More wise sayings from mothers

Happy Mother’s Day!

Flickr photo- Mark Seton

Flickr photo- Mark Seton

Yes, mothers do indeed seem to impart the wisdom of the ages.  The number of sayings that are now shown to have a foundation in science appears to be endless.

But there is one that many of our mothers got wrong: the clean your plate or finish your food as there are children starving in ____ (it varied with their choice of geographical location depending on what was happening in the world) may have been valid when there were  actually food shortages for their own offspring.

Many of us were not starving yet we were encouraged to override our natural appetite regulation and overeat. I still remember trying to hide bits of food under my eating utensils so my mother would not see what I had left on my plate. She always knew and used my fork and knife to gather all those hidden morsels together for me to finish. And I was not a skinny kid.

Mothers more than make up for that one common lapse, though, with the rest of their brilliance.    “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is just one example as we now witness the  growing list of benefits, both  physical  and emotional, of eating that first meal of the day.

There are simply too many to list but here are a few more choice ones.

“Chicken soup is a good cold remedy”
The origin of this remedy goes way back to the 12th century. Moses Maimonides, the famed twelfth-century rabbi, philosopher and physician who practised in the court of Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, touted chicken soup for the treatment of asthma and respiratory ailments.  Mothers followed suit and  were always ready with a bowl for when you had a cold. Now science is backing both up.

It seems that compounds in chicken soup have an anti-inflammatory effect leading to the easing of the respiratory symptoms of a cold. But opening up a can of soup might not produce the same effects as a homemade variety. Researchers from Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha investigate both homemade and commercial varieties and found that while commercial products varied, the homemade soup was shown to contain a number of substances with medicinal properties.

 “Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.”
Is there anyone who didn’t hear this from their mother as they were growing up? But even they didn’t know how smart they were. And still today, scientists continue to discover the secrets contained in vegetables. There are virtually thousands upon thousands of phytochemicals – disease-fighting compounds in plant foods in assorted vegetables.

Take the tomato as an example. Much has been written about the red pigment, lycopene, which not only acts as an antioxidant and may protect against cholesterol being deposited in arteries, but also appears to defend against prostate cancer.  But that’s just one weapon against disease. The gel around the tomato seed has been shown to decrease the risk of blood clotting which can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

And that’s just one vegetable and two of its health promoting benefits. Put that together with a bounty of other vegetables and you can see the potential advantages to fighting off illnesses.

“Carrots are good for your eyes.”
While other veggies were simply good for us, it seems that our mothers knew more about carrots and their protective effect on vision. It’s really healthy night vision that these orange coloured vegetables affect. So when you think about it, how many mothers would want their kids to be able to sneak around in the dark?

In any case, orange and dark green vegetables are packed with carotenoids or orange pigments like beta and alpha carotene.  (The chlorophyll in the dark green veggies masks the carotenoids.). These compounds are also known  as pro-vitamin A – meaning that once in the body, it’s converted to vitamin A.  And  it’s vitamin A that’s   important for maintaining healthy night vision.

In fact, carrots were one of the first foods that were identified as being healthy due to their colour.  Note the similarity between the term carotenoids which is used for colourful pigments found in vegetables and fruit and the word carrot.  And that time, it was thought that beta carotene was the only orange pigment. Alpha carotene is a more recent discovery.

Be aware that a slightly cooked carrot offers better beta and alpha carotene absorption than a raw one.

What are your favourite  food sayings your mother told you about? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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