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AFRICAN FRUITS AND THEIR HEALTH BENEFITS

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Dear reader, this post is going to shed some light aimed at enlightening you on the various African fruits and what makes them tick “health-wise”. We relied on some experience from a good friend of the house called Eka Arifin to do us the honours. Enjoy your fruits.

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For those who live far away from Africa must thought this continent is unreachable and only consisting of plain desert and elephants. Well, if you are one of those people and then you thought wrong because Africa is so extensive and in some ways are gifted with both exotic animals and plants. So, you will be surprised about the list of African fruits and the health benefits because most of those fruits are only able to be found in Africa and not something you could find in the nearby grocery.

  1. Miracle Fruit

When you firstly bite miracle fruit, the first flavor you will taste is sour but the longer you chew it the sweeter it becomes. That’s why this fruit is well known as miracle fruit aside from the fact that this fruit also contains some miracle properties. This fruit is originated from West Africa.

There are some intensive studies have been conducted since this fruit is loaded with important nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K and some powerful antioxidants. When it comes to the health benefits of miracle fruit, the list could be endless and among those are anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial for diabetic patients.

  1. African Mango

African mango is originated from Cameroon, Africa. The appearance and flavor of African mango is not really different with the common mango you know but the color of the peel is the shades of yellow to red.

There are a lot of health benefits of African mango but since the first time introduced to the world outside Africa continent, this fruit has become one of the most recommended fruits for weight loss. Due to its rich of minerals, African mango is highly recommended for mothers during pregnancy because it is rich of vitamin C that could help optimizing nutrient absorption and by those who have anemia issue because it is quite rich of iron.

  1. Baobab Fruit

Baobab fruit is fruit from baobab tree that is native to Africa continent though the variety of this fruit also found in Australia. The baobab fruit has hard outer shell like coconut but a bit smaller in size while the flesh inside tastes really sweet almost similar to pear flavor.

Baobab fruit is so rich of vitamin C and excellent source of antioxidants. Some studies showed that antioxidants found in baobab fruit is six time more powerful than blueberry. A lot of people are consuming this fruit for the sake of the health benefits of baobab fruitespecially those who have problem with this digestion since this fruit is so rich of dietary fiber.

  1. Ackee Fruit

Ackee fruit has scientific name Blighia sapida which comes from the same family with lychee and longan. While longan and lychee is native to Asia continent, ackee fruit is originated from Africa, especially West Africa and Guyana. The appearance of ackee fruit is very unique because the seams will pop open to expose the seeds and tasty pulp and that is the sign that the fruit is ripe and safe to eat because unripe ackee fruit is poisonous.

Among the health benefits of Ackee fruit, this fruit is an excellent source of protein and as rich of dietary fiber, ackee fruit is also excellent solution to constipation and other digestive problems. However, ackee fruit contains sodium in quite high level, so those who already have problem with excessive sodium in their bloodstream should aware of this.

  1. Tamarind Fruit

Though tamarind fruit has been well known worldwide and has been commercially cultivated in some tropical countries, originally tamarind fruit is from Africa. What makes tamarind so unique is its flavor which is the combination of sweet and sour, perfect ingredients for candy.

When it comes to the nutritional value, tamarind fruit contains some vitamins and minerals that are essential for body metabolism. So, there are plenty of health benefits of tamarind fruit you should know like this fruit has been used as anti-inflammatory remedy and quite good for blood circulation due to its mineral contents.

  1. Passion Fruit

When talking about exotic fruit, passion fruit is one of fruits in the top of the list because not only the name but the look as well as the flavor of this fruit is very exotic. Passion fruit is very popular worldwide and there are about 500 varieties of passion fruit and some of them are found in Africa continent while others are spread in all tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Passion fruit is excellent source of antioxidants like Beta-carotene, riboflavin, nicotnic acid and caretenoid. The name passion may come from the fact that this fruit is also rich of carbohydrate that makes this fruit an excellent energy booster. Aside from among health benefits of passion fruit, people love to eat it because this fruit promotes healthier skin.

  1. Xylopia Aethiopica

Xylopia aethiopica is one of the herbal plants originated from Africa. This plant has been well known as traditional remedy by the locals for thousands of years and recently studied to be added as part of modern medication. The medicinal properties found in fruit of this plant is also one of the reasons why this plant is cultivated.

Due to its inflammatory properties, the fruit of Xylopia aethiopica has been used to treat bronchitis in the form of decoction, rheumatism and toothaches. It is only one of the health benefits of xylopia aethiopicabecause more studies showed that the fruit of this tree is excellent solution to dysenteric condition and asthma.

  1. Shea Fruit

Shea fruit is the main ingredients of shea butter, one of the well known cosmetic ingredients. The shea butter is derived from the nut of shea fruit and one the health benefits of shea butter is promoting healthy skin. Though the fruit is edible but it is not typical thing you could find in dinner table unless you were in Africa where this fruit comes from becausse the African use shea butter as cooking oil.

As rich of fatty oil, shea butter derived from shea fruit has been used as natural skin moisturizer, skin sun block and treatment to dry skin. For skin face, shea butter is also effective to treat conditions like acnes, wrinkles caused by premature aging, eye bags even dark spot. Besides for skin, there are also a lot of health benefits of shea butter for hair that you should aware of.

  1. African Cherry Orange

One more fruit from citrus family that originated from Africa that you should know, it is African cherry orange. The flavor and the appearance of African cherry orange is really similar to tangerine though it is quite smaller in size which is only about 2 – 3 centimeters long, that is why the name cherry comes from because this orange is taste like truly orange but appear in cherry-like size.

If the list of health benefits of tangerine impresses you, it goes the same with African cherry orange. The locals call this fruit as omuboro and this fruit has been used as herbal medicine since ancient time. Due to its antioxidant properties African cherry orange is used to treat several skin conditions, manage diabetes and promote healthy cell regeneration.

  1. Desert Date

Desert date is English name of fruit originated from Africa and some regions in Middle East. In countries like Africa, desert date is considered as valuable plant because it could grow and bear fruits even in the driest condition. The locals are not only consuming the fruits but also the leaves, the seeds and even the flowers are edible. The look of this fruit is not really different with the common dates you know but the appearance of the tree is different as well as the health benefits of dates.

Desert date is well known as fruit which is commonly mixed with porridge and highly recommended to be consumed by breastfeeding mothers because it could help improving lactation and could heal headache. Well, it means desert date is one of the fruit that should be on the list of African fruits and the health benefits due to its excellent nutritional value.

  1. Bitter Kola Fruit

Bitter kola is a flowering plant from the family of Guttiferae or Clusiaceaewith scientific name Garcinia kola. This plant is considered to be important for some tribes in Nigeria due to its medicinal properties used in traditional remedy. Originated from Africa, this plant could be found in almost every regions of Africa like Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria.

According to the locals, bitter kola has been used as medicines since ancient time to treat conditions like cough and fever. All of the parts of the plant could be used as medicine like leaves, bark, fruit and seed but the most important part is the fruit where the seed is found. Bitter kola is the source of some vitamins and minerals like vitamin A and C, calcium and potassium. The most well know health benefits of bitter kola fruit is this fruit could help increasing those who have problem with low libido to improve sexual performance.

  1. Horned Melon

Horned melon may scare most people right away due to its strange yet really exotic appearance. Those who are not familiar with this fruit may thought this fruit is some kinds of dragon’s egg. Well, horned melon, among locals of Africa where this fruit is originated from, is well known as kiwano or African horned cucumber.

So, it is just another variety of cucumber but with fruitier flavor similar to passion fruit. Though this fruit is native to Sub-Saharan Africa but now this fruit is widely cultivated in some regions of United States, Europe and New Zealand.

This cucumber is so rich of minerals especially magnesium and vitamin C but beside that, the most important thing about horned melon is its calories amount which could reach up to 44 kcal per 100 gram. There are some studies have been conducted to find out more information about horned melon and based on those studies, horned melon contains some amazing compounds that could help regulating stress hormone, so it is great to treat conditions like stress, anxiety even could help dealing with symptoms of depression.

  1. Jackalberry

Jackalberry is the English name of African ebony. It is among exotic species of large trees found only savannah of Africa. This tree is cultivated for its fruit but not all tree could bear fruits. The most unique thing about jackalberry is it has gender and only female tree that could bear fruits while the male tree couldn’t but the leaves are nutritious foods for wild animals like elephants and buffalo.

As mentioned above, jackalberry tree is especially cultivated for its fruits because in regions like Africa where food crisis has become daily issue, tree like jackalberry is very precious. The fruit is just like common berry fruit size which is around 2 cm and turn from green to yellow when ripe. Its fruit has been cooked for its nutrition while sometimes the fruit is ground into flour or dried. The taste is quite unique with the combination of chalky texture and lemon-like flavor.

  1. Kei Apple

Kei apple is one more exotic fruit from Africa, especially the southern regions that people should aware of. This fruit has scientific name Dovyalis caffra while the name Kei comes from where the fruit is wildly growing around Kei River while the name apple comes from its flavor which similar to apple though the size is smaller that common apple with diameter only around 2 – 4 cm. The fruit is edible and quite mouth-watering with bright yellow or orange when ripe.

Surprisingly, there are some studies have been conducted to learn more about nutritional value of kei apple and the same studies showed that kei apple contains some powerful antioxidants including polyphenol and quite rich of amino acid. The locals are using kei apple as part of their traditional remedy to treat chest pain and due to its anti-inflammatory properties, kei apple is also effective to deal with condition like rheumatism and fever.

  1. Marula

Marula is native to southern Africa, Madagascar and West Africa. This fruit is one of the exotic fruits which are packed with super nutrients. This fruit comes from genus Brachystegia that makes this fruit is close relative to mango, cashew and pistachio. The name marula itself is derived from ancient Greek word which means ‘hard nut’ because the fruity flesh contains seed as hard as stone in the core.

Marula has yellow skin while the white flesh inside is so rich of vitamin C. Some studies even stated that vitamin C contained in marula is eight times amount of vitamin C found in orange, so don’t expect this fruit would be sweet, instead the flavor is quite tart. As rich of vitamin C, marula is also excellent antioxidant source. The ascorbic acid content will help to making sure optimal absorption of certain nutrients, especially iron to help improve human body metabolism.

  1. Carissa

There are a lot of varieties of carissa but the most popular one is Carissa macrocarpa, native to South Africa which has local name as Large Num-Num while the English word for this fruit is well known as Natal Plum. The fruit is totally edible, oval size with red color of the skin when ripe.

There myth that said, natal plum plant is poisonous but as it said, it is only myth. This opinion may refer to some other varieties of plant with similar appearance. It means when you are in the middle of Africa and found this kind of fruit; at least you should be careful and make sure the fruit is natal plum which is the edible one and not the poisonous one.

This fruit is rich of vitamin C and minerals like magnesium which make this fruit excellent source of antioxidant that could help improving your body metabolism. Surely you have know how much benefits of organic fruits and vegetables and carissa is one of those fruit considered as excellent source of some essential nutrients especially for African that should deal with food crisis.

  1. White Star Apple

White star apple is tropical fruit, native to Nigeria, Africa. It has scientific name Chrysophyllum aibidum. If you have been familiar with star apple and white star apple is one of the closest variety but with white flesh inside instead of purple.

Just like the health benefits of star apple, white star apple also has some amazing benefits for human health. The locals have been using white star apple as home remedy to treat conditions like toothache and sore throat. As it is so rich of dietary fiber, white star apple is also excellent solution to deal with constipation. The most important thing you should know about white star apple is, this fruit is super rich of vitamin C and the amount is even higher than vitamin C found in guava and orange. This fruit also among foods that lower cholesterol level you should consider to add to your daily diet to help managing your cholesterol.

From the list of African fruits and the health benefits above, could you mention how much fruits you have taste or at least you have seen? Actually, it is not a surprise if you haven’t taste a single fruit mentioned above and perhaps it is the first times you know that those fruits are actually exist. This world is very extensive and no matter how dry the climate in Africa is, that continent is also one of the richest places in this world.

24 Hours Across Africa

Got Pain? A Virtual Swim With Dolphins May Help Melt It Away

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Source: npr- Virtual reality is not new. But, as people search for alternative ways to manage pain — and reduce reliance on pills — VR is attracting renewed attention.

Imagine, for a moment you’ve been transported to a sunlit lagoon. And, suddenly, it’s as if you’re immersed in the warm water and swimming. That’s what Tom Norris experiences when he straps on his VR headset.

“It’s fantastic, I really feel like I’m there,” says Norris, who is 70 years old, retired from the military, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife. As dolphins frolic and swim by in the virtual scene, “I get a strong feeling of pleasure, relaxation and peace,” he says.

It doesn’t take long to produce that effect — about 10 minutes or so, via the headset.

Norris is no stranger to pain. He’s got chronic pain through his spine, back and hips, from injuries that go back years.

Ever since he was introduced to virtual reality, he’s been hooked. In addition to swimming with dolphins, he’s tried other VR experiences, such as wilderness walks.

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood

“I relax. My attention is diverted and it makes the pain more manageable,” he says. Norris was on his deck when we spoke, drinking a morning cup of coffee and watching the hummingbirds. “Pain is part of my life,” he told me.

He uses lots of tools to help him cope, he says, including peer support groups, which he helps lead. But he says he finds VR particularly helpful. For him, the feeling of relaxation and ease that comes from a virtual swim with dolphins tends to linger for several days.

Can You Reshape Your Brain’s

Norris isn’t alone in his positive experience. A study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE is just the latest to document that an immersive, virtual reality experience can be an effective strategy for reducing pain.

VR “changes the way we perceive the pain,” explains study author Brennan Spiegel, a physician and the director of Cedars-Sinai Health Services Research in Los Angeles.

The research was done in a hospital where participants were undergoing treatment for various conditions; some were experiencing pain linked to cancer and others had orthopedic pain. “We divided the patients into two groups,” Spiegel explains.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has been testing the value of virtual reality devices in hospital settings for a number of years.

Courtesy of Cedars-Sinai

One group tried VR. They used Samsung Oculus headsets that were each fitted with a phone that had a VR app. Patients could select from a library of 21 VR experiences available on the app.

They were free to use the VR devices as much as they liked, but were advised to aim for three daily sessions, 10 minutes per session. The other group of patients got to watch a health and wellness channel on TV, as much as they wanted.

“We found that virtual reality reduced pain by about three times as much as watching TV did,” Spiegel says. Using a zero to 10 pain scale, the virtual reality experience led to a 2 point drop in pain, compared to a half-point drop for watching TV.

Spiegel’s study was partly funded by a grant from Applied VR, a company that sells VR software, but the company played no role in the conduct, data collection, data interpretation, or write-up of the study, he says.

It’s not exactly clear how VR works to help reduce pain perception, but pain specialists say there are likely multiple explanations. Distraction in just one element.

“When the mind is deeply engaged in an immersive experience, it becomes difficult to perceive stimuli outside of the field of attention,” Spiegel and his collaborators write in their journal paper. In other words, when something captures our attention and uses all our senses, we focus on it. It’s like a spotlight — and everything else falls into darkness — at last temporarily.

So, a virtual swim with the dolphins can overwhelm our visual, auditory and other senses. “VR is thought to create an immersive distraction that restricts the brain from processing pain,” the authors conclude.

The study adds to other evidence pointing toward potential benefits of VR to manage pain. Going back more than 15 years, studies have shown the technique to be useful in a range of settings — from helping people cope with anxiety to helping reduce acute pain during medical procedures, during physical therapy or during dental procedures. And, there’s some evidence VR can help with chronic pain, too.

Still, there are some unanswered questions, says Zachary Rosenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University who has been involved in research on VR’s effect on pain. “Distraction is helpful for pain,” he says. “That’s an understood phenomenon. … But why should VR be better than any other kind of distraction?” he wonders.

Spiegel’s research “starts to answer this question,” says Rosenthal. “I do think this study moves the needle forward.”

If you’re new to virtual reality, Spiegel has some advice: “It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first, whenever self-treating symptoms. But in general, it is safe to use VR at home,” he says. About 5% to 10% of people who try it get cybersickness, which is basically a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, similar to motion sickness. So, it’s good to be aware of this risk.

“For people who own an Oculus Go or Oculus Quest [headset], I suggest Nature Trek, which is an outstanding set of content that is peaceful and meditative” for the treatment of pain, says Spiegel, who has no financial ties to the company. And there are other companies that make a variety of software specifically aimed at easing pain.

“For cheap and easy access to VR experiences, you can simply visit YouTube and search its massive library of free VR content,” Spiegel says. “If you want a virtual trip to the beach, type ‘VR beach’ into the YouTube search engine. Or ‘VR forest.’ It’s all there for the taking.”

VR is certainly not a panacea, but it can be another tool in the pain management toolkit. Spiegel and his collaborators say there’s still a lot to learn as to which types of VR may be most effective.

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Health & Lifestyle

Get a 24-Hour Blood Pressure Reading to really know your heart health

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  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is a warning sign of multiple health issues.
  • A new study finds that the best way to determine a person’s heart health is to look at their blood pressure over 24 hours.
  • This method could offset “white coat hypertension,” where the stress of going to the doctor’s office can increase a person’s blood pressure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 in every 4 deaths — or about 610,000 deathsTrusted Source — each year.

It’s also the most expensive disease, costing the country nearly $1 billion each day.

The vast majority of cardiovascular disease cases are preventable, had people received earlier diagnoses and treatments.

One way to detect signs of cardiovascular disease is a simple blood pressure reading.

High blood pressure (hypertension) has long been known to be the biggest — and most treatable — risk factor associated with diseases of the heart and vascular system. But many people don’t know they have it until it’s too late, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source.

Now, researchers have discovered a new way to get more accurate measurements of blood pressure, which can hopefully get people on the right medications sooner and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

By recording people’s blood pressure over 24 hours rather than just once in a clinic or hospital setting, doctors can more accurately diagnose high blood pressure and effectively predict someone’s risk for heart and vascular disease, according to a new international study recently published in JAMATrusted Source.

To determine the most reliable way to measure blood pressure, researchers followed 11,135 people from Europe, East Asia, and Latin America for 14 years.

They compared the accuracy of blood pressure readings that were taken in a medical setting to blood pressure recordings that were taken during both night and day over 24-hour periods.

The researchers found that the 24-hour and nighttime blood pressure measurements provided a more accurate estimate of one’s risk for heart and vascular disease compared to the in-office readings.

“Although heart and vascular disease are strongly associated with blood pressure, irrespective of how it is measured, until now we did not know which type of blood pressure measurement captured risk in the most accurate way,” study co-author Dr. Gladys Maestre, a researcher from the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, said in a statement.

The findings suggest that blood pressure should be monitored repeatedly for 24 hours to help diagnose people’s heart issues and, ultimately, prevent cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers.

“Ever since devices to measure blood pressure were invented more than 100 years ago, it’s been known that elevation of such readings predicted the eventual development of blood vessel disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney dysfunction,” says Dr. Richard Wright, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

In general, the further a person’s blood pressure readings deviate from the ideal, the more likely they are to eventually develop any of these health issues, Wright added.

However, a huge issue comes into play when blood pressure is measured in a healthcare setting.

Many people have elevated blood pressure readings due to anxiety of being in a medical environment — known as the white coat effect — and those high readings don’t accurately reflect a person’s overall blood pressure levels.

“Unfortunately, blood pressure isn’t a fixed number for any individual and varies widely over each day, being much higher during stress or physical exercise, and typically lowest at night during asleep,” he explained.

Even the stress of having a blood pressure cuff put on the arm or seeing a doctor walk into the room can cause some people’s blood pressure to spike, he added.

Repeated monitoring can better predict your risk

Twenty-four hour monitoring can look at a person’s blood pressure fluctuations throughout an entire day rather than at a given moment.

There’s also a huge advantage of measuring blood pressure during sleep because the results aren’t affected by daytime meals or activities.

“Ambulatory monitors give us a great sense of what the patient’s blood pressure is doing in real life as well as when they are sleeping, when it should decrease,” Dr. Nicole Harkin, a board-certified cardiologist and lipidologist with Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates in New York City, said.

“They also give us a large data set of blood pressures to look at, as opposed to a one-time snapshot in the doctor’s office, which is subject to many variables, including errors in measurement as well the patient’s recent activity level, medication timing, and inadequate rest prior to measurement,” she said.

According to Harkin, the current American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association blood pressure guidelines support the use of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to better predict cardiovascular outcomes.

Coverage for ambulatory blood pressure monitoring varies across different insurance providers. Much of the time, it’s only covered for people who experience white coat hypertension, in which an individual’s blood pressure is higher in a doctor’s office than it would normally be, she explained.

Seeing as ambulatory blood pressure monitoring can better predict long-term heart disease outcomes, healthcare providers should place a greater emphasis on 24-hour readings than those taken in a doctor’s office.

If people know their blood pressure is higher than it should be, the better they can manage it to minimize the odds they’ll develop heart disease down the road.

High blood pressure can be the biggest predictor of heart disease, so the sooner people can start managing their blood pressure, the lower their risk of heart and vascular disease may be.

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