Forbidden Rice? How Watermelon Heals
- 2011 March-April
“Forbidden” Black Rice Rivals Blueberries in Antioxidants
Blueberries are well known for their high antioxidant levels and disease-fighting properties, but the king of berries has a fairly short season and can be expensive, so health-conscious consumers looking for an antioxidant-rich food might want to consider black rice. Just a spoonful of black rice bran (black rice is never hulled and comes with all its bran layers intact) contains more health-promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries, as well as its having less sugar, more fiber, and more vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant. “If berries are used to boost health, why not black rice and black rice bran?” asks a researcher at the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge. The scientists also showed that pigments in the bran of black rice can produce a variety of different colors, ranging from pink to black, and may provide a healthier alternative to the artificial food colorants that manufacturers add to foods and beverages to make them look more attractive. In ancient China, black rice was sometimes dubbed “forbidden rice” because nobles commandeered every grain for themselves and forbade the common people to eat it.
Watermelon Helps Lower Blood Pressure
The popular summer fruit has a lot going for it, no matter how you slice it. It’s sweet, nutrient-rich, low in calories, and high in fiber, and now it can add another benefit to its health-promoting list. A recent study showed that the bright red fruit can be an effective natural defense against pre-hypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular disease. Evidence from a pilot study led by food scientists at Florida State University showed that when six grams of the amino acid L-citrulline from watermelon extract was administered daily for six weeks, there was improved arterial function and, consequently, lowered aortic blood pressure in all nine study participants (men and women, ages 51 – 57). Why watermelon? Watermelon is the richest edible natural source of L-citrulline, a close relative to L-arginine, the amino acid required for the formation of nitric oxide, essential to the regulation of vascular tone and healthy blood pressure. And since consuming L-arginine as a dietary supplement is not an option for many hypertensive adults because of risks of nausea and gastrointestinal tract discomfort, watermelon as a functional food is a healthy and well-tolerated alternative. When watermelon is not in season, watermelon extract can substitute to keep one’s blood pressure in check.
How Watercress May Prevent Breast Cancer
From the University of Southampton comes new research that shows that a plant compound in watercress may have the ability to suppress breast cancer cell development by “turning off” a signal in the body and thereby starving the growing tumor of essential blood and oxygen. As tumors develop, they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply and send out signals that make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumor to feed it with oxygen and nutrients. Researchers have found that the compound in watercress called phenylethyl isothiocyanate can block this process by interfering with the protein HIF, responsible for this process. In a pilot study, the British researchers worked with a small group of breast cancer survivors who underwent a period of fasting before eating 80 grams of watercress — about a cereal bowl full. After eating watercress, they then provided a series of blood samples over the next 24 hours. The researchers were able to detect significant levels of the watercress plant compound in the blood of the participants following the watercress meal, and most important, they could show that the function of the protein HIF was also measurably affected in the blood cells of the women. More research is currently underway to further support the idea that watercress may have an important role to play in limiting cancer development. (University of Southampton, September 2010)