E coli in food and the great cucumber war

The Good Life Letter 

Sunday 12th June  2011

  • Germany declares Spanish salad dangerous
  • The truth about e coli in food
  • Natural shoe polish PLUS six other benefits of cucumbers

So 2011 is the year of the cucumber war and the debate on e coli in food it would seem...

Who would have thought such an unassuming salad vegetable could have generated so many acres of press coverage - and brought the EU to a state of open aggression?

For those of you who haven't a clue what I'm on about, here's a brief summary:

At the end of May, Germany reported a massive outbreak in E. Coli bacterial infections.  Worryingly, the strain at the centre of the outbreak was particularly virulent and resistant to common antibiotics. By the 30th of the month 14 people had died, and there were more cases in Sweden, Austria, The Netherlands and the UK.

Initial reports started to link the outbreak with organically grown cucumbers, tomatoes and aubergines from Spain.

These products were immediately withdrawn from sale in several countries including, of course, the huge German market.

As a result prices plummeted and Spanish growers were forced to destroy all their produce, whether it was organic or not.

This in turn led to media frenzy across all of Europe where cucumbers in particular stopped being sold.

By the 5th June the suspicion had shifted to bean sprouts grown in Northern Germany.

But by then the damage had been done and huge quantities of cucumbers were rotting in dumps. The Spanish immediately filed for reparation from the EU to support their growers and all hell broke loose.

The numbers of deaths continued to rise, especially among women, reaching 25 lives lost - all cases were directly linked to Germany.

By now, no-one is sure what is to blame for the spread of the disease, and therefore don't know how to protect the population from it. One thing seems to be clear...it wasn't directly linked to cucumbers.

The effect has been the sad loss of life, and the destruction of many salad producers livelihood.

Today I would like to make the case to get cucumbers back onto your table.  Let me tell you just how cool the cucumber is.  It's health benefits might surprise you...

The case for the humble salad vegetable.

Without any evidence to prove that there is any greater risk of catching E.Coli from cucumbers than any other foodstuff we need not fear.

Just take the precaution of giving everything a good wash before use, the chlorine in tap water will kill bacteria. If you are lucky enough to live in an area which is free from chlorine use a solution of salt to wash them over then rinse in fresh water.

Cucumbers are often thought of as just a water filled mush that have little nutritional value, but the truth is they are a valuable source of several key elements.

For a start, they are rich in silica; a mineral which is really important for healthy connective tissue, which includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.

It is this, along with the high water content, which has a hydrating effect, which makes slices of cucumber or cucumber juice so effective in helping various types of skin problems, including swelling under the eyes and sunburn.

The flesh of cucumbers is primarily composed of water but also contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid, both of which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling, in addition to being anti-inflammatories.

When you add all that together you can see how slices of cucumber laid over tired and puffy eyes are a real boon - they even help when the dreaded hay fever strikes. (Click here for more hay fever solutions), Asthma and Hay Fever

Cucumber skin is also rich in health properties, not least because of its high fibre content.

This means a few slices of cucumber in a salad really do make a significant contribution to your daily fibre intake; in addition the high water content helps the body digest it. A true one-stop solution to dietary fibre.

With the water content being about 98% of the weight of the vegetable it also means it is a highly effective way to sate a thirst - and it is naturally isotonic. So if you are the sort who likes a jog in the park don't buy expensive bottled water that leaves you with a container to dispose of - buy a cucumber instead and munch your way to hydration!

Finally, these green marvels have good levels of magnesium and potassium in them which along with the fibre has been shown to have positive effects for sufferers of high blood pressure.

Having read all that I hope you can see why it is a good thing to eat cucumbers

Still not sure?

There is evidence that many conditions can be improved by increasing all fresh salad vegetables in the diet - after all, together with olive oil and fish they are the cornerstone of the Mediterranean diet.

Want more reasons to eat cucumbers?

  • The high magnesium content helps relax muscles and calm nerves, as well a smoothing blood flow. This means it is a very useful food to have in the diet of those who are anxious or depressed.
  • The silica, potassium and magnesium help build stronger nails and thus prevent splitting.
  • Improvement in aggressive phases of gout and eczema
  • No-one is sure of the mechanism but cucumber has been shown to help the body manage glucose levels for diabetes sufferers.
  • The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties help those with arthritis, and other rheumatic conditions; the reduction in uric acid also helps.
  • The high potassium content helps in proper regulation of blood pressure and promotes flexibility of muscles.
  • You can even use them to polish your shoes!

I hope this restores your faith in one of my favourite summer foods.

Of course, it's not too late to grow your own; all you need is a pot and a sunny spot in the garden with a pole or frame for the creeper to grow up.

A single plant will furnish you with enough clean, fresh and healthy produce to keep you in cucumber all summer long.

Yours, as always




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