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Vegan Side-dish of Cauliflower and Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 small cauliflower, broken into florets
1 tsp cumin seeds
a good pinch of ground ginger
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered
1-2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) (optional)
salt and ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pan, add the onion and garlic. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the onion is softened.
  2. Add the cauliflower and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until the cauliflower is flecked with brown.
  3. Add the cumin seeds and ginger, toss briskly for 1 minute, and then add the tomato wedges, 3/4 cup water and some salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover with a plate or with foil and simmer for 6-7 minutes, until the cauliflower is just tender.
  5. Stir in a little lemon juice, if using, to sharpen the flavour. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle over the chopped coriander, if using, and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Vegan Cooking

Avocado Seed May Be The Most Useful Part

Dana Dovey wrote . . . . . . .

The avocado seed you always dump in the trash after you scoop out the good part may hold a reserve of untapped medical resources and other uses. New research shows that the seed husk contains a number of chemicals that could be useful in everything from treating debilitating diseases to enhancing cosmetics.

Researchers from the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, analyzed the components of the avocado seed husk and found the following chemicals: behenyl alcohol, an important ingredient used in anti-viral medications; heptacosane, which may help to inhibit the growth of tumor cells; and dodecanoic acid, which increases high-density lipoprotein and so may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a press release reported.

In addition, in the wax of the seed, the researchers detected benzyl butyl phthalate, a plasticizer used in a number of synthetic products such as shower curtains and medical devices; bis(2-butoxyethyl) phthalate, which is used in cosmetics; and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which is a food additive.

This research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society and represents the first time scientists have conducted such an analysis of the components of avocado seeds. Those involved said they were surprised by the results.

“It could very well be that avocado seed husks, which most people consider as the waste of wastes, are actually the gem of gems because the medicinal compounds within them could eventually be used to treat cancer, heart disease and other conditions,” said study research Debasish Bandyopadhyay, in the press release. “Our results also suggest that the seed husks are a potential source of chemicals used in plastics and other industrial products.”

While the researchers aren’t suggesting you go ahead and eat the husk, they are hopeful they may be reused someday in unexpected ways.

For the study, the team ground about 300 dried avocado seed husks into 21 ounces of powder. They then used a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis to better understand the individual’s chemical components in the husk and seed. Results revealed 116 compounds in the oil and 16 in the wax.

As for the fruit of the avocado, we already know it has a wealth of health benefits. Just a single 100-gram serving has vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and trace amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin), Medical News Today reported. In addition, avocados have about 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats.

And while avocados often get a bad reputation for being so high in fat (and this is true), the fat in avocados is monounsaturated fatty acid—the same type found in olive oil. It’s likely not best to eat a whole avocado every day, but don’t worry that a serving will add too much fat to your diet.

The research is still novel, and while the team has identified the components in avocado husk, we still have to figure out practical ways to use them. The researchers explain that their next move is to try to modify these natural components to create more effective medications.

Source: msn

Chinese Food History – An Anthropoligical Study

Adapted from K.C. Chang, Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives . . . . . .

To say that the consumption of food is a vital part of the chemical process of life is to state the obvious, but sometimes we fail to realize that food is more than just vital. The only other activity that we engage in that is of comparable importance to our lives and to the life of our species is sex. As Kao Tzu, a Warring States-period philosopher and keen observer of human nature, said, “Appetite for food and sex is nature.” But these two activities are quite different. We are, I believe, much closer to our animal base in our sexual endeavors than we are in our eating habits. Too, the range of variations is infinitely wider in food than in sex. In fact, the importance of food in understanding human culture lies precisely in its infinite variability -variability that is not essential for species survival. For survival needs, all men everywhere could eat the same food, to be measured only in calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. But no, people of different backgrounds eat very differently.

The basic stuffs from which food is prepared; the ways in which it is preserved, cut up, cooked (if at all); the amount and variety at each meal; the tastes that are liked and disliked; the customs of serving food; the utensils; the beliefs about the food’s properties -these all vary. The number of such “food variables” is great.

An anthropological approach to the study of food would be to isolate and identify the food variables, arrange these variables systematically, and explain why some of these variables go together or do not go together.

For convenience, we may use culture as a divider in relating food variables’ hierarchically. I am using the word culturehere in a classificatory sense implying the pattern or style of behavior of a group of people who share it. Food habits may be used as an important, or even determining, criterion in this connection. People who have the same culture share the same food habits, that is, they share the same assemblage of food variables. Peoples of different cultures share different assemblages of food variables. We might say that different cultures have different food choices. (The word choices is used here not necessarily in an active sense, granting the possibility that some choices could be imposed rather than selected.) Why these choices? What determines them? These are among the first questions in any study of food habits.

Within the same culture, the food habits are not at all necessarily homogeneous. In fact, as a rule they are not. Within the same general food style, there are different manifestations of food variables of a smaller range, for different social situations. People of different social classes or occupations eat differently. People on festive occasions, in mourning, or on a daily routine eat again differently. Different religious sects have different eating codes. Men and women, in various stages of their lives, eat differently. Different individuals have different tastes. Some of these differences are ones of preference, but others may be downright prescribed. Identifying these differences, explaining them, and relating them to other facets of social life are again among the tasks of a serious scholar of food.

Finally, systematically articulated food variables can be laid out in a time perspective, as in historical periods of varying lengths. We see how food habits change and seek to explore the reasons and consequences. . .

My own generalizations pertain above all to the question: What characterizes Chinese food? . . . I see the following common themes:

The food style of a culture is certainly first of all determined by the natural resources that are available for its use. . . . It is thus not surprising that Chinese food is above all characterized by an assemblage of plants and animals that grew prosperously in the Chinese land for a long time. A detailed list would be out of place here, and quantitative data are not available. The following enumeration is highly impressionistic:

Starch Staples: millet, rice, kao-liang, wheat, maize, buckwheat, yam, sweet potato.

Legumes: soybean, broad bean, pea- nut, mung bean.

Vegetables: malva, amaranth, Chi- nese cabbage, mustard green, turnip, radish, mushroom.

Fruits: peach, apricot, plum, apple, jujube date, pear, crab apple, mountain haw, longan, litchi, orange.

Meats: pork, dog, beef, mutton, venison, chicken, duck, goose, pheasant, many fishes.

Spices: red pepper, ginger, garlic, spring onion, cinnamon.

Chinese cooking is, in this sense, the manipulation of these foodstuffs as basic ingredients. Since ingredients are not the same everywhere, Chinese food begins to assume a local character simply by virtue of the ingredients it uses. Obviously ingredients are not sufficient for characterization, but they are a good beginning. Compare, for example, the above list with one in which dairy products occupy a prominent place, and one immediately comes upon a significant contrast between the two food traditions.

One important point about the distinctive assemblage of ingredients is its change through history. Concerning food, the Chinese are not nationalistic to the point of resisting imports. In fact, foreign foodstuffs have been readily adopted since the dawn of history. Wheat and sheep and goats were possibly introduced from western Asia in prehistoric times, many fruits and vegetables came in from central Asia during the Han and the T’ang periods, and peanuts and sweet potatoes from coastal traders during the Ming period. These all became integral ingredients of Chinese food. At the same time,. . . milk and dairy products, to this date, have not taken a prominent place in Chinese cuisine. . . .

In the Chinese culture, the whole process of preparing food from raw ingredients to morsels ready for the mouth involves a complex of interrelated variables that is highly distinctive when compared with other food traditions of major magnitude. At the base of this complex is the division between fan, grains and other starch foods, andts’ai, vegetable and meat dishes. To prepare a balanced meal, it must have an appropriate amount of both fan and ts’ai, and ingredients are readied along both tracks. Grains are cooked whole or as flour, making up the fan half of the meal in various forms: fan (in the narrow sense, “cooked rice”), steamed wheat-, millet-, or corn-flour bread, ping (“pancakes”), and noodles. Vegetables and meats are cut up and mixed in various ways into individual dishes to constitute the ts’ai half. Even in meals in which the staple starch portion and the meat-and-vegetable portion are apparently joined together, such as in . . . “wonton” . . . they are in fact put together but not mixed up, and each still retains its due proportion and own distinction. . . .

For the preparation of ts’ai, the use of multiple ingredients and the mixing of flavors are the rules, which above all means that ingredients are usually cut up and not done whole, and that they are variously combined into individual dishes of vastly differing flavors. Pork for example, may be diced, slice shredded, or ground, and when combined with other meats and with various vegetable ingredients and spice produces dishes of utterly diverge, shapes, flavors, colors, tastes, and aromas.

The parallelism of fan and ts’ai an the above-described principles of ts’ai’ preparation account for a number ( other features of the Chinese food culture, especially in the area of utensil To begin with, there are fan utensils and ts’ai utensils, both for cooking an for serving. In the modem kitchen, fan kuo (“rice cooker”) and Ts’ai kuo(“wok”) are very different and as a rule not interchangeable utensils. . . . To prepare the kind of ts’ai that we have characterized, the chopping knife or cleaver and the chopping anvil are standard equipment in every Chines kitchen, ancient and modem. To sweep the cooked grains into the mouth, and to serve the cut-up morsel of the meat-and-vegetable dishes chopsticks have proved more service able than hands or other instrument (such as spoons and forks, the former being used in China alongside the chopsticks).

This complex of interrelated features of Chinese food may be described, for the purpose of shorthand reference, as the Chinese fan-ts’ai principle. Send a Chinese cook into an American kitchen, given Chinese or American ingredients, and he or she will (a) prepare an adequate amount of fan, (b) cut up the ingredients and mix them up in various combinations, and (c) cook the ingredients into several dishes and, perhaps, a soup. Given the right ingredients, the “Chineseness” of the meal would increase, but even with entirely native American ingredients and cooked in American utensils, it is still a Chinese meal.

The above example shows that the Chinese way of eating is characterized by a notable flexibility and adaptability. Since a ts’ai dish is made of a mixture of ingredients, its distinctive appearance, taste, and flavor do not depend on the exact number of ingredients, nor, in most cases, on any single item. The same is true for a meal, made up of a combination of dishes. In times of affluence, a few more expensive items may be added, but if the times are hard they may be omitted without doing irreparable damage. If the season is not quite right, substitutes may be used. With the basic principles, a Chinese cook can prepare “Chinese” dishes for the poor as well as the rich, in times of scarcity as well as abundance, and even in a foreign country without many familiar ingredients. The Chinese way of cooking must have helped the Chinese people through some hard times throughout their history. And, of course, one may also say that the Chinese cook the way they do because of their need and desire for adaptability.

This adaptability is shown in at least two other features. The first is the amazing knowledge the Chinese have acquired about their wild plant resources. . . . The Chinese peasants apparently know every edible plant in their environment, and plants there are many. Most do not ordinarily belong on the dinner table, but they may be easily adapted for consumption in time of famine. . . . Here again is this flexibility: A smaller number of familiar foodstuffs are used ordinarily, but, if needed, a greater variety of wild plants would be made use of. The knowledge of these “famine plants” was carefully handed down as a living culture -apparently this knowledge was not placed in dead storage too long or too often.

Another feature of Chinese food habits that contributed to their notable adaptability is the large number and great variety of preserved foods. . . . Food is preserved by smoking, salting, sugaring, steeping, pickling, drying, soaking in many kinds of soy sauces, and so forth, and the whole range of foodstuffs is involved-grains, meat, fruit, eggs, vegetables, and everything else. Again, with preserved food, the Chinese people were ever ready in the event of hardship or scarcity.

The Chinese way of eating is further characterized by the ideas and beliefs about food, which actively affect the ways . . . in which food is prepared and taken. The overriding idea about food in China -in all likelihood an idea with solid, but as yet unrevealed, scientific backing-is that the kind and the amount of food one takes is intimately relevant to one’s health. Food not only affects health as a matter of general principle, the selection of the right food at any particular time must also be dependent upon one’s health condition at that time. Food, therefore, is also medicine.

The regulation of diet as a disease preventive or cure is certainly as Western as it is Chinese. Common Western examples are the diet for arthritics and the recent organic food craze. But the Chinese case is distinctive for its underlying principles. The bodily functions, in the Chinese view, follow the basic yin-yang principles. Many foods are also classifiable into those that possess the yin quality and those of the yang quality. When yin and yangforces in the body are not balanced, problems result. Proper amounts of food of one kind or the other may then be administered (i.e., eaten) to counterbalance the yin and yang disequilibrium. If the body is normal, overeating of one kind of food would result in an excess of that force in the body, causing diseases. . . .

At least two other concepts belong to the native Chinese food tradition. One is that, in consuming a meal, appropriate amounts of both fan and ts’ai should be taken. In fact, of the two, fan is the more fundamental and indispensable. . . . The other concept is frugality. Overindulgence in food and drink is a sin of such proportions that dynasties could fall on its account. . . . Although both the fants’ai and the frugality considerations are health based, at least in part they are related to China’s traditional poverty in food resources.

Finally, perhaps the most important aspect of the Chinese food culture is the importance of food itself in Chinese culture. That Chinese cuisine is the greatest in the world is highly debatable and is essentially irrelevant. But few can take exception to the statement that few other cultures are as food oriented as the Chinese. And this orientation appears to be as ancient as Chinese culture itself. According to Lun yu (Confucian Analects, chap. “Wei Ling Kung”), when the duke Ling of Wei asked Confucius (551-479 B.C.) about military tactics, Confucius replied, “I have indeed heard about matters pertaining to tsu (meat stand) and tou (meat platter), but I have not learned military matters.” Indeed, perhaps one of the most important qualifications of a Chinese gentleman was his knowledge and skill pertaining to food and drink. . . .

The importance of the kitchen in the king’s palace is amply shown in the personnel roster recorded in Chou li.Out of the almost four thousand persons who had the responsibility of running the king’s residential quarters, 2,271, or almost 60 percent, of them handled food and wine.

What these specialists tended to were not just the king’s palate pleasures: eating was also very serious business. In I li, the book that describes various ceremonies, food cannot be separated from ritual. . . . [In] Chou texts [12th century B.C.-221 B.C.] references were made of the use of the ting cauldron, a cooking vessel, as the prime symbol of the state. I cannot feel more confident to say that the ancient Chinese were among the peoples of the world who have been particularly preoccupied with food and eating. Furthermore, as Jacques Gernet has stated, “there is no doubt that in this sphere China has shown a greater inventiveness than any other civilization.”

Source: Asian Recipe

Science Weighs in On How Fat Raises Cancer Risk

Scientists have known for years that obesity can rise cancer risk, but how? Now, new research offers clues to how fat cells encourage tumors.

The issue is an important one, the study author said.

“Obesity is increasing dramatically worldwide, and is now also recognized as one of the major risk factors for cancer, with 16 different types of cancer linked to obesity,” explained Cornelia Ulrich, of the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

To help prevent the disease, “we urgently need to identify the specific mechanisms that link obesity to cancer,” she said.

Prior studies have already outlined several ways fat could play a role in cancer. For example, obesity increases inflammation in the body, which has long been associated with the disease.

Obesity can also affect cancer cell metabolism and undermine the immune system’s natural defenses, which may help tumors to grow and spread.

Ulrich’s team noted that the link between fat and cancer also hinges on cellular “crosstalk” — changes in complex chemical signaling within cells. Finding ways to interrupt this “crosstalk” could lead to new ways to help prevent cancer, the researchers theorized.

In the new review, to be published Sept. 5 in Cancer Prevention Research, an international team of researchers looked at data from 20 existing studies. The studies were published over the past seven decades, and each focused on cellular crosstalk between fat cells and malignant tumors.

In several of these studies, certain fat cells — known as “adipose stromal cells” — were able to invade cancer lesions and then help spur the growth of tumors. The data also showed that obese people with prostate or breast cancer appeared to have more of these cells than thinner people.

Some types of fat cells are also more “metabolically active,” releasing more substances that promote tumor growth, the review found.

Also, fat may be white, brown or beige, Ulrich’s team noted. And these different types of fat each behave differently, depending on quantity and location in the body. For example, the review found that white fat tissue is linked with inflammation and worse outcomes for women with breast cancer.

The location of fat in the body also influences how it affects certain types of cancer, the review found. Fat tissue is usually adjacent to colon and rectal cancers, the research team noted, and it is part of the direct environment of breast tumors.

According to the team, future studies might help doctors figure out if it’s possible to disrupt the processes that promote the growth of tumors by affecting nearby fat.

“We are just beginning to unravel the ways crosstalk occurs and the substances involved,” Ulrich said in a journal news release. “The more we understand this process, the better we can identify targets and strategies for decreasing the burden of obesity-related cancer.”

Two experts in obesity agreed that this type of research is important.

“Obesity is going to surpass cigarette smoking as the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“The take-home message here is that proper nutrition and maintaining a proper weight is essential for successful preventative health,” he said. “Obesity is not inert and impacts virtually every aspect of your body, and not in a positive manner.”

Dr. Raymond Lau is an endocrinologist at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He said that “there has long been an association between obesity and cancer risk. There is growing evidence that inflammation is the common link between these two disease states, and this review article helps to strengthen this relationship.”

Source : HealthDay


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