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Herbs & Plants

Water Arum(Calla palustris)

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Botanical Name : Calla palustris
Family : Araceae
Subfamily: Calloideae
Genus :               Calla
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Alismatales
Species: C. palustris

Habitat :  Forest swamps, moorland marshes, by ponds and streams.
.Pond; Bog Garden;

Description:
It is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant growing in bogs and ponds. The leaves are rounded to heart-shaped, 6–12 cm long on a 10–20 cm petiole, and 4–12 cm broad. The greenish-yellow inflorescence is produced on a spadix about 4–6 cm long, enclosed in a white spathe. The fruit is a cluster of red berries, each berry containing several seeds.

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It is hardy to zone 4. It is in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Flies.
The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires wet soil and can grow in water.

Cultivation details
Requires a wet lime-free humus rich soil by water or in shallow, still or slowly flowing water in full sun[200]. When grown on the pond margins it creeps in and out of the water[1]. Succeeds in water up to 25cm deep[188].

Propagation
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in late summer in a cold frame in pots standing in about 3cm of water[200]. Sow stored seed as early as possible in the year in a greenhouse. The germination rate of stored seed is often poor. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in trays of water in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring[200]. Very easy, it is possible to divide this plant at almost any time in the growing season. Any part of the stem, if placed in water or a pot of very wet soil, will quickly root away to form a new plant. Stem cuttings in summer, rooted in wet mud.


Edible Uses
Edible Parts: Fruit; Root; Seed.

Rhizome – cooked. It is usually prepared by drying the root, grinding it into a powder and then thoroughly cooking it to ensure that any acrimonious principle is completely destroyed. The resulting powder is rich in starch and can be used as a flour for making bread etc, especially in conjunction with cereal flours[1, 2, 55, 100, 183]. It is said to be very tasty[65]. Fruit (does this include the seed?) – it should be dried and then thoroughly cooked[172]. The dried fruit and rootstalk can be ground into an unpalatable but nutritious powder[172]. The seed is dried, cooked and ground into a powder.

Medicinal Actions &  Uses
Antirheumatic; Poultice.

Antirheumatic. Used in the treatment of colds and flu. A tea made from the dried root has been used in the treatment of flu, shortness of breath, bleeding and as a poultice on swellings and snakebites. The aerial stems have been used in the treatment of sore legs.
Known Hazards:The plant is very poisonous when fresh due to its high oxalic acid content, but the rhizome, like that of Caladium, Colocasia and Arum, is edible after drying, grinding, leaching and boiling.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:

http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Calla+palustris
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calla
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Calla_palustris

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News on Health & Science

Boil and Bubble, Rice is the Trouble

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Refined carbohydrates in white rice and white bread are more harmful than a fatty diet. Hari Pulakkat reports

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Cheese burgers are bad for health, nutritionists have always said. Cheese and red meat, according to conventional medical wisdom, are not the healthiest of foods. Current research supports this statement but with a twist. It now turns out that it’s not just the cheese or meat that is the cause of worry but also the bread.

Saturated fat has been implicated in cardiovascular disease for a long time now, and with good reason. Too much fat in the diet increases triglycerides and LDL (low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol), and both raise your chances of falling prey to a heart attack. A fatty diet also reduces HDL (high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol) levels, and low HDL is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But then if you cut saturated fat in your diet and substitute it with refined carbohydrates, you are actually worse off.

Many recent studies have shown that refined carbohydrates are some of the worst things you can eat. They can lead to type 2 diabetes if eaten consistently in large quantities. This applies not only to sugar but also staple items such as white rice and white bread. In fact, a recent study at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) showed that by just substituting white rice with brown rice, you can cut the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 16 per cent. According to Qi Sun of the department of nutrition at the HSPH, “White rice is eaten in large quantities in many parts of Asia. It is not good for health.”

In white rice, the germ and bran of the grain are removed. What remains is the endosperm, the least nutritive part of rice. The bran and germ contain dietary fibre and magnesium, both important in controlling diabetes. They also contain vitamins and other important minerals. Lack of nutrition, however, is not the only reason why white rice is unhealthy.

“White rice has a high glycemic index and glycemic load,” says Sun. “High glycemic index foods are known to increase the risk for diabetes.” Glycemic index is a measure of how quickly the food raises glucose levels. White rice has a glycemic index of around 65 while it’s 55 in the case of brown rice.

It is well known that high glycemic index foods are bad, and the Harvard study showed just how bad. Eating just 150 grams of white rice per week increased your chances of getting type 2 diabetes by 17 per cent, while eating just two servings of brown rice a month lowered the same by 11 per cent. Introducing a variety of whole grains in the diet lowered the risk of diabetes by as much as 36 per cent.

The link between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease is more complex, but it is becoming clear that fat is not as bad as scientists once thought. Research findings in this regard, however, are somewhat contradictory. Several studies have shown no increase in risk for cardiovascular disease with moderate fat consumption, while some others show an increased risk. A recent meta-analysis by the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California found no link at all between fat consumption and heart disease.

A meta-analysis is an analysis of all large amounts of research in the field. The Oakland meta-analysis looked at the dietary habits of 3,50,000 people between five and 23 years, for which data was already published.

It found no evidence of increased cardiovascular risk with fat consumption, but it of course does not mean there was no risk. As the authors argued in a paper published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, what is eaten with the fat was very important in how the diet influenced health.

The argument against fat was based on the fact that it raised total cholesterol levels. Total cholesterol level is not a useful indicator of cardiovascular health. Fat increases LDL and HDL levels at the same time, and one cancels the negative effect of the other. “More data are needed to elucidate whether cardiovascular disease risks are likely to be influenced by specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat,” the authors wrote in the paper. The authors also saw a publication bias against results that showed no link between fat and heart disease – that is, papers that showed fat was bad were more likely to get published in journals.

A few studies used in the analysis strongly reject a fat-heart disease link. One study two years ago, again from the HSPH and conducted on 322 individuals, was particularly striking. It looked at the lipid profiles of people on three different kinds of diet: a low-fat, low-calorie diet; an unrestricted diet; and a low-calorie but otherwise unrestricted diet. Those who were on the third regime had the healthiest lipid profile in their blood, although they ate the maximum fat. Of course, they ate the least amount of carbohydrates.

So, rice lovers, make that change. Be it a Sunday lunch or a family feast, keep that familiar mound of white off your plate.

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carbohydrates in rice

Source : The Telegraph ( Kolkata, India)

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Health Alert

Sweet Danger

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“I cannot have diabetes,” exclaimed the middle-aged gentleman. “The laboratory results are wrong. My parents did not have diabetes, I am a vegetarian, and I do not even eat sweets.”

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Well, this man is living in a soap bubble that is about to burst. None of the reasons cited protects from the onset of diabetes. As far as family history is concerned, awareness and routine laboratory tests for metabolic diseases are a relatively new phenomenon. His parents may have had diabetes and may have died quietly of an undiagnosed complication like a heart attack.

India has 30 million known diabetics, the largest number in the world. The figure is mounting daily and is slated to escalate by 200 per cent. Most of the affected will be in the economically productive age group of 30-60. We have to find out ways to combat this epidemic, halt it and prevent our children from falling prey to it.
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Studies have shown that the possibility of developing diabetes depends on one’s genes, which are inherited from both parents, and the nurturing environment provided first in the womb and later by the mother.

To begin with, women should have the correct BMI (body mass index — weight divided by height in metre squared) of 23 before they become pregnant. Some women are undernourished and eat poorly. Their calorie intake is only 70 per cent of the required amount (2,000-2,200 calories for an active adult female). The protein content may be less than the recommended 075-1gm/kg. Both these situations result in poor foetal growth and an SFD (small for dates) baby.

Compensatory mechanisms come into play in SFD babies and they develop relative insulin resistance so as to maintain normal blood glucose concentrations. Vital organs like the brain and heart receive sufficient nutrition, but it is diverted away from the muscles.

These small babies exhibit a phenomenon called “catch up growth”. If fed adequately after birth, they attain normal weight for age and height within three years. In the process, they can develop impaired glucose tolerance as early as seven years of age.

Today’s teens have a different story. They are becoming obese on a diet of fast food and “time pass” television. Many girls are overweight when they get married. Pregnancy and well meaning advice to “rest and eat for two” do not help matters. Those who are obese (BMI more than 29) or diabetic during pregnancy can produce large babies (LFD or large for dates). These babies are exposed to excess nutrition in the womb. They secrete excess insulin, can develop insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. The problem is compounded if they are growing up in a family with faulty eating habits and little or no regular exercise.

Since we now know that the majority of us carries a gene which predisposes us to develop diabetes, it makes sense to thwart the march to disease.

Check your blood sugars once a year after the age of 25, even if you are asymptomatic, to be sure you don’t fall in the “prediabetic” category. Those who are prediabetic have a fasting blood sugar between 100 and 126mg/dl and a two-hour post prandial or oral glucose tolerance test value between 140 and 200mg/dl. Abnormal values may occur 15 years before the onset of overt diabetes. Without active intervention eventually 35 per cent go on to develop the disease. With effort and a change in lifestyle, 45 per cent can revert to normal.

Medical complications — which cause heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular diseases, and eye and kidney problems – begin to set in during the prediabetic stage. Early identification and treatment can reduce the damage.

The BMI should be maintained at 23. This can be done by keeping the caloric intake between 1,500-2,000 calories a day. The diet should be low in fat, and contain four to six helpings of fruit and vegetables. But dieting alone will not help, as weight loss through starvation cannot be sustained. Food restriction should be combined with physical activity for 60 minutes every day. A brisk walk (five kilometres), or one hour of swimming or cycling will do the trick.

Blood pressure should be maintained at 130/80 or less. Salt restriction and weight loss alone may be sufficient to achieve this. If not, medication may be needed.

Lipid levels also need to be monitored in prediabetes as dyslpidaemia and altered glucose tolerance go hand in hand. Elevated lipid levels predispose to a stroke and heart attack. LDL should be below 100 mg/dl, HDL above 40mg/dl (above 50 mg/dl for women), and triglycerides below 150mg/dl. Reducing the total oil intake to 500 ml a month, checking labels for hidden fats in processed foods, and eating more soluble fibre (beans and oats) will help. If levels remain high the statin group of medications can be started.

If parents adopt a healthy lifestyle, children will soon follow suit. Perhaps this way we can reduce the impact of this devastating disease in the next generation.

Source
:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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News on Health & Science

Saturated Fat is NOT the Cause of Heart Disease

The saturated fat found mainly in meat and dairy products has been regularly vilified by physicians and the media, but a new analysis of published studies finds no clear link between people’s intake of saturated fat and their risk of developing heart disease.

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In the new analysis, which combined the results of 21 previous studies, researchers found no clear evidence that higher saturated fat intakes led to higher risks of heart disease or stroke.

A number of studies have linked the so-called Western diet to greater heart disease risks; that diet pattern is defined as one high in red meats and saturated fats — but it is also high in sweets and other refined carbohydrates like white bread.

Resources:
Reuters February 4, 2010
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition January 13, 2010 [Epub ahead of print]
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 91: 502-509; January 20, 2010

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Healthy Tips

The Fibre-Cholesterol Connection

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High level of cholesterol is related to the intake of processed foods, sedentary lifestyle, nutrient deficiencies and stress. Many people think that cholesterol in the diet is directly responsible for cholesterol in the blood.

So, all they have to do is to cut out high-cholesterol foods and their blood cholesterol will become normal. This is a misconception. Merely cutting down on dietary cholesterol will have an insignificant effect on blood cholesterol.

Relying on a low cholesterol diet to lower blood cholesterol probably won’t work for most people. When the body is fed with high cholesterol foods like eggs, red meat, high fat dairy products, the excess cholesterol is metabolised and excreted leaving blood levels unchanged. Further more, the liver compensates for the excess intake of cholesterol by reducing its own production so that the blood levels of cholesterol do not rise. All this happens if the person is leading a healthy lifestyle, consuming a lot of antioxidants in the form of fruits and vegetables; eating whole food in the form of whole grain cereals, whole grain pulses and avoiding processed and refined foods in addition to exercising. All these factors insulate him from mishandling dietary cholesterol.

On the other hand, if he is living a life of stress and eating the regular fat-food fare as well as a diet rich in cholesterol, namely eggs, red meat and saturated fat in animal foods, then his body metabolises dietary cholesterol differently. The liver then, does not act as a safeguard, instead it allows the excess dietary cholesterol to enter the blood stream and subsequently stores it in the blood vessels and coronary arteries. Such people get affected by cholesterol rich foods and benefit from reducing their dietary cholesterol intake. This only justifies the phrase `one man’s food is another man’s poison’.

Whatever be the reason of raising blood cholesterol, the answer is quite simple. When you increase your intake of soluble fibre, it helps bring down the blood cholesterol dramatically. A point to note here is that fibre occurs exclusively in plant food. Animal foods like chicken, fish, meat, beef, cheese, eggs, milk, have little or no fibre to boast of. Fresh, raw unpeeled fruits and vegetables are high in fibre. Cooking vegetables especially the way we do it in Indian cooking (soggy and overcooked) destroys much fibre.

Juices have little or no fibre. similarly, unrefined grains products like dalia (broken wheat), whole wheat flour, wheat puffs, brown rice, jowar and bajra flour, whole dals like channa, rajma, chowli, beans, etc. are high in fibre.

Breads and biscuits high in fibre will list `whole wheat flour’ and not just `wheat flour’, as their chief ingredient on the label. Wheat bran is one of the highest fibre foods known because its fibre content is about 50 per cent. There is no doubt that a diet rich in soluble fibre can lower blood cholesterol, blood pressure and prevent strokes as well as heart attacks.

So how much fibre should you eat? It has been seen that in most Asian countries incidence of heart disease and diabetes is low. People in these countries consume anywhere between 40-60 gms of fibre per day. An intake of 35-40 gms of fibre is recommended to prevent heart disease. To increase the fibre content of your diet and thereby reduce cholesterol levels, all you have to do is follow the table.

MUST HAVE :-

– Unpeeled fruits and vegetables
– Whole wheat bread (please note whole wheat bread is not the same as brown bread)
– Fresh fruits
– Brown rice or wild rice
– Whole grain dals like channa, rajma, black dal chowli, green mung
– Whole wheat flour
– Popped corn and puffed wheat
– Snack on high fibre biscuits like those made from millets or bran or soya bean or whole wheat flour
– Skimmed milk
– Red wine

BEWARE OF :-

– Peeled fruits and vegetables
– White bread
– Fruit juices
– Polished white rice
– Animal protein
– White flour ( maida )
– Potato chips and fried sev
– Maida biscuits, where the label reads as ‘wheat flour’ as their main ingredient
– Whole milk
– Any other form of alcohol

Source: The Times Of India

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