys early prostate cancer while avoiding side effects … results have shown,” The Guardian reports.

This new technique may offer an alternative treatment to the current “wait and see” approach, also known as active surveillance.

The main challenge of treating prostate cancer judged to be low risk is that it’s difficult to predict if it will spread far enough to pose a threat to health.

A study we looked at in 2014 found around half of predictions about the likely outcome of “low-risk” cases of prostate cancer were incorrect.

Many men are reluctant to have prostate cancer surgery unless they really have to, as it carries the risk of causing erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence.

In this study, researchers compared active surveillance with a new technique known as vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy.

This involves injecting a light-sensitive drug into the prostate and activating it with a laser when it reaches cancer cells.

The benefit of this approach is damage to healthy prostate tissue is minimised, reducing the risk of side effects.

Two years after having this treatment, almost half of the men in the treatment group were cancer-free and only 6% of patients needed further treatment, compared with 14% being cancer-free and 30% needing further treatment in the active surveillance group. Side effects were mostly mild.

Overall, these are promising results, but it’s not possible to say when, and indeed if, this treatment will become widely available.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from hospitals across 10 European countries, including the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

It was published in the peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet Oncology.

The study was funded by Steba Biotech, a company focused on targeting cancer in a minimally invasive way, which holds the commercial license for the treatment.

Many of the study’s authors were employed by or had financial links to Steba. The authors also declared receiving payment from various other pharmaceutical companies.

The UK media generally reported the story accurately, with The Daily Telegraph highlighting that the treatment brought about complete remission in around half of the patients who had it.

The Daily Mail also made it clear that this treatment was for early-stage prostate cancer and the study did not look at later stages.

What kind of research was this?

This randomised controlled trial (RCT) aimed to compare the safety and effectiveness of vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy with active surveillance in men with low-risk prostate cancer.

The likely outcome for prostate cancer is assessed using a well-validated scoring system known as the Gleason grade.

This can range from 1 to 5 – the higher the grade, the more likely the cancer is to spread outside the prostate.

All men in this study had a Gleason grade of 3. This means that the cancer had not spread outside the prostate and was expected to grow slowly.

Men with this early-stage prostate cancer may have a number of treatment options, depending on their individual circumstances.

This may involve active surveillance, where the potential spread of the cancer is assessed on a regular basis. Many men only opt for treatment when the tumour grows more aggressively.

Active treatment options for localised prostate cancer may include surgery or radiotherapy, but these carry a risk of side effects like erectile problems and incontinence.

An RCT is the best way of investigating the effects of this new intervention, as the randomisation process should balance out other confounding variables that may differ between the men.

What did the research involve?

This multicentre trial was carried out in 47 centres across Europe, including the UK.

Researchers included 413 men (age 44-85) with low-risk prostate cancer who had not received treatment previously and had no contraindications.

They were randomly assigned to the vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy (206 men) group or active surveillance (207 men).

The new treatment first involved the men having an MRI scan to determine the number, length and position of optical fibres to be inserted.

Fibreoptic laser fibres were then positioned in the target positions in the prostate under general anaesthetic.

The men then received an intravenous infusion of a drug called padeliporfin. This drug is made from bacteria living in almost complete darkness at the bottom of the sea, which only become toxic in the presence of light.

When the laser is switched on, the drug becomes activated and kills the cancer, but leaves healthy tissue unharmed.

Both the treatment group and the active surveillance group had a PSA test (a measurement of a protein linked to prostate enlargement) and a rectal examination every three months. They were also given a prostate biopsy every year.

If the biopsy still showed prostate cancer at one year, those in the treatment group were offered further treatment.

The two main outcomes of interest in both groups were treatment failure at 24 months (progression of cancer from low-to-moderate to high risk) and the absence of cancer at 24 months (the proportion of men with negative prostate biopsy results).

Adverse side effects were also assessed from the point of treatment until the end of the study.

What were the basic results?

Vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy was found to reduce the risk of further more invasive treatment being required, which was reported as the photodynamic therapy failing.

Cancer had progressed at 24 months in 58 out of 206 (28%) men in the treatment group, compared with 120 out of 207 (58%) in the active surveillance group.

This gave a 66% reduced risk of treatment failure (adjusted hazard ratio 0.34, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.24 to 0.46).

Vascular-targeted photodynamic treatment also increased the likelihood of being cancer-free at 24 months.

In the treatment group, 101 out of 206 (49%) men had a negative prostate biopsy at 24 months, compared with 28 out of 207 (14%) men in the active surveillance group.

This was equivalent to a more than tripled increased chance of cancer clearance (adjusted risk ratio 3.67, 95% CI 2.53 to 5.33).

Looking at other outcomes, fewer men in the vascular-targeted photodynamic group (12 of 206, 6%) needed subsequent radical therapy in the form of surgery or radiotherapy compared with the active surveillance group (60 of 207 men, 29%).

However, the frequency and severity of adverse side effects were higher in the vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy group. Most of these were mild and did not last very long.

The most common treatment-related serious adverse event in the treatment group was difficulty passing urine. All 15 cases resolved within two months.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that, “Padeliporfin vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy is a safe, effective treatment for low-risk, localised prostate cancer.”

They added that, “This treatment might allow more men to consider a tissue-preserving approach and defer or avoid radical therapy.”


This large randomised controlled trial indicates that the new treatment vascular-targeted photodynamic therapy for men with low-risk prostate cancer results in a greater chance of being declared cancer-free, and slows the progress of the disease.

The treatment also reduced the number of men who needed to have further surgery or radiotherapy to 6%, compared with 29% in the active surveillance group.

This is a well-designed trial conducted in several countries that followed men for a reasonably long period of time.

It also analysed all men included in the study, regardless of whether they completed treatment or follow-up.

However, there are some points to note to put the study in context. Researchers only included men with a very low-risk localised prostate cancer.

The results cannot be generalised to men with more advanced cancers – it’s not known whether it would be safe and effective in other groups.

The results also may not apply to all men defined as “low risk”, only those defined as such when the study began in 2011.

Despite including a fairly large sample, the population was almost entirely white men, with only 5 out of 413 belonging to other racial backgrounds. This means results may not apply to other demographics.

The comparator used was active surveillance. The researchers did not compare treatment with other active treatment options, such as surgery or radiotherapy.

As the researchers say, surgery could not have been a suitable comparator as the prostate would be removed, so they couldn’t compare biopsy results.

And they couldn’t compare with radiotherapy because of the need to administer hormone treatments before and after radiotherapy.

But this doesn’t mean to say that this new treatment is better than surgery or radiotherapy in terms of curing the person, preventing progression or prolonging survival.

Early active treatment with surgery or radiotherapy may give more favourable outcomes than active surveillance and even this new treatment.

Follow-up has also only continued for two years. Information on progression and survival outcomes at 5 and 10 years would be valuable.

Overall, these are promising results for a potential new treatment, but it’s not possible to say at the current time when and if it will become available, or who for.

As far as we know, there is no 100% guaranteed way to prevent prostate cancer, other than having your prostate removed.

But maintaining a healthy weight and regular exercise may help reduce the risk.

Source: NHS Choice

Today’s Comic

Character Sweets

Doraemon (ドラえもん) and Sister Dorami-chan (ドラミちゃん)

The sweets are sold in Japan only for 2 days on 30th and 31st December at the price of 260 yen each.