I have selected seven of my favourites that I highly recommend to always have in your kitchen – even better if you can grow your own. The following list offers some of the best plant foods, so for the new year, try adding some or all of these to enhance your nutrition, healing or general well-being. They can all be found or grown locally.
This healing aromatic spice with its wonderful flavour can be enjoyed in tea, smoothies, desserts, and even savoury dishes. It is very affordable, available year-round and does not spoil very quickly. Cinnamon:
* Helps congestion
* Is useful for diabetics and regulating blood sugar
* Can aid weight loss
* Helps to metabolise fats
* Relieves nausea and diarrhoea
* Fights fungal infections
* Aids digestion
* Warms the body
One of the benefits of living in the Caribbean is the abundance of coconuts and the amazing benefits to be had from them, whether in their pure form or in the form of coconut oil. Coconut oil once got a bad rap but with the positive research that has come forth, it cannot be denied that coconut oil is a true superfood. It can be applied directly to the skin and hair as a great moisturiser. Cold pressed, organic, virgin coconut oil is my preferred choice.
* It is great for boosting the immune system.
* It is easily digested and can aid weight loss.
* Forty-eight to 50 per cent of coconut oil’s fatty acids are made of lauric acid, which, when ingested, turns into monolaurin, a substance that is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial.
* The lauric acid also helps prevent heart conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
* This healthy saturated fat supports the immune system, thyroid gland and nervous system.
* It is a good source of B-vitamins.
* It boosts metabolism.
* It is an excellent source of fatty acids.
* It lowers the risk of diabetes and also protects the body from insulin resistance.
* It reduces joint and muscle inflammation.
* It protects against cancer and other immune-related diseases.
* It helps dissolve kidney stones.
* It improves mineral absorption.
BIRD PEPPER/CAYENNE PEPPER
This tiny local pepper looks very unassuming but packs a lot of fire and heat. Use with caution. Bird pepper:
* Is great for circulation
* Can help to improve arthritis and rheumatism
* Aids digestion
* Helps ward off colds, flu, sore throats, and sinus issues
* Good for lungs, kidneys, heart, stomach, pancreas, and spleen
* Works well with other herbs
If by now you haven’t tried moringa, in any shape or form, then you are definitely missing out on superior nutrition. Whether it’s the leaves, flowers, pod, or seeds, moringa is especially promising as a food source in the tropics because it seems to grow well, in dry seasons too. The nutritional qualities of moringa are too vast to fully include here; however, scientific and popular research suggests that:
* Moringa leaves contain more vitamin A than carrots;
* Moringa leaves contain more iron than spinach;
* Moringa leaves contain more calcium than milk;
* Moringa leaves contain more potassium than bananas;
* And more vitamin C than oranges.
* In some traditional eastern cultures the seeds from the green pods are used as a sexual virility drug for treating erectile dysfunction, and also for prolonging sexual activity in women.
* High in antioxidants and chlorophyll
* Known to contain cancer-fighting carotenoids and flavonoids
* High fibre, zero fat, therefore low in calories
* High in iron
* Ten times more vitamin C than spinach per calorie (immune support)
* More calcium per calorie than cow’s milk
* A great detoxifying food for the liver
* Lowers cholesterol
* Offers cardiovascular support by lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer
* Great for skin and eye health
* High vitamin and mineral content: Vitamins A, C, K, B6, folic acid, potassium, magnesium, thiamin, and manganese
Turmeric, the main spice in curry, has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavour savoury dishes. Turmeric root as medicine is highly anti-inflammatory and is used for many ailments. It:
* Is great for arthritic conditions;
* Is antioxidant rich (fights free radicals);
* Protects the liver against toxins;
* Treats heartburn and loss of appetite;
* Is used to treat headaches, colds, bronchitis; and lung infections;
* Soothes diarrhoea, stomach bloating, intestinal gas, and menstrual problems;
* Lowers cholesterol;
* Aids circulation;
* Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer;
* Other uses include treating depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, fever, fibromyalgia, jaundice, worms, and kidney problems.
Used by many ancient cultures, this miracle plant has been called everything from “Wand of Heaven” to “Plant of Life”. Aloe vera contains at least 75 properties which offer these benefits:
* Heals the accumulation of fluids (water retention);
* Good for pain relief/natural painkiller;
* Detoxifies the bloodstream;
* Heals adhesions, scarring, lesions, internal tissue damage;
* Heals bones and joints;
* Contains 20 amino acids and lots of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and enzymes;
* Immune boosting;
* Regulates blood sugar levels;
* Relieves sunburn and skin inflammation;
* Aids digestion;
* Maintains cholesterol levels;
* Improves liver function;
* Contains vitamins: A, C, E, B, B12;
* Very moisturising.
Aloe Vera grows well in warmer, drier climates and is a great plant to grow in your garden or keep indoors in a pot for easy access.