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SHADO BENI/CULANTRO

This herb is widely used in the Caribbean and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. It is an excellent seasoning for meats, sauces, relishes, etc. In Trinidad and Tobago, it is one of the main ingredients in green seasoning. Because of its rich flavor, it is added to many sauces, dips and chutneys. Any proper chow (pickled fruit) must include shado beni.

Like its Spanish name suggests, shado beni is in the same family as cilantro or coriander, which is better known in the temperate climes. It has a similar taste and smell but shado beni is much more intense. This is why we love it in Caribbean cuisine. It also keeps longer than cilantro in the refrigerator. It is hardy, strong, pungent, and flavorful.

In addition to its culinary uses, shado beni has long been applied in traditional medicine. It is known as “fitweed” in Tobago and Guyana because it is used as an anti-epileptic and anti-seizure herb. Fevers, chills, indigestion, and upset stomach are some of the wide array of illnesses treated with shado beni tea. The University of the West Indies has also done some research into the benefits of the herb in the treatment of worms. In tropical environments, worming is still common. I remember my grandmother regularly giving me worm medicine as a child, a tribute to the wisdom of the elders. Nowadays, this practice is dying leaving us increasingly exposed to infection by these pesky parasites.

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From a nutritional standpoint, shado beni is rich in calcium, iron, beta-carotene, and vitamin B2. It is also quite easy to grow, Herbalpedia gives detailed instructions. It’s on my wish list for the kitchen garden I am starting this spring, provided I can find a plant If you don’t want to grow your own, the herb is readily available in Latino and Asian groceries in the US. In the Caribbean, you can find it at any market, supermarket, wayside vendor, or even growing wild.

 
 
Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is all the buzz in the paleo community these days. Even Dr. Mark Hyman, author of the bestseller Eat Fat Get Thin, is recommending it (in the form of potato starch) as part of the EFGT protocol.

So what is resistant starch? It is starch that the body does not digest and therefore does not ultimately convert into body fat (adipose tissue) deposits. It passes undigested through the alimentary canal and into the large intestine where friendly bacteria (the famous gut flora) convert it into fatty acids, the most important of which is butyrate. The increased amount of butyrate in the colon feeds these friendly bacteria and helps them proliferate. By balancing the gut flora, inflammation is reduced and intestinal problems like IBS, diverticulitis, etc. and colon cancer risk may be alleviated. Because resistant starch “resists” digestion, it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels and therefore decreases insulin resistance. These effects are very beneficial for weight loss and insulin sensitivity.

Raw plantains, bananas and potatoes  are excellent sources of resistant starch. Try adding a bit of raw green plantain to your morning smoothie.

The information shared below was  received from the staff at Dr. Hyman's  Eat Fat Get Thin Challenge. It explains  the health benefits of resistant starch in greater detail.

"There is a special type of starch called resistant starch that has some unique properties, including improving your metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and blood sugar; increasing fat burning and reducing fat storage in your cells; and even optimizing your gut flora  in a way that helps promote weight loss.  Resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine — at least not by you. It is digested only by the bacteria in your gut. When you eat resistant starch, it “resists” digestion and doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin.

Resistant starch is a prebiotic. Think of it as compost or fertilizer for your healthy gut bacteria. This sea of bacteria — more than ten times the number of your own cells and about three pounds’ worth — is not just waste. It is profoundly connected to almost every part of your health. Imbalances in your gut flora have been linked to a whole host of diseases, including obesity,  diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, cancer, depression, anxiety, and autism.

One of the best ways to get your gut back in balance is to give the bugs good food in the form of prebiotics. This food can come in many forms, including inulin (not insulin) from chicory or Jerusalem artichokes, soluble fiber from psyllium, or starch from high-amylose plants such as potatoes, green bananas, and plantains. Cooking then cooling starches like potatoes or rice and not reheating them all the way can also transform regular starch in rice or potatoes to resistant starch.

When resistant starch gets to your gut, it stimulates the growth of beneficial bugs that crowd out the bad bugs. They produce short-chain fatty acids that are fuel for colon cells — one in particular called butyrate can prevent cancer, speed up your metabolism, and reduce inflammation.

Resistant starch can also improve insulin sensitivity  and help reduce your blood sugar after meals. In other words, it helps reverse diabesity.  In fact, in one study, 15 to 30 grams (about 2 to 4 tablespoons) of potato starch improved insulin sensitivity in obese men as much as losing 10 percent of their body weight would!

It has other benefits as well: helping with weight loss, reducing insulin spikes after eating, increasing fat burning, and reducing fat storage in your cells.It changes the gut bacteria in ways that promote health and weight loss. We know that you can reverse diabetes by taking the fecal matter of a thin healthy person and putting it in a diabetic. I would say that eating potato starch is more appealing to most of us than getting a fecal transplant!  The best way to add in resistant starch if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet like the Eat Fat, Get Thin Plan is to use Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch (not potato flour). It has about 8 grams of resistant starch per tablespoon. You can also use plantain flour and banana flour. Potato starch is well tolerated and mixes well with water and tastes just a little like potatoes. Not so bad. It can help you sleep at night. It can also be included in smoothies or mixed in almond milk (but it should not be heated).

Resistant starch can initially cause gas because the good and bad bugs are duking it out. Start small — with 1⁄4 teaspoon at night — and slowly increase to give your body a chance to get used to it. If you have a lot of gas or gut discomfort, it probably means you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or yeast overgrowth and need treatment by a Functional Medicine doctor to fix your gut."