Woo wee! I am back from getting married in Paris and hanging out in Istanbul until I leave again in a few days for the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico. Life is exciting right now and full of nutritional bliss I must say 🙂
I just wanted to share a few healthy habits I used while away in Istanbul and some of the natural foods consumed regularly by Istanbulites that are amazing for your health!
Pomegranates were in season while we were in Istanbul and could be seen everywhere: in the grocery, in stalls, and of course on carts with juicers! My husband (crazy!) and I had a few freshly pressed pomegranate juices while away. We always had them on an empty stomach and opted for the smallest size. I would normally recommend only consuming green juices as they are lower in sugar and will not affect your blood sugar. If you are going to consume a fruit juice I suggest having it on an empty stomach and having very little of it. You could even dilute it half and half with water to lessen any adverse effects it may have on your blood sugar. Check out my tips here on how to consume juices to get the most nutritional bang for your buck!
POM juice has been popularized as a healthy drink because it is made of pomegranates but beware of the pasteurization which really renders the juice useless in my eyes as it has been processed and the enzymes destroyed! If you ever get the chance to taste the freshly squeezed juice you will want nothing to do with a plastic bottled version, nature is always better 😉
Pomegranates are extremely high in antioxidants, including vitamin C (my fave antioxidant to help combat stress, collagen degradation, maintaining immunity, getting glowing skin, etc.), and vitamin E which is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against UV radiation and leave us with beautiful unharmed skin. Pomegranates also contain folate which is necessary for a healthy pregnancy to prevent neural problems in the developing fetus, helps with the growth of healthy blood cells, blood circulation and even the prevention of cancer.
We also indulged on some freshly roasted chestnuts that were in season too. I made sure not to eat too many (I don’t like cooked fatty foods) and avoided any burnt areas. When a food is burnt it can be carcinogenic and may have also caused the fat in the food to become rancid. Chestnuts contain a large amount of fiber which is great for digestive health helping us to, ahem, eliminate toxins via the bowels. Chestnuts also contain B-vitamins which are needed to have high energy levels. B vitamins are important co-factors in energy output and making adrenal hormones. Fatigued people tend to be low in the B-complex vitamins. Think B for boost! Chestnuts are also rich in manganese, an antioxidant and copper, a trace mineral needed for bone strength.
Poppy seed butter and Carob syrup, yummy! We were introduced to these 2 spreads at a local health food store. The owner spoke English and was very helpful. While organic is not as widespread in Turkey, we did manage to find 2 organic health food stores and an organic produce section in the nearby Carrefour. All 3 of these places were within 10 minutes of the apartment we rented near Taksim Square.
Ok, on to the poppy seed butter: this butter tasted a lot like peanut butter. I haven’t eaten peanut butter in a while due to concerns with mold and allergies so it was nice to be reminded of the taste of peanut butter. I love finding alternative healthy foods that remind your of your not so great past unhealthy foods (caramel = dates, anyone?!).
Poppy seeds are grown in Turkey, France, India and in the Eastern European region. Poppy seeds are high in many minerals including iron, copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and magnesium. In particular, zinc helps the immune system and digestion, improves stress levels, and supports healthy hair and skin therefore helping to heal eczema, acne and wounds. Poppy seed also contains heart healthy fats (oleic acid which is also found in avocadoes and olive oil), are a source of dietary fiber, and B-complex vitamins.
The carob tree is a plant of the legume family, native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Carob has long been the alternative to chocolate for those who don’t want a theobromine kick. However, carob has a very different flavour to chocolate which may disappoint the chocolate addicts out there! If you consume carob and allow it to be what it is you might be surprised. The syrup we bought in Istanbul was made of pure organic carob. The flavour was divine and had a beautiful malty caramel flavour and was going to become a ‘danger food’ for me at the rate I was consuming it! Carob is high in natural sugars so should be used sparingly and not devoured without thought (as I sort of was doing, oops!). The syrup can be a great sweetener alternative. I used it in the tahini I made several times while we were there and it worked like a charm.
Carob is rich in antioxidants and will help to ward off free radicals that can lead to aging and disease. Carob also rich in calcium and iron, two minerals that can be concerning to much of the population, so eat up!
4. Nuts and Dried Fruit = Turkish Viagra (oh my!)
Lastly, I will share how much I loved seeing nuts and dried fruit combined as a snack. This. Is. The. Ultimate. Indulgence. (If you ask me). I can fondly remember being introduced to dates and tasting their rich caramel flavour and then finding out this miracle grew on trees and was 100% natural! Ever since that introduction I have eaten almonds, walnuts and just about any other nut with my beloved dates. As the years have passed I have started to include dried apricots and figs into the dried fruit repertoire. In Istanbul we saw a lot of nuts and dried fruit, combined. I thought I had invented this combination but apparently it existed before and makes a wonderful dessert or snack when you are walking up and down hills for hours at a time 😉 Apparently this combination is also known as Turkish Viagra or ‘atom’. One vendor told us that the Turks like natural supplements rather than popping a pill, right on I say, right on!
Turkey was amazing and I will leave you all with some amazing pics of the beautiful mosques, the Bosphorus Straight (that separates Europe from Asia), and other beautiful sites from an amazing country!