Saturday, December 5, 2015

First Aid with Aloe Vera

If someone in your home gets a little nick, scrape or burn, dab a coating of fresh aloe vera on the injury. Clinical studies have shown fresh aloe vera gel to promote wound healing by stimulating tissue repair.

Whenever I apply it on an injury, I leave a thick coating on because of the known hydrating, insulating and protective properties of the gel. It dries up pretty quickly and isn't noticeable after a while. In fact, I favor it over the drugstore-bought bandages when it comes to sunburns and those minor but common burn accidents in the kitchen. Research compiled indicates that healing time for burn injuries is about eight days shorter than those in control groups.

The gel I’m talking about, though, is taken fresh from the plant—not the type you can buy in tubes or jars in retail stores. Many of the active ingredients appear to deteriorate with storage or pasteurization at high temperatures. 

Aloe Vera is Easy to Grow
Fear not, you brown thumbs reading this! Aloe vera is a tropical plant that feels right at home in the Philippines, making it incredibly easy to grow. It can be grown outdoors or in the house by a sunny window. It doesn’t need much watering; in fact, it prefers infrequent watering. It’s a succulent, making its care similar to what you would give a cactus. And because it’s also very easy to propagate, you can buy it at a very affordable price from most plant stores.

When cutting a leaf for your use, make a clean cut at the base of the leaf (use a sharp knife or garden shears; don’t just break it off), as close as you can to where the plant meets the soil surface. Since you can extract a lot of gel from just one cut leaf, you can reuse it over several days as your wound heals. Wrap the aloe vera in a plastic sheet or foil and keep it in the refrigerator. Cut off the end and extract from the newly exposed part each time you need to get more gel, then reseal.

Other Uses of Aloe Vera 
Given all the research going on about this low-maintenance plant, there’s no reason for a home not to have at least one pot around.  I’ve heard of people keeping the gel on for half an hour as a facemask to keep skin moisturized and youthful looking. Others mix it with rubbing alcohol to make homemade hand sanitizers. They add a few drops of essential oil to give it a nice scent. 

What about you? Do you have a handy use for aloe vera that you’d like to share?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sodium Nitrite and the Love of Bacon

Disclaimer:  Once in a while, I feature branded products on my blog, and I do so without sponsorship or remuneration. These are recommendations I make purely out of my personal preferences and experience, in hopes others might benefit from what I share.

I do my best to put a gag on my “food police” attitude when I’m at parties. Oh, all right, maybe not just at parties, but also at pizza parlors, fast food joints and food kiosks. Particularly when there’s a lot of processed meat being served. 

Indeed, how can anyone pass on a platter of premium cold cuts? A slice of pepperoni pizza? A bowl of bacon-rich carbonara? A hotdog sandwich? And come Noche Buena, there’s that delicious slab of juicy ham.

You can stop reading if you don’t want me ruining your holiday bingeing bliss. But take heart, studies show it is the excessive consumption that is the culprit—as in all things carcinogenic. So follow me for a few more paragraphs as I tell you about sodium nitrite.

Sodium nitrite (called salitre in the Philippines) is a compound added to food as a preservative. It is used to cure meats like ham, tocino, sausages and hot dogs. Aside from keeping these products from spoiling, it also impedes the development of the botulism bacteria, and it gives the meat its sumptuous pink color. 

Research, however, has indicated a link between high intake of processed meat and colon cancer, as well as Childhood Type 1 diabetes in infants if their mothers consumed large amounts while pregnant. There are other risks which you can easily find with a quick search.

But then, there are also studies indicating the contrary. That all is good and safe—and even beneficial to your health—regarding that stuff you buy in large amounts. These findings say it might be something else in the processed meat that could be the cause of cancer and is not the sodium nitrite.

I, personally, can pass on the pepperoni pizza (there’s lots of other yummy pizza selections, or I can simply take out the sausage and eat the rest). A once-a-year celebration with Christmas ham is acceptable, I would suppose. And I have no problem skipping the hotdogs (I find their extreme redness abnormal). But I simply cannot live a happy life without bacon.

As it turns out, there is some heartening news. Sodium nitrite’s negative effects can be lessened when it is not exposed to high temperatures. So when I do make carbonara, it takes me an incredibly long time to cook the bacon (super low heat for nearly an hour)—but it gives me extra pleasure knowing that everyone who partakes of my pasta is spared some of sodium nitrite’s assault. My favored supermarket brand is King Sue. 

Alas, it still has sodium nitrite as one of its ingredients, but did you notice something else? It has no MSG! So far, it’s the only brand I know, locally, to not have it. (I belong in that percentage of the population that gets palpitations after eating MSG-enhanced food on an empty stomach.) That’s why it’s the only branded bacon I buy.

On that note, I would like to make a special plea to the local makers of bacon. If it would be possible for you to include some Vitamin C in your bacon as research shows how its addition practically stops sodium nitrite from turning into the bad stuff in our tummy. Do shoot me a message if any of you know of any bacon with ascorbic acid available right here, right now.