Healing Foods From South of the Border
Cinco de Mayo, which translates to the fifth of May, remembers the day in 1862 when the Mexican army prevailed over France in the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is a minor holiday celebrated mainly in Puebla with military parades, battle recreations and similar events.
Here in America, Cinco de Mayo has become a general celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, especially in areas with large Mexican-American populations. This day is often filled with parades, mariachi music, parties, and Mexican culinary favorites. This year, alongside your tacos and mole, try some foods with natural healing properties from south of the border.
#1. Cayenne—This spicy pepper's health benefits come largely from capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat. Peppers also happen to be a great source of calcium, potassium, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and B-complex.
As the master cleanse became popular, cayenne gained recognition as a metabolism booster, which can assist with weight loss. Cayenne also has anti-inflammatory and detoxing properties. It can ease an upset stomach, cramping and intestinal gas, contributing to better digestive health.
#2. Chocolate—As a favorite indulgence of many, it's with good reason that chocolate is held on such a high pedestal. Dark chocolate, that is.
Milk chocolate is a tasty delight, but it's dark chocolate that has a high cocoa content, which is where the health benefits come from. Chocolate also contains magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and antioxidants called flavonols (also found in green tea and blueberries).
Dark chocolate promotes heart health thanks to its potential for regulating blood pressure and improving circulation. It also has a low glycemic index, so this sweet treat won't spike your blood sugar, so long as you keep sugar grams to less than 10 and stick to just one to two ounces a day.
If that's not good enough, chocolate contains compounds that cause the release of endorphins, chemicals that naturally make you feel good. That means a small piece of dark chocolate a day can contribute to your health and happiness.
#3. Cinnamon—With a smell reminiscent of the holidays, cinnamon is a great topper for many beverages and desserts. Centuries ago, cinnamon was actually worth its weight in gold. Lucky for us, today cinnamon is readily available and still packed with the nutrition that made it so valuable years ago. Manganese, dietary fiber, iron and calcium are just some of the nutrients found in this spice.
There are several different types of cinnamon, but cassia cinnamon is the type best known for its ability to reduce and stabilize blood sugar. It also has anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Who can resist the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls? Though the rolls themselves are not the best nutritional choice, there's something to that wonderful smell. Studies show that simply smelling cinnamon can actually boost your brain activity! And there's no harm in getting a nice, big whiff as you pass by the bakery.
#4. Brown Rice—This one may take you by surprise, but brown rice has more nutritional value than you think. If you're wondering what makes brown rice brown, it's the outer layer that all rice shares. White rice is simply polished until the outer layer, along with all its nutrition, is gone. Brown rice maintains that slightly stiff coating, which makes it a healthy choice for pairing with Mexican cuisine, such as spicy vegetables and carne asada.
The brown outer layer contains folic acid, potassium, selenium, choline , calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and vitamins B1, B3, B6, K and E. Brown rice is low in calories and fat and contains protein, fiber and omega-3s.
Brown rice also helps synthesize fatty acids and can boost your energy. Its fiber content decreases your chances of overeating—just limit yourself to ½ cup at mealtimes.
#5. Cilantro—Traditionally used as a salad garnish, cilantro is well known in the naturopathic world for its medicinal attributes. It contains folic acid and vitamin C and supports digestive health and bladder health.
Cilantro also has antibacterial properties and can help prevent urinary tract infections and reduce mental stress. Plus, research shows that it may help relieve stomach cramps and gas. As an added bonus, warm water infused with cilantro leaves makes a great mouthwash for relieving gum inflammation.
If you're planning a Cinco de Mayo celebration, revisit your menu and be sure to include these items as part of your festivities. Your tongue will delight in the spicy southern flavors and your body will thank you for a wide array of naturally derived nutrients.
Have a great recipe that you'll be whipping up this year? Please share it!