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Clean up your act and consume more whole foods

February 22, 2018

The concept of clean eating is beyond simply watching your calorific intake but about making a special effort to identify the origins of the food you consume. In its purest sense this means to reduce your reliance on processed or semi-processed foods and to include more whole foods in your daily diet. A whole or ‘real’ food is one that has not undergone any chemical change and is without additives – it is much the same as when originally harvested. The practice of clean eating results in better nutrition and a diet higher in fibre and rich in natural antioxidants.

Clean foods are non-inflammatory

Processed foods usually contain liberal amounts of sugar among many other additives; they are high in refined starches, saturated fats and may contain trans-fatty acids. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition the additives found in processed foods can trigger pro-inflammatory or dysregulated cytokines. Anti-inflammatory cytokines are proteins that signal a healthy immune response. Pro-inflammatory cytokines however, have the opposite effect on our health and are found in processed foods. One of the many benefits of a low- inflammatory diet is a significant reduction in the risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). Giguliano et al (2006), assert that each dietary improvement that lowers the ‘pro-inflammatory milieu’ or response – will in turn lower the possibility of developing insulin resistance that leads to Type 2 Diabetes and CHD.  Unfortunately, processed foods are what our taste buds in Singapore have become particularly well acquainted with. The challenge is to tune our taste more towards natural foods and less to packaged products.

Clean Foods, do not have labels

Examples of everyday clean (or whole) foods are vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and brown or coloured rice. There are however some clean foods that stand out among the whole foods and are rarely (if ever) found on supermarket shelves in Singapore. These foods have been used by locals in far off regions where they are cultivated and have formed part of a naturally clean diet, for possibly thousands of years. These unique ‘superfoods’ have become local folklore for their extremely high nutritional content and their intrinsic value in sustaining health and recovery from illness.

The Moringa Oleifera – Miracle Tree and a potent Clean Food

Moringa treePhoto taken from https://www.namibian.com.na/152241/archive-read/Moringa-Oleifera—–the-tree-of-life

The outstanding health giving benefits of the Moringa Oleifera tree have long been hidden from contemporary science and Western medicine. However, in recent years interest in the Moringa tree has increased significantly, as its wide ranging nutritional benefits and curative powers, become increasingly apparent.  The health giving benefits include strong anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. These being one of many reasons why the Moringa is often referred to as the ‘Miracle Tree’.

Nutritious and with exceptional medicinal and anti-inflammatory properties

A growing interest from the scientific community has been due to widespread anecdotal evidence and time worn testimonials from inhabitants living in remote Himalayan regions where the Moringa trees have flourished for centuries.  The Moringa has long been credited with its potent nutritional content and in providing seemingly miraculous cures for many serious illnesses and debilitating ailments. With the obesity epidemic and onset of numerous other chronic diseases in the West, the Moringa has in recent years prompted more scientific research and closer scrutiny. For example, Obesity, can be a precursor to other chronic diseases that result from inflammatory disorders and the high calorific Western diet.  Paradoxically, the Moringa tree is used in developing countries to treat a wide variety of diseases and serious infections, including malnutrition. Its high nutritional value and multi-vitamins (i.e 7 x Vitamin C than that of Oranges) aids in speedy recovery from dietary deficiencies.

The Multi-Purpose Tree

There are 13 species of Moringa with the most common being Moringa Oleifera also known as the Drumstick Tree due to the shape of its seed pods. The Moringa tree flourishes in dry semi-arid regions and is native to the Himalayas in Northern India. It is cultivated extensively in parts of South East Asia and in the drought prone regions of Africa, where the tree survives well with minimal rainfall and without irrigation.  Every part of the tree, from its seeds, leaves, trunk and bark has been found to be a rich source of nutrients with countless health giving constituents. Even the crushed seeds of the Moringa Oleifera tree can be used as a coagulant or anti-microbial agent to purify water. For these reasons the Moringa is also aptly described as the ‘Multi-Purpose Tree’.

Just what the doctor ordered..

Medicinally, the Moringa has been found to have exceptional curative qualities. For example a powerful antibiotic known as Pterygospermin can guard off against Staphylococcus aureus a bacterium that manifests in skin infections. This antibiotic can also restore compromised immune systems and is found to be comparable in strength to some Western antibiotics. The Moringa is particularly effective against the Helicobacter or H.pylori strain of bacteria. This strain of bacteria can flare up in the stomach and cause duodenal ulcers. The benzyl isothiocyanate contained in the Moringa not only provides protection from the bacteria but in an infected person, triggers the healing response.

What other foods have similar benefits to the leaves and pods of the Moringa Tree?

For those of us who live in Singapore Moringa is not readily available in local stores. However, we are still able to ensure a high level of nutrition without the Moringa by consuming a wide and varied diet that includes adequate servings of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus quality meat. For example a food source with a similar abundance of Vitamin B6 found in the Moringa – is grass fed beef from Australia (U.S beef is largely grain fed), Pistachio nuts and Tuna fish (canned or fresh). The Avocado is also high in B6.  Sunflower and Sesame seeds contain high levels of Vita B6 (for a healthy nervous system and adrenal functions).

Many fruits have higher levels of Vitamin C than the leaves of the Moringa. Although pods from the Moringa are exceptionally high in Vitamin C (157% of RDA). Among, foods high in Vitamin C, are the Guava, Red & Green Peppers, Strawberries and other fruits. The Moringa is also a rich source of disease fighting antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables contain significant levels of antioxidants. Dark Chocolate, Elder Berries, Cranberries, Blackberries and Kidney Beans are among foods with the highest levels of antioxidants.  The Moringa is a rich source of Quercetin used by our bodies in fighting chronic conditions such as, Diabetes, and skin infections, inflammation, asthma, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Other foods high in Quercetin are Apples, Pears, Red Wine and dark leafy green vegetables i.e Spinach and Kale.  Some of the foods similarly high in the Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) found in Moringa – are milk, cheese, eggs beef liver, lamb, yoghurt and mushrooms. Riboflavin is used by our body for nerve, heart and blood health.

References
Giugliano, Dario, Antonio Ceriello, and Katherine Esposito. 2006. “The Effects of Diet on Inflammation: Emphasis on the Metabolic Syndrome.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology 48 (4):677–85.
Minaiyan, Mohsen, Gholamreza Asghari, Diana Taheri, Mozhgan Saeidi, and Salar Nasr-Esfahani. 2014. “Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Moringa Oleifera Lam. Seeds on Acetic Acid-Induced Acute Colitis in Rats.” Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine 4 (2):127–36.
Schulze, Matthias B., Kurt Hoffmann, Joann E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, James B. Meigs, Cornelia Weikert, Christin Heidemann, Graham A. Colditz, and Frank B. Hu. 2005. “Dietary Pattern, Inflammation, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Women–.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82 (3). Oxford University Press:675–84.
Uppsala Universitet. 2013. “Better Water Purification with Seeds from Moringa Trees.” Science Daily, December 5, 2013. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131205092059.htm.
Varmani, S. G., and M. Garg. 2014. “Health Benefits of Moringa Oleifera: A Miracle Tree.” IJFANS 3 (3):111–17.
Zhang, Jun-Ming, and Jianxiong An. 2007. “Cytokines, Inflammation, and Pain.” International Anesthesiology Clinics 45 (2):27–37.