Ah, the hidden health benefits of learning about other cultures!
One of the most joyful things in my life is to listen to my beautiful wife talk about some of the cultural customs of her motherland, Sweden. Remember, I am 100 percent Latino, so my familiarity with Scandinavian culture and cuisine is as deep as my hair roots, but her stories have a profound effect on our children and their future. As my kids grow up they are exposed not only to delicious Cuban food, but they are also acquiring a taste and appreciation for Scandinavian foods. The Swedish diet is rich in salmon as well as moose meat (which, by the way, is one of the leanest meats — low in fat and calories, as well as being hypoallergenic!).
This week on "FOX and Friends" I did a segment on the health benefits of chili peppers. I love spicy foods, so as I was doing my research I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s actually good for you! It seems that there is a substance called Capsaicin in hot peppers, which has been associated with lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, and warding off strokes and heart attacks. As if that’s not enough, new research also indicates that it reduces cancer cell growth in laboratory experiments. No wonder that in some cultures this spicy nutrient is viewed as liquid gold.
So I started wandering what other ethnic nutrients have been associated with healthy living.
Some Middle Eastern cultures drink a beverage called Kefir, which loosely translated, means "feeling good," in Turkish. This is an ancient, cultured, enzyme-rich food. They say it’s filled with friendly microorganisms that help balance your inner ecosystem to regain health and rebuild immunity. The flavor and texture is similar to drinkable yogurt.
Indians, Koreans and Chinese have used certain spices and herbs in cooking for healing as well as better living. Foods such as Tong Shui and ginseng root claim to give energy and improve your metabolism. Indians believe that fenugreek reduces fever and soothes intestinal inflammation, that turmeric prevents liver disorders, and that coriander can reduce the throbbing pain of a migraine.
Here in America, more and more people are paying attention to the health benefits of natural products. Recently, the cherry industry started promoting the health benefits of cherries. The cheerful red fruits are full of antioxidants ("antioxidants" seems to be the buzzword of the day). Anecdotal reports show that a daily glass of concentrated tart cherry juice could be beneficial for the treatment of gout, a disease that causes swelling and pain in the limbs and joints.
Remember, the important fact is that you should never forgo other treatments that your doctor has recommended. But, if we listen to the new National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Obesity Guidelines, then trying different ethnic cuisines could give us all a taste treat while lowering calories and fat.
Don’t you just love globalization? And please remember, all good things in moderation.
If you have a recipe for good health, please send it to me. You never know — we might just have a cookout!
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Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.