• 22 Jul 2019 1:11 PM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Stevia is a South American plant, native to Paraguay that has long been used to sweeten beverages and make tea. As many as 1500 years ago, the Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay, discovered a native plant with delicious green leaves that had an unbelievable sweetening power. When they chewed just a few leaves or added crushed leaves to hot “yerba mate” (a bitter tea-like drink), the leaves sweetened the drink, just like our modern-day sugar.

    Gradually, they found that this sweet plant they called “kaa he-he” (which means “sweet herb”) had other uses besides its sugary taste. Ancient history tells us that natives used this sweet plant for softening skin, aiding digestion, nourishing the pancreas, balancing blood sugar, smoothing wrinkles, and healing blemishes, sores and wounds.

    In 1887, Dr. Moises Santiago Bertoni, director of the College of Agriculture, first learned of what he described as “this very strange plant” from Indian guides while exploring Paraguay’s eastern forests. Bertoni named the plant Stevia Rebaudiana in honour of a Paraguayan chemist named Rebaudi who would later identify the plant’s sweetness component. Stevia Rebaudiana is the most prized variety out of 200+ species. He found that a fragment of the leaf only a few square millimetres in size sufficed to keep the mouth sweet for an hour and a few small leaves was sufficient to sweeten a strong cup of coffee or tea. 

    In 1931, chemists M. Bridel and R. Lavielle isolated the two glycosides that make stevia leaves sweet: stevioside and rebaudioside (with five variations: A, C, D, E and F). Stevioside is sweet, but also has a bitter aftertaste that many complain about when using it, while isolated rebaudioside is sweet without the bitterness. Rebaudioside A, aka rebiana, contains the highest sweetest and is used commercially as an artificial sweetener in foods and beverages.

    In the 1960’s, the Japanese government highly regulated chemical additives in their food supply. Once they discovered and established its safety, Japan became one of the first to use stevia on a large scale commercially. Recognising that stevia was a safer choice than aspartame and saccharin, by 1988 stevia had been added to ice cream, bread, candies, pickles, seafood, vegetables and soft drinks. By 1994 stevia reportedly comprised 41% of the sweet substances consumed in Japan.

    Over the years the Japanese have conducted extensive studies to confirm stevia’s safety. Today stevia grows and is used in 10 other countries including China, Germany, Malaysia, Israel and South Korea.

    Three Types of Stevia

    When it comes to the options available today, it’s vital to know that not all stevia is created equal. In fact, there has been concern in recent years about counterfeit stevia, or products laced with unwanted ingredients. Here are the three main types of stevia which you may come across:

    1.     Green Leaf Stevia: the least processed of the types. The leaves are dried and ground into powder form. This is the type that’s been used in South America and Japan for centuries as a natural sweetener and health remedy. Green leaf stevia is only about 10-15 times sweeter than sugar. This unprocessed version more than likely contains a combination of steviosides and rebaudiosides.

    2.     Purified Stevia Extracts: If you’re eating this natural sweetener you are consuming rebaudioside A in either a pure extract or our third type (altered blends). These extracts contain over 95% or more pure rebaudioside A glycosides and may not contain other forms of rebaudiosides or steviosides in order to be legally marketed as food. While purified stevia extracts are more processed than green leaf stevia, their health benefits seem to be on par with its unprocessed counterpart.

    3.     Altered Stevia Blends:the least healthy option. By the time a product like this is placed on a shelf, very little of the stevia plant remains. Some companies use processes to create these blends that include chemical solvents, including acetonitrile, which is toxic to the central nervous system, and a GMO corn derivative called erythritol (in the US). The small amount remaining contains rebaudioside A only. Many purified stevia extracts and altered blends are reported to be 200-400 times sweeter than sugar.

    Stevia Benefits

    If you stick to green leaf stevia or the purified extract you will be able to reap some of its amazing benefits. They have 30 to 150 times the sweetness of sugar, are heat-stable, pH-stable, and not fermentable. The sweet component of the plant is known as steviol glycosides which are found in the leaves. The body does not metabolise the glycosides in stevia, so it contains zero calories like some artificial sweeteners. The green stevia and its extract’s taste that has a slower onset but longer duration than that of sugar, and some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

    Stevia actually contains eight glycosides. These are the sweet components isolated and purified from the leaves of stevia. These glycosides include: stevioside, rebaudiosides A, C, D, E, and F, steviolbioside and dulcoside A. As mentioned before, stevioside and rebaudioside A (reb A) are the most plentiful of these components.


    Research has shown that stevia sweeteners do not contribute calories or carbohydrates to the diet. They have also demonstrated no effect on blood glucose or insulin response. This allows people with diabetes to eat a wider variety of foods and comply with a healthful meal plan.

    Another review of five randomised controlled trials compared the effects of stevia on metabolic outcomes with the effects of placebos. The study concluded that stevia showed minimal to no effects on blood glucose, insulin levels, blood pressure, and body weight.

    In one of these studies, subjects with type 2 diabetes reported that stevia triggered significant reductions in blood glucose and glucagon response after a meal. Glucagon is a hormone that regulates glucose levels in the blood, and the mechanism that secretes glucagon is often faulty in people with diabetes.

    Weight Management

    Stevia contains no sugar and very few, if any, calories. It can be part of a well-balanced diet to help reduce calorie intake without sacrificing taste. By keeping your sugar and calorie intake in a healthy range, you can help fend off obesity as well as many health problems linked with obesity, like diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

    If you choose to replace table sugar with a high-quality stevia extract and use it in moderation, it can also help you decrease your overall daily sugar intake. This is why stevia is very popular for low-carb diets like Paleo or the keto diet. 

    Blood Pressure

    Certain glycosides in stevia extract have been found to dilate blood vessels and increase sodium excretion, two things that are very helpful to keeping blood pressure at a healthy level. Evaluation of two long-term studies (one and two years in length, respectively) gives hope that it may be effective in lowering blood pressure in hypertensive patients. However, data from shorter studies (one to three months) did not support these findings.

    A 2003 study showed that stevia could potentially help lower blood pressure. The study suggested that the stevia plant might have cardiotonic actions. Cardiotonic actions normalise blood pressure and regulate the heartbeat. However, further research is required to confirm this benefit of stevia.

    Improves Cholesterol Levels

    Results of a 2009 study showed that stevia extract had “positive and encouraging effects” on overall cholesterol profiles. It’s important to note that researchers also found that there were no adverse stevia side effects on the health status of the subjects involved in this study. Researchers concluded that the extract effectively decreased elevated serum cholesterol levels, including triglycerides and LDL (“bad cholesterol”), while increasing good HDL cholesterol.

    Anti-Cancer Abilities

    In 2012, Nutrition and Cancer highlighted a groundbreaking laboratory study that, for the first time ever, connected stevia consumption to breast cancer reduction. It was observed that stevioside enhances cancer apoptosis (cell death) and decreases certain stress pathways in the body that contribute to cancer growth.

    The journal Food Chemistry published a study out of Croatia showing that when it is added to natural colon cancer-fighting mixtures, such as blackberry leaf, antioxidant levels soar (when tested in a lab). Together, these studies suggest its potential as a natural cancer treatment.

    Stevia contains many sterols and antioxidant compounds, including kaempferol. Studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

    Recipes for Health

    Stevia is available online or at most health food stores, both in powdered and liquid form. Keep in mind that the best stevia should have no additives, including other sweeteners, and is certified organic and non-GMO certified. The liquid varieties are useful for sweetening coffee, teas or healthy smoothies. Powders work best for cooking and baking — and a little goes a long way.

    Try these basic conversions the next time you replace sugar with this natural sweetener: 

    1 teaspoon sugar = 1/8 teaspoon powdered stevia = 5 drops liquid

    1 tablespoon sugar = 1/3 teaspoon powdered stevia = 15 drops liquid stevia

    1 cup of sugar = 2 tablespoons powdered stevia = 2 teaspoons liquid stevia

    The only substitution that won’t work is caramelisation in desserts, as it doesn’t brown like conventional sugar.

    Cinnamon & Clove Hot Chocolate


    ·      2 cups almond milk (or preferred choice of non-dairy milk)

    ·      1 1/2 tbsp raw cacao or chocolate

    ·      1 tsp cinnamon

    ·      1/2 tsp ground cloves

    ·      pinch salt

    ·      1/4 tsp stevia

    1.     In a pot, stir the cacao or chocolate, cloves, stevia and salt into the almond milk on medium heat until everything is well combined and dissolved. I recommend using a whisk and constantly stirring while heating the mixture.

    2.     Serve hot, sprinkle some cinnamon on top and enjoy!

    Notes: You can substitute stevia with your natural sweetener of choice (e.g. honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup…) while adjusting measurements for your preferred sweetness!

    Keto Waffles


    ·      115 g cream cheese

    ·      4 eggs

    ·      1 tablespoon melted butter

    ·      1 tablespoon Stevia

    ·      1 teaspoon vanilla

    ·      4 tablespoons coconut flour

    ·      1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

    ·      Pinch salt

    1.     Blend all ingredients in your blender.

    2.     Pour into greased waffle iron.

    3.     Makes 2-3 waffles depending on your waffle maker.


    Most people do well with this natural sweetener, but listen to your body: It is an herb, and everyone’s body may react differently to it. The benefits and possible side effects really depend upon what type you choose to consume. Some people find that this natural sweetener can have a metallic aftertaste.

    Multiple global regulatory bodies have determined that high refined and purified stevia extract is safe for consumption by the general population within the recommended levels, including children. Governing bodies have established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 4 milligrams per kilogram (kg). These organisations include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the FDA.

    Some stevia products also contain sugar alcohol. People with sensitivity to sugar alcohol may experience bloating, abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, though one type of sugar alcohol, erythritol, poses less risk of symptoms than others.

    In general, it’s a good idea to seek medical advice before using it if you have an ongoing medical condition or take other medications. There aren’t any contraindications (interactions) with medications at present, but your healthcare provider will help to give you advice to make sure you don’t use it in excess.

    To Sum Up…

    Stevia Rebaudiana is an intensely sweet-tasting plant that has been used to sweeten beverages and make tea since the 16th century. Research shows that the stevia plant was used by indigenous people to sweeten medicines and foods. In fact, due to its sweet taste and flavour-enhancing abilities, the stevia plant was traditionally used as far back as 1500 years ago.

    Stevia sweeteners contain zero calories, which means foods and beverages that use stevia sweeteners are usually lower in calories. Extensive research has shown that stevia does not contribute any sugar to the diet and does not affect blood glucose or insulin response, which means stevia is safe and appropriate for use by people with diabetes and those wishing to lose weight. On top of that, stevia has also shown to have amazing qualities for fighting cancer as well as having heart-protecting properties, such as controlling blood pressure and improving your cholesterol profile. Nonetheless, the potential health benefits of stevia require further study as well as discovering what other benefits it holds. 

    With all of these benefits it’s hard not to introduce such sweetness into our diets. Just remember that not all stevia products are the same. Choose your stevia products wisely and opt for the green leaf or the purified extract varieties to enjoy the natural sweet taste and health promoting benefits.









  • 20 Jun 2019 11:21 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Climate change and increasing global food demand have created a need for crops that thrive in suboptimal growing conditions and provide quality nutrition. Quinoa, a stress-tolerant crop with a better nutritional profile than many kinds of cereal like rice and corn, has attracted attention for this reason. It’s now grown in more than 70 countries.

    Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a 7,000-year-old plant that originated in the mountainous regions of South America. While it is commonly known as an “ancient grain,” quinoa is technically not a grain or cereal grain, but a seed. Cereal grains like wheat, rice, and corn are grasses, and their nutritional value comes from the grass fruit. Quinoa is more closely related to spinach and chard and its nutritional value comes from the plant’s seed.

    Quinoa comes from an annual flowering weed-like plant from the family Amaranthaceae, which includes other species like lamb's quarters, beetroot and amaranth. It is gluten-free, high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids. It is also high in fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.

    Quinoa dates back three to four thousand years ago when the Incas first realised that the quinoa seed was fit for human consumption. Quinoa was considered “the gold of the Incas” because the Incas believed it increased the stamina of their warriors.

    While most of us are used to seeing the more common white quinoa, there are actually about 120 varieties throughout the world. Three categories of quinoa have been commercialised for sale: red, white and black. It’s prepared like rice, but before boiling, all quinoa must first be soaked to remove the outer coating (pericarp), which contains bitter compounds (saponins).

    White Quinoa – This is the most widely sold variety of quinoa, and takes the least amount of time to cook. It’s sometimes referred to as ivory quinoa.

    Red Quinoa – Because it doesn’t easily lose its shape, cooks prefer using this type of quinoa in cold salads or other recipes where the texture of a distinct grain is preferred.

    Black Quinoa – The taste of black quinoa is more different than the white and red varieties, with an earthy, sweet flavour profile. It takes the longest to cook, needing about 15–20 minutes to be completely done.

    These days, you can find quinoa and quinoa products all over the world, especially in health food stores and restaurants that emphasise natural foods.

    From beneath the earth to outer space, quinoa nutrition is so impressive that NASA even wants to use it for long-term space missions as a healthy, easily growable crop. United Nations (UN) declared 2013 "The International Year of Quinoa," due to its high nutrient value and potential to contribute to food security worldwide. It has been eaten for thousands of years in the Andes Mountains in South America and only recently became a trend food, even reaching superfood status.

    Quinoa Benefits

    Very Nutritious

    Quinoa is rich in many important macronutrients, micronutrients, and other molecules (secondary metabolites) that can affect human health. Although quinoa is more nutritious than most grains, it shows a lot of variability in its nutritional composition. The strain of quinoa and where it’s grown impact its nutritional profile. That means nutrients in the quinoa you eat may vary from the values reported here and elsewhere:


    Amount in 1 cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa:


    8 g


    5 g


    222 calories


    4 g


    39 g



    2.8 mg (15% of the RDA*)


    0.4 mg (18% of the RDA)


    2 mg (13% of the RDA)


    1.2 mg (58% of the RDA)


    118 mg (30% of the RDA)


    281 mg (28% of the RDA)


    5.2 mg (7% of the RDA)


    13 mg


    318 mg (9% of the RDA)


    Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

    0.2 mg (13% of the RDA)

    Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

    0.2 mg (12% of the RDA)

    Vitamin B3 (niacin)

    1.06 mg

    Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)

    0.61 mg

    Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

    0.2 mg (11% of the RDA)

    Vitamin B9 (folic acid)

    23.5 – 78.1 mg (19% of the RDA)

    Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)

    4 – 16.4 mg

    Vitamin E (tocopherols)

    1.2 – 6 mg (6% of the RDA)

    * Recommended Daily Allowance

    High in Protein with a Complete Amino Acid Profile

    Relative to most grains, quinoa has a high protein content (12.9 to 16.5% protein). It has more protein than rice, corn, oats, and barley, and about the same amount as wheat (14.3 to 15.4% protein).

    Unlike wheat, quinoa is a complete protein. It contains all 9 essential amino acids, including twice the amount of lysine found in corn or wheat. Lysine is an essential amino acid that is not produced by the human body. As a result, lysine must be obtained through food consumption. Adults (>18 yrs) require 30 mg of lysine per kilogram of body weight every day. The problem is that many plant foods are deficient in certain essential amino acids, such as lysine. However, quinoa is an exception to this, being a rich source of lysine (4.6 to 6.6 grams per 100 grams). This makes it a good source of lysine for vegans, vegetarians, and undernourished populations.

    Quinoa is gluten-free, has an amino acid profile similar to whole dried milk, and can provide over 180% of the recommended daily intake of essential amino acids.

    High in Fibre

    One study that looked at 4 varieties of quinoa found a range of 10–16 grams of fibre per every 100 grams. This equals 17–27 grams per cup, which is very high, more than twice as high as most grains. Boiled quinoa contains much less fibre, gram for gram because it absorbs so much water. The fibre comprises around 10% of quinoa seeds. Roughly 78% of that is insoluble fibre, which isn’t broken down in the intestines, and the other 22% is soluble. This gives quinoa a fibre profile similar to vegetables, legumes, and fruits.

    High in Minerals

    Quinoa is very high in all 4 minerals, particularly magnesium. It has a total mineral content (3.4%) higher than rice (0.5%), wheat (1.8%), and other cereals.

    It is also low in phytic acid. This compound, common in many grains and vegetables, binds to the minerals in food and prevents them from being absorbed by the body. Since quinoa is low in phytic, it is a good source of easily absorbed minerals. By soaking and/or sprouting the quinoa prior to cooking, you can further reduce the phytic acid content and make these minerals more bio-available. Plus, soaking before cooking helps to remove some of the saponins, which helps get rid of the bitter flavour.

    Fat Profile

    On average, quinoa seeds are comprised of 5 to 7% fats. This can vary depending on the strain. The fats in quinoa seeds are mostly unsaturated (90%) and they have an omega-6 to the omega-3 ratio of 6/1, giving quinoa a better ratio than most plant-derived oils.

    High in Phytonutrients 

    Quinoa is also a rich source of beneficial phytonutrients. These are chemicals produced by plants that have specific effects on human health. For example, they can be anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, neuroprotective, anti-aging, and much more.





    (β-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol)

    118 grams per 100 grams

    Lowers cholesterol 

    Anti- inflammatory



    (62 to 90% 20-hydroxyecdysone)

    138 – 570 micrograms per gram

    Anti- inflammatory

    Anti- obesity

    Anti- depressant

    Increases insulin sensitivity


    (quercetin* and kaempferol)

    Up to 839 micrograms per gram each

    Anti- inflammatory

    Anti- diabetic



    Glycine Betaine

    3930 – 6000 micrograms per gram

    Prevention of diabetes, obesity and heart disease

    *Quercetin content is higher than in typical high-quercetin foods like cranberries. 

    Rich in Antioxidants

    Quinoa is rich in antioxidants such as Betalains, Vitamin E (tocopherols), Vitamin A (carotenoids) and Squalene, amongst many others. These are molecules that neutralise free radicals, reducing cellular damage in the body. Oxidative damage has been linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, a variety of inflammatory diseases, and other negative health effects.

    In a study of how different cooking techniques affect antioxidants in quinoa, the most antioxidants were preserved when quinoa was washed, then cooked in a pressure cooker, while the most antioxidants were lost when it was toasted.

    Usually Gluten Free

    Quinoa is a safe alternative to gluten-containing cereals for people with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten intolerance. A biochemical analysis of quinoa proteins found that they did not behave like the wheat proteins that are toxic to coeliacs (gliadins). Another study found that 19 coeliac patients had normal intestinal and blood test results after eating quinoa every day for 6 weeks.

    Although quinoa varieties commercially available outside of South America are gluten-free, some traditional varieties are not. When 15 different strains were tested, 2 of them (Ayacuchana and Pasankalla) had the same effect as wheat proteins on coeliac intestinal cells.

    Lowers Cholesterol and May Prevent Heart Disease

    In a study of 35 overweight women, participants who ate quinoa flakes every day for 4 weeks had reduced total cholesterol (191 to 181 mg/dl) and LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol (129 to 121 mg/dl), compared to those who ate cornflakes. Both groups had reduced triglycerides (112 to 108 mg/dl in the quinoa group).

    In a study of coeliac patients, those who ate quinoa every day for 6 weeks also saw a small reduction in triglycerides (from 0.8 to 0.79 mmol/l) and total cholesterol (4.6 to 4.3 mmol/l).

    In another study of 22 students aged 18 to 45 years, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and bad cholesterol were reduced after eating a quinoa cereal bar every day.

    May Lower Blood Sugar and Improve Diabetes

    Although there haven’t been any human clinical trials examining the effects of quinoa consumption on diabetes, a study on sugar-fed rats found quinoa reduced blood glucose levels and oxidative stress. Hyperglycaemic mice found quinoa reduced fasting blood glucose levels and prevented weight gain.

    Quinoa also reduced the number of free radicals in these rats, which cause damage to cells. Additionally, it improved antioxidant capabilities in the rats’ blood, heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and testes. This indicates that quinoa reduces the negative effects of sugar on the body by protecting it from oxidative stress.

    20-hydroxyecdysone, a phytoecdysteroid, also has multiple anti-diabetic effects. Quinoa consumption lowered blood glucose levels and increased insulin in diabetic rats.

    Approximately 58 to 64% of the quinoa seed (by weight) is starch (D-xylose, amylose, and maltose). It also has a low glycaemic index of 53, which is considered low, making it suitable for diabetics.

    Aid Weight Loss

    In a study of 30 pre-diabetic patients, the group that ate quinoa for 28 days felt full and satisfied and lost weight, compared to a control group who didn’t eat quinoa. Animal studies have found that both quinoa extract and whole quinoa protected mice from gaining body fat, even when they were fed a high-fat diet.

    The relatively high protein content of quinoa may play a part in this as it increases satiety, causing people to eat less. High-protein diets also burn more calories. However, quinoa also contains 20-hydroxyecdysone, a steroid hormone which has shown to interfere with several genes responsible for fat storage, inflammation, and insulin resistance.

    Recipes for Health

    A good thoroughly cooked quinoa recipe has a light and soft consistency similar to couscous or bulgur wheat with a mild, nutty flavour and a satisfying crunch. Sometimes, when quinoa is not pre-rinsed, a slightly bitter taste can be detected. This is from saponins that may be present on the seed coating. Soaking the seeds for two hours with an acid medium, like apple cider vinegar, is a good way to remove most of saponins but also the phytic acid. 

    Classic Cooked Quinoa


    ·       1 Cup quinoa grain

    ·       2 Cup filtered water

    ·       Pinch Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt

    ·       Pre- soaking water with 1tsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)


    1.      Add the dry quinoa to a bowl and pour enough filtered water over the top to cover it about a few inches.

    2.      Stir in apple cider vinegar or lemon juice and allow it to sit for about 2 hours.

    3.      Thoroughly strain the soaked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.

    4.      In a glass or ceramic pot add 2 cups water and bring to a boil.

    5.      Add strained quinoa and salt, place a lid on top and reduce heat to the lowest flame setting.

    6.      Leave undisturbed for 15-20 minutes or until no liquid is present when you tilt the pot.

    7.      Turn the flame off and let the quinoa sit with lid on for another 5-10 minutes.

    You can use quinoa the same way you would use rice, as a side dish to vegetables, tempeh, tofu or meat protein. It can likewise be incorporated into many recipes, like sushi or curried vegetable sautés. Quinoa also makes a lovely cold salad ingredient with chopped raw veggies, marinated in a dressing. It is also a nice grain to add to hot soups or as a breakfast porridge, with a little coconut oil, shredded coconut and a natural sweetener.


    Quinoa is considered a safe staple grain to consume on a regular basis. In rare cases, however, some individuals are sensitive to saponin residues that may be present in the uncooked seeds, which can cause mild digestive upset. This effect is usually avoided by soaking and rinsing techniques as well as by thoroughly cooking the grain before consumption.

    Quinoa is also quite high in oxalates, which reduce the absorption of calcium and can cause problems for certain individuals with recurring kidney stones.

    To Sum Up…

    A complete protein and fantastic wheat-free alternative, the demand for quinoa has risen sharply in recent years. There’s truly no denying it; the health benefits of quinoa are real and plentiful. From being one of the most protein-rich plant foods with a nutrition profile fit for outer space it’s no wonder that it’s been given the superfood status.

    Quinoa is gluten-free, so it’s great for those intolerant to gluten; and it has a low glycaemic index, so it’s great for  diabetics too. Given it is high in iron and magnesium, quinoa can have wonderful effects on an individual’s metabolism. The seeds brim with phytonutrients high in antioxidants, and loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, all in all providing protection against oxidative damage and  inflammation which gives rise to diseases such as heart disease, weight gain, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer. Antioxidants fight the free radicals that are responsible for early aging as well as improving hair and skin health. So if you’ve got a chance to try a gluten-free, nutrition-packed food that can be eaten like rice and used in all sorts of ways, plus improve your health from strength to strength, wouldn’t you try it?








  • 28 May 2019 2:54 PM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Spirulina is an organism that grows in both fresh and salt water. It’s a spiral-shaped, multi-celled plant with no true nucleus. It’s a natural “algae” (cyanbacteria), which is a family of single-celled microbes that are often referred to as blue-green algae. 

    Spirulina grows best in low-alkaline conditions — particularly, fresh water lakes, ponds and rivers. It is rich in Chlorophyll, and like plants, gets its energy from the sun.

    Believed to have been a staple for the Aztecs, recorded history dating to the Conquistadors confirms that spirulina cakes were regularly sold as far back as the 16th century. Spirulina was a primary source of protein for the Aztecs for several hundred years and Lake Texcoco remains an abundant fountainhead of this superfood still today. 

    Grown around the world from Mexico to Africa to even Hawaii, spirulina is renowned for its intense flavour and even more powerful nutrition profile. It is dried and made into cakes for use in a number of recipes. It is incredibly high in protein and a good source of antioxidants, B-vitamins and other nutrients, and is typically recommended to vegetarians due to its high natural iron content. The high concentration of protein and iron also makes it ideal after surgery, or anytime the immune system needs a boost.

    Spirulina benefits are so profound that taken on a daily basis they could help restore and revitalise your health! To date, there are nearly 1,700 peer-reviewed scientific articles evaluating its health benefits. When harvested correctly from non-contaminated ponds and bodies of water, it is one of the most potent nutrient sources available.

    Spirulina Benefits

    Very Nutritious

    This tiny alga is packed with nutrients. A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains:

    ·        Calories: 20 kcal

    ·        Protein: 4.02 g

    ·        Carbohydrate: 1.67 g

    ·        Fat: 0.54 g

    ·        Calcium: 8 milligrams (mg) 

    ·        Magnesium: 14 mg 

    ·        Phosphorus: 8 mg 

    ·        Potassium: 95 mg 

    ·        Sodium: 73 mg

    ·        Iron:  2 mg (11% of the RDA)

    ·        Copper: 21% of the RDA

    ·        Vitamin C: 0.7 mg

    ·        Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA

    ·        Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA

    ·        Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA

    ·        Also contains folate, and vitamins B-6, A, and K.

    Gram for gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet.

    A tablespoon of spirulina also provides both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in an approximately 1.5–1.0 ratio.

    The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent — comparable to eggs. It gives all the essential amino acids that you need.

    It is often claimed that spirulina contains vitamin B12, but this is false. It has pseudovitamin B12, which has not been shown to be effective in humans.

    Anti Inflammatory & Antioxidant Properties

    Spirulina is a fantastic source of antioxidants, which can protect against oxidative damage. Its main active component is called phycocyanin. This antioxidant substance also gives spirulina its unique blue-green colour. Phycocyanin can fight free radicals and inhibit production of inflammatory signaling molecules, providing impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

    Fatty structures in your body are susceptible to oxidative damage. This is known as lipid peroxidation, a key driver of many serious diseases. For example, one of the key steps in the development of heart disease is the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol. Interestingly, the antioxidants in spirulina appear to be particularly effective at reducing lipid peroxidation in both humans and animals.

    In a study in 37 people with type 2 diabetes, 8 grams of spirulina per day significantly reduced markers of oxidative damage. It also increased levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood.

    May Control Diabetes

    A 2018 review study found that spirulina supplementation significantly lowered people's fasting blood glucose levels. High fasting blood sugar is a common problem in people with diabetes type 1 and 2. This suggests that spirulina supplements may help people control diabetes.

    In a two-month study in 2001, 2 grams of spirulina per day led to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels in 25 people with type 2 diabetes. However, more studies are necessary.

    May Lower Cholesterol

    A 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that taking spirulina supplements may have a positive impact on blood lipids, which are fats in the blood. In the study, spirulina was found to significantly reduce total cholesterol and lower LDL — "bad" — cholesterol while increasing HDL — "good" — cholesterol.

    A 2013 study also supports this health claim. Researchers found that taking 1 g of spirulina every day reduced participant's total cholesterol after 3 months. Another study in 2014 people with high cholesterol determined that 1 gram of spirulina per day lowered triglycerides by 16.3% and “bad” LDL by 10.1%.

    In a study in 2001, 25 people with type 2 diabetes, 2 grams of spirulina per day significantly improved these markers.

    Several other studies have found favourable effects — though with higher doses of 4.5–8 grams per day.

    May Lower Blood Pressure

    Phycocyanin is a pigment found in the spirulina that scientists have discovered possesses antihypertensive effects (it lowers blood pressure). Japanese researchers claim that this is because consuming the blue-green algae reverses endothelial dysfunction in metabolic syndrome.

    A small-scale 2016 study found that eating spirulina regularly for 3 months reduced people's blood pressure when they were overweight and had hypertension.

    While 1 gram of spirulina is ineffective, a dose of 4.5 grams per day has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with normal levels. This reduction is thought to be driven by an increased production of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule that helps your blood vessels relax and dilate.

    May Reduce Allergic Symptoms

    A 2013 study states that spirulina can relieve nasal inflammation and reduce histamine in the body. Compared to a placebo, 2 grams per day dramatically reduced symptoms like nasal discharge, sneezing, nasal congestion and itching in 127 people with allergic rhinitis.

    May Detox Your Body from Heavy Metals

    After giving 24 patients affected by chronic arsenic poisoning spirulina extract (250 milligrams) plus zinc (2 milligrams) twice daily, they compared the results with 17 patients who took a placebo and found that the spirulina-zinc combination helped in clearing the arsenic. Ultimately, the participants experienced a 47 percent decrease of arsenic in their body.

    Apart from arsenic, a 2016 review found that spirulina had antitoxic properties that could counteract other pollutants in the body, such as: fluoride, iron, lead and mercury.

    May Eliminate Candida 

    Spirulina appears to help with yeast infections. Several animal studies have shown that it’s an effective antimicrobial agent, particularly for candida. 

    Spirulina benefits have been shown to promote the growth of healthy bacterial flora in the intestines, which in turn inhibits candida from thriving. Additionally, the immune-strengthening properties of spirulina will help the body eliminate candida cells.

    May Aid Mental Health

    A 2018 paper highlights the potential role that spirulina could play in treating mood disorders. The theory is that spirulina is a source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that supports serotonin production. Serotonin plays an important role in mental health.

    People with certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, may have reduced levels of serotonin. Taking tryptophan supplements to maintain healthful serotonin levels may play a role in supporting mental wellbeing. Researchers need to conduct more clinical trials before they know the true role of spirulina in supporting mental health.

    Anti Cancer Properties

    According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “A number of animal and test tube studies suggest that spirulina increases production of antibodies, infection-fighting proteins, and other cells that improve immunity and help ward off infection and chronic illnesses such as cancer.”

    Spirulina’s effects on oral cancer — or cancer of the mouth — have been particularly well studied.  One study examined 87 people from India with precancerous lesions — called oral submucous fibrosis (OSMF) — in the mouth. Among those who took 1 gram of spirulina per day for one year, 45% saw their lesions disappear — compared to only 7% in the control group. When these people stopped taking spirulina, almost half of them redeveloped lesions in the following year.

    In another study of 40 individuals with OSMF lesions, 1 gram of spirulina per day led to greater improvement in OSMF symptoms than the drug Pentoxyfilline.

    Recipes for Health

    Spirulina is available in powder or tablet form. A standard daily dose of spirulina is 1–3 grams, but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively. As a powder, people can:

    ·       add it to smoothies, which gives the drink a green colour

    ·       sprinkle spirulina powder on salads or in soups

    ·       mix it into energy balls, along with other healthful ingredients

    ·       stir a tablespoon into fruit or vegetable juices

    Date and Spirulina Energy Balls


    • 20 medjool dates, pitted
    • 2 cups walnut pieces
    • 1 teaspoon Spirulina Powder
    • 1/2 cup hemp seeds
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, plus 1/4 cup for coating


    1.      Place walnuts, dates, hemp seeds, spirulina, and 1/4 cup of coconut into food processor and mix until it becomes sticky and starts to form a ball (around 2 minutes). 

    2.      Take dough from food processor and form 1 inch balls. 

    3.      Roll the balls into the remaining coconut to coat them. 

    4.      Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

    Spirulina ice cream


    • 2 frozen peeled bananas
    • 1 tsp spirulina powder


    1.      Place frozen bananas in blender, food processor or smoothie machine. 

    2.      Mix in spirulina, stir and serve.


    If you have an autoimmune condition, it’s a good idea to take this supplement under the supervision of your healthcare provider as there have been some cases of autoimmune reactions.

    It’s absolutely critical to make sure that the quality and purity of the spirulina that you consume is of the highest standards. Particularly, like anything that comes from the sea, be certain to only purchase blue-green algae that is free from contamination.

    Spirulina could contain the amino acid phenylalanine and thus should be avoided by people who have phenylketonuria (PKU) — a metabolic disorder in which the body can't metabolise phenylalanine.

    Always consult a health profession before taking spirulina for any reactions including any drug interactions.

    Also, some sources suggest that pregnant women and children should not consume algae. Contact your natural health care provider to confirm whether or not you should be using spirulina supplements.

    To Sum Up…

    Spirulina is a type of cyanobacteria — often referred to as blue-green algae — that is incredibly healthy.

    It has been well-researched for its many potential benefits. Some of the most significant of them include detoxing heavy metals, eliminating candida, fighting cancer and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. 

    Spirulina may cause autoimmune reactions in some who are susceptible to autoimmunity. It’s also not recommended for pregnant women or children. Be cautious where you purchase spirulina, as it may be contaminated if not bought from a high-quality source, leading to additional spirulina side effects.

    While more research is needed before any strong claims can be made, spirulina may be one of the few superfoods worthy of the title.







  • 30 Apr 2019 11:35 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    In my last blog we covered the importance and benefits of soaking your grains, nuts, legumes, seeds etc. in this blog we will go one step further and look into why sprouting your grains can do so much more for your health than you think. You probably eat sprouted grains when you eat your egg and cress sandwiches or when you eat Chinese and love the taste of crunchy bean sprouts. So here’s why we should eat so much more than we already do.

    Sprouting is the process of germinating seeds, nuts, grains and beans. It involves soaking them and then rinsing them every 8-12 hours until they begin to develop a tail-like protrusion. At this stage they become easier to digest and easier for the body to absorb their nutrients.

    Soaking is sometimes confused with sprouting, which, as mentioned, is actually the first step in the sprouting process. Soaking softens the hull, allows the sprout to grow and then sprouting allows the soaked item to germinate further. You first must soak something before you can sprout it.

    Sprouts have a long history of being used for more than 5,000 years ago in Chinese medicine where physicians prescribed them for curing many disorders for their nutritional and medicinal properties.

    It is only in the past thirty years that “westerners” have become interested in sprouts and sprouting. During World War II considerable interest in sprouts was sparked in the United States by an article written by Dr Clive McKay, Professor of Nutrition. Dr McKay announced: “Wanted! A vegetable that will grow in any climate, will rival meat in nutritive value, will mature in 3 to 5 days, may be planted any day of the year, will require neither soil nor sunshine, will rival tomatoes in Vitamin C, will be free of waste in preparation and can be cooked with little fuel and as quickly as a … chop.”

    Dr McKay was talking about soybean sprouts. He and a team of nutritionists had spent years researching the amazing properties of sprouted soybeans. They and other researchers found that sprouts retain the B-complex vitamins present in the original seed, contain high amounts of vitamin A and C compared to that of the unsprouted seeds. Some nutritionists found that this high vitamin content is gained at the expense of some protein loss, nonetheless, an average 300 percent increase in vitamin A and a 500 to 600 percent increase in vitamin C. In addition to this, the sprouting process converts starches into simple sugars, thus making sprouts easily digested.

    Sprouting Benefits

    Highly Nutritious

    The biggest benefit of sprouts is that they are a powerhouse of nutrients, all of which our body needs, and they’re just there waiting to be unlocked with their maximum potential ready to be used. Just as Dr McKay found, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A) were all barely detectable in the dry grains. However, sprouting the grains increased their concentrations significantly, with peak concentrations of the nutrients observed after seven days of sprouting. 

    Other studies have found that nutrients, including amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), sugars in the form of glucose, and even vitamins and minerals become more available and absorbable. Folate also increases in sprouted grains by up to 3.8-fold.

    Seed and legumes see a raise in antioxidant levels when sprouted, making them an important aid against free radical and ageing. There is also an increase in the contents of B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A and beta-carotene and improved availability of calcium, iron and zinc. Sprouts are the perfect support for skin and immune health.

    A 2012 study found that vitamin C levels, phenolic and flavanoid antioxidants, significantly increased in mung bean sprouts when germinated for up to eight days.

    Makes Foods Easier to Digest

    For many people, eating grains and beans can cause discomfort and adverse reactions. Sprouting is able to activate beneficial enzymes, which make all types of grains, seeds, beans and nuts easier on the digestive system. This also boosts beneficial bacteria in the gut, reducing inflammation and possible autoimmune reactions. It can also be especially beneficial for individuals sensitive to gluten, as sprouted flours can further decrease in gluten content.

    Other studies have shown that as time goes on, sprouted flours can further decrease in gluten, while the availability of total amino acids (protein), fats and sugars becomes more easily available. 

    Increases Protein Availability

    Depending on the exact seed that is sprouted, proteins in the form of amino acids can become more concentrated and absorbable in sprouted foods. As sprouting continues, complex proteins are converted into simple amino acids, making them easier on digestion.

    Some studies have shown that an increase in amino acids, including lysine and tryptophan, can take place when seeds are sprouted. However, the protein gluten can also decrease in grains when sprouted.

    Sprouts rich in protein: sprouted lentils, mung beans, adzuki beans, garbanzo beans and peas.

    Decreases Anti-Nutrients and Phytic Acid

    Just as I mentioned in my last blog, germination lowers the levels of anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid, lectins, saponins and enzyme inhibitors. Anti-nutrients are naturally occurring compounds that protect plants in nature but they can block the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals by the body.

    Phytic Acid- found in grains and beans binds to calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc, inhibiting their uptake and our digestive enzymes. It also inhibits our digestive enzymes called amylase, trypsin and pepsin. Amylase breaks down starch, while both pepsin and trypsin are needed to break down protein into smaller amino acids.

    Enzyme Inhibitors- found in nuts and seeds may prevent adequate digestion. They can cause protein deficiency and gastrointestinal upset. Tannins are enzyme inhibitors. So are other difficult-to-digest plant proteins like gluten. Enzyme inhibitors not only cause digestive problems, but they can contribute to allergic reactions and mental illness.

    Lectins and Saponins— present in legumes and vegetables affect the gastrointestinal lining, contributing to leaky gut syndrome and various autoimmune disorders. Lectins are particularly resistant to digestion by humans. They enter our blood and trigger immune responses. Lectins can cause GI upset similar to classical food poisoning and immune responses like joint pain and rashes. Improperly prepared raw grains, dairy and legumes like peanuts and soybeans have especially high lectin levels.

    Polyphenols— inhibit digestion of copper, iron, zinc and vitamin B1, along with enzymes, proteins and starches found in plant foods.

    Increases Fibre Content

    Several studies have found that when seeds are sprouted, their fibre content increases and becomes more available. Reports show that sprouting increases concentrations of crude fibre, which is the fibre that makes up the cell walls of plants. When we consume plant’s crude fibre, the fibre cannot actually be absorbed within our digestive tracts. Therefore it helps push waste and toxins out of the gut and regulate bowel movements.

    Helps Reduce Other Allergens Found in Grains

    Aside from decreasing gluten protein concentrations, sprouting grains has been shown to help reduce other food allergens (especially one called 26-kDa allergen) that is found in grains like rice.

    In one study, researchers found that sprouted brown rice contained much lower levels of two allergen compounds when compared to non-sprouted brown rice. They believed that the reduction was due to certain enzyme activities that took place during sprouting.

    Recipes for Health

    Below gives the time needed to soak and then sprout various nuts, beans, legumes, grains and seeds:


    Almonds: Need 2–12 hours for soaking. Sprout for 2–3 days if truly raw. The length you choose depends on what you want to use them for. For example, 48 hours of soaking allow the skins to fall off.

    Walnuts: 4 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Brazil nuts: 3 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Cashews: 2–3 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Hazelnuts: 8 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Macadamias: 2 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Pecans: 6 hours soaking, do not sprout

    Pistachios: 8 hours soaking, do not sprout


    Chickpeas: 8–12 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Lentils: 8 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Adzuki beans: 8 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Black beans: 8–12 hours soaking, 3 days for sprouting

    White beans: 8 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Mung beans: 24 hours soaking, 2–5 days for sprouting

    Navy beans: 9–12 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Peas: 9–12 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    * It’s not recommended to sprout red kidney beans as they contain a very toxic lectin*


    Buckwheat: 30 minutes–6 hours soaking (time varies), 2–3 days for sprouting

    Amaranth: 8 hours soaking, 1–3 days for sprouting

    Kamut: 7 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Millet: 8 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Oat groats: 6 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting

    Quinoa: 4 hours soaking, 1–3 days for sprouting

    Wheat berries: 7 hours soaking, 3–4 days for sprouting

    Wild rice: 9 hours soaking, 3–5 days for sprouting

    Black rice: 9 hours soaking, 3–5 days for sprouting


    Radish seeds: 8–12 hours soaking, 3–4 days for sprouting

    Alfalfa seeds: 12 hours soaking, 3–5 days for sprouting

    Pumpkin seeds: 8 hours soaking, 1–2 days for sprouting

    Sesame seeds: 8 hours soaking, 1–2 days for sprouting

    Sunflower seeds: 8 hours soaking, 2–3 days for sprouting


    The sprouting method is the same for all foods, the only difference is the amount of time involved:

    1.      Rinse your grains, seeds or legumes thoroughly and buy some that are free of pesticides and that haven’t been pasteurised or irradiated. 

    2.      Put them in a bowl, cover with water and place some cheese cloth or a kitchen towel on the top. 

    3.      Let soak for the suggested times. 

    4.      Then strain, rinse well and place in a shallow glass container or dish on your kitchen counter so they’re exposed to air. 

    5.      Rinse every 8-12 hours and repeat the process until sprouts appear. They can vary in length from 1-5cm. 

    6.      Once ready, rinse well again, drain and store in a glass jar or container in the refrigerator. They can keep up to 7 days but to avoid the formation of mould or bacteria, make sure to rinse them every day, as well as washing their storing container.


    ·       Beans and grains, once sprouted, cook faster and are easier to digest. It is best to slightly cook these, while seed and grass sprouts can be eaten raw.

    ·       Add them to salads for extra protein or mix quinoa, buckwheat or wild rice with crunchy vegetables and a zesty citrus vinaigrette. 

    ·       Cook sprouted chickpeas or peas and process them into hummus – they will be much lighter in texture than the traditional counterpart. 

    ·       Use sprouted flour for baked goods that will be much more easily digested and enjoyed or make your favourite granolas with sprouted oat groats or buckwheat for extra crunch and nutritional value. 

    ·       Add radish or broccoli sprouts to your morning juice or smoothie to start the day with a spicy injection of vitamins and minerals, then fill your lunchtime wrap with alfaalfa or sunflower sprouts.


    As for many foods in their raw stage, sprouts can potentially develop bacteria and cause harmful illnesses. The best way to avoid this possibility is by sanitising all the containers you have used for soaking and sprouting, and carefully rinse the items to sprout for at least one minute, eliminating any dirt and shell fragments. Most importantly, always choose nuts, seeds, grains and legumes that are certified organic and pathogen-free.

    To Sum Up…

    Nuts, beans and seeds can play an important role in many adults’ diets, contributing a range of different nutrients.

    The reason that humans suffer from indigestion and autoimmune reactions from unsprouted foods is because we aren’t designed to break down anti-nutrients in plant compounds that lock up or deplete vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Regularly consuming high amounts of anti-nutrients can significantly impact your health. 

    Sprouting and soaking seeds can break down anti-nutrients, make the seeds more digestible and unlock high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other healthy compounds found in plant foods. These can all have a positive impact on your nutritional health, be easier of your digestive system and cause less allergic reactions.

    Use raw, unsprouted nuts, grains, seeds or legumes that haven’t been roasted, blanched or prepared at all in any way. Place them in a bowl covered with several inches of water, and cover with a kitchen towel. Let them sit for anywhere between 5–48 hours depending on the kind. With a little labour of love, they will soon sprout and be ready to boost your nutritional health to a new level. Add them to your morning smoothie or granola, your lunch time wrap or salad or your evening stir-fry!





  • 25 Mar 2019 10:37 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Grains and legumes have been consumed for many years, but it wasn’t until the past 50+ years that we stopped traditionally preparing grains by soaking them. The practice of soaking grains has become more common in our modern age due to the book “Nourishing Traditions”. In it, author Sally Fallon Morell teaches the reader about how food was prepared in traditional cultures that were not exposed to industrialised food in an industrialised world.

    By soaking the grains in an acidic medium (lemon juice, buttermilk, liquid whey, yogurt, or apple cider vinegar) you break down the anti-nutrients in the grain and the minerals are released making them digestible.

    It is the whole grains that require more careful preparation than their more refined counterparts. When the bran and germ are removed from grains, as in white rice or white flour, many of the nutrients are stripped from these grains, but many of the anti-nutrients are as well.

    Anti-Nutrients in Grains

    Grains are like seeds, in a way. Those very same wheat berries that you might grind to make flour can also be planted in a field and allowed to grow into a stock of wheat, if they haven’t been chemically treated to prevent it.

    Because they are like seeds they contain protective elements in their outer seed coat and bran. These protective elements help to combat predators such as insects, or potentially damaging environmental threats such as bacteria, sun radiation, or weather. These anti-nutrients include phytic acid, lectins, enzyme-inhibitors, and fibre in the bran that can be tough to break down in the digestive tract. Most of these anti-nutrients are part of the seed’s system of preservation—they prevent sprouting until the conditions are right. 

    It is the germination process – when the conditions are right – that encourages the grain or seed to throw off these protective barriers and give forth a shoot. In order for that germination process to happen, there must be moisture and warmth. 

    What is Phytic Acid?

    Phytic acid is one of the most touted “bad guys” in grains. It essentially works as a chelating agent, binding with the minerals in the grain, and preventing those minerals from being absorbed in the digestive tract.

    Phytic acid is an organic acid in which bound to phosphorus in a snowflake-like molecule.It is mostly found in the bran or outer hull of seeds. In humans and animals with one stomach, the phosphorus—a vital mineral for bones and health— is not readily bio-available. In addition to blocking phosphorus availability, the “arms” of the phytic acid molecule readily bind with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss.In this form, the compound is referred to as phytate.

    Phytic acid not only grabs on to or chelates important minerals, but also inhibits enzymes that we need to digest our food, including pepsin, needed for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach, and amylase, needed for the breakdown of starch into sugar. Trypsin, needed for protein digestion in the small intestine, is also inhibited by phytates.

    Other anti-nutrients in whole grains include enzyme inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and put stress on the pancreas; irritating tannins; complex sugars which the body cannot break down; and gluten and related hard-to-digest proteins which may cause allergies, digestive disorders and even mental illness.

    Soaking Benefits

    Plants need moisture, warmth, time and slight acidity in order to sprout. Proper preparation of grains is a kind and gentle process that imitates the process that occurs in nature. It involves soaking for a period in warm, acidulated water in the preparation of porridge, or long, slow sour dough fermentation in the making of bread. Such processes neutralise phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption.

    Soaking flours and grains is a shortened version of fermentation. It is usually done for 12 to 24 hours and it is often recommended to introduce an acidic medium to the process, mimicking the acids that are naturally produced during the souring process.

    Benefits of using cultured dairy as the acid counterpart:Cultured dairy contains beneficial bacteria, in the form of a specific culture, and naturally occurring acids. It has been used as a medium to soak grains and flours in, although lemon juice and apple cider vinegar are just as effective. Cultured dairy such as milk kefir, buttermilk, and yogurt all contain enzymes. Enzymes are a big part of what kick-starts the process of breaking down fibre and anti-nutrients. Furthermore, the nutritional components of dairy (protein and fat) create a more balanced and nutritious baked product than one made with water alone. 

    The Next Step from Soaking

    Soaking is just the beginning of the fermentation process. If allowed to soak longer, those grains + water + acidity + warmth will equal fermentation and that is what we should really be after. Fermentation naturally produces an acidic environment that will pre-digest those grains more for you. It naturally neutralises anti-nutrients and increases the vitamin content of your grains, giving you a more nourishing food product. It naturally decreases the starchiness of grains as the friendly organisms eat it up and produce acids. However, it takes more time than soaking and it produces an end product that may be too tangy for our western taste buds.

    As soaking is the beginning of the fermentation process, you can simply continue the soaking process until your grains/flours have fermented. It will get a little bubbly (think sourdough) and smell a big tangy. That’s when you know you have truly soured or fermented your grains. You’ll also need to simply get used to the sometimes tangy flavour of fermented grains, though they don’t always have to taste like a bowl of vinegar if prepared properly.

    Recipes for Health

    Soaking grains in cultured dairy has been practiced for generations. The entire basis of the “eat traditional foods” concept is that a food can be trusted as a large part of your diet when it has been eaten by a traditional culture with a history of robust health.

    How to Soak

    Soaking grains, legumes and flour is not hard, in fact it is quite easy.  It just takes thinking ahead a bit and a little time.  Here is what you need to soak grains, flour & legumes:

    ·       Warm filtered water - warm water is necessary to properly break down the phytic acid and other minerals 

    ·       Acidic medium - yogurt, buttermilk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, milk kefir and coconut kefir.  Note that all dairy needs to be cultured.

    ·       Baking soda for legumes

    ·       Warm place in the kitchen

    ·       Time


    Soaking Grains

    1.      Place the grain into a glass bowl and cover completely with filtered warm water.  For every 1 cup of liquid you will need 1 tbsp of acidic medium. All grains, with the exception of buckwheat and millet, need to be soaked for 12-24 hours.  Buckwheat and millet have low levels of phytic acid and only require 7 hours soaking time.

    2.      Place your bowl of soaking grains on the counter top and cover.  You could use a clean towel with a rubber band around the circumference holding the towel in place. 

    3.      Allow the grain to sit in a warm place for the time needed for that particular grain.

    4.      You do not have to rinse the grains after the soaking time if you do not want to but you can.  

    5.      Proceed with recipe.  Note: many soaked grains will take less time to cook than non-soaked grains. 

    Soaking Brown Rice

    The ideal preparation of brown rice would start with home-milling, to remove a portion of the bran, and then would involve souring at a very warm temperature at least sixteen hours, preferably twenty-four hours. Using a starter would be ideal. 

    For those with less time, purchase brown rice in air-tight packages: 

    1.      Soak rice for at least eight hours in hot water plus a little fresh whey, lemon juice or vinegar. 

    2.      If you soak in a tightly closed mason jar, the rice will stay warm as it generates heat. 

    3.      Drain, rinse and cook in broth and butter.

    Soaking Flours

    If soaking flour for recipes like pancakes, muffins or quick breads:

    1.      Add the liquids (water, oils, sweetener) and flour together in a glass bowl and 1 tbsp of acidic medium for every 1 cup of liquid used. 

    2.      Cover and allow to soak overnight.

    3.      Proceed with the recipe in the morning by adding the remaining ingredients (such as the eggs, milk and other perishable ingredients) and cook as directed.  

    If soaking flour for yeast breads:

    1.      Add together flour and water (reserving 1/2 cup water to dissolve yeast) and 1 Tbsp of vinegar or kefir for every 1 cup of water added.  You can also add the sweetener and oils if you want.  

    2.      Cover and allow to soak for 8-12 hours.  

    3.      After soaking add the reserved water to the yeast with a tsp of honey  and proceed with recipe. 

    Soaking Legumes


    For kidney shaped beans:

    1.      Add enough water to cover the beans and a pinch of baking soda.  

    2.      Cover and allow to sit in a warm kitchen for 12-24 hours, changing the water and baking soda once or twice.  

    For non kidney shaped beans such as northern beans or black beans:

    1.      Place beans into pot and add enough water to cover the beans.  For Every one cup of beans you need 1 tbsp of acidic medium.

    2.      After soaking is done, rinse the beans, replace the water and cook for 4-8 hours on low heat until beans are tender.

    Remember: If you are soaking legumes, it is best to rinse them several times during the soaking time to prevent them from starting to ferment.  Always rinse legumes before cooking.


    Traditionally prepared Soaked Porridge 


    ·       1 cup rolled organic oats (not quick oats)

    ·       1 cup filtered water

    ·       2 tbsp acidic medium (yogurt, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk)

    ·       1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt

    1.      Add 1 cup of oats, water, and the acidic medium into a glass bowl and stir well. Cover and let it sit overnight on the counter (at least 7-8 hours).

    2.      In the morning add another 1 cup of filtered water and the unrefined sea salt, stir well. (**Note: if you feel the oatmeal is too sour, you can rinse the oats before adding the additional 1 cup of water, but this is not necessary.)

    3.      Heat to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

    4.      Serve with a generous portion of butter and cream.

    To Sum Up…

    Nature has set it up so that the grain or seed may survive until proper growing conditions are present. Nature’s defence mechanism includes nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances that can be removed naturally when the conditions are right for it to germinate. Soaking them is a way for us to mimic the natural process of releasing this defence mechanism and unlocking the vital nutrients inside these precious grains.

    Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli, and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralise a large portion of anti-nutrients and phytic acid in grains. Soaking in warm water also neutralises enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amount of minerals, and vitamins, especially B vitamins. During the process of soaking and fermenting, gluten and other difficult-to-digest proteins are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption. This process of fermentation, has been used for thousands of years by various cultures to create foods such as sourdough bread, dosas, and soured porridges.

    A diet high in improperly prepared whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. Buy only organic whole grains and soak them overnight to make porridge or casseroles; or grind them into flour with a home grinder and make your own sourdough bread and baked goods. For those who lack the time for bread-making, kindly-made whole grain breads are now available. 









  • 19 Feb 2019 11:45 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Chia seeds are tiny black and white seeds from the plant Salvia hispanica, which is related to the mint. From beverages to baked goods, these seeds are said to have been used by Mayan and Aztec cultures for “supernatural powers”. In Mayan, “chia” means “strength.” This probably has to do with the large amounts of energy provided by chia seeds. Ancient warriors attributed their stamina to this tiny seed. 

    Chia was first used by the Aztecs as early as 3500 B.C. and was a cash crop in the centre of Mexico between 1500 and 900 B.C. Pre-Columbian civilisations used chia as a raw material for medicines, nutritional compounds.  Chia was used by the Aztecs as food, mixed with other foods, mixed in water and drunk as a beverage, ground into flour, included in medicines, and pressed for oil.  Chia flour could be stored for many years and could be easily carried on long trips, serving as a high-energy food.  The aztecs also offered chia to their gods during religious ceremonies.

    When the Spanish conquerors landed the new land in 1500s, they repressed the natives, and suppressed their existing traditions and trade system.  Many crops that had held a major position in pre-Columbian American diets were banned by the Spanish because of their close association with religion. Chia, as the result, was deliberately eliminated.  Chia survived only in regional areas of Mexico for the last 500 years. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Latin American governments began to re-establish chia seeds as a national agricultural product.

    Chia seeds are cultivated on a small scale in their ancestral homeland of central Mexico and Guatemala and commercially throughout Central and South America.

    Chia Seed Benefits

    Highly Nutritious


    Chia is one powerful little seed, as it delivers the maximum amount of nutrients with minimum calories. They have several of the same benefits as the more well-known “super seed” flax, but unlike flax seed, you don’t need to grind them to reap the health benefits. 

    A 2 tablespoon serving (28g) contains 138 calories and 9 grams of fat, along with a whopping 11g of fibre, 5g of protein and 18% of the daily value for calcium, plus other important minerals. It’s also surprisingly packed with alpha-linolenic acid omega-3s (4,500mg), more than you’ll find in flaxseed. This makes them one of the world's best sources of several important nutrients, calorie for calorie. 

    Chia boasts an impressive array of flavonoid and polyphenol anti-oxidants including quercetin, kaempferol, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid.  It has three times the amount of anti-oxidants as blueberries for equal volume.

    This combination of nutrients is perfect for healthy blood sugar levels and sustained energy. A diet that includes chia seeds is a powerful combatant for diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

    High in Omega 3

    Contributing to its superseed status, chia is one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 in any food. It also contains high amounts of omega-6. Everyone needs to consume high amounts of these essential fatty acids in their diet, because these EFAs build new cells and regulate various processes of the body, but our bodies cannot make them internally. They also support heart health and beautiful skin, hair and nails. 

    Like flaxseeds, chia seeds are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon, gram for gram. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the omega-3s in them are mostly ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is not as beneficial as you may think. ALA needs to be converted into the active forms eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) before your body can use it. Unfortunately, humans are inefficient at converting ALA into these active forms. Therefore, plant omega-3s tend to be vastly inferior to animal sources like fish oil (21). Because they don't supply any DHA, which is the most important omega-3 fat, most experts consider chia seeds a lower-quality omega-3 source. Studies in humans and animals have shown that chia seeds may raise blood levels of ALA up to 138%, and EPA up to 39%.

    Promote Energy and Endurance

    The Mayans and Aztecs originally used chia seeds for their energy and endurance benefits. They were known as “Indian Running Food” and warriors and athletes often consumed a chia seed gel prior to their events to maintain energy and stamina.

    It turns out that these same benefits are just as applicable in modern times! In fact one study, found that a chia gel was as effective as energy drinks for maintaining athletic performance. In the study, participants were split into two groups. One group was given an energy drink, and another an energy drink/chia seed gel. Participants completed various running and endurance activities and their results were compared. The study found no difference in performance between the two groups and concluded that chia seeds were as effective as energy drinks in promoting athletic performance. A recipe for this energy gel is given below.

    High in Fibre

    Almost all of the carbohydrates in chia seeds are fibre. In 28g of chia seeds, the 12g of carbs that it contains 11g of it is fibre, which your body doesn’t digest which does not raise blood sugar or affect insulin levels like other forms of carbohydrates. A high fibre intake has been linked with improved gut health and a lower risk of numerous diseases.

    Chia seeds also have a unique ability to “gel” due to the soluble fibre content. The outer shell is hydrophilic and so has the ability to absorb over 10 times their weight in liquid. This makes them filling and satisfying. Researchers think that this gel action also occurs in the stomach, creating a barrier between carbohydrates and enzymes in the stomach which slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar. This may account for some of the reported endurance benefits of chia seeds. 

    This super absorbent nature also helps to hydrate the colon and move toxins out of the gut. The blend of insoluble and soluble fibre helps to sweep and sponge microorganisms and environmental toxins out of the colon and into the faeces. Thus, the fibre works as a prebiotic in the digestive system, so while it isn’t digested and used directly, it feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut and may help improve gut health. It has also been linked to decreased risk of diabetes, increased stool bulk and reduced constipation.

    Adding just 2 tbsp of chia seeds to your diet can reduce caloric intake and double the amount of fibre you would consume. As this high fibre seed promotes a feeling of fullness, it could prevent overeating which leads to weight gain. However, more evidence is needed to support this concept.

    Bone Health

    Chia seeds are high in several nutrients that are important for bone health. This includes calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and protein.

    In 28g (=2 tablespoons): % of the RDI (Recommended Daily Intake)

    Calcium: 18% (three times more calcium than skimmed milk)

    Manganese: 30% 

    Magnesium: 30% 

    Phosphorus: 27% 

    Gram for gram, this is higher than most dairy products and so would make an excellent source of calcium for people who don't eat dairy. 

    Lowers High Blood Sugar

    Chia seeds may lower the rise in blood sugar after a high-carb meal, possibly benefiting people with type 2 diabetes.

    Animal studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control, stabilising blood sugar levels after meals. A few human studies support this by showing that eating bread that contains chia seeds lowers the post-meal rise in blood sugar compared to bread that doesn’t include any chia.

    Boosts Mental Function

    Chia is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids and neuro-protective anti-oxidants such as quercetin, caffeic and chlorogenic acid.  These essential fats and anti-oxidants produce cell membranes that are more flexible and efficient. Healthier cell membranes results in more efficient nutrient delivery systems and faster nerve transmission processes.  This improves brain function including memory and concentration.

    Recipes for Health

    Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet. The seeds themselves taste rather bland, so you can add them to pretty much anything. They also don't need to be ground like flax seeds, which makes them much easier to prepare. They can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridge, pudding, smoothies or added to baked goods. You can also sprinkle them on top of cereal, yogurt, vegetables or rice dishes. Because of their ability to absorb both water and fat, they can be used to thicken sauces and as egg substitutes in recipes. Mixed with water, they can replace egg in vegan cooking or for those with egg allergies. Simply mix one part chia seeds to six parts water. About one tablespoon of this gel equals one large egg. When combined with liquid, chia seeds swell and form a gel. Chia’s ability to gel also makes the seeds a fine substitute for pectin in jam (Recipe below). 

    Chia seeds are an integral ingredient in the Mexican and Central American favourite drink: Chia Fresca (Recipe below), in which the seeds are mixed into lime or lemon juice with added sweetener. 

    Energy Gel

    Great energy gel for endurance activities:

    Add a couple tablespoons of chia seeds to a cup of coconut water. 

    Let sit for about ten minutes and you’ll have an incredible energy gel!

    Blueberry Chia Jam


    ·       1 1⁄4 cup frozen wild blueberries

    ·       1 1⁄2 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey

    ·       1 tablespoon chia seeds

    ·       1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract (fresh, minced ginger or lemon juice also work well as flavouring agents in this jam).


    1.      In small saucepan over medium heat, add blueberries and maple syrup/honey. Stir and cook the blueberry mixture for 10 minutes. Use a potato masher to mash blueberries.

    2.      Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and continue to cook and stir for about 2 to 3 minutes or until blueberry mixture resembles a jam consistency. 

    3.      Remove from heat and blend in vanilla extract. 

    4.      Refrigerate and use within a week.

    Lemon Chia Fresca


    ·       Tall glass of cold water

    ·       2 Tablespoons lemon juice

    ·       2-3 teaspoon chia seeds

    ·       5-6 drops liquid stevia (or 2 teaspoons maple syrup/honey)

    ·       pinch of cayenne pepper


    1.      Combine all ingredients in a glass and let sit for about 15 minutes in the fridge so the chia seeds have a chance to absorb some of the liquid and “gel” up. 

    2.      Enjoy immediately or save for later. 

    3.      Can be made ahead of time as the mixture should last at least 2-3 days in the fridge.


    Chia seeds generally do not cause any adverse effects. However, to avoid possible digestive side effects, drinking plenty of water with chia seeds is generally advised, especially if they have not been soaked before eating.

    Like all grains and seeds, chia seeds contain compounds called phytic acid. Phytic acid is a plant compound that binds with minerals, such as iron and zinc, and inhibits their uptake from foods. This is the reason that many ancient cultures soaked and fermented grains and seeds prior to eating them. Chia seeds are naturally gluten free and are a good source of many nutrients. Though they do contain phytic acid, they do not contain as high of levels as many other nuts and seeds. There is also some evidence that soaking and rinsing the seeds may help reduce the levels of phytic acid, thus releasing the nutrients from the seed.

    Large doses of omega-3 fats, such as those from fish oils, may have blood thinning effects. If you are taking blood-thinning medications, then consult with your doctor before incorporating large amounts of chia seeds into the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids may affect the activity of the medication.

    Chia seeds can absorb up to 27 times their weight in water so it is important to mix chia seeds into another food or liquid before consuming, especially for people with a history of swallowing problems. Small children should not be given chia seeds.

    To Sum Up…

    Chia seeds are very rich in fibre, antioxidants, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. A few spoonfuls daily might be powerful enough to improve risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, lead to better digestive and bone health, plus boost endurance and mental function. Chia is such a versatile seed and so very easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. Adding chia seeds to any recipe will dramatically boost their nutritional value. They are truly worthy of their reputation as a superfood.













  • 07 Jan 2019 11:58 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Activated charcoal is a potent natural treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them. It’s made from a variety of sources, but when used for natural healing, it’s important to select activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources.

    Making activated charcoal involves heating carbon-rich materials, such as wood, peat, coconut shells, or sawdust, to very high temperatures. The high temperatures change its internal structure, reducing the size of its pores and increasing its surface area. This results in a charcoal that is more porous than regular charcoal. The manufacture of activated charcoal makes it extremely adsorbent, allowing it to bind to molecules, ions, or atoms. This 'activation' process strips the charcoal of previously absorbed molecules and frees up bonding sites again. This process also reduces the size of the pores in the charcoal and makes more holes in each molecule, therefore, increasing its overall surface area. As a result, one teaspoon full of activated charcoal has more surface area than a football field!

    The charcoal's porous texture has a negative electrical charge, which causes it to attract positively charged molecules, such as toxins and gases. The black powder stops toxins and chemicals from being absorbed in the stomach by binding to them. The body is unable to absorb charcoal, and so the toxins that bind to the charcoal leave the body in the faeces.

    Activated charcoal is not the same substance as that found in charcoal bricks or burnt pieces of food and it shouldn't be confused with charcoal briquettes that are used to light your barbecue. While both can be made from the same base materials, charcoal briquettes have not been "activated" at high temperatures. Moreover, they contain additional substances that are toxic to humans.

    A Bit of History…

    The first documented use of activated charcoal goes as far back as 3750 B.C., when it was first used by the Egyptians for smelting ores to create bronze. By 1500 B.C. the Egyptians were also using it for intestinal ailments, absorbing unpleasant odours, and for writing on papyrus. In 400 B.C. the Ancient Hindus and Phoenicians discovered the antiseptic properties of activated charcoal and began using it to purify their water. A well known practice for any long sea voyage was to store water in barrels that had been charred. 

    By 50 A.D., leading the way for the use of activated charcoal in medicine was Hippocrates and Pliny, who began using it to treat many different ailments such as epilepsy, and vertigo. After the suppression of the sciences through the Dark Ages, charcoal re-emerged in the 1700’s and 1800’s within the use of medical treatments - both for its absorbent properties of fluid and gases and for its disinfectant properties. Some popular uses during this time period included poultices made from charcoal and bread crumbs or yeast (favoured by army and navy surgeons) as well as charcoal powders to alleviate foul smelling ulcers, acidity in the stomach, and even nosebleeds. By the 1900’s charcoal was even starting to be sold as lozenges, biscuits, and tooth powders!

    Today, activated charcoal is used in practical applications in hospitals and homes, for people and for pets. In medical facilities around the world, charcoal is used in filtering masks for lab technicians, in liver and kidney dialysis machines, and even as markers in breast cancer surgery (among many other applications). Just as charcoal has been used to help remove toxins ingested by humans, veterinarians also use this practice for pets that may have ingested something potentially harmful to them (such as when dogs eat chocolate!). Additionally, activated charcoal has found its place in day to day use, being used in air filters and water purification. Activated carbon is used in methane and hydrogen storage, decaffeination, gold purification, metal extraction, sewage treatment, air filters in gas masks and respirators, filters in compressed air, teeth whitening, and many other applications.

    Activated Charcoal Benefits

    One of the most popular activated charcoal uses is for the safe and effective treatment of poisoning and drug overdoses. It’s used in emergency trauma centres across the world. Research shows that activated charcoal works better than stomach pumping in some situations. In addition, it’s used to reduce bloating and gas, lower cholesterol and treat bile flow problems safely during pregnancy (intrahepatic cholestasis).

    So, how does activated charcoal work? As mentioned before, activated charcoal works by trapping toxins and chemicals in its millions of tiny pores. Typically, however, it’s not used when petroleum, alcohol, lye, acids or other corrosive poisons are ingested.

    It doesn’t absorb the toxins, however. Instead it works through the chemical process of Adsorption:

    In the body, absorption is the reaction of elements, including nutrients, chemicals and toxins, soaked up and assimilated into the blood stream. Adsorption is the chemical reaction where elements bind to a surface.

    In addition to being a safe and effective treatment for poisonings and the removal of toxins from the system, additional activated charcoal uses include deodorizing and disinfecting, and it’s an important step to treat Lyme disease.

    Kidney Health

    Activated charcoal may be able to assist kidney function by filtering out undigested toxins and drugs. It seems to be especially effective at removing toxins derived from urea, the main by-product of protein digestion.

    Aging is a natural part of life, but due to the toxic load we are exposed to through food, our homes and workplaces, and our environment, to prevent premature aging we must get rid of them. For this activated charcoal use, take two capsules per day after exposure to non-organic foods, heavy meals or after contact to other toxins. This supports better cognitive function, a reduction in brain fog, healthier kidney and liver function, and a healthier gastrointestinal tract.

    In humans, activated charcoal has been shown to help improve kidney function in those suffering from chronic kidney disease. Activated charcoal may help promote kidney function by reducing the number of waste products that the kidneys have to filter. Those with chronic kidney disease suffer from a condition in which the kidneys can no longer properly filter waste products.

    Activated charcoal uses include helping prevent cellular damage to kidneys and liver, as well as supporting healthy adrenal glands.  Activated charcoal benefits major organs by helping the body flush out the toxins and chemicals that cause the damage.

    Intestinal Gas

    Activated charcoal powder is thought to be able to disrupt intestinal gas, although researchers still do not understand how. It could work by binding the gas-causing by-products in foods that cause discomfort. Liquids and gases trapped in the intestine can easily pass through the millions of tiny holes in activated charcoal, and this process may neutralise them.

    In a 2012 study, a small sample of people with a history of excessive gas in their intestines took 448 milligrams (mg) of activated charcoal three times a day for 2 days before having intestinal ultrasound examinations. They also took another 672 mg on the morning of the exam. The study showed that medical examiners were better able to see certain parts of some of the organs they intended to identify with the ultrasound whereas intestinal gas would have obscured these before the treatment. Also, some 34 percent of the participants who were given the activated charcoal to reduce their gas had improved symptoms.

    In a 2017 study, people who took 45 mg of simethicone and 140 mg of activated charcoal three times daily for 10 days, all reported a significant reduction in abdominal pain with no side effects.

    Dosing recommendations to alleviate gas and bloating: Take 500 milligrams one hour prior to a typical gas-producing meal, with a full glass of water. Follow with an additional glass of water immediately thereafter to help get the charcoal into your system, where it can bind with gas-producing elements.

    Water Filtration

    People have long used activated charcoal as a natural water filter. Just as it does in the intestines and stomach, activated charcoal can interact with and absorb a range of toxins, drugs, viruses, bacteria, fungus, and chemicals found in water.

    In commercial settings, such as waste-management centres, operators often use activated carbon granules for one part of the filtration process. Dozens of water filtration products are also designed for at-home use, using carbon cartridges to purify water of toxins and impurities.

    A 2015 study found that water filtration systems that used carbon removed as much as 100 percent of the fluoride in 32 unfiltered water samples after 6 months of installation. However, according to a study published in the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, activated carbon filters (activated charcoal), removes some fluoride.  

    Activated charcoal traps impurities in water including solvents, pesticides, industrial waste and other chemicals. This is why activated charcoal uses include being used in water filtration systems throughout the world. However, it doesn’t trap viruses, bacteria and hard-water minerals.


    Given its use as a gastrointestinal absorbent in overdoses and poisonings, it follows that some people might propose activated charcoal as a treatment for diarrhoea.

    In a 2017 review of recent studies on the use of activated charcoal for diarrhoea, researchers concluded that it might be able to prevent bacteria and drugs that can cause diarrhoea from being absorbed into the body by trapping them on its porous, textured surface.

    While noting it as a suitable treatment for diarrhoea, the researchers also pointed out that activated charcoal had few side effects, especially in comparison with common anti-diarrhoeal medications.

    Teeth Whitening and Oral Health

    Have your teeth become stained from coffee, tea, wine or berries? Activated charcoal helps whiten teeth while promoting good oral health by changing the pH balance in the mouth, helping prevent cavities, bad breath and gum disease.

    It works to whiten teeth by adsorbing plaque and microscopic dirt that stain teeth. This activated charcoal use is cost-effective and an all-natural solution for a bright smile.

    Although activated charcoal has amazing toxin-absorbing properties, there still is no significant research to support its use for teeth whitening or oral health.

    Skin Health

    Activated charcoal uses extend beyond internal applications. For external treatments, it’s effective at treating body odour and acne and relieving discomfort from insect bites, rashes from poison ivy or poison oak, and snake bites.

    Around the world, many different traditional medicine practitioners use activated charcoal powder made from coconut shells to treat soft tissue conditions, such as skin infections.

    Researchers have reported that activated charcoal can help draw micro-particles, such as dirt, dust, chemicals, toxins, and bacteria, to the surface of the skin, to make removing them easier.

    Emergency Toxin Removal

    Activated charcoal uses also include as an antidote in the event of an accidental, or purposeful, overdose of many pharmaceutical drugs and over-the-counter medications. It’s effective for aspirin, opium, cocaine, morphine, sedative and acetaminophen. It’s important that the proper amount is administered as quickly as possible — definitely within an hour of ingestion. That's because it can bind a wide variety of drugs, reducing their effects. 

    In humans, activated charcoal has been used as a poison antidote since the early 1800s. For instance, studies show that when a single dose of 50–100 grams of activated charcoal is taken within five minutes of drug ingestion, it may reduce drug absorption in adults by up to 74%. This effect decreases to around 50% when the charcoal is taken 30 minutes after drug ingestion and 20% if it's taken three hours after the drug overdose.

    The initial dose of 50–100 grams is sometimes followed by two to six doses of 30–50 grams every two to six hours. However, this multiple dosage protocol is used less often and may only be effective in a limited number of poisoning cases.

    It can be used in cases of food poisoning when nausea and diarrhoea are present. Adults take 25 grams at onset of symptoms or when food poisoning is suspected, and children should be given 10 grams. Increase dosage as necessary. Remember, it’s essential that adequate water is consumed when activated charcoal is taken.

    Most organic compounds, pesticides, mercury, fertilizer and bleach bind to activated charcoal’s surface, allowing for quicker elimination, while preventing the absorption in the body. However, it's important to note that activated charcoal is not effective in all cases of poisoning. For instance, it appears to have little effect on alcohol, heavy metal, iron, lithium, potassium, acid or alkali poisonings.

    In the event of poisoning, call the emergency services immediately. No one should ever try to treat an overdose or poisoning at home. What's more, experts warn that activated charcoal shouldn't be routinely administered in all cases of poisoning. Rather, its use should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Recipes for Health

    Cleansing Face Mask

    Activated charcoal is an active ingredient in many commercial products for fighting acne. This is because activated charcoal can pull the dirt and toxins from your skin that cause you to break out.


    1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal powder

    1/2 teaspoon water

    1/2 teaspoon aloe vera gel

    A few drops of tea tree oil (optional)

    Mix this together and apply to your face with a flat brush for a wonderful skin detox. Let the mask dry and wash off gently.

    Teeth Whitener

    Wet a toothbrush and dip into powdered activated charcoal. Brush teeth as normal, paying special attention to areas showing the most staining. Sip a bit of water, swish through mouth thoroughly and spit. Rinse well, until spit is clear. For best results, brush your teeth with activated charcoal powder 2–3 times per week.

    Note:Be careful, for it can (and will) stain grout and fabrics. Protect counters, floors and clothing before using. If you have crowns, caps or porcelain veneers, it’s possible that activated charcoal will stain them. In addition, if your teeth become sensitive, stop using it.


    Charcoal may absorb smells and harmful gases, making it ideal as an underarm, shoe, and refrigerator deodorant. Activated charcoal is also reported to be able to absorb excess moisture and control humidity levels at a micro level.


    Take about 4 tablespoons of your favourite coconut oil and mix in 2 teaspoons of activated charcoal powder. You will also need a third of a cup of both starch and baking soda.

    Insect Bites/Stings

    After a mosquito bite or bee sting, mix one capsule of activated charcoal with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil, and dab on affected area. Reapply every 30 minutes until itching and discomfort are gone. As activated charcoal stains nearly everything it touches, wrap with a bandage.

    Snake/Spider Bites

    To treat bites from snakes and spiders, including the brown recluse or black widow, you want to cover a larger area than just a small bandage, as the bacteria and viruses that lead to tissue damage need to be mitigated quickly.

    Create a wrap out of fabric that’s big enough to go around the affected area twice. Dab the mixture of coconut oil and activated charcoal on the fabric, and wrap. Secure with bandages. Reapply every two to three hours, rinsing well between applications.


    To treat acne, mix one capsule of activated charcoal with two teaspoons of aloe vera gel, and smooth over face. Let dry and rinse off completely. The activated charcoal binds with environmental toxins and dirt that contribute to acne. It’s also good for spot treatments.


    There have been no major adverse reactions noted with activated charcoal in any of its various forms, except that it may cause nausea and vomiting in large amounts. In addition, constipation and black stools are two other commonly reported side effects. Whenever you take activated charcoal, it’s imperative to drink 12–16 glasses of water per day. Activated charcoal can cause dehydration if adequate amounts of water aren’t consumed in tandem. In addition, this helps to flush out the toxins quickly and prevents constipation experienced by some individuals.

    It’s always good to be aware of any medical conditions such as intestinal bleeding or blockages, holes in the intestines, chronic dehydration, slow digestion, or a recent abdominal surgery, as they may affect how activated charcoal reacts in your body. 

    When activated charcoal is used as an emergency antidote for poison, there's a risk that it can travel into the lungs, rather than the stomach. This is especially true if the person receiving it vomits or is drowsy or semi-conscious. Because of this risk, activated charcoal should only be given to individuals who are fully conscious.

    Additionally, activated charcoal can interfere with the absorption of nutrients, supplements and interfere with prescription medications. Take activated charcoal 90 minutes to two hours prior to meals, supplements and prescription medications.

    People taking medications should talk with a doctor before taking oral activated charcoal products, as these may interfere with absorption of their medication.

    To Sum Up…

    Activated charcoal is a type of charcoal that's processed to make it more porous. This porous texture is what distinguishes it from other types of charcoals, including the type used for barbecuing. Its super absorbent nature helps it trap toxins and chemicals in the gut and as it can’t be absorbed by your body, it carries the toxins bound to its surface out of your body in faeces. The porous surface of activated charcoal has a negative electric charge that causes positive-charged toxins and gas to bond with it. This is why it is still touted as a universal antidote to treat drug overdoses, food poisoning and deadly snake and spider bites. Not only does it combat the life threatening conditions it has many other uses ranging from lowering cholesterol to whitening teeth.

    Although its toxin-absorbing properties have a wide range of medicinal and cosmetic uses, more research is needed to scientifically prove its effectiveness.








  • 26 Nov 2018 10:59 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    The last time you might have heard anything about Iodine was probably in your science lesson or at your doctors who might have mentioned that you need iodine to fix your thyroid. However, Iodine is so much more than just a chemical element or something that helps your thyroid. This blog will tell you how else Iodine can help improve your health and wellbeing.

    To start with the basics: Iodine is a chemical element with symbol ‘I’ on the periodic table. It exists as a lustrous, purple-black non-metallic solid which readily becomes a violet gas when heated. It was discovered by the French chemist Bernard Courtois in 1811. Courtois was extracting sodium and potassium compounds from seaweed ash. Once these compounds were removed, he added sulfuric acid to further process the ash. He accidentally added too much acid and a violet coloured cloud erupted. This gas condensed on metal objects in the room, creating solid iodine. It was named two years later by another French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac who proved that it was a new element and gave it the name of “iode” from the Greek “ioeides” meaning violet coloured.

    Iodine is the fourth halogen, being a member of group 17 in the periodic table, below fluorine, chlorine, and bromine; it is the heaviest stable member of its group. The dominant producers of iodine today are Chile and Japan. 

    Around 70 percent of iodine is found in the thyroid gland in the neck. The rest is in the blood, the muscles, the ovaries, and other parts of the body. Though iodine is essential to a wide number of bodily functions, the most important function of iodine occurs in the thyroid. Without iodine, no thyroid hormones would be synthesised. These hormones control metabolism, remove toxins, and utilise other minerals, such as calcium.

    The amount of iodine in a food depends on how much iodine there is at the source of production. The amount of iodine in the soil where crops are grown, or where an animal is raised for meat will affect the amount of iodine in the food. Produce from the sea is a good source of iodine. Unfortunately, bromine, found in processed bread products, and fluoride, found in toothpaste and added to the water supply, deplete iodine in the body.

    Iodine is also used as a test for starch and turns a deep blue when it comes in contact with it. Potassium iodide is used to make photographic film and, when mixed with iodine in alcohol, as an antiseptic for external wounds. 

    A radioactive isotope of iodine, iodine-131, is used to treat some diseases of the thyroid gland and protects the thyroid from radiation. When nuclear emergencies arise, I-131, is released into the atmosphere where it can be taken up by the thyroid gland. To prevent this, governments and medical professionals provide non-radioactive iodine in the form of potassium iodide. If given at high enough doses – hundreds of times the normal dose – the good iodine saturates the thyroid gland, preventing the radioactive isotopes from entering. The dose is repeated once daily until the threat is gone.

    Iodine Benefits

    Necessary for Thyroid Hormone Production

    The number one role of iodine in the body is the production of thyroid hormones. As a result, most of the body’s iodine is concentrated in the thyroid. The pituitary gland releases thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which tells the thyroid how much T3 and T4 to produce. Iodine helps convert thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). This conversion is important for the thyroid to function properly. Your thyroid gland uses it to make thyroid hormones, which help control growth, repair damaged cells and support a healthy metabolism. 

    Stress can increase the production of TSH, which affects how much T3 and T4 are produced, affecting metabolism. 

    The hypothalamus, a gland in the brain, produces a thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) that also affects the production of thyroid hormones. Ensuring a healthy supply of iodine is important for a healthy thyroid.

    Prevents Enlarged Thyroid Gland

    Iodine deficiency is widely recognised as the primary cause of goiter. In fact, according to a meta-analysis out of China, lower urinary iodine concentration values “were associated with an increased risk of goiter, and … iodine deficiency may lead to an increased risk of goiter.” 

    Add sea salt, seafood, raw milk and eggs to your diet to avoid iodine deficiency, as this often also works as a preventative step of an enlarged thyroid gland and other health problems. More about this later.

    Boosts Metabolism and Energy

    Iodine influences greatly the functioning of the thyroid glands by helping with the production of hormones directly responsible for controlling the body’s base metabolic rate. Metabolic rate ensures the efficiency of the body’s organ systems and biochemical processes, including sleep cycle, absorption of food and transformation of food into energy we can use. Hormones, like thyroxin and triiodothyronine, influence blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and weight. The basal metabolic rate is maintained by the body with the help of these hormones, which also plays a role in protein synthesis. 

    Iodine plays a vital role in maintaining optimal energy levels of the body by the utilisation of calories, without allowing them to be deposited as excess fat.

    Helps Prevent Certain Kinds of Cancer

    Iodine plays a role in boosting immunity and inducing apoptosis, the self-destruction of dangerous, cancerous cells. While iodine assists in destroying mutated cells, it doesn’t destroy healthy cells in the process. Evidence shows the ability of iodine-rich seaweed to inhibit growth of breast tumour development.  This is supported by the low rate of breast cancer in parts of world, especially in Japan, where women consume a diet rich in iodine. 

    Bromine plays a role here as well, as research shows bromine is a suspected carcinogen that “may exacerbate iodine insufficiency since bromine competes for iodine uptake by the thyroid gland and other tissues (i.e. breast).” 

    Removes Toxic Heavy Metals from the Body

    Elemental iodine falls within the halogen group on the periodic table of elements. The halogen group also includes chlorine, fluorine, and bromine. People use chlorine to disinfect pool water, but it can irritate the lungs, eyes, and skin. 

    Fluoride (a form of fluorine) disrupts the way enzymes operate in the body, affecting cellular function, cell signaling, and the stress response. Scientists have linked brominated flame retardants to brain and thyroid dysfunction, preterm birth, and more.  These halogens are taken up by the thyroid, since they are chemically similar, preventing iodine from entering thyroid cells.

    Saturating the thyroid with iodine promotes detoxification by prompting it to release undesirable halogens. It can also purge the system of toxic metals since iodine binds to such elements in the body.

    Iodine supplementation may help you detox from heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum. Dr. David Brownstein, author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It / Why You Can’t Live Without It and an expert in iodine, states that “Iodine is a chelator of mercury. It will bind with mercury and allow the body to release [it]."

    Boosts Immunity

    Iodine can clean up and destroy most types of harmful organisms. Because of this, medical professionals use it to clean wounds and prepare you for some surgeries. But these properties can also benefit your immune system. Iodine helps defend against harmful cells, a process called apoptosis. Iodine also acts as an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals in the body. It increases the activity of antioxidants throughout the body to provide a strong defensive measure against various diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

    Recent studies have shown that iodine directly protects the brain cells of rats from the harmful effects of free radicals by bonding onto fatty acids in the cell membrane, leaving less room for free radicals to have a negative impact on the organism. 

    Helps Prevent Impaired Development and Growth in Children

    Pregnant women need more iodine than usual because this mineral is necessary for proper brain development of the unborn child. A breastfeeding woman needs even more iodine to ensure she gets enough for herself and her baby. 

    Studies have shown that iodine deficiency during infancy and pregnancy can interrupt healthy brain development and growth. Infants are more susceptible to mortality and high risk for neurodegenerative problems if iodine-deficient, such as a mental form of disability known as cretinism, motor function problems, learning disabilities and low growth rate.

    According to research published by professors at the University of Sydney in Australia and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Sweden, “Brain damage and irreversible mental retardation are the most important disorders induced by iodine deficiency.” 

    The most critical phase of brain development is during pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, but iodine supports healthy brain function throughout life. It’s extremely important for those planning to conceive to have optimum iodine levels. Continue taking iodine through breastfeeding to ensure your baby has an adequate supply of iodine, too.

    Promotes Healthy Hair and Skin

    It’s clear that getting adequate iodine in your diet plays a role in ensuring healthy skin, nails, and hair. Dry, irritated and rough skin that becomes flaky and inflamed is a common sign of iodine deficiency. Iodine helps with the formation of shiny and healthy skin, hair and teeth and is an important trace element, as a lack of iodine results in hair loss.

    In animal studies, iodine deficiency was linked to a lack of hair growth. Individuals born with cretinism have less hair than normal and thick, dry skin. 

    Supports Women’s Health

    Iodine helps with women’s reproductive health and breast health. Studies show that moderate iodine deficiencies may reduce a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. Severe iodine deficiencies may also lead to miscarriage. Even mildly low iodine levels in pregnant women are linked with greater oxidative stress – a reduction in the body’s ability to break down free radicals – which leads to complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes mellitus, and preterm birth.

    Iodine-deficiency is also a risk factor for developing polycystic ovary syndrome, in which cysts or benign growths develop in the ovaries. This condition starts off harmless but may affect hormone balance. 

    Like thyroid tissue, breast tissue absorbs iodine, and breast conditions and iodine deficiencies may be connected.

    Women with low thyroid activity (hypothyroidism) also may experience water retention, which leads to puffy, swollen skin.

    First Aid Essential

    Iodine has a long history as a must-have tool for first aid, and you may find iodine packets in some first aid kits. These are typically povidone-iodine solution on a small wipe and used topically to cleanse wounds. Some first aid kits also include iodine crystal tablets for treating water in emergency conditions. Iodine tablets provide a faster method of water treatment compared with boiling.

    How Much Iodine Do You Need?

    Life Stage

    Iodine required per day (mcg)

    18+ Women and Men      


    Pregnant or Lactating Women     


    Breastfeeding Women     


    Infants birth-6 months   

    110 (if not breastfeeding)

    7-12 months       

    130 (if not breastfeeding)

    People with hypothyroidism— low thyroid function – generally experience weight gain, which can also lead to sluggish feelings, brain fog, and low energy. Low iodine levels, genetics, and other conditions can cause hypothyroidism. 

    People with hyperthyroidism– overactive thyroid – often have trouble gaining weight. An overactive thyroid produces too much of the T3 and T4 hormones, which uses up all the body’s iodine, so sometimes supplementing with iodine helps, even though it seems counter-intuitive. However, always consult with your doctor first.  

    Importance of Iodine Co-factors

    Most vitamins and minerals need certain other vitamins and minerals to perform their necessary functions perfectly. These are called cofactors or companion nutrients. Important cofactors for iodine include selenium (minimum 200 mcg per day), magnesium (minimum 400 mg per day), vitamin C (minimum 2,000-3,000 mg per day), and vitamins B2 and B3 (100 mg riboflavin and 500 mg niacin per day). Vitamin B1 (thiamin) may also be required to activate the thyroid hormone.

    Iodine Sources

    Iodine-rich soil is found by the coasts, so one is much more likely to experience iodine deficiency in the middle regions of the country. However, the soil has been depleted of every mineral in recent decades, leading to iodine deficiency in soils everywhere. This adds up to simply not enough iodine in our diet, even if we eat a whole foods diet. Boosting your intake of iodine-rich foods is a great start, but also consider adding with a quality iodine supplement as well.

    Foods rich in Iodine 


    ▪Foods from the Ocean:Since iodine occurs in ocean sediments and ocean water, top sources include seafood, shellfish, and sea vegetables or seaweed such as wakame, dulse, or nori – which are iodine superfoods. A sheet of seaweed may contain between 16-3,000 mcg of iodine. Unfortunately, food from the ocean can be subject to various pollutants.




    Navy beans



    *Dairy Products:Milk products often contain iodine due to the use of iodine-containing antiseptics on dairy equipment and to clean the teats of cows, although this usage is declining. As a result, milk products may or may not contain iodine, depending on the dairy farm it comes from. For people who follow a plant-based diet, dairy isn't a viable solution.



    Green beans



    →Whichever one you choose, make sure you're getting a product that's organic, deep-earth sourced, and produced without harsh chemicals or alcohol.

    Types of Iodine

    There are a number of forms of iodine supplements. It may be taken orally or topically:

    Nascent iodine- sometimes called atomic iodine, where iodine is in a free ionic state, unbound to another atom, giving it an electromagnetic charge and reported better absorption in the body when consumed orally. Nascent, colloidal iodine is more readily absorbed by the body than other forms, which means it is more bioavailable. The body recognises nascent iodine as what it uses to make the T3 and T4 hormones.

    Potassium iodide -comes in tablets or liquid. It is the most common form of iodine, and most inexpensive to produce. 

    Doctors give patients SSKI as an expectorant to help clear mucus, to prepare for surgery, and in rare circumstances of exposure to nuclear outfall to treat radiation. Sometimes, sodium iodide is also used to remedy deficiencies. Only about 20% of potassium iodide is absorbed by the digestive tract, and thus not the best choice for iodine supplementation. 


    Lugol’s iodine –or Lugol’s Solution, is one of the most common iodine supplements. Lugol’s is an aqueous solution containing one part free elemental iodine to two parts potassium iodide in distilled water. Although Lugol’s contains just 2-5 percent iodine, the free iodine is more potent, so it is sometimes called strong iodine solution. Lugol’s has been used for decades as a disinfectant, in dental settings, in various medical procedures, and as a pre-operative treatment for patients with Grave’s disease headed for thyroidectomy (thyroid removal). Breast tissue favours this type, and it has also been found to help inhibit hormone secretion. A palm-sized amount of Lugol’s is usually used to paint on the skin.

    Painting is applying a solution topically to the skin. The idea behind this method is that the body will only consume that which it truly needs, and you can actually measure and observe the amount taken in. It also allows the iodine to reach the ideal destination in a higher concentration. One study found that iodine bioavailability increased seven times when painted on the problem area.

    Povidone-Iodine Solution - is a powerful antiseptic and disinfectant. This form is commonly used in first aid kits and medical settings to clean wounds and sterilise skin before major or minor surgery. This is not typically taken orally, although some people use it as a mouthwash. 

    Tincture of Iodine - elemental iodine is suspended in water and ethanol. A weak iodine tincture is about 2-7 percent iodine, while a strong tincture is 7 percent or higher. Both strengths are used as antiseptics, and are used topically rather than taken orally. Some people use a tincture of iodine for what's called the iodine patch test, a popular but unreliable method of testing for iodine deficiency. An iodine loading test is a far more reliable measure of iodine levels, but must be done by a healthcare professional.


    Although iodine is imperative for thyroid health and can be a cure for those with hypothyroidism and even hyperthyroidism, it is not recommended for those with the autoimmune thyroid disease Hashimoto’s.

    Those taking high blood pressure medications, diuretics, or anti-thyroid medications should not supplement iodine, or should first consult their physician to be sure iodine supplementation would not interfere with their medication.

    Iodine overdose of more than 2,000 milligrams could be dangerous, especially in individuals who are diagnosed with tuberculosis or kidney disease. Iodine in excess could result in thyroid papillary cancer and hyperthyroidism rather than prevention. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should be cautious not to take iodine except in specifically prescribed doses.

    A healthy balance is required, but different people’s bodies will react differently to dose amounts. People who have Hashimoto’s, thyroiditis or particular cases of hypothyroid individuals should speak with their doctors to discuss how much, if any, iodine should be taken through careful supplementation.

    Care should be taken in handling and using pure iodine. It can burn the skin and damage the eyes and mucous membranes. Pure iodine is poisonous if ingested.

    To Sum Up…

    Iodine and thyroid hormones play a crucial role in supporting brain function, including mental wellness and mood. 

    Some studies have linked developmental conditions, such as ADHD and autism to low iodine during pregnancy or childhood. The role the thyroid has on adult psychiatric conditions remains unclear, but given iodine’s critical role in brain development, ensuring an adequate supply for overall mental wellness is a good idea.

    Iodine doesn’t just affect the thyroid; it does many other things, including playing an important role as an immune booster, boosting antioxidant functions, maintaining the integrity of the mammary gland as well as antibacterial properties, particularly against H. pylori, which is a bacterial infection in the stomach and associated with gastric cancer. 

    From this blog it seems that those experiencing infertility, constipation, mood disorders, and those with mental or physical impairments or planning to get pregnant would benefit greatly from iodine supplementation as well as eating more iodine rich foods.







  • 23 Oct 2018 11:26 AM | Aliya Umm Omar

    With the temperature fluctuating and heading towards zero degrees, some of you may have already fought a cold or even contracted the flu. Being sick, even when you’re home in bed, isn’t fun. The combination of body aches, fever, chills, and nasal congestion can be enough to make anyone miserable. There are plenty of home remedies that can alleviate your symptoms and get you back to normal. Herbal and natural remedies may not be a cure-all, but they can help shorten the duration and get you feeling better faster, as some of the most readily prescribed options can have serious side effects. 

    Here, are some popular remedies for combating the winter bugs:

    Dietary Remedies

    Dietary Adjustments: At the first sign of illness, completely remove all white foods from the diet. This includes grains, sugars, milk, cheese, dairy, sweeteners, soda, etc. These foods suppress immune function, increase inflammation and slow the body’s healing ability. When you are ill, you don’t actually need to eat a lot of food, as the body needs to focus more on healing than digestion. Eat foods that are easy to digest such as smoothies, broths and soups.


    ·       Herbal teasherbal teas like peppermint, yarrow, nettle, thyme, and chamomile are great for when you’re feeling under the weather. Not only are they soothing and comforting, but they also really help to alleviate some symptoms that might be making you miserable. More on this later in the blog.

    ·       Cinnamon, honey, and coconut oil drink twice a day:Cinnamon is an effective antiviral and antibiotic, honey is a natural antibacterial and cough suppressant, and coconut oil is thought to help dissolve the protective coating around some viruses, allowing the immune system to get to work easier. When combined, they make a really tasty “tea.” When sick, mix a tablespoon of each in about 500 ml boiling water.

    ·       Water– If you have a fever, it is easier to get dehydrated, so drink plenty of water as well as warm soups and herbal teas which all add to hydrating yourself.

    ·      Chicken soupChicken soup is a great choice when you’re sick. Research suggests that enjoying a bowl of chicken soup with vegetables, can slow the movement of neutrophils in your body (a white blood cell that help protect your body from infection). When they’re moving slowly, they stay more concentrated in the areas of your body that require the most healing. The study found that chicken soup was effective for reducing the symptoms of upper respiratory infections in particular. 

    Garlic: This is a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. For the most potent effect, finely mince a clove of garlic and float in a small glass of water. Drink quickly — if you are sick enough, you won’t even notice the taste. NOTE: Pregnant women should not take more than 1 clove of garlic medicinally per day, and children often resist this remedy.

    ·       Onions and garlic on the feet at nightFor those who can’t stomach chowing down raw garlic or for children, rub olive oil under your feet, place thinly sliced onion and garlic on one ply of tissue, fold it up like a parcel and place the thinnest layer of tissue on the bottom of the foot. Then wrap the foot in clingfilm and place a sock on overnight. Onions and garlic have been shown to pull toxins and help the body heal. If a child has respiratory problems cutting an onion in half and placing it close (yet out of arms reach) in the room where they are sleeping, will aid their breathing and absorb any toxins in the room.

    Honey: Honey has a variety of antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Drinking honey in tea with lemon can ease sore throat pain. Research suggests that honey is an effective cough suppressant. In one study, researchers found that giving children 10 grams of honey at bedtime reduced the severity of their cough symptoms. The children reportedly slept more soundly, which also helps reduce cold symptoms. You should avoid giving honey to a child younger than 1 year old, as it may contain botulinum spores. To make an effective honey cough syrup See ‘Recipes for Health’.

    Coconut OilCoconut oil has many health benefits and is known to boost the immune system. If sick, aim for 5-6 tablespoons per day in food or stirred and melted into hot tea.

    Probiotics: Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria and yeast that are found in your body, some foods, and supplements. They can help keep your gut and immune system healthy, and research indicates that probiotics may reduce your chance of getting sick with an upper respiratory infection. For a delicious and nutritious source of helpful bacteria, include probiotic yoghurt or kefir in your diet. Besides its potential benefits for your immune system, yogurt is a healthy snack that provides plenty of protein and calcium. Look for products that list live bacteria on the label. Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi; and fermented teas such as kombucha, also contains a huge number of probiotics.

    Apple Cider Vinegar: It’s not the best tasting drink but if you are sick enough, you won’t taste it anyway. Drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (the raw unfiltered kind) in water (gargle first!) at the first sign of illness and repeat hourly until symptoms disappear. This alkalises the body and helps kill viruses and bacteria.

    Vitamins Supplementation

    Vitamin D3: A hormone precursor, this vitamin is finally getting recognition as a necessary nutrient for health. Optimising vitamin D levels can help prevent illness in the first place, and taking several thousand IUs a day while sick can help speed recovery. Blood tests can help determine any underlying deficiency. Vitamin D3 works best when taken with vitamin K2.

    Vitamin C: Vitamin C plays an important role in your body and has many health benefits. Along with limes, oranges, grapefruits, leafy greens, and other fruits and vegetables, lemons are a good source of vitamin C. Adding fresh lemon juice to hot tea with honey may reduce phlegm when you’re sick. Drinking hot or cold lemonade may also help.

    While these drinks may not clear up your cold entirely, they can help you get the vitamin C that your immune system needs. Getting enough vitamin C can relieve upper respiratory tract infections and other illnesses.

    Herbal Remedies 

    You may not have these around the house but they are great additions to a natural medicine cabinet: 

    Nettle Leaf: It contains large amounts of vitamins and trace minerals and helps the body stay hydrated and remove toxins. In a tea with red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and peppermint herbals, it makes a powerful immune supporting and illness preventing remedy. 

    Elderberry: Elderberry is well known for supporting the body, especially during flu. You can find conventionally made elderberry syrups at many stores now, or to save money, make your own (see ‘Recipes for Health’). When ill, take one tablespoon (adults) or one teaspoon (children) of elderberry syrup every 2-3 hours.

    Ginger:The health benefits of ginger root have been touted for centuries, but now we have scientific proof of its curative properties. It is naturally antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. A few slices of raw ginger root in boiling water may help soothe a cough or sore throat. To make a cup of ginger tea, pour 500 ml boiling water over two tablespoons sliced fresh ginger and one tablespoon raw honey. Let steep for 15-20 minutes, strain and drink. This teapot of ginger tea can be sipped on all day.

    Yarrow: Unsurpassed for flu and fever, and great for children. If used abundantly in tea or tincture at the beginning of an illness, it will usually shorten the illness to less than 24 hours. It is especially good for fevers as it induces perspiration and is great for all childhood type illnesses. Yarrow is naturally bitter, so it is often good to include peppermint and stevia leaf when making a tea. It is great for the liver and kidneys and supports the endocrine system.

    Chamomile: An absolute staple, especially for kids. Chamomile calms the nerves, helps children sleep better, and reduces inflammation or fever. Soaking a chamomile tea bag in warm water and placing over an eye for 15 minutes every 2 hours will relieve pink eye in less than 24 hours. Chamomile tastes great and is easy to get kids to take. We use it in tea and tincture formula. It is also great for regulating hormones and for the skin and can be used regularly for good sleep.

    Peppermint: Great for all digestive disturbances and for lowering fever. It can be used as a tea or tincture or rubbed on the skin to bring a high fever down. This herb is antimicrobial and antiviral and kids usually love the taste. It can be consumed as a hot tea or cold tea during illness in any amounts. 

    Echinacea: Native Americans have used the herb and root of the echinacea plant to treat infections for more than 400 years. Its active ingredients include flavonoids, which can boost your immune system and reduce inflammation. One review suggests that taking echinacea may lower your risk of developing the common cold by more than 50 percent. It may also reduce the length of a cold. If you’re a healthy adult, consider taking 1 to 2 grams of echinacea root or herb as a tea, three times daily, for no longer than one week.

    Water- Based Remedies

    Salt Water Gargling with salt water reduces and loosens mucus, which contains bacteria and allergens. It may also decrease the severity of cold symptoms by easing a sore throat pain and nasal congestion. Dissolve one teaspoon of salt in a full glass of water. Swish it around your mouth and throat. Gargle and then spit it out.

    Face Steam:Face Steaming is a good way to loosen congestion and kill viruses and bacteria in the lungs, bronchials, or sinuses. Boil 1-2 cups of water in a large pot. Remove from heat, add 2 teaspoons each of thyme, some rosemary, and oregano. Cover for 5 minutes with a lid, and then remove lid and put face directly over pot with towel covering your head to hold in the heat. Breathe in the steam as long as you can (aim for 15 minutes). Alternately, you can use 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar in the steam. It won’t smell great, but it will help fight the illness.

    Warm baths:Sometimes you can reduce a child’s fever by giving them a warm sponge bath. Warm baths can also reduce cold and flu symptoms in adults. A 20-minute soak in a warm bath with 1-2 cups of Epsom salt or magnesium flakes to the water can significantly ease body aches. Adding a few drops of essential oil, such as tea tree, juniper, rosemary, thyme, orange, lavender, or eucalyptus, may also have a healing, soothing effect.

    Humidifier: Influenza thrives and spreads more easily in dry environments. Creating more humidity in your home may reduce your exposure to this flu-causing virus. Increased humidity may also reduce nasal inflammation, making it easier to breathe when you’re sick. Temporarily adding a cool mist humidifier to your bedroom may help you feel more comfortable. This is especially true in winter, when dry indoor heat can exacerbate your symptoms. Adding a few drops of lavender and eucalyptus oil might also stimulate your breathing. Remember, the water used in humidifiers needs to be changed daily to stop mould and other fungi from growing. For the same effect without a humidifier, take a long shower or linger in a steamy bathroom.

    Natural Vapour Rub

    Vapour rub is an all-time favourite for easing sore throats and reducing cold symptoms. However, some store-bought varieties contain some harsh chemicals which could be detrimental to your health. Thankfully, there are vapour rubs out there made from natural ingredients and essential oils. Just one or two applications before bed can help open air passages to combat congestion, reduce coughing, and improve sleep. 

    A Good Rest and Enough Sleep

    If the body is running a fever (which means it is fighting the illness) the best support you can give is to stay well hydrated on water and herbal teas and to rest enough. The body needs several extra hours of rest a day when ill. Getting enough sleep is also crucial to preventing illness, and even a couple nights of interrupted or not enough sleep can leave the body worn down and unable to resist illness.

    Recipes for Health

    Elderberry Syrup


    ·       2/3 cup dried black elderberries, or 1 1/3 cups fresh or frozen

    ·       3½ cups water

    ·       2 TBSP fresh or dried ginger root

    ·       1 tsp cinnamon powder

    ·       ½ tsp cloves or clove powder

    ·       1 cup raw honey


    1.      Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

    2.      Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half.

    3.      Remove from heat and let cool until it is cool enough to be handled.

    4.      Mash the berries carefully using a spoon or other flat utensil.

    5.      Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.

    6.      Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.

    7.      When it is no longer hot, add the honey and stir well.

    8.      When the honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a mason jar or 500ml glass bottle of some kind.

    9.      Store in the fridge.

    Honey Cough Syrup 


    ·       500ml filtered water

    ·       1/4 cup Ginger Root (fresh grated or dried)

    ·       1/4 cup Chamomile Flowers

    ·       1/4 cup Marshmallow Root

    ·       1 tablespoon Cinnamon

    ·       1/4 cup lemon juice

    ·       1 cup honey


    1.      Pour the water into a medium saucepan and add the dried herbs.

    2.      Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

    3.      Simmer until the volume is reduced by about half. (You will need 1 cup of liquid after herbs are strained off)

    4.      Pour through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to remove herbs (compost the herbs!).

    5.      While liquid is still warm (not boiling) mix with lemon juice and honey and stir well.

    6.      Store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 months.

    To Sum Up…

    I have only touched upon a few natural options that can help you recover faster from a cold or flu. There are many more ways that people can treat their cold and flu symptoms with home remedies. Some of those remedies may seem a bit weird, but there are people and communities that swear by their effectiveness. Some folks have also had success with zinc supplementation, lymphatic massage, essential oils or putting peroxide in their ears. Everybody is different, and with natural medicine, there is no one remedy that’s going to work on everyone. It’s going to require some trial-and-error on your part to find out which remedies work and which remedies are reasonable to add to your already hectic life.

    If you still feel sick after a few weeks, make an appointment with your doctor. If you have trouble breathing, have a rapid heartbeat, feel faint, or experience other severe symptoms, get medical help sooner.







  • 25 Sep 2018 12:46 PM | Aliya Umm Omar

    Milk thistle is an herbal remedy derived from the milk thistle plant (which has the scientific name Silybum marianum). Milk thistle gets its name from the milky-white liquid that runs off of the plant’s leaves when they’re crushed. The actual leaves of the plant also have a spotted white pattern that makes them look as if they have been dipped in milk. Milk thistle has been used in traditional herbal medicine for a long time, with references dating back to the first century.  In Roman times, Pliny the Elder wrote about the effective power of milk thistle. The Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides was the first to describe milk thistle’s healing properties back in the year 40 A.D. He mentioned milk thistle tea as a remedy for snakebites.

    In the sixteenth century, John Gerard wrote in his ‘Anatomie of Plants’ that milk thistle could help with depression and emotional distress. Europeans continued to use milk thistle for this purpose. At that time, people consumed all parts of the plant, including the roots and the milk of the herb. Later, in the seventeenth century, physician and herbalist Nicolas Culpeper claimed that milk thistle can help the liver by unblocking it, when necessary, and could also help cure jaundice. In the 1800’s, people used milk thistle for additional ailments, including irregular menstruation, varicose veins, kidney, liver and spleen problems. Today, milk thistle is still an effective cure for these ailments.

    Milk thistle is native to Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of the Mediterranean. However, it can be found around the world. Silybum marianum is a member of the aster family which includes the daisies and sunflowers, such as artichoke. Many gardeners consider it a weed due to the speed with which it grows. Milk thistle can grow to be ten feet high, and its stem has spines and thorns. The purple flowers can each contain up to 190 seeds, which have the most medicinal benefit as they contain silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle extract. Silymarin is composed of several other active compounds known as flavonolignans. The root, leaf and seed have medicinal uses, but the flavonolignans in the seed are its most widely used form today. 

    Milk Thistle Benefits 

    Milk thistle is best known for its positive effect on liver health, but studies are looking into other possible benefits too. However, always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Keep reading to learn some of the ways researchers think milk thistle may be able to help improve your health.

    1.     Liver Support

    Milk thistle benefits by drawing toxins out of the body and protecting the liver from damage. Silymarin has been used in traditional medicine as a natural remedy for diseases of the liver because of its potent antioxidant activity.

    It is effective at naturally reversing the harmful effects of alcohol consumption, pesticides in our food supply, heavy metals in our water supply, pollution in the air that we breathe and even poisons.

    It’s regularly used as a complementary therapy by people who have liver damage due to conditions like alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis and even liver cancer.

    Studies have shown improvements in liver function in people with liver diseases who have taken a milk thistle supplement, suggesting it could help reduce liver inflammation and liver damage.

    2.     Anti-Ageing Properties

    About 50-70% of the silymarin molecules present within milk thistle are the type called silybin, also known as silibinin. This antioxidant stimulates protein synthesis and changes the outside layer of healthy cells, keeping them protected from damage and mutation. 

    Silibinin inhibits toxins from dwelling in the body; helps with cell renewal; and counteracts the harmful effects of pollutants, chemicals and heavy metals that can cause free radical damage.

    Thus, the herb may actually help slow the aging process. This applies to both the surface of your skin and your organs, as antioxidants can protect your body from chronic disease.

    Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties mean that it is possibly neuro-protective and could help prevent the decline in brain function you experience as you age. However, it’s unclear whether milk thistle is absorbed enough in people to allow adequate amounts to pass through the blood-brain barrier. It’s also unknown what doses would need to be prescribed for it to have a beneficial effect.

    3.     Cancer Prevention and Treatment

    Silymarin is associated with decreasing the risk for cancer development by boosting the immune system, fighting DNA damage and reversing cancerous tumour growth.

    In 2007 researchers at the University of Minnesota found that there is strong preclinical evidence for silymarin’s hepato-protective and anti-carcinogenic effects, including inhibition of cancer cell growth in human prostate, skin, breast, and cervical cells.

    Some animal studies have shown that milk thistle could be useful for reducing the side effects of cancer treatments. It may make chemotherapy work more effectively against certain cancers and, in some circumstances, even destroy cancer cells. 

    The studies in humans are very limited and have yet to show a meaningful clinical effect in people.

    4.     Boost Breast Milk Production

    Milk thistle is reported to boost breast milk production in lactating mothers. It’s thought to work by making more of the milk-producing hormone prolactin.

    One randomised controlled study found that mothers taking 420 mg of silymarin for 63 days produced 64% more milk than those taking a placebo. More research is needed to confirm these results and the safety of milk thistle for breastfeeding mothers.

    5.     Acne Treatment

    Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, milk thistle may be a useful supplement for people with acne.

    Interestingly, one study found that people with acne who took 210 grams of silymarin per day for 8 weeks experienced a 53% decrease in acne lesions.

    6.     Others Benefits

    Other possible health benefits include lowering high cholesterol, supporting weight loss, reducing insulin resistance, improving allergic asthma symptoms, improving cognitive function, and supporting bone health. 

    Milk Thistle for Health

    The leaves and stalks of the Milk thistle were at one time used in salads, soups and pies, with the leaves surpassing the finest of cabbage.  The heads were also eaten, in most cases they were boiled and treated like those of the Artichoke.

    The seeds and leaves of the milk thistle plant can be consumed either in capsule, powder, tincture, extract or tea form. The seeds can actually be eaten completely raw, too, but usually people prefer to take a milk thistle extract or supplement in order to consume a higher dose and see bigger results.

    Dosage Suggestions

    The suggested dosage is a total of 420 mg per day. Each capsule should contain at least 70 percent silymarin. Carefully read any directions and dosages listed on the label of the specific brand that you buy. Dosages may vary. You can also drink up to six cups of milk thistle tea each day.

    If a milk thistle extract were given that was standardised to 70% silymarin, then a usual dose would be 200 mg three times daily which would be delivering 420 mg of silymarin. When treating chronic liver disease, duration of use may be as short as two months up to several years and conceivably throughout the patient’s lifespan in cases of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and or fibrosis. Oral dosing should be personalised to the patient, their condition, and the milk thistle product being used. Consider the following:

    ·       Cirrhosis: Silymarin, 280 to 450 mg per day in two or three divided doses. 

    ·       Chronic hepatitis:Silipide or silipide equivalents, 160 to 480 mg per day or silymarin 420 mg per day, in three divided doses. 

    ·       Acute viral hepatitis:Silymarin, 420 mg daily in three divided doses. 

    ·       Drug/toxin-induced hepatotoxicity:Silymarin 280 to 420 mg daily in three divided doses; but up to 800 mg/day can be considered.


    Milk thistle is generally considered safe when taken by mouth. In fact, in studies where high doses were used for long periods, only about 1% of people experienced side effects. When reported, side effects for milk thistle are generally gut disturbances like diarrhoea, nausea or bloating.

    Some people are advised to be cautious when taking milk thistle. These include:

    ·       Pregnant women:There is no data on its safety in pregnant women, so they are usually advised to avoid this supplement. 

    ·       Those allergic to the plant:Milk thistle may cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to the Asteraceae/Compositae family of plants, or to daisies, artichokes, common thistle or kiwi. If an anaphylaxis reaction should occur with any of the above plants, then milk thistle should be avoided altogether. 

    ·       People with diabetes:The blood sugar-lowering effects of milk thistle may put people with diabetes at risk of low blood sugar. Milk thistle can lower fasting glucose and haemoglobin A1c. 

    ·       Those with certain conditions:Milk thistle can have estrogenic effects, which may worsen hormone-sensitive conditions, including some types of breast cancer.

    ·       Those taking certain medications:Milk thistle should be used with caution in patients taking medications metabolised by the cytochrome P450 system and in patients who are taking hypoglycemic agents. 

    To Sum Up…

    Milk thistle has been used medicinally all around the world. Many of civilization’s earliest botanists and pharmacists in ancient Greece and Rome used milk thistle to aid in bile-related problems; later in Europe it was used to treat everything ranging from depression to venomous bites; in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is said to clear heat and remove toxicity.

    Milk thistle is most well-known for being a natural liver supporter and detoxifier. It could decrease, or even reverse damage to the liver that has been caused by prescription medications, alcohol use, antibiotics, pollution and heavy metals. Promising research is showing that it could treat many of the major health problems we have today, such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and even slow down the ageing process. It’s still early days yet and more research is warranted to discover its full potential.










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