In Pictures: Home-made Sweets

Taro Pudding


550 g taro
350 ml thick coconut milk
100 ml Pandan water
100 ml water
90 g sugar
85 g rice flour
85 g tapioca flour
a pinch of salt
200 g grated white coconut
2-3 Pandan leaves
a drop of purple food colouring


  1. Steam grated coconut on pandan leaves with salt for 7-10 minutes. Leave it to cool.
  2. Cut taro and steam for 15 to 20 minutes until soft.
  3. Mash the taro until fine and mix well with all the ingredients (except grated coconut).
  4. Pour into a mould and steam for 25 to 30 minutes. Leave to cool.
  5. Remove taro puddings from the moulds and coat each one in grated coconut before serving.

Source: Delicious Nyonya Kueh and Dessert

Not All Sugars Are Created Equal

When it comes to sugars in food, you’re far better off having a bowl of blueberries than a granola bar, a nutritionist says.

Added sugars just aren’t the same as natural sugars, noted Kara Shifler Bowers, a registered dietitian at Penn State PRO Wellness, a health center in Hershey, Pa.

“Natural sugars in fruit are different because fruits carry fiber as well as many antioxidants and vitamins such as A and C,” she explained in a Penn State Health news release.

Cutting back on added sugars can prevent a number of health problems.

Women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar each day. That’s equal to just two-thirds of a can of soda or 1.5 dessert-like yogurts. For men, the limit is 9 teaspoons, or 36 grams.

“The only danger in cutting out added sugars completely is that eventually, one may binge,” Shifler Bowers said.

Instead of suddenly eliminating added sugars, it might be a good idea to cut back gradually. Try limiting sugary sweets to special occasions.

“You crave what you eat,” Shifler Bowers said. “Your body can forget about foods, so to speak, so the longer you abstain from them, the easier it will be. You can still enjoy them at times, but you won’t need to eat the same amount.”

Watch what you eat because even seemingly healthy choices such as yogurt, fiber bars, protein bars and store-bought spaghetti sauce can have high levels of added sugars.

“In granola bars, the sugars help ingredients stick together,” Shifler Bowers said. “In spaghetti sauce, sugars are used to cut the acidity. Try snacking on fruit and nuts instead.”

Parents should wait as long as possible to introduce children to sugar, even sugar in juices.

“Their taste buds are still developing, so if they get used to sweet foods, that is what they are going to want to eat as they get older,” Shifler Bowers said.

Children aged 1 to 3 should have no more than 4 ounces of fruit juice a day.

“It’s really easy to consume a lot of sugar when drinking sweet beverages. Instead of juice, try offering children fruit such as melons or berries instead, so they get plenty of fiber,” Shifler Bowers said.

Source: HealthDay

Whole Grain Can Contribute to Health by Changing Intestinal Serotonin Production

Adults consuming whole grain rye have lower plasma serotonin levels than people eating low-fibre wheat bread, according to a recent study by the University of Eastern Finland and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In the study, the consumption of cereal fibre from rye or wheat was also found to reduce serotonin levels in the colon of mice. In light of the results, the health benefits of whole grain cereals may be linked, at least in part, to the alteration of serotonin production in the intestines, where the majority of the body’s serotonin is produced. The results of were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The consumption of whole grain cereals has been associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers, but the underlying mechanisms are still poorly understood. There may be effects on bioactive compounds contained in whole grains, phytochemicals and fibres from which different metabolites are produced by intestinal bacteria.

The new study explored how the consumption of wholegrain rye modulates concentrations of different metabolites in the bloodstream. The study employed untargeted metabolite profiling, also known as metabolomics, which can simultaneously detect numerous metabolites, including those previously unknown.

For the first four weeks of the study, the participants ate 6 to 10 slices a day of low-fibre wheat bread, and then another four weeks the same amount of wholegrain rye bread or wheat bread supplemented with rye fibre. Otherwise, they didn’t change their diet. At the end of both periods, they gave blood samples, which were analysed by a combination of liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Their plasma metabolite profiles between the different diet periods were then compared .

The consumption of wholegrain rye led to, among other things, significantly lower serotonin concentrations when compared to consumption of low-fibre wheat bread. The researchers also tested in mice whether the addition of cereal fibre to the diet changes serotonin production in the intestine. The diet of the mice was supplemented for nine weeks with rye bran, wheat bran or cellulose flour. The mice receiving rye or wheat bran had significantly lower serotonin in their colon.

Serotonin is best known as a neurotransmitter in the brain. However, serotonin produced by the intestines remains separated from the brain, serving various peripheral functions including modulation of gut’s motility. Increased blood serotonin has also been associated with high blood glucose levels.

“Whole grain, on the other hand, is known to reduce the risk of diabetes, and on the basis of these new results, the effect could at least partly be due to a decrease in serotonin levels,” says Academy Research Fellow Kati Hanhineva from the University of Eastern Finland.

The researchers are also interested in the association of serotonin with colorectal cancer.

“Some recent studies have found cancer patients to have higher plasma serotonin levels than healthy controls,” Scientist Pekka Keski-Rahkonen from IARC adds.

The consumption of wholegrain rye bread was also associated with lower plasma concentrations of taurine, glycerophosphocholine and two endogenous glycerophospholipids. In addition, the researchers identified 15 rye phytochemicals whose levels in the bloodstream increased with the consumption of rye fibre.

Source: Science Daily

Plaque in Arteries May Not All be the Same

A specific type of immune cell is more commonly found in arterial plaque from patients suffering from a recent stroke or mini-stroke, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Vascular Discovery Scientific Sessions 2019, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in new and emerging scientific research in arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, vascular biology, peripheral vascular disease, vascular surgery and functional genomics.

The finding raises the possibility that targeted immune therapy might someday reduce the onset of heart attack and stroke in high-risk patients.

“Despite decades of research, we don’t know how to predict and prevent plaque from rupturing in the arteries,” said Chiara Giannarelli, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and Assistant Professor in Medicine (Cardiology), and Genetics and Genome Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “Most of the research has involved looking at human tissue under the microscope. This has helped us better understand many features of ruptured plaque, but little is known about how and which individual cells types contribute the most to ruptures causing stroke or heart attack.”

In two separate groups of patients, the researchers analyzed plaque from a total of 38 patients (average age 72 years, 40% female) who underwent a procedure to remove the plaque that narrows the carotid arteries decreasing blood supply to the brain. Some patients had no symptoms, while others had experienced a stroke or mini-stroke within the previous six months.

The researchers first used a technique called mass-cytometry to find the basic cellular make-up of plaque tissue from 15 patients.

“We found an unexpected dominance of T-cells in this plaque,” said Dawn Fernandez, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Postdoctoral Fellow in Cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York. “These findings in the plaque were different and unrelated to T-cell levels found in the patients’ blood samples.”

The researchers expanded on these findings in a second mass-cytometry analysis to study the remaining 23 patients. They also used cutting-edge technologies to analyze gene expression in all the individual immune cells in the plaque to study their function.

They found:

  • T-cells dominate advanced plaques; and
  • A subtype of T-cells, called CD4-positive effector memory cells, were more common in patients who previously had a stroke or mini-stroke.

“This analysis highlights that there is localized inflammation driven by T-cells in atherosclerotic plaque which is not related to any systemic immune response,” said Giannarelli.

She said the findings are particularly intriguing in light of previous heart disease research targeting the immune system. In results that the American Heart Association considered one of the top advances of 2017, the multi-center CANTOS trial found that heart attacks and strokes could be reduced by giving a drug (canakinumab) that decreases inflammation by targeting the immune cell interleukin-1 beta. Interleukin-1 beta is part of the innate immune system which provides the body’s first line of defense against bacteria or other foreign substances.

“This milestone study finally proved the inflammatory theory of heart disease,” Giannarelli said. “Our study found that plaque from stroke patients is full of T-cells that are part of the adaptive immune system, a specialized second-line of defense in the body. This may help us eventually identify targets for new immune therapies for the late stages of atherosclerosis.”

She said the study’s small sample size does limit its power to detect additional differences in immune cell types in subsets of patients, such as smokers or those with high blood pressure.

Source: American Heart Association

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