Sesame Seed Allergy

Allergy to sesame seeds is one of the lesser talked about allergies, but my attention has been drawn to it a little more recently. It is true that use of sesame seeds and sesame seed products is much more common these days, the oil is becoming adopted as a regular oil for salad dressings and stir fry as it has such a lovely flavour. I really like it and use it myself, put the seeds on the top of any bread I’m making, or sprinkle them into salads as I’m sure some of you do too? McDonald’s certainly do. And other sesame products like Tahini, Halva and hummus are regular foods for us now. The thing is that Sesame Oil is one of the few vegetable oils that is used unrefined and so the seed protein is intact, the consequence of this is that just 3ml of sesame oil is enough to induce an allergic reaction.

So here we have the problem – used more reacted to more. The problem is not just with foods but also with pharmaceuticals, medical products and cosmetics were sesame oils and byproducts are being used more than ever too.

Children are most affected by sesame allergy

It is infants and young children who seem to be most affected and I have read somewhere that it is not uncommon for those with peanut allergy to also have a reaction to sesame. (4 out of 55 children who were allergic to peanuts showed signs of a reaction to sesame in a clinical trail of 1996). As so little is mentioned about Sesame allergy I thought I would air the dangers.

The Dept of Health has issued advice aimed at reducing the development of peanut allergy.(Committee on Toxicity of Chemical in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment report on peanut allergy. 1998)
It advises that atopic* infants should not be exposed to peanuts and peanut products until they are least three. It would seem sensible to advise that these infants should also avoid sesame products, particularly if the child has atopic dermatitis or other atopic history. If you suspect any hint of a sesame allergy and your child has dermatitis check all emollients and creams to make sure sesame is not in the ingredients or the source of oil.

The Skin prick test does not seem to be very reliable for detecting sesame seed allergy, so diagnosis through specialist allergy clinics would be best.

For more information see “Raising Awareness of Sesame Allergy” which was one of the first documents to alert me to this important issue”

(* atopic – genetically determined state of hypersensitivety to environmental allergens)

Google Maps

This has rocked my world I think its great. Mind you I’m spending far too much time looking at the Rockies and other wonderful places. Niagra falls, New York and… Daventry!


Ever heard of edamame? No, it’s not a cheese, but a type of baby green Soya bean. In Japan edamame (which, I’m reliably informed is pronounced ed-ah-MAH-may) is a popular snack eaten straight out of the pod and often accompanies beer! I can’t offer edamame in the pod (or beer for that matter), but we have just added 454g bags of frozen edamame to our range here at GoodnessDirect. The frozen edamame can be prepared in just the same way as frozen peas, ie boiled in water for 5 minutes.

As well as being an interesting alternative to peas or beans, edamame offers some excellent health benefits; it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source and because it’s a Soya product, it is full of isoflavones and can help to reduce cholesterol and thereby reduce the risk of heart disease.

Here is a recipe for glazed edamame to try. It is designed to be an original starter…Cook 300g edamame in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain and keep warm. Combine 120ml vegetable stock, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of arrowroot. Bring to the boil and stir into the cooked beans.Dress it up with Balsamic Vinegar & Maple Dressing.

While I’m on recipes, here’s another easy-peasy one for a fabulous salad dressing with a difference; the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar impart a beautiful flavour. Mix together 250ml olive oil with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of mustard powder and 1 crushed garlic clove. Add salt and freshly milled black pepper and whisk it all together until well mixed.

I found this recipe while I was reading up about balsamic vinegar. I’ve always enjoyed that simplest of simple appetisers, chunks of warmed bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Never mind the meal, I could just carry on dipping bread until I’m full! Balsamic vinegar is named after the word balsam, meaning aromatic resin, simply because it’s thick (resin-like) and aromatic. The “aromatic-ness” (if that’s a word!) comes from the wooden barrels in which the vinegar is aged and each manufacturer will have its own unique progression of barrels to create a distinctive flavour. Ours, from Clearspring, is aged in barrels of bay, oak and larch. A true balsamic vinegar should be aged for at least twelve years. The best ones are aged for up to 100 years, producing a vinegar with such a sweet and mellow flavour that it can be used as a topping for ice cream!

Fruit Sugar has a Glycemic Index of only 19!

I have just discovered that Fruit Sugar only has a Glycemic Index of 19 compared to the heavy GI of sugar which is in the 90’s somewhere and Glucose which of course is 100! I was taken aback when I heard as the difference is so big.

Guess Fruit Sugar is the sweetener of preference then?

Fruit Sugar is pure fructose in crystal form and looks like ordinary white sugar. It is not an artificial sweetener but is the sugar found naturally in fruits and in honey: nearly 50% of the “dry” weight of apples, pears and grapes is fruit sugar.

Oddly enough, althougfructosese is fruit sugar, the commercially available one is made in Finland from sugar beet.. it is nearly twice as sweet as ordinary sugar and you only need around 1/3 of the amount it says in recipes or you would normally use..Butut get this, gram-for-gram fruit sugar is the same calorie count as ordinary sugar, and the lowesglycemicic index of the sugars and does not cause the surges and slumps in blood sugar levels.

WOW, so there are not the usual hunger pangs you get after eating something sweet. It is growing on me although haven’t’t tried it yet and don’t know if there is an aftertaste – I hate aftertastes especially of the sugary variety!

The manufacturers of the Fruisana Fruit sugar reckon that diabetics also may use fruit sugar sparingly as an alternative to artificial sweeteners, because of its minimal effect on blood sugar levels. But be careful won’t you?

Fruit sugar browns at approx 20°C lower temperature than ordinary sugar. I’m convinced are you?


My friend Annie has just celebrated her 50th birthday, and as part of the package she had a 50’s check up at the doc’s. There was quite a concern about her bone density and the subsequent scan revealed an alarmingly low density. Annie is now drinking milk like crazy and looking for any natural source of calcium vit D she can get her hands on, or rather “get her mouth round!”

You know what its like when one of your friends or family have a problem? Its scratch your brain to see what’s in the archives of advice, which is what we did for Annie. What came out the other end of the sausage machine was 3 basic things:

1) Do loads of weight bearing, gravity fighting excersize of some description. That includes walking, jogging, dancing, bouncing, weights – yes all of those things and plenty of it.

2) Don’t smoke as smokers lose bone density faster than those who don’t smoke. Same with drinking – don’t go over one glass a day because of the greater risk.

3) Calcium and Vit D. Both Calcium and Vitamin D are needed for bone building.

The recommended daily amount of calcium for adults is 1,000-1,200mg per day and postmenopausal women need the higher end of this each day.

The recommended daily amount of Vitamin D is between 200 and 600iu per day.

If you are taking a calcium supplement there will usually be some Vit D in there as well.

But lets take a look at the foods where you can find calcium occurring naturally. Cow’s milk is the one everyone knows, and that is a good source if you are fine with dairy milk. But did you realise that natural yogurt has more calcium than milk? And then there is the ice cream – mmm. Otherwise the calcium enriched Soya milks and tofu are good too. But there are other sources of calcium like dried peas and beans, such as lentils, pinto beans and chickpeas. Most fruits, also, contain calcium. Oranges are a good source as well as concentrated fruits such as prunes, dates and figs.
Raw nuts and seeds can be a great source of calcium too. Raw sesame seeds are especially good calcium rich and can be sprinkled on salads. Probably the best non-dairy sources of calcium are salmon and sardines, both canned with bones.

Here are some values:

dark green leafy vegetables:
1/2 cup of spinach gives you 122mg calcium,
Interestingly enough although spinach is packed with calcium it is not absorbed efficiently by our bodies, so dont go for this one as a calcium source.
1 cup Broccoli cooked or fresh gives 90mg,
1/2 cup cooked Kale gives 45mg

and beans and nuts

1/2 cup cooked Soybeans gives 90mg,
1 cup Garbanzo beans gives 80mg
1oz Dry roasted Almonds gives 80mg

and dairy products

1 cup Plain yogurt, fat-free gives 450mg
1/2 cup Ricotta cheese, part skimmed gives 340mg
1 cup Yogurt with fruit (low-fat or fat-free) gives around 315mg
8 oz.Milk (fat-free, low-fat, or whole) gives 300mg
1 oz. Cheddar cheese gives 204mg
1 cup Cottage cheese gives 138mg
1/2 cup Ice cream, soft serve 118mg

and fruit
10 dried figs gives 269mg

other things
6oz. Small taco gives 221mg
2 burritos – Burrito with beans and cheese can give 214mg – eat Mexican
3 oz.Salmon, canned with bones give 180mg

Statistics and more info on this great little web site – National institute of Health – Why calcium?

If after stuffing yourself with all of these you are wanting to take a calcium supplement to be sure then head for one we have selected at GoodnessDirect which are usually the more credible, absorbable among the many available.


Do you get heartburn?

Its a killer isn’t it? Although I know anti-acids, settlers etc are the wrong answer in the long run, I wanted a run down on exactly what is happening and how to help my body rather than make matters worse.

The problem is with the esophageal sphincter, the ring of muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach. Many of the foods we eat relax this valve allowing stomach acid reflux into the esophagus. The foods which are primarily to blame include; alcohol, caffeine, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, and spearmint plus spicy and fatty foods. Large meals can aggravate heartburn too just by the shear pressure on the sphincter.

I don’t get heartburn as bad as some others I know, and it can be a symptom of a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). So if you get heartburn twice a week or more, go see the doc.

I always thought it was an old wives tale that chewing gum relieved heartburn, but apparently not. The stimulation of saliva production can help neutralize acid reflux, but don’t chew peppermint or spearmint gum as these are heartburn triggers.

Night time is the worst, and after a large meal! Someone suggested raising the head of the bed 6 inches or so to enable gravity keep the stomachs acids where they should be. And of coarse not eating for those few hours before sleeping, you shouldn’t really anyway as those calories are not needed. The other old wives tale I came across was that you don’t get heartburn if you sleep on your left side? I’m wrong here too, it does help, though I haven’t tried it yet, not sure how as its nothing to do with your heart?

Let me know if you know!


Monosodium glutamate MSG

In today’s Guardian it says about the Co-op banning MSG plus 12 colourings from its own brands, following concerns on the effects of additives on children.

“Good on ’em” I say.

Monosodium glutamate is classed as a flavour enhancer and as such is used in absolutely loads of processed food. It’s job is to stimulate our taste buds to enhance the good flavours and to curb the “unpleasant” ones, so it is quite clever eh? How does it know which is which?

But MSG can be nasty , some people react at even less than one gram. [1]

More research being done on MSG at Harvard Medical School found that nearly 30% of 1,529 people reacted to MSG. The most common reactions were headaches migraines, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea and stomach cramps, and that’s not all, many people had emotional reactions ranging from depression to insomnia. [2]. That sounds heavy to me, and all because we like our flavours more flavoury.

However, the food standards people say that they acknowlegde MSG can cause a reaction in a small percentage of people, but that there is little scientific evidence of it causing serious adverse reactions. With this as the food industry foundation those of us who wont stock products with MSG are something of a minority. Its good to be joined by the co-op, maybe the food-service industry will follow suit? Until then I’ll be making my own curries I think.

[1] Schwartz, George R, 1988, In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Health Press, pp 9-10.)

No 1 antioxidant

I’m sitting sipping a magnificent drink – Pomegreat blueberry…I think I even would prefer this to red wine with dinner. Its rich looking, rich tasting, with such a mingling of flavour on the tongue, and an aromatic aftertaste. Excuse me while I pour a little more.

Blueberries in fact are described as superfoods for your heart, a “powerhouse” that are not only delicious but are also rich in antioxidants. They are so good for heart health that in the US they even have a “Blueberry Council” – oh my!

In this Highbush Blueberry Council, researchers believe that the antioxidants in blueberries work to reduce the buildup of “bad” LDL cholesterol in artery walls that contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Studies conducted at the USDA Human Nutrition Center have found that blueberries rank No. 1 in antioxidant activity when compared with 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful byproducts of metabolism called free radicals that can lead to cancer and other age-related diseases. Anthocyanin, the antioxidant that is thought to be responsible for this major health benefit, can also be found in blackberries, black raspberries, black currants, and red grapes.

The council recommends a 1 cup serving of blueberries a day. Fresh, frozen, or dried, they can be added to cereal, muffins, or eaten by themselves. There is 50ml of Blueberry Juice in 1ltr of Pomegreat Blueberry.

Get your blood pressure tested

High blood pressure does its damage quietly, so get it tested. The results show 2 numbers – The first number is called systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on blood vessel walls when the heart beats. Systolic pressure may be more important as one begins to age. The second number is diastolic blood pressure — the pressure on blood vessel walls in between beats.
Guidelines for adults are:
Normal: Less than 120/80
Borderline (prehypertension): 120-139/80-89
High: 140/90 or higher

Sea Salt v Table Salt

I’ve heard that too much salt can agitate asthma. One of my friends has recently died and he was a chronic asthmatic, and so this got my interest and I’ve been investigating a little.

What I’ve found is that in the recent study (see study) 24 patients with asthma and exercised-induced asthma were divided into two groups: Some followed a low-salt diet of some 1,500 mg. (a level teaspoon – ish) of salt, while others were put on a high-salt diet of nearly 10,000 mg. (3.5 heaped teaspoon fulls – the amount many of us eat every day).

After 2 weeks, results showed:
High-salt dieters demonstrated a dramatic decline in lung function after exercise; the standard measure for lung functioning — forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) — taken 20 minutes after high-salt dieters exercised dropped by 27.4 percent, compared with a 7.9 percent decline experienced by the low-salt group.

Those on the high-salt diet were also found to have more airway cells (another indicator of asthma) and pro-inflammatory mediators that spur airway constriction.
In light of these findings, researchers believe that adjusting one’s diet has the potential to adjust a disease state.

Now to me, that is reason to take action if I hadn’t already done so after the slug ads. And so much can be achieved in just 2 weeks.

But is salt all bad?

Generally we eat too much salt, mainly because we add it to our food, especially processed foods. If we eat a generally “healthy diet” which majors on home prepared foods we should get all the sodium we need from those foods. Around 1,500mg is recommended.

Then there is the type of salt we use?
There are some major differences between the standard, refined, table salt and sea salt.

Conventional table salt contains approximately 97.5 percent sodium chloride and 2.5 percent chemicals, such as moisture absorbents, and iodine.

Unrefined sea salts contain approximately 84 percent sodium chloride and 16 percent additional minerals. Some of these minerals, such as magnesium, can actually be helpful in cases of asthma.

Conventional salt is dried at over 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit — this amount of heat changes the chemical structure of the salt, plus it is thought that conventional processing adds harmful additives and chemicals to salt, Potassium-Iodide (added to the salt to avoid Iodine deficiency disease of thyroid gland), Sugar (added to stabilize Iodine and as anti-caking chemical), Aluminum silicate.

My conclusion is, if you must add salt then add unrefined sea salt.

Codex Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements Guidelines Accepted

No sooner had I finished my last posting about codex and the film “the Silent Witness, and I take a look to see any news to find that the text for the Codex Guidelines on vitamin and mineral food supplements has now been accepted by consensus vote.

The Alliance for Natural Health say they will be working very hard to ensure that at least the risk assessment framework to be adopted is improved dramatically over the models currently in use in the US and Europe.

Although the text has been accepted, the specific methodology for risk assessment is as yet not finalised, so there is still some room for reducing the final and global impact of the Codex Guidelines.

It seems that few countries have fully appreciated that these Guidelines are a slippery slope to global guidelines and subsequent regulation for all natural health products, which could interfere with the future availability of traditions of botanical medicine, some of them thousands of years old. Info from a report by Diane Miller . The Codex Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements guidelines are now official and no longer in draft form.