Anastasia, Author at Happy Bellyfish

All posts by Anastasia

The Best and Safest Pans for Healthy Cooking

In this article we are going to give you an overview of best quality pans and pots that can make your daily healthy cooking much easier. The characteristics of a pan and its (non)toxicity depend on the material that was used to make it, as well as on the quality of the material. 

Even though we will focus on the frying pans, we will also touch upon the utensils that are used for baking and boiling, as almost always the same safety principles apply regardless the method of cooking.

We categorized the pans, keeping the basic principles of healthy cooking, so they have to match the following criteria: 

  • allow to cook with as little oil as possible
  • shouldn’t release any toxic chemicals into the food during food preparation
  • the cooking surface should be durable, it shouldn’t be damaged easily

Let’s take a look at the materials that are commonly used for cooking pans, and which of them a the best, non-toxic option for healthy cooking. 

The safest cooking pans: 

Cast iron pans

If you asked me to name you one, the most durable, and the healthiest cooking pan material, I would say cast iron. In fact, it’s a traditional material that’s been used in many regions in the world for centuries. It’s perfect for cooking on fire and on gas, and besides cooking in it on the stove,  you can also put it into the oven (as long as no other materials are used for handles). Cast iron pans are perfect for slow cooking as well. 

This is also a material that doesn’t leak any chemicals in your food, even if the surface gets slightly damaged. It can, however, “leak” iron into your food, though the amount is safe for consumption. In fact, some experts recommend cooking in cast iron for people that have iron deficiency, as small amounts of iron are transferred to food. 

From the cooking prospective, cast iron pans cook very fast and even, because of its weight and heat distribution.

Some cooking blogs  claim that cast iron is a non stick, but it’s not exactly true and will depend a lot on your stove. Cast iron might be not the best choice if you try to cook without oil completely, but it’s great if you want to cook with a minimum amount of fat.

Here are some recommended cast iron pans: 

Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Skillet, 12 Inch (Lodge)

Pre-seasoned Cast Iron Cooker Combo (Kookantage)

Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Wooden Handle, 9.4 Inch (Carl Victor)

Carbon steel

Carbon steel is also considered to be the safest material. and it has similar qualities to cast iron. This type of material is often the choice number one by professional chefs, because it can last literally forever, and when it’s season right, it also has non-stick capabilities. Carbon steel, however, is more expensive than cast iron, and this can be seen as the biggest disadvantage of this material

Here are some recommended carbon steel pans

Carbon Steel Non-Stick Fry Pan, 9.5 inch (Mauviel)

Carbon Steel Fry Pan, 11 inch (De Buyer)

Stainless steel

Stainless steel, along with cast iron, is usually the choice number one for professional kitchens, as they can literally last forever. You will find a bit of controversial information about the safety of stainless steel, yet it will be the material most of the cooking pots are made of, including pressure cookers. 

Although the risk is minimal, poorly constructed stainless steel cookware can potentially leach a small amount of nickel into food (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4284091/). So, the most important  thing when choosing a stainless steel pot is its quality, as the brand you choose should guarantee that it used a good quality material, but not the scrape metals. 

From a cooking point of view, stainless steel of course has a big downside, because without oil the surface mill become very sticky. So, it suits best for the non-frying cooking methods, including cooking with water, even if just with a very small amount. If you want to stir fry, for example, at least a small amount of oil use will be inevitable. 

Here are some recommended stainless steel pans: 

Generally safe cooking pans, but need special care:

Ceramic-coated pans

Generally, ceramic surface is very safe for cooking. Here, it’s important to note that most of the pans that are sold as ceramic, or with a ceramic coating are actually made from aluminium base. Basically,  a pan is shaped from aluminium, and then it’s dipped into the coating. It means that if the surface gets damaged (for example, scratched or cracked), you risk exposure to aluminium. If you choose a high quality pan with thick ceramic coating, of course, the risk of damage is much smaller. With this type of coating it’s very important to take a good care of the pan. Be careful when using it on an electric stove, that reach very high temperatures very fast (extreme heat can damage the surface). Wash it without a scrubber and only use wooden or silicon spatulas when cooking.

Depending o the quality of the surface, ceramic-coated pans can be used for cooking without oil, as they have non-stick properties.

Here are some recommended ceramic-coated pans: 

Granite pans

A great alternative for classic ceramic-coated pans are granite cookware, and this is the type that we use in our kitchen a lot. To be precise, “granite” pans are not actually made of granite. It’s a different type of a ceramic coating, that resembles granite by its look. 

When the surface is of a good quality, I personally found the surface much sturdier than  a classic ceramic pan. Moreover, in most cases food doesn’t stick to the surface even if you cook without oil. 

Here are some recommended granite pans: 

Enamel pans

Enamel pans are a truly traditional cookware and can be found in many grandmothers’ kitchens. This surface is safe, as long as it’s maintained in a good condition. Some enamel pans are actually made of cast iron, so this can be a good option to minimize the risks. Keep in mind that some lower-priced enamel cookware, which resembles porcelain-enamel, has an enamel finish that can be damaged very easily.

Unfortunately, the enamel pans are not the best option for cooking without oil, the surface is quite sticky. It is, however, a good choice for boiling and baking in the oven. 

Here are some recommended enamel pans: 

Enameled Cast Iron Skillet, 10 inch (CAVANI)

Enameled Cast Iron (Klee)

This was an overview of the best cooking pans with the focus on frying, cooking without oil and boiling. If you are looking for the safest materials for baking, than take a look at fully ceramic (clay) cookware and consider baking on stone. We will be covering these materials in further articles. 

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What vegan ice cream is made of, and is it really healthy?

Can Ice cream be made without dairy cream, and be healthy at the same time? Yes, it’s absolutely possible, and a growing variety of vegan ice creams in the market confirms it. But what exactly those plant-based ice cream are made of?

Ice cream is known as a creamy frozen treat, and many of us could not imagine hot summer months without it, especially thanks to our childhood memories. In old times, each region, even each town used to have ice cream vendors of their own, who were inventive with flavours, making use of local ingredients.

Before we dive into details of how modern manufacturers replace dairy in their products, let me tell you that there have always been frozen dessert varieties without any animal products. For example, famous sorbets, made from sweetened water, with the addition of fruit juice. The most famous flavours are on a tangy side, and include lemon, grapefruit or a mix of berries.

 

Orange Sorbet

Or take a look at Sicilian granita, which reminds of shaved ice, but comes in unusual nutty flavours like almond and pistachio. Or think of paletas, traditional Mexican ice creams. While some of them are indeed made with milk, many artisan producers offer flavours that are mostly made just from fruit. Paletas are traditionally made with a natural sweetener (jaggery, raw thickened sugar cane juice), and the only extra flavour you might find there is a dash of red chill pepper.

Fruity popsicles and sorbets, of course, can satisfy our craving for a refreshing sweet, but can’t really match those traditional creamy sweet ice creams, that we know from our childhood. Following the trend of plant-based and vegan diet popularity, many manufacturers started developing their own formula for a perfect vegan ice cream – let’s take a look what they are made of!

 

 

Vegan ice creams and popsicles: ingredients

First of all, keep in mind that not all ice creams with a tag “vegan” are healthy. When you buy them, take a very close look at the ingredients, to make sure that there are no preservatives and artificial flavour enhancers. Also, pay attention to the type of sweeteners that are used in the ice cream and try to avoid all types of processed sugars, corn syrup etc.  As a rule of thumb, if you know all the ingredients and all of them are coming from whole foods (i.e. not processed), then you can enjoy it without major health concerns.

You can also make many of the vegan ice creams at home, easily, and then you will be in full control of what’s inside. If you want to replicate the store bought ice cream 100%, however, you will need an ice cream machine  (if you are ready to make the investment, take a look at our list of the best ice cream machines here).

Here is the list of the most basic ingredients that you will find in the healthier store-bought vegan ice creams:

 

Cashew nuts

 

If you’ve been into vegan desserts for a while, you might know that cashew nut is one of the most common bases used for the creamy vegan desserts. Soaked and processed cashews really resemble a creamy, dairy-like consistency, and make a great base for all the traditional treats, that would normally call for heavy cream or even cheese (like vegan cheese cakes etc.). The drawback of heavy cashew nut use is that it makes the ice cream quite expensive. Besides, we tend to eat too many nuts, that are very hard to digest, in their processed and sweetened form. Besides, some people might be allergic to nuts. In other words, even though it tastes amazing and has no dairy, it might not be the very best option for regular consumption.

 

Coconut milk

 

One of the main features of many vegan recipes, both at home and in the commercial food production, is when dairy milk is simply replaced by plant-based milk. Coconut milk here is the top choice, because it simply has a lot of fat, and hence can get really close to the original ice cream flavour. Of course, if coconut milk is used as the main ingredient of the ice cream, the coconut flavour will be very dominant and it puts certain limitations on the way the ice cream can be flavoured by the manufacturers. For that reason in coconut milk-based ice creams usually a lot of other ingredients are used, to mask the flavour, though it’s difficult to hide it completely. We found that the best way to “mask” the coconut flavour, if needed, is the use of spices, and we touch upon it in our vegan ice cream masterclass.

 

Soy

 

Soy is used in all possible vegan products. It’s used as a replacement for milk, cheese, meat, cold meats substitutes etc. There is no surprise that you find soy or its by-products not just in vegan sausages, but also in ice creams. While it can be used wonderfully as a base, it’s often used just as an additional ingredient.

Soy is a rather controversial product, and a lot of experts call to limit its consumption as much as possible. At the same time, many Asian countries, including Japan and Indonesia, have been traditionally consuming soy products (mostly fermented) without negative health outcomes. When it comes to soy, it’s very important to know where and how it was produced, and make sure that it’s an organic and non-GMO product. And of course, as in case with most other foods, that raise health concerns, moderation is key!

 

Cocoa butter and coconut oil

Among the ingredients of vegan ice creams you will often see cocoa butter and coconut oil, and their content can be quite high. Both are being added to slow down the melting process, and of course to add some fat, in order to mimic the full fat dairy ice cream as closely as possible.  Cocoa butter is mostly added to more expensive brands, as it’s quite an expensive ingredient on its own, but taste-wise it does make the texture of the product richer and creamier. Coconut oil was recently making headlines in the media (again) for not being as healthy as it was believed to be. You can read about both benefits and risks of coconut oil here and decide if it’s the ingredient you are happy about. From our side, again, we will mention what we think is the most important: moderation is key. And remember that many traditional societies have been thriving on coconut oil for centuries, given it’s grown and produced, as well as consumed correctly.

 

Sweeteners

People who lead a full sugar-free lifestyle might argue that all types of sugars and sweets are unhealthy. Why it’s not incorrect, it should not be taken to the extreme: as long as the sweeteners are natural, and are not eaten in excessive quantity, there is nothing wrong with having them in your diet . So, look for natural sweeteners (and this is what health-oriented brands usually use), like coconut sugar and syrup, raw cane sugar, stevia. As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article, if you are looking not just for a vegan ice cream, but for a healthy vegan ice cream, a type of sweetener used is one of the main things to pay attention to.

Agave syrup is a very common ingredient, but this is something you might want to be careful with – we are talking in detail about all types of sweeteners, and why things like agave syrup are unhealthy in our Healthy Desserts Course.

 

Thickeners

In traditional ice cream production milk powder is often used to give a better texture to the ice cream. You will also see different types of thickeners in vegan ice creams. Usually, it’s different types of flours, which should not be a big problem unless you have particular food intolerances and allergies.

 

Flavours

If you buy an all-natural vegan ice cream, you will never have a question about the type and the quality of the flavours that were added. What’s all-natural is easy to understand: those kind of brands will have on their list of ingredients things like fresh fruits and berries, raw cocoa powder, pure vanilla etc. They will never have anything starting with “artificial”,  or written in numbers and letters instead of words. This is as easy, when choosing a healthy product: just make sure that you don’t need to google any ingredient that you see on the box!

Of course, the only way to have full control over what your vegan ice cream is made of, is to make the ice cream yourself, and to be frank, it’s quite simple too. We have a detailed step-by-step video guide for making simple vegan ice creams without an ice cream maker. Making it yourself will allow you to create your favourite  flavors, eat it at any time you want, and save a lot of money on expensive vegan brands.

 

 

 

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What is Kombucha and is it Really Healthy?

 

The kombucha has taken popular culture by storm, with people buying stacks of it at supermarkets. If you walk down a crowded street in a big city, you can probably spot 10 people with kombuchas in their hands within a span of 10 minutes.

 

But what is kombucha? Why are people going crazy over it? Does it really help you? Is it bad for you? How much of it can you drink? All these questions and more will be answered in this article as we give you all the basics of kombucha and its production, along with the health benefits and side effects.

 

What Is Kombucha

 

Kombucha is a drink made up of fermented green, black, or white tea, mixed with sugar. It is a key component of ancient Chinese medicine and has been around for a long time. Due to the fermentation of the kombucha through the use of a symbiotic culture known as scoby, which sort of resembles a mushroom, the drink starts to produce new compounds such as Vitamin B, probiotic enzymes, antioxidants, and cellulose.

 

All of these are great for your gut and your body in general. But, along with these healthy components, the fermentation also builds up small amounts of alcohol and other acidic components.

 

Health Benefits Of Drinking Kombucha

 

There are tons of people online and in real life who criticise kombucha and try to discredit its amazing health benefits, but a lot of these benefits have been scientifically proven to be true. For instance, a study conducted on mice in 2012 found that kombucha helps the gut microbiota in mice that have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is just one of many scientific pieces of research conducted on kombucha that cement its health benefits. Here are a few other benefits of kombucha:

 

  1. Rich Source of Probiotics – Since kombucha is fermented through the use of a scoby or ‘mother’, they produce acetic acid and other acidic compounds, along with alcohol, making the drink carbonated. Along with this, there is also a large amount of probiotic bacteria that is created during the process of fermentation.
    Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria and make your gut healthier, along with improving many different aspects of your health including digestion, inflammation, and weight loss.
  2. Contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals – Kombucha is high in antioxidants (polyphenols), that are known for decreasing inflammation, the root cause of many chronic diseases. It also contains small amount of B group vitamins, minerals and organic acids, that fight against bad bacteria.
  3. Provides the benefits of Green Tea – Green Tea contains a lot of benefits and beneficial compounds such as polyphenols, which are a powerful antioxidant. Other benefits of green tea include improved metabolism, lowered blood sugar, increased weight loss, etc. Green tea has also shown the capability to reduce the risk of prostate, breast, and colon cancer. Kombucha that is made from green tea contains all of these benefits since they contain the same plant compounds.
  4. May reduce risk of Heart Disease – A study published in 2015 showed that rats that consumed kombucha showed improvement in the two markers of heart disease, LDL and HDL cholesterol in as little as 30 days. Green tea drinkers have been found to have 31% less risk of having heart disease, and since a variety of kombucha is made from green tea, this benefit applies to the latter as well. Since heart disease is the leading cause of death all over the world, drinking kombucha can help keep your heart healthy and safe from disease.

 

Health Concerns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although kombucha has many incredible health benefits, such as the ones we mentioned above, if not made properly or stored in the wrong way, it can be harmful to your health. Here are a few of the health concerns related to kombucha, that are often mentioned by the health experts, and the reasons why they might be not as big as they sound:

 

  1. Sugar – Kombucha is made with sugar, and it logically raises concerns among those who lead a sugar-free lifestyle or have blood sugar level problems. Here, it is important to understand that the sugar is consumed by the culture, and the ready drink doesn’t have the same amount of sugar that you put during its preparation. To be precise, one glass of kombucha will contain app.roximately 2-6 grams of sugar (vs 13 grams in natural orange juice, for example). That said, people with high blood sugar levels or diabetes should avoid drinking processed kombuchas since manufacturers add a lot of sweetening ingredients to it.
    In other words, sugar is a big concern in a store-bought kombucha, as it’s impossible to control the amount and the quality of sugar used during the manufacturing process. If you make kombucha at home, however, the type and amount of sugar can be reduced to its minimum, yet it will not compromise on the quality of your drink. At home, you can also use healthier alternatives to white sugar, like jaggery (evaporated cane juice).
  2. Alcohol – fermentation process of kombucha involves the breakdown of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Normally the level of alcohol in kombucha doesn’t exceed 0.5%, as in case with any other fermented drink (including kefir etc.). It was reported that homemade kombucha can reach up to 3% of alcohol, mostly due to inappropriate storage and prolonged fermentation process.For this reason, it is often recommended to pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems to proceed with drinking kombucha with caution.
  3. Caffeine – Kombucha is made with tea, and hence the final drink has caffeine content as well, which can be of concern to people who choose not to consume caffeine. The amount of caffeine, however, is reduced during the fermentation process and is not the same as in the amount of tea used, coming up to not more than 10 mg per glass (vs 100 mg per glass of coffee).

 

While some health concerns are associated with kombucha, the health benefits of this ancient drink by far overweight its risks. Moreover, usually, they can be avoided by consuming properly prepared and stored homemade kombucha, when the high quality and healthier ingredients are used (green tea instead of black tea and jaggery instead of white sugar). Kombucha is an incredibly healthy drink that also tastes delicious, just don’t forget the golden rule for any kind of food and beverage, even the healthiest of all: moderation is key.

 

 

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Food Cultures and Health with Tamara S Melton

In this episode we are talking with Tamara S. Melton, co-founder of Diversify Dietetics, about the importance of cultural diversity when it comes to nutrition, what impact traditional foods have on our health and what a healthy diet really means in the modern global context.

Interview Highlights and Quick Links

3:50 What cultural diversity means in the context of nutrition

7:15 How understanding of other’s food cultures can help improve eating habits

11:35 Why cultural diversity in food and nutrition is crucial for better healthcare outcomes

14:00 Why Quinoa and Kale is not the best choice for everyone

16:10 Why food diversity is so important

19:30 What makes certain cuisines so flavourful

21:00 Why you should always look at locally produced foods first

23:45 The role of geneticist food intolerances

26:35 What to look at in meat and dairy substitutes

28:00 The problem with popular diets (Keto, Paleo, vegan etc. )

31:00 What healthy eating really means – for everyone

33:05 What Diversify Dietetics stands for

About Tamara S Melton

Tamara S. Melton is a Registered dietitian nutritionist and a Director of Health Informatics for Morrison Healthcare. She is the former Inaugural Program Director for Health Informatics at Georgia State University (GSU). Tamara is the co-founder of Diversify Dietetics, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the nutrition and dietetics profession. “As an educator and administrator, I have seen the difference that a supportive community and access to resources can make in the success of a student. As a professional, I’ve seen that diverse teams lead to better outcomes for the patients and clients that we serve. I’m excited to create and participate in a space where we can improve diversity and strengthen the nutrition profession!”

Follow Tamara S Melton on Social Media:

Diversify Dietetics Website

Diversify Dietetics Instagram

Tamara’s Instagram

This video was recorded live, as a part of Happy Bellyfish Video Podcast “Healthy Eating Unbiased and Simplified”. In these interview series we bring nutritionists, doctors, farmers and activists to share different prospectives on what healthy eating is.

To watch LIVE EPISODES EVERY TUESDAY AT 8 PM and ask your questions directly, join our facebook group here

 

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Vegetarian Cheese Following Ancient Roman Recipe, From the Milk of Endangered Goats

Giacomo Gati, a Sicilian producer of artisan vegetarian cheeses is doing even more important work than can seem at first glance. Through his work he is bringing back the old Roman traditions of cheese making and saving endangered Sicilian Girgentana goats from extinction.

Let us tell you his story.

 

Giacomo is a farmer’s son, who grew up close to the south coast of Sicily. It took him many years however until he settled in Campobello di Licata, his homeland, and started running a farm of his own.

When he was 17 he emigrated to Germany, pursuing better career opportunities as a mechanical engineer, but 10 years later a nostalgia for his native Sicilian countryside has brought him back.

Upon his return to Italy in 1979 he searched for Girgentana goats, whose milk taste he remembered since his childhood. In earlier times these gorgeous ancient goats with twisted horns were a common sight in Sicily. Shepherds would walk in the villages from house to house with their goats and sell fresh milk . But it was not the case anymore. At some point, there were around 30 000 Girgentana goats to be found in Sicily. But when Giacomo started his farm, there were only about 600 goats remaining.

 

 

The reason for the rapid decline of the goats population were the new sanitary rules imposed by the government. The goats were not allowed to enter the villages anymore and the farmers could not sell their milk easily. The only way to bring their population back was to make it financially viable to raise them. This is when Giacomo came up with an idea to start producing cheese from their milk.

There were many good reasons to bring milk from Girgentana goats back to the diet of Sicilians:

 

“The milk of this goat ‘capra Girgentana’ owns differents beneficials properties for the body and was the only type of milk which resembles at human milk, recommended for the diet of children and sick because it is low in cholesterol and easy to digests. Some researchers affirm that thanks to the Ubichinone coenzym, the milk of ‘capra Girgentana’ has an anti-tumor action. The goat’s milk also contains more selenium, zinc and iron than cow’s milk.”

 

The cheeses made in his small factory are unique not just because of the milk that they use.  Giacomo was not coming from a family of cheese-makers, and while it can seem as a disadvantage, it allowed him to experiment with different methods of production.

 

 

Most high-quality cheeses nowadays are made with animal rennet – an enzyme, that is derived from an animal (usually calf’s) stomach. In ancient times, however, rennets extracted from plants were used to coagulate cheese, but this knowledge is largely lost. Giacomo had to turn to ancient texts of Roman writers to find out the technique of cheese coagulation with the help of plants, and it took him many years of experimentation to come up with a perfect formula.

Some of the most common rennets that he uses are cardoons and milk from fig leaves. Both plants are growing all around Sicily in the wild.

 

 

One of the most flavourful cheeses was actually invented by mistake – without addition of any other enzymes to the milk at all. The coagulation was achieved thanks to the unique climate conditions, when a hot dry wind came to Sicily from the African coast.

 

 

The production of the cheese at Agricola Montalbo was taken over by a young couple from Licata,  Valeria Orlando and Davide Lonardo, who are carrying on and developing the traditions of ancient cheese-making.

You can find cheeses mentioned in this article here

 

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Iron-Rich Foods for Vegans and Vegetarians – How to Avoid Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is a rather common condition nowadays. Pregnant women, children and vegetarians are considered to be high risk groups and doctors routinely prescribe them iron supplements. But do they really need one, or can iron deficiency be avoided just with the help of iron-rich foods?

Side effects of iron supplements

First of all, it’s important to understand if you have any iron deficiency at all. For that you can simply make a routine blood test – nowadays some companies even allow to do so without a doctor’s visit (here is an example of one such Test for Nutrient Deficiencies that we know of).

Unless you are suffering with a severe case of anemia or have a serious medical condition, there should be no need for you to take iron supplements. Moreover, there are good reasons why you should avoid taking one. First of all, its side effects like constipation or diarrhea together with abdominal pain and cramps are common, and a medicine to aid digestion is often prescribed along with an iron supplement.

To do a quick check of what short-term issues appear to be most common, we did a search on Google, putting “iron supplements” with the word “why”, and here are the top suggested queries that appeared:

 

 

Recent research shows that If iron is taken in excessive quantities it can even cause long-term adverse effects on health. Some studies showed a suggestive association between dietary heme and risk of colon cancer. So, unless an iron supplement is absolutely necessary, it is worth trying to get all the iron you need from food sources.

Difference between iron in animal foods and in plant-based foods

Vegetarians and vegans are often diagnosed with iron deficiency. There are two different types of  dietary iron that are found in foods: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is only found in animal foods and it is much easier absorbed than non-heme iron. Animal foods with the highest content of iron include, for example, liver, beef, clams.

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods and it does not get absorbed as well as heme iron. It is possible however to increase non-heme iron absorption with the right combination of foods.

How to increase iron absorption from plant-based food

There are a few simple rules you need to follow in order to increase absorption of non-heme iron: 

  1. Always combine iron-rich foods with Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to absorb iron and synthesizes red blood cells.

Here is an example of some foods containing a big amount of Vitamin C (besides lemons, oranges and fresh chilli peppers):

2. Do not combine iron-rich foods with foods that contain caffeine

Coffee and black tea can reduce your iron absorption by as much as 60%. Try to bring caffeinated foods and beverages in your diet to the minimum. If it is not possible, keep at least two hours between your iron-rich meal and a cup of coffee.

3. Do not combine iron-rich foods with foods that contain calcium

Studies have shown that calcium can inhibit iron absorption, the inhibitory effect, however, may be of short duration. Similar to caffeine, try to avoid eating any foods that contain calcium (for example, dairy) together with your iron-rich meal.

4. Consume foods containing phytic acid the right way

Phytic acid is found in plant seeds and it may interfere with absorption of various minerals and nutrients, in particular iron, zync and calcium. Foods with high content of phytic acid, however, are also the biggest sources of non-heme iron – it includes seeds, legumes and nuts. To neutralise phytic acid always soak the foods (at best overnight), or use techniques like sprouting and fermentation. Vitamin C also counteracts phytic acid.

5. Improve your overall gut health

Including probiotics in your regular diet can improve absorption of minerals significantly. Probiotic foods include yoghurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi.

Iron-rich foods for vegans and vegetarians

There are a few main groups of vegetarian and vegan foods that are rich in iron. If you follow the main rules of non-heme iron absorption, they might meet your daily iron requirement.

  1. Legumes

Different types of lentils, beans, including soy products, are known sources of iron for vegans and vegetarians. It includes flours made from legumes like chickpea flour.  Don’t forget to soak legumes overnight to neutralise phytic acid. Here are a few examples:

 

2. Leafy greens

Spinach is not the only source of plant-based iron, even though it is the most popular one. Other leafy greens like beet greens, swiss chard or turnip greens are also extremely high in iron.

3. Dry fruits, berries and vegetables

Some dried fruits and vegetables have significantly more iron than their raw form. The best example is sun dried tomatoes that have more iron than natto. Dried apricots are an example of iron-rich dried fruits.

4. Seeds and nuts

Seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds etc.) are the real powerhouse of iron. It is also crucial to soak them before consumption. Here are a few examples of iron content in seeds:

5. Grains

Certain grains and cereals, including quinoa, buckwheat and oats, also contain high amounts of iron. Don’t forget to soak the grains before consumption.

6. Sweets

Molasses is often prescribed by nutritionists as a natural “iron supplement”. Jaggery (gur), raw unprocessed cane sugar, also has high contents of iron.

Recipes of some Iron-rich foods for vegans and vegetarians

Savory Chickpea Pancakes

Beet Greens Soup

Spicy Oatmeal

Sesame Spinach

Sesame Seed Candy

Nutrition data source: http://nutritiondata.self.com/

 

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Traditional Immune Boosting Foods from 10 Countries

Immune boosting foods are a part of  traditional knowledge which is passed down from generation to generation in every culture. Everyone’s grandmother seems to know a few recipes that can boost our immune system naturally. We might feel a bit sceptical about preventing health problems with simple garlic and cabbage, but nowadays the effectiveness of many home remedies is backed by science. 

We asked top culinary experts from 10 countries around the world to share their traditional wisdom. Some of them will surprise you: 

 

 

1. Iran: root vegetables, turnip

 

“The root vegetables are the natural source of many vital nutrients including vitamins C and A, which boost the immune system by lowering inflammation. Root vegetables such as turnips are loaded with antioxidants, fiber and complex carbohydrates and promote satiety with low levels of sugar. Persian cuisine is famous for a variety of wholesome thick soups that are called ‘aash’ and are traditionally cooked during cold months in Iran; one in particular is called, ‘aash e shalgham,’ or turnip soup. This soup is made with turnips, carrots, beetroot greens and herbs and it’s the go-to recipe in most Iranian households as a home remedy for colds and coughs.”

Turnip Soup Recipe (‘aash e shalgham’)

Homa, Persian Mama (follow Homa on Instagram and Facebook)

 

2. Spain: gazpacho 

 

“The ultimate Spanish immune booster is called gazpacho. It’s a delicious (and nutrient packed) cold vegetable soup, that we usually drink out of a glass. A traditional glass of gazpacho contains tomato, pepper, onion, garlic, cucumber, extra virgin olive oil, and sherry vinegar. Not only is this combination delicious, it’s filled with numerous heath benefits, and is said to help cure everything from hangovers to the common cold!”

Traditional Spanish Gazpacho Recipe

Lauren Aloise, Spanish Sabores (follow Lauren on Instagram and Facebook)

 

3. Lebanon: garlic, fresh mint, chickpeas, olive oil

 

“The Lebanese diet is considered among the best you can eat for its health benefits and, of course, its incredible flavor. Our recipes are jam-packed with superfoods and immunity-boosting ingredients. Garlic plays a powerful role with its antioxidant properties . . . we can’t eat our shawarma without the Lebanese vegan aoli toum (which means “garlic” in Arabic). We use tons of fresh mint and other herbs to boost flavor and immunity nutrients in many recipes, and herbs like mint and parsley are the star of the show in Lebanese tabbouleh salad. It may be surprising to learn that chickpeas, loaded with natural zinc and copper, play a great role in the development and function of immune cells. And you know what that means: hummus galore! Hummus is the ubiquitous puree of chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic. Extra virgin olive oil is also an essential component to Lebanese cuisine and the Mediterranean diet, a healthy fat with anti-inflammatory qualities. Oh, and it’s so delicious!”

How to Make the Best Hummus

Tabbouleh Salad Recipe

Maureen Abood, Maureen Abood Market (follow Maureen on Instagram and Facebook)

 

4. Russia, Ukraine: Sauerkraut

“One of the best immune boosting foods in the Slavik cuisine is sauerkraut. The probiotic qualities of sauerkraut are fantastic for gut health which leads to stronger immunity. There are many recipes in the Slavik cuisine that utilize sauerkraut. It was an inexpensive dish to make, so much of the lower class enjoyed sauerkraut frequently, while improving their gut Flora.”

Classic Recipe of Sauerkraut (Kvashenaya Kapusta)

Recipe of Sauerkraut Without Salt

Natasha Kravchuk, Natasha’s Kitchen (follow Natasha on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube)

 

5. Italy: cherry pits and liquorice

Image credit: Ken Owen

“Cherries, are packed with unique anthocyanin, an anti inflammatory compound similar to Ibuprofen. My mom and grandmother used to collect all the pits from the cherries, wash them and let them dry in the sun. Then they store them in jars and use them to make herbal teas that are good to relieve inflammation due to arthritis and gout.

Liquorice is another powerful immune booster. Some of the best licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) in the world is grown in Calabria, along the Ionian coast, where the mild climate enhances the content in glycyrrhizin, the substance that gives licorice its delectable flavor. The roots of licorice plants that are three or four years old are harvested during the fall, washed and dried, and, after removing the fibers, they are ground, pressed and placed in contact with boiling hot water in order to extract the juice.This juice is then clarified and boiled to obtain a concentrated, black paste that’s dense, fragrant and slightly sweet, and that, once solidified, is sold broken down in small pieces called “licorice drops”. The most important active ingredient of pure licorice is glycyrrhizin, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, and for its aid in preventing autoimmune issues.

*It’s better to consume pure licorice from time to time, making sure not to exceed the dosage of half a gram of glycyrrhizin a day. Glycyrrhizin, in fact, could have side effects on the balance of minerals in the body; and people predisposed to hypertension (high blood pressure), edema, diabetes and pregnant women or nursing, should avoid prolonged use of licorice extracts.

Ambra, Little Bites of Beauty (follow Ambra on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

6. South Africa: rooibos, sutherlandia, moringa, buchu

 

“I come from a family of strong believers of natural herbs. My mom and aunts have always used the following herbs and they continue doing so as they get older. I would recommend them to anyone and that people should not wait until they are sick to use them. Make them part of your daily routine. The herbs are as follows: (*) Rooibos – I have a friend who uses it religiously on a daily basis 2 to 3 times a day. She looks absolutely amazing, her skin is flawless with a magnificent glow. Other than that, rooibos tea is great for lowering blood pressure and controlling diabetes. (*) Sutherlandia – it is used for the treatment of many ailments including fever, poor appetite, indigestion, ulcers, dysentery, cancer, diabetes, colds and flu, coughs, asthma, urinary tract infections, anxiety, the list is endless. (*) Moringa Leaves – it helps with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, it helps improve healing of sores etc. (*) Buchu – my mom loves drinking buchu water every morning, I kid you not, after all it is known as the elixir of youth so go figure.”

Thuli Gogela, Mzansi Style Cuisine (Follow Thuli on Instagram and Facebook)

 

7. Switzerland: sea buckthorn juice, elderberries syrup, raw garlic, probiotic foods

 

“In Switzerland, most seasonal illnesses occur during the cold winter months. To keep these illnesses at bay, some people eat raw garlic. Foods containing beneficial probiotics are popular too, such as Bifidus joghurt or Sauerkraut, a kind of fermented white cabbage prevalent in Switzerland and Germany. Seatbuckthorn juice is used to increase one’s vitamin C intake as seatbuckthorn berries contain ten times as much vitamin C as lemons. Adding fresh herbs such as parsley to meals is also being used for a vitamin boost. Last but not least, a syrup made of elderberries has been used to fight bacteria and viruses for generations.”

Franziska Wick from Little Zurich Kitchen (follow Franziska on Instagram and Facebook)

 

8. Bosnia: fermented vegetables

 

“As it relates to healthy foods made in Bosnia, fermented delicacies are attributed with all kinds of healing properties. During fall almost every family ferments a batch of (at the very least) cabbage in preparation for the winter. Cabbage in particular is said to have great amounts of Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur and iron. It’s used to prevent and help heal colds and the flu. It’s also believed to aid digestion and help with anemia. Cabbage leaves are often used as compresses to pull out inflammations. Some also drink the water it’s fermented in, called rasol as it’s believed to be a body cleansing agent and cough. Not bad for one very simple vegetable!!”

A Guide to Fermented Salad Veggies

Balkan Fermented Cabbage Recipe

Aida Ibišević, Balkan Lunch Box (follow Aida on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

9. Portugal: olive oil, fish

 

“The Portuguese diet is basically the same as the Mediterranean Diet consisting of fresh farm to table ingredients. Fish, seafood, grains, cheeses, fruits and vegetables and of course wines are all produced in the various regions of the country. The most used ingredient in the diet for health, is heart healthy olive oil grown in the north and in the southern Alentejo regions. The country also ranks in the top 3 countries of having the most consumption of fish and seafood around the world. So olive oil and fish is the healthy way in the Portuguese diets. “

Salt Cod and Chickpea Salad Recipe

Tia Maria, Tia Maria’s Blog (follow Maria on Instagram and Facebook)

 

 

10. India, Malaysia: turmeric

 

“I’m from India and turmeric is extensively used to boost immunity in our country and culture. It has many uses and is consumed as a drink with milk or warm water to help beat a cold for example; and is also applied externally to heal wounds. It’s used extensive in India cuisine because of its immune boosting properties.”

How To Make Turmeric Milk

Health Benefits of Turmeric

Richa Gupta, My Food Story (follow Richa on Instagram and Facebook)

 

“Here is my favourite healthy recipe with turmeric, it’s not really a Malaysian recipe, but we use it a lot in our cooking:

Turmeric and Apple Cider Vinegar Detox Tea:

Ingredients:

2 green tea bags

2 cups boiling water

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric powder

2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

Lemon slices, for garnishing

Method:

Add each green tea bag into a drinking glass. Pour the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder into each glass, follow by 1 tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey. Stir to mix well. Garnish with lemon slices and serve warm.”

Bee, Rasa Malaysia (follow Bee on Instagram and Facebook)

Cherry Pit image credit: Ken Owen

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How to Sprout Mung Bean and Enjoy Its Health Benefits

With a history of 4500 years of cultivation behind it, you’ll find sprouted mung beans featured in Indian dishes and Asian stir fries. Also known as green gram or mung dal, they enhance the flavour of your dish with a nutty tang.

Labelled as bean sprouts and sold in supermarkets and specialty food stores, these fast-growing green seeds offer an easy way to add fibre and protein to your diet.

While plant foods are brimming with essential vitamins and minerals, they turn twice as nutritious when uncooked seeds are left to germinate. Sprouting reduces sugars that cause flatulence. Adding sprouted food ensures that your body absorbs maximum nutrients from each meal.

How to sprout mung bean?

  • Choose organic, fresh and whole mung beans.
  • Measure out required amount and remove stones, weeds and sticks.
  • Use clean sprouting tools like Mason jars, sprouting bags and bowls.
  • Bean seeds expand and double in size while developing roots. One cup of raw seeds provides around two cups of sprouts.

Choose method to germinate bean sprouts

You can use jars or sprouting bags. Both these methods require wet seeds to be kept in a cool, dry area of your kitchen, preferably a pantry cabinet away from direct sunlight.

Mung dal quantity – ½ to 1 cup of seeds to enable chutes to develop.

Canning or Mason Jar

You can get this sprouting jar here

Glass jars minimise fungus growth in your sprouts.

Equipment – Bowl and wide-rimmed canning jar with screen lid. Or Mason jar with ring to secure mesh or cloth screen.

Soaking – Rinse seeds well in cold water. Add to jar or bowl and pour 2-3 cups of water. Cover and place in a cool place for 8-14 hours (preferably overnight). Soak for 8-9 hours in humid weather.

Drain and Rinse – Drain water from bowl or jar. Rinse beans with cold water. Gently swirl jar or bowl a bit before draining the water again. This allows air flow and gives seeds room to grow. Add wet seeds to jar (transfer from bowl) and cover with mesh lid or mesh cloth and ring. Place in a cool, dry place.

Repeat this process for 2-3 times (once every 8 to 12 hours) on Day One. Seeds require at least 3 rinses in warm weather. This prevents bacterial or fungal growth.

Drain and rinse – Repeat this technique on Days Two to Four, until your roots have grown to desired length.

Bag or sack method

You can get this sprouting bag here

Sprouting bags provide better air circulation while seeds germinate.

Equipment  Shallow bowl and a sprouting bag. Use eco-friendly bags made with linen, cotton, muslin or fine mesh.

Soaking – Rinse seeds well and add to jar with 2 to 3 cups of cold water. Cover jar with mesh lid and soak seeds for 8-14 hours.

Drain – Transfer water and seeds to sprouting bag or sack. Hang bag in a cool and dry place. Place a large bowl under it and let water drip from bag into it.

Repeat process – Sprinkle fresh water on seeds, hang bag with wet seeds and allow excess water to drain off. Do this 2-3 times (every 8-12 hours) on first day.

Multiple days – continue this sprinkle and drain process for 2-4 days, until chutes have grown to your liking.

When will bean sprouts be ready to eat?

After 2-3 days of rinsing and draining, seeds will develop ¾ to 1-inch long chutes. Add raw sprouts to salads, sandwiches and soups. Enhance your curry, stew, baked roll, casserole or and stir fry with sprouts.

Storage – Use sprouts raw or cooked after the final rinse. Store in fridge for 3-5 days in an airtight jar or freezer bag.

Health benefits of sprouted mung beans

  • These are excellent sources of Vitamins A, B, E and F. In addition, they contain healthy amounts of natural oestrogen, magnesium, potassium, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Vitamin K is essential for effective blood clotting, to maintain bone density and to prevent calcium build-up of calcium in blood vessels. One cup of bean sprouts has 34 mg of this vitamin. 
  • High levels of Vitamin C (14 mg in one cup) and phytonutrients afford you protection against viral infections, common cold and flu, skin irritation and collagen damage.
  • Iron is essential for strengthening your immune system, reducing fatigue and fighting infection. Women can meet 5% of recommended daily intake of iron with one cup of raw sprouts. For men, this works out to 12%.
  • Folate is needed to produce red blood cells, maintain new cells, especially during childhood to puberty, and create DNA. Pregnant women require enough folate to ensure proper growth of their foetus. A cup of raw sprouts provides you with 16% of recommended daily intake.
  • Bean sprouts also contain enough amounts of thiamine-B6 vitamin, which combines with folate to alleviate PMS symptoms in women. This easily digestible plant food can prevent constipation and IBS symptoms.
  • Each cup of mung sprouts has 2.5 gm of protein (a healthy person requires 0.8-1.0 gm of protein per kg of body weight). Phytic acid and tannin in mung bean may help digestion and remove toxins from the body, while peptides can help regulate blood pressure.
  • Amino acids, proteins and phytochemicals found in mung dal act as antioxidant, antitumour and anti-inflammatory agents. This can protect you from cancer, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol and ageing.
  • Fibre, amino acids and polyphenols in bean sprouts can regulate sugar absorption. Regular intake of sprouts can help stabilise weight, and prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity.
  • According to Ayurveda, mung dal balances all the three doshas, heals the body and improves digestion.

A word of caution: Raw mung sprouts could contain bacteria. Serve cooked, roasted or baked sprouts to small children, pregnant women and the elderly. If you’re recovering from an illness or weaker immune system, avoid consuming uncooked sprouts.

Have you tried sprouting mung beans or other sprouts at home? Tell us about your sprouting experiments in the comments below.

 

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Superfoods and Healthy Nutrition Trends in 2018: What Experts Say

Healthy food industry is like fashion: every year new trends and super foods pop up and occupy our instagram feeds and health store shelves. Many of these foods, just like seasonal colors, fade with time: either because of newly found nutrition facts or simply because of boredom.

To understand which new super foods are here to stay, we asked top nutrition and healthy food experts what to expect from the healthy food trends in 2018, and here is what they had  to say.

 

Herbs to improve cognitive function and gut health boosters

 

Whilst there are a number of health and wellness trends set for 2018 it’s essential we stay on top of those which are scientifically sound and those which are simply taking FAD to a whole new level. Evidence surrounding nootropics is beginning to emerge as we understand how natural components of food and some more obscure herbs can influence our brain function. Research surrounding omega-3 for optimal brain health is pretty solid. However, there’s speculations surrounding herbs such as ginkgo and st john’s wart around how these can benefit our cognition. Before you rush to the shops I’d recommend waiting until the evidence surrounding these are fully conclusive.

Gut Health is also set to continue climbing up the trends ladder for 2018. Whilst gut health is hugely important and is linked to a number of health complications it’s not necessarily about popping the strongest probiotics you can find (this in itself has become a trend in 2017). Should you have gut health issues I recommend speaking to a nutritionist or other health care professional to work on a plan specifically for you.”

Jenna Hope, Jenna Hope Nutrition (Follow Jenna on Instagram and Facebook)

 

Keto diet and nutrient-dense superfood vegetables

 

The keto lifestyle will gain even more traction in 2018. People are starting to see that a diet focused on non-starchy vegetables, eggs, and meat yields much better health outcomes than a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet. In 2018 I think we’ll continue to see regular foods transformed into healthier, low-carb versions, using nutrient-dense superfood vegetables like cauliflower, kale, and more.”

Maya Krampf, Wholesome Yum (Follow Maya on Instagram and Facebook)

 

Home cooking and gut-friendly healthy items: fermented foods, mushrooms and soy

 

“2017 saw home, lifestyle, and design trends centred around experiences and bringing the feelings of connection and comfort into our everyday lives. I think we’ll see that trend continuing in 2018 with health and nutrition and I predict an upswing in home cooking with fresh, hearty, healthy ingredients. I think we’ll see a major focus on vibrant meals that can be easily created at home with family and friends. Watch for buzzwords surrounding ease of preparation, comfort, satiety, and health-consciousness particularly about digestive health. 2018’s superfoods will be gut-friendly items including fermented foods, mushrooms, and soy.”

Morgan Crutchfield, Oh my Veggies (Follow “Oh My Veggies” on Facebook and Pinterest)

 

Sugar free diet

 

It’s not a specific food, but sugar free (or sugar light) eating is such an important and positive trend. I’ve gone sugar free a couple different times, and every time I find huge benefits from it, including: I feel better when I’m sugar free, I eat better (honestly, I eat REALLY yummy food when I’m going sugar free.) There are loads of major health benefits to consuming less sugar. I recalibrate my palate so I can really taste and appreciate food found in nature.

Bjork Ostrom, Pinch of Yum (Follow “Pinch of Yum” on Instagram and Facebook)

Functional Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms are medicinal mushrooms. In other words, it is certain types of mushrooms that possess medicinal properties and are often added to different health products. Examples of functional mushrooms include Shiitake, Cordiceps, Enoki, Reishi.

 

“I think that few of the trends which started already in 2017 will experience their boom this year. We might still see the popular colourful lattes, focused on using quality plant based milks and superfood powders. Most likely the super food of this year will be functional mushrooms. As we are finally getting concerned more about our gut health lately, we try to support the good gut flora and therefore our immune system by adding the right foods in our diets. And functional mushrooms seem like they can take a big role in the healthy body scenario.”

Dagmar Mulligan, The Peckish Girl (Follow Dagmar on Instagram and Facebook)

 

Superfood powders like turmeric, collagen and spirulina

Superfood powders are nothing else but your favourite healthy foods in their powdered and hence concentrated form. They are usually prepared from fresh raw ingredients that are freeze-dried and then processed into fine powders. Through this method all the necessary nutrients (minerals, antioxidants, bioflavonoids etc.) stay intact.

 

In 2018, I believe superfood powders will become the new trend – since they can be added to just about any food and will automatically amp up the nutritional value! In particular, turmeric powder, collagen, spirulina and protein powders for women will be all over supermarket shelves, and can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, and even coffee!”

Anjali Shah, The Picky Eater (Follow Anjali on Instagram and Twitter)

 

 

Keep it simple: fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and plant based fats

 

“As the field of nutrition is young and always growing, there are so many new healthy food trends. However, those trends, ones found to have little scientific information backing them up, always end up going out of trend. What never goes out of style? Having a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and plant based fats.

As appealing as new trends are, they go out of style for a reason. The best thing to do with your 2018 health goals is to simply learn how to cook fresh, wholesome foods. Go to your local farmers market, buy fresh produce, take a cooking class. Learn how to adapt a healthy lifestyle, instead of buying into new trends that claim to solve all your problems.”

Stephanie Voytek, That Certain Touch (Follow Stephanie on Instagram)

 

Do you think there will be some other food trends to come that are worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments!

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Unique Tea Ceremonies Around the World

Just one whiff of aromatic tea – black, green, oolong – and you feel better already.

Once used for its medicinal and healing properties, tea is now the second most popular drink in the world, after (you’d never have guessed this one) water!

Tea is much more than a warm drink. While most of us sip our cuppa tea without giving it much thought, some countries have built a culture around this beverage.

It comes as no surprise then that many tea drinking communities have unique ways of celebrating a shared love. This is a way of life; welcoming strangers and bonding with family and friends.

Here is a peek into ceremonies and traditions from select tea loving nations!

 

MOROCCO

mint_tea_morocco

Photo credit: Rain Rannu

This North African country is a blend of different cultures and nothing symbolises this blending aspect better than its Maghrebi mint tea culture. The sugary, green mint tea is poured into delicate glasses and offered three times to each guest by their Moroccan hosts. The tea’s flavour changes with every new serving which signal life, love and death respectively. Your refusal, even a polite one, to drink any of the three-serves is considered extremely rude by the host.

 

ARGENTINA

Selection_of_Yerba_Mate_Gourds-min

Photo credit: Marshallhenrie

One small pot of herbal tea or yerba mate is shared by many as a means of bonding. The pot is constantly refilled to ensure there is enough for everyone. If Moroccans take offence at your refusing their tea, Argentinians feel offended when you thank them for sharing their pot with you. Worse still; they may kick you out of the group for stirring your tea with the straining straw – bombilla. As a guest, you neither thank your host or group for sharing, nor do you question their tea making ability.

 

RUSSIA

Golsen_samovar_with_cup-min

Photo credit: Ivory Mamoth

The Russians love their samovar and so should you when you entertain friends from Russia. Water is constantly boiled in an internal chamber of this large metal urn, with thick, dark tea brewing on the top. Guests dilute this tea concentrate or zavarka with hot water before drinking it black. Hosts will offer you sugar or homemade jam to add to your tea. If you’re doing a traditional-style hosting, don’t forget to keep snacks handy, unless you want to be considered inconsiderate by your guests.

 

BRITAIN

tea_ceremony

Photo credit: Liyster

The English afternoon tea is not something that can be easily replaced by the coffee rush, as tea still holds the prime spot among hot beverage lovers in England and United Kingdom. This tradition of tea and biscuits was started by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford in 19th century to serve as a mini meal before dinner and a new way to entertain friends. While many English homes, cafes and tea rooms have been keeping the afternoon tea and snacks tradition alive, it has become a thriving social practice in many Asian countries, including India.

 

KOREA

Korea-Tea_time-min

Photo credit: Stinkie Pinkie

Like their Chinese and Japanese counterparts, Koreans have different tea ceremonies or formal gatherings depending on the event. The hosts and guests follow established customs and wear traditional clothes. The host is in charge of making and serving tea, and depending on the tea quality, guests may be offered 3-5 rounds per batch. The tea pot and individual bowls are rinsed twice with hot water, before tea leaves and more hot water are added to the pot. The brewed tea is then poured into drinking bowls. The guests are expected to hold their bowl with both hands, observe the colour, inhale the aroma, taste the six food flavours with each sip, before swallowing the tea.

 

JAPAN

512px-Japanese_tea_ceremony_20100502_Japan_Matsuri_02-min

Photo credit: Georges Seguin

The Japanese had elaborate tea drinking and tasting or Way of Life ceremonies.  Many of the elements are still being practised in a bid to preserve ancient traditions. This is more than a bonding over tea session. It is zen in action from the flower arrangement and guest seating to tea making process, equipment used, and gestures adopted by hosts and guests. The chanoyu ceremony involves the brewing of both thin and thick Matcha green tea by a skilled practitioner and served to a select group of people. The tea ceremony can take up to four hours and includes a light meal, and sometimes, a multi-course one.

 

CHINA

Gong_fu_cha-min

Photo credit: neptunati

China discovered the magic of tea brewing and shared its knowledge with the rest of the world. It has its share of special tea ceremonies, including the meditative or Gung Fu method. What sets Gung Fu apart is the use of purple clay pots and miniature tea equipment. The emphasis is on the elegance and taste of oolong tea which is steeped many times by expert tea brewers. Other varieties of tea are used for other tasting ceremonies.

Special tea ceremonies are associated with weddings. In one such ceremony, couples offer tea to each other to show their respect and care. In another wedding related ceremony, the prospective groom’s parents offer tea as a bridal gift to the girl’s parents. To seal the marriage agreement, the girl’s parents accept this gift and send other gifts in return. 

Did you enjoy reading about these interesting tea traditions and ceremonies?  Have you come across a tea ceremony you’d like to share with us? 

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