The importance of being a peach

Peaches may not be giant nor have the ability to magically transport us across realms, but they are as equally important as watermelon, pineapple and berries when it comes to healthy summer fruit. The fuzzy, sometimes white, sometimes peach fruit from the Prunus persica tree, is chock full of vitamins A and C and has fewer than 70 calories and three grams of fiber. peach-932777_1920

Originally from Asia, the origin of the fruit in America dates back to 1571, when Franciscan friars introduced them to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia’s coast, according to the Georgia Peach Council’s website. Since then, they have remained a popular fruit ultimately earning Georgia the “Peach State” moniker. Peaches are now grown in 47 U.S. states and come in two main varieties (white and yellow flesh).

Here are 10 ways a peach is the ultimate summer fruit.

  1. A ripe peach is perfect on a hot summer day
  2. It can be used in recipes from pies and salads to meat dishes
  3. It can be eaten raw or cooked
  4. Can help improve vision
  5. Improves digestion
  6. Has anti-aging properties
  7. Has a pleasant, fragrant smell
  8. Can be spread on toast
  9. Can aid in hyperactivity
  10. It’s soft and delicious

Peaches come in many varieties and can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, dried, canned and in jelly form. When choosing canned peaches look for labels with “packed in its own juice,” “lite,” or “no sugar added.” These are healthier choices.

 

For more information on the fruit, check out Georgia Peach Council and National Peach Council’s websites. Click here for recipe ideas.

 

The miracle of flax seed

Although the existence of magic can be debated, flax seed has truly magical properties. This tiny, ancient seed is believed to help lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease and breast cancer and even squash hot flashes. More than 300 new products containing flax seed were introduced in the U.S. and Canada in 2010, according to the Flax Council. So, why aren’t we eating more of this miracle seed?

Flax seed contains omega 3s, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. And the best way to extract these vital nutrients is by grinding the seeds and adding them to your favorite yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. Healthyflax.org recommends two tablespoons of flax daily.

Flax seeds can be a great addition to many types of dishes. In fact, many healthy, sweet and savory recipes can be found on Eatingwell.com’s site. Check them out here.

Green city escape: Kyoto

 

DSCN0342
Cherry blossoms decorate a traditional home in Kyoto, Japan.

Few cities in Asia are as charming as Kyoto in Japan. The ancient Japanese capital offers much to green seekers from a bamboo forest to nature hikes and outdoor floating cafes and hot springs. All of this is cloaked in a historic city full of temples and shrines. If you visit Japan and seek a quiet refuge from Osaka, this is the place to be. You can choose to stay in any of the many areas of the city and base your itinerary on the local attractions. And it’s super safe so feel free to explore the city at night with many business owners and locals that speak English.

Eat 

DSCN0316
Soybean doughnuts for sale.

Kyoto is home to Buddhist monks, and as such, many restaurants and cafes are known for its vegetarian fare (kyo yasai), with tofu being the rule, rather than the exception. Enjoy a variety of tofu and veggie dishes including miso soup, vegetable tempura, yuba (skin of heated soy milk) and a brown sea veggie called hijiki.

Explore

Kyoto is also home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. In fact, there are more than 2,000 within the city. Start your journey at Teramachi Street, home to Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine and numerous other shrines and temples, then move to areas like Gion, where you can also explore a bit of Geisha history.

After exploring the many temples and shrines, take a stroll through the Bamboo Grove in the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Here, you can walk through towering bamboo stalks winding past small shrines and temples, leading uphill to Okochi-Sanso Villa.

DSCN0340
Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama.

Sleep

Sleep in a traditional Japanese inn called a Ryokan, where you can choose between Japanese and Western rooms and meals, with access to public baths (onsen). You can get a feel for the more traditional side of Kyoto and walk around in a yukata, or cotton kimono (www.ryokan.or.jp).  For a less traditional headrest, try sleeping in a capsule. One of the few capsule hotels that accommodate both men and women, Nine Hours Hotel (www.ninehours.co.jp) offers an alternative to a traditional hotel room and is located on the main drag in Kyoto. More like an upgraded hostel, it includes private showers, a break room and a computer lounge area. Although an attractive option for backpackers, it also offers a less expensive option for an overnight stay in the city especially for those interested in this unique experience.

Kyoto is a convenient stop on both the JR Line and Hankyu line that both run through central Osaka.