How My Family Uses Lemons

How My Family Uses Lemons

Some 10+ years ago I read the book Eat Right for Your Blood Type.  It recommended drinking the juice of half a lemon in warm water the first thing every morning.  I have done so ever since.  Years later, we read article after article listing the benefits of this morning ritual.  All I know is that my body loves lemons!  She, my body, knows exactly where and how to apply the goodness found in a lemon to her personal needs.

But, wait a minute, haven’t we been using lemons for decades.  I grew up with lemons in the grocery carriage; lemons are not a new food.  Society has suddenly realized that they are a SUPERFOOD.  Lemons are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber.  They contain numerous phytochemicals, many of them antioxidants.

Here are just a few my family’s traditional uses for the lovely, lowly, now SUPERFOOD – LEMONS.

When I was doing my junior year of college in France, I made my mother Lemon Tea’s.  It was the cold remedy that she used to keep her babies well.  It was a great hit with the students from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and France.

Harriett E’s Lemon Tea
Take 2 lemons roll them on the table; this will break up the membrane and release more juice.  Slice them in half and squeeze the juice into a small sauce pan along with the lemon peels; add enough water to cover.  Bring to a rolling boil; turn the flame down and allow to gently boil for 10 minutes.
Strain into you cup.  Sweeten to taste.

She also made lemony syrup to put in our tea.  I never got this recipe right but, I use it all the time.  It is probably the reason why over the counter cough medicines don’t work for me.

Miss Poly’s Lemon Syrup
Brandy, Honey, and Lemon – Roll the lemon then squeeze the juice into a small sauce pan.  Add a ¼ local honey and a ½ cup of Brandy.  Bring to a boil to create soft ball syrup.  Add this to a cup of tea.

We would drink this in our PJ’s and then head straight to bed.  We slept all night, no coughing, but also sweated out most of our cold.

My mother will be 84 years old this year.  She has the most beautiful skin.  When we were teenagers she taught us how to take care of our faces.  No, she didn’t teach us how to apply makeup but, how to maintain flawless skin.   I remember my sister ragging me about a blackhead because she knew I knew better.

Now decades later my mother tells me she has oily skin.  How did I find out?  She asked me for the lemon peels from my morning drink.  She rubs them on her face as a natural astringent.

I could just go on and on raving about Lemons.  We could discuss how Lemon Meringue Pie was created in Philadelphia as a last minute use for leftover Lemon Curd. (I love Lemon Curd warm).  Or share my great recipe for Moroccans Lemon Chicken over Couscous.  We could even explore the uses another tradition food, Preserved Lemons.  Instead next time you are in the grocery store pick a few lemons.  Good Health to you.




Metabolism – A Layman Explanation

Metabolism – A Layman Explanation

What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.  You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”. 

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories.

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unused” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.  The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

A lot of things!  The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.  But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!   As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!  Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.  Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.  Let’s not forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.




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