Archive of ‘FOOD FAVES’ category

Avocados, all day, everyday!

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Ok so here’s the truth about the avocado…it is truly one of the best additions to your diet possible. And they are so darn delicious that its easy. Avocados are approximately 85% fat, and this alone might scare many away. Yes, they are high in calories, and yes, you should probably consider portion control when eating them. Regardless, their nutritional benefit blows away any doubt about the calories. (more…)

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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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Are Collards the New Kale?

Collard Greens

As in pink has been the new black in my opinion for as long as I can remember now…but really, is kale taking a final bow and preparing to return to its mundane spot on the plate as a plastic-esque garnish? Not quite, but it has become apparent that people are tiring of its attention in the spotlight. Just as it has hit nearly every mainstream menu as the new trendy raw salad, it is losing its glam appeal. As the peculiar group that we are, humans in general will always tire of the conventional, the ordinary, and the not-so-secret.

If we look back to the trends of late, from arugula and avocados to coconut and dark chocolate, we find that these foods lose their hotness as soon as the market is saturated. Now this is not to say that we ditch them altogether – coconut still lines the shelves from soups, cereals, drinks, and candy (for now). We are just no longer enamored by them. We keep them in our fridges but must move on to find the next diamond in the rough…and it is usually a food or product that has been right under our noses for quite some time, reinventing itself like Madonna every decade.

And now with tiny whispers slowly growing in number, you are presented with the next super-“trendy”-food headlining this spring: The Collard Green. Like kale, it belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and is in season right now. Along with cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, collard greens bring with them powerful cancer-fighting potential. Glucosinolates can be thanked for their amazing effect. With food processing or even chewing, these compounds are broken down into isothiocyanates, potent molecules that actually aid in the programmed death of tumor cells, thus being coined anti-carcinogenic. They are thought to especially ward off lung and esophageal cancers while lowering the risk of gastrointestinal and other cancers as well.

Very high Vitamin A and Vitamin C, collards are a great source of antioxidants. When environmental toxins and pollutants enter your body, these antioxidants act as fire extinguishers by calming and suppressing their harmful volatility. The toxins, or oxidants, take part in the aging process by causing oxidative damage to all of your cells. Antioxidants help to slow this process by decreasing the oxidative stress placed on cells. Because of their high fiber content, they are thought to lower cholesterol by binding with cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestinal tract and encouraging the excess cholesterol to be evacuated from your body. The fiber content is also very beneficial for your digestive health.

Traditionally, collard greens are cooked in a large pot for hours at a time. A ham hock is usually added for rich saltiness and of course the fatty mouth feel. However, like cabbage, cauliflower and other members of the cruciferous family, over-cooking will lead to a strong sulfur smell that is not very appetizing- and when you aren’t using a ham hock to mask these odors it is no bueno. Those magical isothiocyanates can also be leached out of the leaves if cooked for too long, so just don’t do it! Cook them as you would kale or spinach: steam alone, sauté with garlic and olive oil, use in soups, pastas, and casseroles…just give them a try!

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What’s All the Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia Hype?

chia_seeds

Chia seed heart      Remember those commercials from the 90’s when a kid and his adoring mom would spread that chia seed paste over the clay dog and watch in shear amazement as the seeds bloomed into a full on thick coat of fur right in front of their eyes? Cha-cha-cha-chia! Over and over it would repeat…but what happened to those little guys? Well apparently, they are still being sold, but a greater share of the chia market is now in supermarket and health food stores. Chia seeds are being sold at a premium price, and consumers are ripping them off of the shelves faster than you can say, “Cha-cha-ch”….okay, I’ll stop. So what is all of this chia hype? In fact, what are chia seeds in the first place? They are very small black and white seeds that are actually a member of the mint family. Grown in Mexico, the seeds have an ancient history. Legend has it that Mayan and Aztec warriors would carry these seeds with them as a concentrated source of energy to get them through long journeys. Apparently the word, “chia” means, “strength” in the Mayan language. These mild-tasting seeds certainly are concentrated with nutrients, so it is truly a believable tale. When placed in a liquid, chia seeds can absorb up to twelve times their weight. As they expand, they begin to have a somewhat slimy, jelly-like texture. In theory, if you eat chia seeds mixed in a beverage or smoothie, they will expand in your stomach and keep you more full for an extended period of time. This feeling of fullness will inhibit you from eating more, and you will in turn lose weight by simply eating less. This is essentially how the little seed has been touted as an amazing weight loss aid. Unfortunately, at this time science does not agree. Although there is not an abundance of research available on chia seeds and weight loss, the few studies that have been conducted showed no weight loss benefit from consuming chia seeds. Myth busted!
Now that is not a reason to throw chia out the window. These little gems have truly earned the hype that they are receiving- just not on the weight-loss front. They are filled to the brim with excellent nutrition. Let’s take a look at the nutrient make up of just one ounce, roughly two tablespoons:

  • Fiber: Nearly 12 grams of dietary fiber. This reason alone makes chia a superfood. Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds do not require grinding to receive full benefits as they can be completely absorbed by our body. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adults consume between 25 and 38 grams of fiber daily. Although the average American consumes only about 15 grams per day. Chia seeds are an excellent and super easy way to boost your fiber intake.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: 4915 mg of Omega-3 Fatty acids. What does that mean? Good health! We always hear about getting in our omegas, but the fact of the matter is Omega-6 fatty acids are everywhere and the Omega-3’s are harder to come by. Many experts believe that it is beneficial to change the ratio of fatty acid intake to reduce the Omega-6 intake while increasing our Omega-3’s. With a 3:1 Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio, this seed is a great starting point.
  • Macronutrients: Many don’t know that macronutrients are simply Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat-no more, no less. The chia seed is the perfect example of a stellar macronutrient composition with 4g Protein (16%), 9g Fat (36%), and 12g Carbohydrate (48%). This is a mean source of energy.
  • Calcium: The National Institutes of Health recommend adults (both men and women) consume 1,000 mg of Calcium per day. In just one ounce of chia seeds you will obtain 179mg of this bone building mineral. That is 18% of your recommended daily intake in just two measly tablespoons!
  • Antioxidants: Chia seeds undoubtedly a great source for antioxidants as they contain a mixture of these free-radical fighting champions. Antioxidants reduce the overall inflammatory load in our systems and fight disease and premature aging. Need I say more?

I should also add that there are 138 calories in one ounce of chia seeds. So is there a downside? There are some drug nutrient interactions to be aware of. Chia seeds may interact with certain blood pressure medications and blood thinners, so please ask your doctor before gorging! There have also been reports of allergy to chia seeds. This is somewhat rare, but take special caution if you are allergic to mustard or sesame seeds. Oh and speaking of allergies, those of you with egg allergies (or simply don’t eat eggs) can actually substitute chia seeds for eggs in baking! You must first make a chia gel that is 1 part chia and 6 parts water- you probably want to blend this mixture in order to avoid big black seeds throughout. One tablespoon of this gel will replace one whole egg in baked goods. I couldn’t resist the temptation to make this post a twofer. Here is a super simple recipe to turn you on to chia seeds! Who could pass up a delicious desert that packs crazy amounts of protein (10g), fiber (16g), and calcium (45% recommended daily intake)!?!

Cha-Cha-Cha-Chocolate Chia Pudding

Total Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Yield: 2 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1/3 Cup Chia Seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey, more or less to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender.
  2. Blend until very smooth.
  3. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  4. Enjoy!

Notes

Nutrition Facts: 284 Calories, 15g Fat, 1.8g Saturated Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 277mg Sodium, 16g Fiber, 10g Protein, 18% Vitamin A, 26%, 45% Calcium, 17% Iron

http://tastefulwisdom.com/whats-cha-cha-cha-chia-hype/

 

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