July 2014 archive

Cheer for Cherries and Their Amazing Health Benefits

Cherry love

Cherry love

Get them while they are fresh (and cheap!). These little jewels come packed with health benefits. It is unfortunate that they are truly only affordable during a short window of the year, from late June to early August. Purchase them off season and they can set you back upwards of $6.00 per pound! Right now, they are juicy, sweet, and perfect for eating fresh, freezing, and baking!

That deep red color and rich flavor transport nutrients of all kind. Cherries have been shown to lower blood pressure with their prosperous stores of potassium. Potassium acts a natural blood pressure reducer by contributing to our fluid balance and flushing out the excess sodium that cranks that pressure up. About a cup of these babies is equivalent to the potassium in one banana. Cherries also contain a powerful antioxidant called, quercetin. Studies have found that foods high in this compound have a natural blood pressure-lowering effect. It is important to note that maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is imperative-as high blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack. While on the topic of heart health, cherries are thought to reduce overall risk factors for heart disease including inflammation and cholesterol.

Given their powerful antioxidant composition, cherries fight cancer before it starts. Listed as a “food to fight cancer” by the American Institute of Cancer Research, this fruit is not messing around! Anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamins A and C work together to ward off free radicals hanging around where they shouldn’t be. Those free radicals could otherwise be running amuck in our systems causing damage to our cells and encouraging cancer growth. The deeper the color, the more antioxidants are present. So make sure you allow them to fully ripen before indulging.

These very same nutrients, along with other phytochemicals are said to reduce symptoms of arthritis, thanks to their anti-inflammatory effect. This includes decreasing uric acid in the blood and staving off gout flare-ups. Even headaches may be reduced by the power of cherries. Anthocyanins found in cherries, may increase memory and prolong youthful brain function.

If these millions of reasons that I have given above are still not enough for you to hop on the cherry bandwagon, then here is one more: cherries contain melatonin. Not only is this a powerful antioxidant, it contributes to our circadian rhythm by having great effects on sleep. Many purchase melatonin in tablet form as a natural sleep aid. I’m encouraging you to now skip the tablets and stretch that dollar a little further by counting on the cherry. You can rest assured, knowing you are doing the right thing for your body and mind!

 

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Sweet Summertime Quinoa Salad

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It’s Summer!! And you know what that means!!? Picnics and barbecues, pool parties and outdoor events day and night. It also means homemade and store-bought food sitting out in the heat for hours on end. Aside from the health risk of leaving gloppy, mayonnaise-based coleslaw, potato and macaroni salads out in the sun, it is just not very satisfying. After eating a creamy macaroni salad, as delicious as it may be, I feel weighed down…ready for a snooze- not another dip in the pool or a game of frisbee. I want something lighter that will give me not only energy, but great health benefits as well- and why not add a fresh and healthy option without skimping on flavor! That is why I LOVE this quinoa salad!!

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Quinoa salad are popping up left and right. Just do a Google search and you’ll be able to find a multitude of options. Why is this? Because word of quinoa’s amazing benefits is spreading fast! Due it their small, round shape, they resemble couscous- and are often mistaken for couscous. However, they could not be more different. Couscous is actually pasta made from Durham wheat flour and water. Many people believe that they are making a healthy choice with couscous, but unfortunately it’s no different than white spaghetti or penne pasta. You might as well go for the macaroni salad! At least you aren’t being fooled with that option.

Quinoa on the other hand, is a seed, and technically not a grain. However, nutritionally it can be considered a WHOLE grain- but it is so much more! These seeds have a bitter exterior, called saponin, that is a natural defense designed to keep insects and birds away without the use of pesticides. For this reason, they must be washed before cooking. Most commercially sold quinoa is pre-washed, however, I like to give them a quick rinse before cooking just for good measure. Quinoa brings power punch of nutrients. To start, it is a complete protein. That means they contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need but do not produce on its own. There are only a handful of plant-based foods that can say the same. With slowly-digestible complex carbohydrates, it is great for sustaining energy without blood sugar highs and lows. Containing iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, B-vitamins, and vitamin E, quinoa is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Because it is a WHOLE grain, toy are also ingesting plenty of fiber to keep you fuller longer, allow your digestive tract to function happily and healthfully, and potentially lower blood cholesterol. Quinoa’s plentiful array of antioxidants make it true contender, and now researchers have found very high levels of certain antioxidants present that may be even greater than some berries. It is naturally a gluten-free food and is thus suitable for those with a gluten sensitivity.

To top off all of this great news, quinoa is very easy to cook! Just bring 2 parts water to a boil, add 1 part quinoa, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and let the magic happen in 25 minutes or less. It can be eaten as a side in place of rice or pasta, as a hot breakfast cereal, as a sweet dessert (like a rice pudding), or cooled and served as a salad like I have made here.

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This Quinoa Salad is both sweet and tart. Dried cranberries bring out the sweetness in the honey balsamic vinaigrette, while diced red onions and toasted walnuts add crunch and mixed greens bring a slightly bitter, but light and fresh quality. It is simple to assemble and an easy make-ahead as it only gets better with time.

Sweet Summertime Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry (uncooked) quinoa
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 7 cups Spring Mix salad greens
  • Vinaigrette:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions and allow to completely cool.
  2. Add onions, cranberries, and walnuts.
  3. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients, or pulse in a blender.
  4. Pour over quinoa mixture, and stir to combine.
  5. Add salad greens just before serving. Enjoy!
http://tastefulwisdom.com/sweet-summertime-quinoa-salad/

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