Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tropical Treats

Due to the love I have of warm weather and all things tropical (the food, the fun, the music, the water...), I decided to write a post about some of the great health benefits of a few of my favorite tropical foods.  Now, that being said, if you do not live in a tropical area and are trying to eat local, these foods will be a challenge for you but would be good to add as an occasional treat.  I personally love to eat local, although it is not always easy and I probably do it about 50% of the time.  That being said, let's get started!

1. Coconut
     One of the cool things about coconut is that it is such a versatile food.  You can consume the flesh, oil, and water inside it.  Islanders consider the coconut palm the "Tree of Life" because they value the coconut as both food and medicine.  Coconuts have great antimicrobial properties that have been used in medicine for centuries and they are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
    Now, it should be mentioned that coconut oil has been given a bad rep in the past because it is made mostly of saturated fats.  As we have all learned in basic biology courses, saturated fats are not healthy for the body and can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, which will lead to clogged arteries if not enough HDL (good) cholesterol is taken in as well.  That being said, studies have come to find that the type of saturated fat found in coconut oil is special; it is actually made of medium-chain fatty acids.  Without going into great detail and giving you a science lesson, basically, this type of fatty acid does not have a negative affect on cholesterol and can actually protect you from heart disease.  If you would like to know more, please leave me a comment or send an email and I would be happy to answer any other questions about this amazing food.

2. Pineapple
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       Besides being one of my favorite fruits, pineapple has a great substance called bromelain that helps our body digest food and reduce inflammation.  You may have seen this complex in supplement form, but why take a pill when you can enjoy a sweet/tart tropical fruit?!
     One frustrating aspect about pineapple is getting to the fruit.  Unless you buy it frozen, canned, or pre-cut (which I don't recommend any of the above), you have to get through the tough outer portion.  Here's the way I have found to be most successful and least wasteful:
1. Lay the pineapple sideways and slice off the green leafy top, followed by cutting off the bottom.
2.  Stand the fruit upright and make thin slices from top to bottom to remove the prickly skin.  This is the tricky part because you do not want to cut off too much and waste the succulent fruit, but you also don't want to leave the pricklies (is that even a word?) on there.
3.  Now, it is up to you as to how you want to slice the rest.  First, you can slice the fruit in half length wise and slice into half-moon shapes.  Second, you can core the pineapple and make rings.  Third, you can just chop away and either eat the core or save it to cook with!  Hint:  the core is where a huge concentration of the bromelain is!!

3. Sweet Potato (yes, this is actually a tropical plant!)
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Although they originate from Africa, sweet potatoes are a staple in the diet of islanders.  The orange flesh makes it easy to see that this tuber is loaded with vitamins, especially vitamin A.  Just like white/blue potatoes, sweet potatoes grow on vines in the ground.  I personally adore sweet potatoes for their mildly sweet taste.  They have tons of "antioxidants, anti-inflammatory ingredients, and blood sugar regulating nutrients" which most definitely makes them a super food in my book!

These are only 3 of the many healthy tropical foods out there!  As I said before, I adore the tropics; not just for their food, but for their way of life.  Hawaii, although not tropical, is the reason I created this blog.  Luana Ola means "Enjoy Life" in Hawaiian and the staple phrase among the locals is Na Mele Aloha which means "Live the life of Aloha" aka Hang loose!!

What is your favorite tropical food?  I can't decide...

Luana ola!