Jan 21, 2015

More coffee like this please!

Optimo coffee
Elsewhere I’ve said that I keep a variety of beverage options on hand just to keep boredom at bay and of course to vary the nutrients and antioxidants I can partake. As of this very moment, I have corn coffee which I roasted myself, store-bought but locally-made green tea, non Dutch-processed cocoa powder, non-GMO soy milk powder (gifted to me by a church member), ginger tea or salabat, ginger-and-turmeric tea blend and also, I must admit, instant coffee -- for unexpected company, mostly.

Of the variety of hot drinks however, there’s no denying that I love coffee the most. I may drink herbal teas for the health benefits they give me but I drink coffee more for the experience than for anything. The taste and aroma of coffee just cannot be beat. Ever. Corn coffee is bitter enough, but not as flavorful. Cocoa is rich, but lacks the kick and bite of coffee. Herbal teas are soothing, but they don’t assail the senses with the heady aroma as does coffee.

However, I find that I belong to the few who are kinda sensitive to caffeine -- manifested by a difficulty in sleeping whenever I drink coffee past midday. That’s why I time my coffee trysts to the morning hours, preferably after breakfast or around 10 o’clock in the morning, never beyond that.

Store-bought coffee are usually made of coffee that has been grown with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and so I try so hard to ignore them (which doesn’t prove successful at times, I must admit). Besides, instant coffee mixes come with non-dairy creamer that’s made of trans fats and GMO corn and the sugar is of course refined,  or worse, synthetic sweeteners such as aspartame and maybe even magic sugar.

There are organic coffee beans like Fresh Start but I have not yet, despite several contemplations, come to the point of buying myself a coffee maker. I have also bought nondescript brands of native coffee but I haven’t found any whose taste captured my fancy.

Bottomline, I was looking for coffee that was free from pesticides, tasted good and offered the convenience of instant coffee mixes. Have I found what I’ve been looking for? Maybe. Or not quite.

I found Optimo recently. Here is their company website. Disclaimer: I am not paid, rewarded or compensated in any form by Optimo. This is just a product that piqued my curiosity as it's the first coffee brand I've found that has coco sugar. You can read about what coco sugar is here. I also like that they sneaked in some herbs such as green tea, ginkgo biloba and grapeseed extract. However, they have not indicated as to quality of the coffee they use -- whether it’s organic or not. The creamer is also described simply as non-dairy creamer.

If I had my way, I would make an instant coffe mix that is made of the following ingredients:
  • Coffee that is certified organic and thus free from synthetic pesticide and synthetic fertilizer residues. I would love if somebody comes up with different variants of coffee -- arabica, robusta, etc.
  • The sweetener should be the healthy kind and the minimally refined ones. I think muscovado sugar would be cheaper than coco sugar. I would probably switch from coco sugar to muscovado sugar-sweetened varieties from time to time.
  • I would like the creamer to be coconut milk cream-based, preferably processed so as to retain the naturally-occurring MCTs or medium-chain triglycerides of coconut milk.
  • As for the herbs, I think with creativity, socially responsible entrepreneurs could opt to use locally-sourced super foods like moringa powder, mangosteen rind powder, bignay or berry extracts, etc.
  • I must also emphasize that this coffee should have no artificial colors, artificial flavors, free-flowing agents and harmful preservatives.
  • And if it’s not asking too much, I hope the coffee would be affordable to most Filipinos -- maybe only up to twice or thrice the price of other unhealthy brands and not more than that.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a line of coffee blends that are good for the body, offer variety and give opportunities for local farmers and entrepreneurs?

Who’s up to the task of coming up with an all-natural, convenient, herb-infused and flavorful coffee? Do contact me if you have and I’ll sample, review and promote it in my blog. More importantly, I’ll drink it religiously.

Jan 19, 2015

Why a tray of charcoal should be in each room of your house


As much as I want to go healthy overnight, I also must come to terms with the fact that there are just so many to change that I just must take it slowly lest I get overwhelmed. That is why I turn to simple and low-cost health tweaks first, before moving on to the harder ones. I am referring particularly to those switches and changes that do not require epic willpower as in dieting, expensive purchases (e.g. running shoes) or disruptive routines (like going to the gym).

In the previous blog post I’ve talked about the importance of ingesting antioxidants as a way to raise our internal defense system against free radicals. Here in this post I will be tackling the very simple way of eliminating or at least decreasing the levels of external toxins and free radicals in our indoor air.

Indoor air is actually a lot hazardous than we think it is. And contrary to popular notions, air fresheners do not freshen air really. In fact the opposite is true. Air fresheners are simply synthetic fragrances -- laboratory-made versions of aromatic plant essential oils. Using air fresheners actually raises the toxic score of your home!

Cleaning up indoor air and the air around the perimeter of your house is especially important to homebodies and work-at-home moms like me who spend time in the house nearly 24/7. This reminds me of a blog post I made on how to clean indoor and outdoor air by means of air-purifying ornamental plants. If you have not read that, do take time to look it up here. Indoor air is made toxic and dirty by a variety of factors: tobacco smoke, dust mites, metabolic wastes of bacteria, harmful volatile organic compounds given off by paints and the toxic compounds given off by plastics and other synthetic materials.

There are many ways to purify indoor air and I’ve so far implemented only two (plants and charcoal). I still have to find essential oil diffusers, beeswax candles and salt lamps… but then again, simple things first.

One simple way to purify indoor air is to place a plate, basket or tray of charcoal in each room of your house. My references suggest the use of activated charcoal but I am using ordinary wood charcoal as yet. It is possible this ordinary wood charcoal is not as powerful an air-purifier as AC is but it's better than nothing. 

How does charcoal clean indoor air? Charcoal has microscopic pores which adsorb various indoor pollutants such as:

  • bacteria
  • allergens
  • moisture
  • molds and mildew

Here’s a partial list of the harmful chemicals that may be circulating in our house:

  • formaldehyde (yes, the embalming fluid)
  • ammonia
  • benzene
  • chloroform
  • asbestos
  • carbon monoxide

Here’s the list of household items that give off the above chemicals:

  • paint
  • plastics
  • rubber
  • carpeting
  • synthetic household cleaners
  • synthetic fragrances (most of our perfumes)
  • heaters that run on fossil fuels
  • furnaces
  • auto exhaust
  • pesticides
  • permanent markers
  • glues and other art supplies
  • copiers and printers

Here are some tips on how to use charcoal to purify indoor air:

  1. Use a pie plate, a little basket or a shallow tray to hold the charcoal pieces.
  2. Place a charcoal basket in each room of your house.
  3. Choose an out-of-the-way spot as you don’t want the charcoal basket to be tipped.
  4. Rejuvenate the charcoal pieces every month by taking them out and drying them under the heat of the sun for 2 hours. This year I am setting the first day of each month as my schedule for taking out the charcoal trays.
  5. Use the charcoal for up to 2 years, after which you can recycle the charcoal for grilling, for sprinkling around plants to retain moisture or to serve as fertilizer.
  6. Buy half a sack of charcoal and divide it into trays or baskets, putting each basket in every room and various nooks and crannies of your house. Here’s another list of where you could put them:

  • living room
  • bedroom
  • kitchen
  • garage
  • dining room
  • inside the refrigerator
  • in closets and cabinets

The benefits of using charcoal:

  • They’re cheap and widely available
  • Simple to use
  • Safe to kids and pets
  • Easy to maintain
  • Can be used for up to 2 years


Jan 15, 2015

Antioxidants and their sources (Part 2)

antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables

I have outlined in a previous blog post a few of the antioxidants that we can take in from food sources. This topic may be a bit boring for some but it is needful for us to at least grasp it as doing so would motivate us, in a rock-solid way, to pursue a nourishing, cleansing and healing diet.

Why do we need antioxidants?
The culprits behind many diseases are free radicals which are, unfortunately, not just coming from outside the body but are inevitably generated inside our own bodies as by-products of metabolism or the churning of food into energy.

There are many forms, sizes and configurations of free radicals but they all share the common trait of stealing electrons from their neighbors. The victims of electron theft become altered both structurally and functionally. In a deeper sense, free radicals even alter the way molecular instructions are coded in the DNA strand. A free radical-altered cell membrane, for example, that is previously impenetrable by certain harmful compounds become suddenly open to their entry. Fortunately, our own bodies manufacture antioxidants and or extract antioxidants from the food we eat. 

How do antioxidants work?
Antioxidants stop oxidation by giving away their electrons to those cells whose electrons have been stolen by free radicals. The wonder of it all is that antioxidants give away their electrons without becoming electron-deficient themselves.

There are thousands of antioxidants that have been discovered through the years and it is very likely that there are yet more that still lie undiscovered and unnamed in foods. I believe the Creator designed these protective substances to outnumber the free radicals. I myself have seen how my paternal grandparents had lived to hundreds based on a diet that is based mostly on home-grown fruits, vegetables and herbs as well as backyard-raised meats. You can read the story here.

The interest in antioxidants came about in the 1990’s when free radical damage was observed by scientists as the underlying mechanism for the development of clogged arteries, vision loss, cancer and other chronic conditions. People who ate a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables were found to have lower risks of developing these free radical-induced health problems compared to those whose diets were low in antioxidants.

The mushrooming of antioxidant supplements was then seen shortly after that, with various companies touting one superfood after another -- goji berries, green tea... you probably know the rest. However, these supplements were isolates of individual antioxidants -- that is, the antioxidant was “taken out of its natural context.” Experts say that the safest way to take in antioxidants is to eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables so that, as the Harvard web article puts it, we could take in the whole network of antioxidants and their helper molecules and not just one antioxidant.

Anyway, here is the  second part of the list of antioxidants and their food sources: (Again, these are but a few of the thousands of antioxidants couched in our foods). I daresay our own moringa may yet prove to have even more antioxidants than even kale or spinach.

Flavonoids or bioflavonoids are a class of antioxidants that abound in goji berries, coffee (Yes!) and tea. Popular flavonoids include quercetin and epicatechins. Based on preliminary research findings, flavonoids have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and antimicrobial activities.

Polyphenolic antioxidants
These include the following:

  • Chicoric acid from Echinacea
  • Chlorogenic acid from coffee beans (Yes again!)
  • Cinnamic acids from cinnamon
  • Ferrulic acid from brown rice, oats and whole wheat
  • Ellagic acid from strawberry
  • Rosmarinic acid from rosemary, oregano and marjoram

Non-flavonoid phenolics

Sorry if I have bored you. The bottomline is that I just want us all to visualize every food around us as the very sources of our defense against all the diseases we dread. I am not anti-food supplement (as I am taking some dried whole herbs) but real, whole, live foods just cannot be beat.

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