NATURES BEAUTY - BARLEY

Barley is one of the oldest domesticated cereal grains still being grown around the world today. It originated in Ethiopia and southeast Asia. It is most often used in bread and malted beverages such as beer (barley beer was likely one of the first alcoholic drinks humans developed). Over the centuries, barley water has been used for various medicinal purposes; it is good for clearing up urinary tract infections and is also said to be a good remedy for kidney stones.

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NATURES BEAUTY - CRANBERRIES

What would our Thanksgiving Day feasts be without cranberries? This staple of our holiday dinner has a long, proud history in the United States. According to the Cranberry Marketing Committee (uscranberries.com), Native Americans used cranberries as a food staple as early as 1550. They ate them fresh and mashed them with cornmeal and baked them into bread. They used maple sugar or honey to sweet them. They also mixed cranberries with wild game and melted fat to make pemmican.

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NATURES BEAUTY - MISTLETOE

My mother loved decorating for the holidays. From the tree in the den to the lights around all the windows and a big Santa decal on the front door, she was all in. She would also hang a sprig of (fake) mistletoe, complete with sharp-edged leaves and white berries, from the lintel of the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. She and my father always shared the first kiss under the mistletoe after she put it up.

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NATURES BEAUTY - SPINACH

Who didn’t grow up watching those Popeye cartoons and envying the sassy sailor his guns, which popped up from his previously puny arms right after he ate a can of spinach?


And who, despite that, didn’t turn up his or her nose when Mom put a bowl of spinach on the dinner table?


Luckily, we’ve come a long way from despising spinach. It has quickly evolved into a must-have green for salads and smoothies.


Spinach is an annual flowering plant that was first cultivated in ancient Persia (today’s Iran). When it was introduced to ancient China, it was called the Persian vegetable. Spinach belongs to the chenopod family, which includes beets, chard and quinoa. There are three varieties of spinach: savoy, which has dark green, curly leaves and is sold in fresh bunches in most supermarkets; semi-savoy, a hybrid variety with slightly crinkled leaves; and flat or smooth leaf. When you have a spinach dish dubbed “Florentine” (such as lasagna Florentine or sole Florentine), it is because spinach was the favorite vegetable of Catherine de Medici, who was born in Florence, Italy.


Spinach packs a nutritional punch whether it’s fresh, frozen, steamed, boiled or flash fried. Low in calories, it is a good source of

vitamins A, B, C, E and K, as well as magnesium, manganese and folate. You will also find riboflavin, calcium, potassium and fiber in your spinach. Spinach is an excellent source of beta-carotene, the powerful disease-fighting antioxidant that is known to fight heart disease and cancer. The vegetable has several important phytochemicals, including lutein, which helps prevent age-related macular degeneration.


One source says the healthiest way to consume spinach is in juice form. Add a few leaves to your smoothie or blend it with other vegetables and fruit. Regular consumption of fresh, organic spinach juice has been shown to dramatically improve skin health.


Popeye probably didn’t realize spinach eases constipation and flushes out toxins from the colon. Spinach contains glycoglycerolipids, the main fat-related molecules found in the membranes of light-sensitive organs in most plants. They help protect the lining of the digestive tract from damage. New research shows spinach has the potential to protect against prostate cancer.

Although Popeye would have us believe spinach is nothing but iron and that’s why he was suddenly so strong after consuming some, spinach in fact contains substances that inhibit the absorption of iron. High levels of oxalate can bind to the iron to form ferrous oxalate, which means the body can’t use it. Another compound in spinach is oxalic acid, which blocks the absorption of calcium and iron. To counteract this problem, boil your spinach for one minute or pair it with a food that is high in vitamin C, such as oranges.


The story goes that a scientist miscalculated the iron content in spinach; a misplaced decimal point caused him to give spinach an iron value 10 times higher than it should have had. However it happened, Popeye’s message is still a good one: Eat your spinach!

TANYA TYLER

Tanya Tyler is the Editor of Health & Wellness Magazine

more articles by Tanya Tyler