Facts About Peppermint

Peppermint oil may add a classic seasonal taste to your holiday baking, but how much do you really know about this plant? Also known as brandy mint or balm mint, peppermint usage dates back to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Peppermint plant
Photo by MrMac04, Morguefile.com

1. Mentha piperita -- the scientific name for peppermint -- was used for medicinal purposes as early as 1000 B.C. The essential oil is still prevalent in modern medicines that offer relief from headaches, nausea, irritable bowels, muscle pain, congestion and diarrhea, according to the University of Washington's Department of Family Medicine.

Peppermint Certified Organic Seeds 600 Seeds2. Peppermint plants grow in North America and Europe, although the plant originated in the Mediterranean. The herb, which is a hybrid of water mint and spearmint, can grow up to 3 feet tall in a well-tended garden.

3. Peppermint oil can soothe inflammation and sunburns. Simply open a capsule of peppermint oil and apply it directly to the skin. The oil also soothes itchy dry skin, scabies, is an antiseptic to clean wounds and soothes acne. Children under 7 years of age and pregnant women should avoid using peppermint oil without the guidance of their family physician.

4. In the early 1900's, peppermint was used to control pests. The strong scent of peppermint oil worked as an insect repellent and a lure for nuisance rats. Business owners placed peppermint oil soaked cloths in bags, then had ferrets chase the rats into the bags.

5. Breathing the fumes of peppermint oil though aromatherapy produces positive results for humans. The oil stimulates the senses, mildly reducing fatigue and depression.

Sources and Suggested Further Reading:
University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine: Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Mighty Leaf Organic Tea, Mint Melange, 15-Count Whole Leaf Pouches 1.32 Oz (Pack of 3)
University of Maryland Medical Center: Peppermint

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Peppermint

Annie's Remedy: Homemade Insect Repellent

Essential Oils: Peppermint essential oil information

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What is Riboflavin?

Also known as vitamin B2, riboflavin is present in whole wheat rice, pasta and breads. Consuming foods containing riboflavin helps maintain your vision, metabolic activities in the body and  promotes energy production in the cells.
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin) 100 mg 100 Caps

To read more about riboflavin, read my article "Riboflavin Health Benefits and Sources" on Associated Content from Yahoo! by clicking HERE.

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Are bamboo shoots healthy?

Asian stir-fries often contain slender slices of soft, bamboo shoots. Although the vegetable adds texture and a corn-like flavor to the meal, does it add much nutrition? Are bamboo shoots healthy?
Bamboo shoots
Photo by Chamomile, Morguefuile.com

Once cup of bamboo shoots boiled with salt and drained (without any sauces added) only adds 13 calories to your dietary intake, according to Self Nutrition Data. Bamboo shoots also contain little to no cholesterol and are low in saturated fat.

However, bamboo shoots are naturally high in sodium--to the tune of almost 300mg of sodium per cup. And, when combined with salty teriyaki sauce, your Chinese meal may exceed your sodium intake requirements for the entire day.

But, rest assured, bamboo shoots offer nearly 2 grams of protein, 1.2 grams of fiber and 18 percent of your daily potassium requirements per cup.

The Completelete Step-by-Step Chinese & Asian Cookbook: The very best of Far Eastern food in one easy-to-follow collection

Resources and Recipes:
Cooking.com: Thai Vegetable Curry

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Whole Foods Living

Garden Pasta

If your garden has an abundance of end of the season tomatoes, try this quick late-summer lunch for two. This recipe is vegetarian friendly and loaded with healthy whole foods.

(Photo by Hotblack, Morguefile.com)

End of Summer Garden Pasta

2 Tbs. olive oil
6 sliced shallots (or 1 cup chopped onion)
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 cup chopped green, yellow or red sweet peppers (whatever grows in your garden!)
3 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes, including the skins
3 cups cooked whole wheat pasta or whole grain rice

Measure olive oil into a non-stick skillet and warm to a medium setting. Saute sliced shallots, minced garlic and chopped peppers until the shallots are opaque. Add the chopped tomatoes and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for approximately 10 minutes.

For a more hearty sauce, add 1 cup of sausage-flavored soy crumbles (I like the Morningstar Farms brand) to the simmering tomato mixture.
Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti, 13.25 Ounce Boxes (Pack of 10)Spoon the sauce over a bed of whole grain spaghetti or whole grain rice.
Serve the pasta with a fresh tossed salad.

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Whole Foods Living


Healthy Chocolate Treat

Photo by Alvimann, Morguefile.com

I crave chocolate-- a lot. Instead of reaching for a high calorie, preservative filled candy bar, my new addiction is a "chocolate-covered banana" smoothie! This sweet treat came about one morning when I realized I was out of vanilla soy milk and rice milk. Hey, chocolate for breakfast is ok, right?

Chocolate-Covered Banana Smoothie

2 1/2 cups of organic chocolate soy milk
2 peeled bananas, broken into chunks
1 cup ice cubes

Place bananas and milk in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Add ice cubes and blend until no ice chunks remain.
Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!

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Whole Foods Living


What is quinoa?

If you like rice, you will probably enjoy the small, round grains of quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah").

The grain from South America is considered a base for many meals, much like potatoes or rice. And, quinoa packs a huge nutritional punch. This whole food is high in protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins.

Here is a quick comparison from the Quinoa Corporation:

NOW Foods Organic Quinoa Grain , 16 Ounce Bags (Pack of 6)Quinoa: 16.2% protein

Wheat: 14% protein

Millet: 9.9% protein

Rice: 7.5% rice

A few weeks ago I made a cold salad of chilled quinoa blended with avocado, a splash of lemon juice and a little olive oil in the food processor. Then I topped it with sliced garden tomatoes--and it was delicious, and filling.

If you want to learn more about quinoa, check out:
Quinoa Corporation: About Quinoa
The World's Healthiest Foods: Quinoa

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Venturing Into a Whole Foods Diet

I must admit, choosing to eat whole foods hasn't been as simple as grazing a salad bar. To maintain proper nutrition, get enough protein in my (vegetarian) diet and feel full, I've had to learn about some foods that used to be foreign to me.
Good Eats: The Early Years

In the past month I've ventured into the world of cooking lentils, split dried peas and quinoa.

And, it was easy.

The hardest part was finding these items at the grocery store.

During my new food adventure, I must admit, my favorite recipe so far comes from Alton Brown, the host of the Food Network show "Good Eats." On the next cool evening, I highly recommend putting a pot of this soup on to simmer!

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