A new popular low GI sugar: Coconut Palm Sugar (aka Jaggery)

An ancient form of sugar is gaining new popularity partly because of its low GI status.

Coconut Palm Sugar (sometimes just called palm sugar) has a GI level of just 35. Such a low glycemic value means that it is beneficial to diabetics and people watching their weight alike. It is also low in fructose, even though it is taken from the sap of a coconut tree.

Coconut palm sugar: A healthier form of sugar
Coconut palm sugar: A healthier form of sugar

The taste is described as a mild butterscotch or caramel flavour. It can be used in the same proportion as sugar in cooking and it has a low melt temperature and a high burn temperature which makes it a useful ingredient. It doesn’t turn food brown when cooking either.

Biona’s Organic  Coconut Sugar offers a rich supply of mineral salts, B vitamins and amino acids but is completely natural, not filtered, processed or bleached. It is considered to have health benefits among some cultures and is known by many names including gula kelapa, jaggery or gur.


Simple basic changes to help with heart disease

When facing heart disease there are some things you need to sort out.

Making simple changes can help you beat the odds against heart disease which is, at the end of the day, a leading cause of death.

  • Get smoke-free
    Quit smoking and stay clear of cigarette smoke to lower your risk of a few types of cardiovascular disease
  • Watch what you eat
    Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, pulses, whole grains, fish, and avoid fats from meat, dairy, and processed foods high in hydrogenated oils
  • Stay active
    Couch potatoes have increased cardiovascular disease risk, so make sure you get regular exercise
  • Get tested
    See your doctor to find out if you have problems with high blood pressure or high blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, or glucose

It’s a good idea to chat with your doctor and get fully up to scratch on maintaining heart health with information from groups like The British Heart Foundation.

When it comes to supplements various nutritional aids are thought to be helpful such as Co-enzyme q10, L-carnitine and Taurine.

Higher Nature, a group dedicated to providing the best, natural, most effective supplements have three products which are all, in some way, thought to help reduce heart disease.

  • First up there’s Red Sterol Complex which is made from red yeast rice extract, which contains lovastatin (or statins as they are popularly known). This can be used to help lower unhelpful cholesterol in the body. (See NHS report)
  • Next, there’s Organic Flax Seed Oil which in rich in Omega 3. Having a diet which is high in Omega 3 is recommended for a healthy heart.
  • Finally there’s Maxi Multi, a good old multivitamin and mineral. It should be noted that B vitamins, vitamin C, E and A and magnesium have all been thought to be beneficial to heart health.

All the ladies! – Why is a Fairtrade company focussing on woman’s coffee?

Coffee grown by women is the latest thing in Fairtrade – but it doesn’t just have to be drunk by women…

For some women life is a constant challenge, they often do a lot of the hard work but still have less influence over important decisions.

Tackling this can really make a difference in the coffee growing regions of Africa, where it is shown that when women control the household income the family’s health, nutrition and education also improves at a faster rate.

Drying Mzuzu coffee by Twin and Twin Trading Images, on Flickr
Women farmers drying Mzuzu coffee by Twin and Twin Trading Images, on Flickr

Equal Exchange simply seek to improve the women’s status, and give them the capacity to make independent decisions.

Mary Nabugobelo, a pioneer farmer, tells her story:

“I got a good price for the coffee and a second payment which I used to pay for my daughter’s tuition at Makerere University. At the society my fellow members elected me onto the committee and as a delegate to Gumutindo Board. I think they elected me because they know that I am hardworking and a woman who is competing with men to produce good quality coffee. My responsibility is to teach other women farmers to produce good quality coffee and to advise them to plant more coffee trees.”

There is a growing number of coffees that are produced by women. Below is a list of the coffees that are available at GoodnessDirect.

Dark City Roast & Ground Coffee – The perfect pick-me-up
Espresso Roast & Ground Coffee – A rush of goodness
Italian Roast Coffee – Rich, dark & gorgeous
Any-Time Medium Roast & Ground Coffee – Gives everyone a break
Mt Elgon Gumutindo AA Ground Coffee – The height of excellence
Women Farmers Roast Coffee – Respect fine taste
Decaffeinated Roast & Ground Coffee – Pure revival

Read more on the story of Fairtrade woman’s coffee

Heard about the connection between eating sausages and bacon and pancreatic cancer?

A link between eating processed meat, such as bacon or sausages, and pancreatic cancer has been suggested by researchers in Sweden, who said that eating an extra 50g of processed meat, approximately one sausage, every day would increase a person’s risk by 19%. The study was conducted by Prof Susanna Larsson at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden and published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Avoiding meat

That will leave many of us worried about eating processed meat and concerned about the suggested link between eating sausages and bacon and pancreatic cancer. But many of us will know just what staples sausages and bacon have become in the British diet.

There are alternatives to meat – veggie style

Award-winning ethical food firm The Redwood Wholefood Company produces tasty meat-free sausages and meat-free ‘bacon’ from 100% natural, plant-based ingredients. They are not quite the same as the real bacon but then again we have been warned…

Redwood sausages and ‘bacon’ are free  from egg, dairy, lactose, cholesterol, hydrogenated fats, artificial colours/preservatives and GMOs, so they are a great veggie bacon choice for those wanting to avoid these things including vegans.

Finding vegetarian alternatives to meat

Redwood is the leading supplier of vegan foods and is 100% British. Rated the UK’s most ethical vegetarian foods supplier by The Ethical Company Organisation, Redwood produces more than 50 different foods under the Vegideli, Cheatin‘ and Cheezly brand names at its animal-free factory in Corby, Northamptonshire. So if you are serious about finding vegetarian alternatives to meat, Redwood really can help. Everything in its range is made from 100% natural plant-based ingredients so free from animal products and derivatives as well as cholesterol, artificial colours/preservatives, lactose, hydrogenated fats and GMOs, making them suitable for vegetarians and vegans as well as those looking for healthier and more ethical lifestyles. Widely recognised as one of the most innovative and inspirational vegetarian food companies in the UK, Redwood is renowned for being at the cutting edge of food manufacturing and exports to 18 countries worldwide.

Get ready for Burns Night

The Burns Supper is celebrated by Scots the world over: it’s a time to commemorate the nation’s favourite lyricist with a bit of celtic pride. Whether it’s a gathering of friends or a formal event, the centrepiece is the amazing haggis. The moment is creeping up on us (25 January) so now is the time to get organised!

Gie her a haggis! - Robert Burns
"Gie her a haggis!" - Robert Burns

You can find out all you need to know to run an evening on the BBC’s dedicated Robert Burns pages.

What’s better is that you can pick up the famous MacSween’s haggis from GoodnessDirect and choose from the traditional or vegan recipe. MacSween’s vegetarian haggis is so easy to cook: just 1 minute in the microwave! The traditional version is pretty speedy too…

…Which all allows you more time to don your kilt and practice your lines for Address to a Haggis.

How to get rid of your cold faster

While there is still no cure for the common cold, taking zinc could shorten the duration of the pesky infection by up to 42%, according to a review published in The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal.

Super nutrient

Zinc is a mineral with a host of roles in the human body, from supporting fertility and proper growth and development to boosting immune function. A deficiency of zinc can make the body more prone to infections. In developing countries where deficiencies of the nutrient are more common, supplementing with zinc helps prevent the common cold, diarrhoea, and pneumonia in children.

Fact or fiction?

Some people maintain that zinc help keep their colds in check, but sceptics argue that evidence for their use is lacking.

In an attempt to sort out the confusion over whether zinc can really help clear up the common cold more quickly, investigators from the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki, Finland conducted a review of studies published on the topic.

Thirteen trials were included in the analysis:

  • five trials used zinc lozenges providing less than 75 mg of elemental zinc per day, and
  • eight studies used lozenges that provided more than 75 mg of zinc per day; three used zinc acetate, and five used other forms of zinc.

None of the studies using less than 75 mg of zinc per day had an effect on the duration of the common cold. However, in seven of the eight studies using more than 75 mg of zinc per day, cold durations were significantly shorter.

Zinc acetate seemed to have the most profound effect on shortening the common cold, with a 42% reduction in the number of sick days. Other forms of zinc supplements also helped people get better faster, shortening the duration of the cold by 20%.

Some people don’t like the taste of zinc and others may develop nausea from them, but there have not been reports of long-term side effects associated with their use. “More research is needed on zinc lozenges to find optimal lozenge compositions and treatment strategies,” commented the study’s authors.

Best bets for cold season

When you feel the familiar signals of an impending cold, try these tips to nip it in the bud for a faster return to your healthy self.

  • Moisturise your insides. Viruses like the ones that cause the common cold thrive in dry environments. Dry air also takes a toll on the mucous membranes, worsening a sore throat and nasal congestion. Use a vapourizer or humidifier to add moisture to the air, but make sure to clean it regularly and use new water each day. Also, keep up the fluids to breathe easier and prevent dehydration.
  • Give zinc a try. Look for zinc acetate and aim for a total of at least 75 mg per day.
  • Enjoy a bowl of chicken soup. Grandma’s remedy has stood up to the rigors of scientific investigation, with solid evidence to support the use of chicken soup in treating the common cold. When it’s loaded with vegetables, chicken soup seems to decrease inflammation and ease cold symptoms.
  • Boost your C. Taking 500 mg of vitamin C three times per day at the start of a cold may reduce the duration of illness.

What’s the best tasting ketchup? Mr Organic’s of course

One of my favourite organic brands is Mr Organic – I guess it’s because I’m quickly able to associated that happy face on their label with unqualified good taste.

Basically, Mr Organic is a delicious range of Italian goodies aimed at the whole family.

Mr Organic ketchup tastes particularly fantastic
Mr Organic ketchup tastes particularly fantastic

Consider, for example, their Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It’s hand picked and immediately cold pressed which means that you get superior quality oil which they say you can even use for cooking with (which isn’t always easy with olive oil). And olive oil can make or break a dressing I think you’ll agree.

Then there’s Mr Organic’s Tomato Ketchup – it’s an award winner, and it’s not surprising; it’s definitely the best ketchup I’ve ever tasted. Mr Organic pack 600g of tomatoes into 100g of ketchup (that’s 5 times more than a certain well known other brand!)  It also has half the sugar so it’s better for you.  Not to mention that organic tomatoes have more lycopene content than non-organic ones (lycopene is a powerful antioxidant).

Once you become a fan, you’ll know nothing else compares to it.

(Incidentally, when it comes to tomatoes and recent reports of badly treated farm labourers in Italy, Mr Organic has been rated as very ethical because of their good practice by the Ethical Consumer guide.)

While we’re on the subject of tomatoes, I recommend you sample the Mr Organic Basilico sauce – a beautifully simple Italian classic.  Flavoured with fresh basil for maximum authentic flavour, Basilico sauce is perfect just brilliant with pasta.

Mr Organic also make other sauces such as Bolognese and Puttanesca, passatas, purees, peeled tomatoes and tins and tins of beans – just the kind of basic ingredients you need to make great organic family meals. It’s worth checking them out.