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by inKin
15 Apr

The Best Superfoods - A to Z: V is for Vanilla

Would you ever mistake the flavor of vanilla with any other? Of course not. Vanilla is not only the queen ingredient of baking but is also widely used in dairy products, beverages, perfume manufacturing, and aromatherapy. Besides its delicious scent, vanilla is packed with essential oils, vitamins, and minerals, making it an excellent daily diet component.

Vanilla derives from the Vanilla orchids - a flowering plant from the family of orchids comprising more than 110 species. It was first cultivated by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people and was later used by Aztecs for chocolate flavoring. The commercial vanilla is derived from the flat-leaved vanilla, and it is the most widespread and the only orchid used for industrial purposes. The component responsible for its wonderful aroma is vanillin which is an organic compound. This aroma reveals itself only after the vanilla beans are harvested and dried. The vanilla orchid is widely spread in Madagascar, Tahiti, and Mexico. 

 

Natural vs. Artificial Vanilla 

The cultivation of vanilla beans is a long and difficult process taking approximately one year. To extract one pound of vanilla, 5-7 pounds of green vanilla beans are needed. Besides, the pollination of vanilla orchids is carried out by hand, making it a much more complex process. That is why vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron. However, many vanilla-flavored products that we consume nowadays contain not natural but artificial vanilla.  

Artificial or synthetic vanilla is a chemical form of vanilla that is derived from different types of synthetic components. Artificial vanilla is several times cheaper than natural vanilla. Still, due to its chemical and synthetic components, it may be dangerous for your health, causing allergy, respiratory problems, and even killing brain cells

The best way to avoid using artificial vanilla is to prepare natural vanilla at home. Just take vanilla beans, chop them, and put them in the jar. Cover with alcohol and place in a cool and dark place. Let sit for at least 40-50 days by shaking the jar every week.  

 

Nutrition Facts 

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract contains 11.5 calories. Most of the calories come from alcohol, which is used for extracting vanilla. 1 teaspoon of vanilla also contains:

  • 0,5g carbohydrates
  • 0,5g sugar
  • 0,4mg calcium
  • 0,5mg magnesium
  • 5,9mg potassium
  • 0,4mg sodium

 

Health Benefits 

Fighting Stress 

Do you feel stressed and depressed? Several studies have shown that vanilla extract reduces stress and anxiety and positively impacts our nervous system. Just sniff a bottle of vanilla extract or light candles with the aroma of vanilla. Studies have even shown that the scent of vanilla has a calming effect also on newborns.

 

Relieving Nausea 

Vanilla is one of the best products if you are nauseous. Several observations have shown that consuming food that contains vanilla extract relieves the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Many pregnant women even find vanilla ice cream as the best way to fight morning sickness. Herbal tea with vanilla also helps in case of digestive problems. 

 

Easing Toothache 

Vanilla is one of the most popular toothache remedies. The alcohol in vanilla is one of the active ingredients that provides a numbing effect, while the antioxidants have a more healing effect. Drop a little bit of vanilla extract on a cotton ball and put it on the affected tooth. Repeat several times a day.  

 

Improving Skin 

Vanilla extract is widely used in the cosmetic industry both for its fragrance and benefits for the skin. Due to its antibacterial properties, it helps to reduce acne. The antioxidants in vanilla help to fight free radicals and reduce skin damage. It also has anti-aging components helping to restore your skin. Just mix a few drops of vanilla oil with lightweight oil and use it regularly on your skin.  

 

Fighting Respiratory Conditions 

Vanilla is a wonderful remedy for respiratory problems. Do you have a cough or sore throat? Mix a little warm water with vanilla extract and drink it several times a day. 

 

Smoothing Hair 

Vanilla could be an excellent addition to your hair care routine. It is a good source of nutrients that help to preserve hair health and make them silky and shiny. Mix one egg with 150ml coconut milk, 2 tablespoon honey, and vanilla extract. Leave it on for 40 to 50 minutes before washing. 

 

Stress-Reducing Vanilla Drink 

 

This easy-to-make vanilla drink is a wonderful remedy for stressful days. 

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cups of water 
  • 1 orange 
  • Club soda (optional)

 

Instructions:

Split vanilla beans in a saucepan. Add water and honey and bring the mixture to a boil. Put in the refrigerator until cool. Once cool, put out vanilla beans, add orange slices, ice cubes, and some soda water. 

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash

 

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