Live Total Wellness

Friday, October 14, 2011

Falling In Love With FALL!

FALL!  As someone who loves the sun, it's amazing how this season of Fall can be one of my favorite seasons.  It brings out the best in everyone.  As we reminisce about those long summer days, we also look forward to those cozy chilly evenings by the fire.  What is it about Fall that we all love?  Here is a list of things that I love BUT don't be shy - send me your list too!

1.  The crisp chilled mornings
2.  The beautiful colors of the leaves
3.  The smoky fire scent
4.  The blue sky
5.  The frosted coated leaves of the morning
6.  The incredible, perfectly woven spider webs

7.  The delicious, colorful pumpkins
8.  All the shapes, sizes and colors of squash
9.  Soup
10.Comfort foods
11. The scent of home baked goodies
12. Artistic sunsets
13. Evenings by the fire
14. Cozy warm blankets
15. Snuggling
16. Little visitors dressed up in unique costumes seeking sweets
17. Corn mazes
18. Pumpkin patches
19. Jumping in the piles of leaves
20.Crisp apples
21. The sound of geese honking as they fly south
22. Apple cider

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Getting To Know Your Squash

Get to know your squash

Unique in their own individual shape and brimming with wonderful fall colors, winter squash is flavorful addition to so many dishes.
Generally, winter squash can be substituted in recipes calling for pumpkin or sweet potato. You can easily use any of these squash in soups, stews, pilafs or pies — satisfying dishes that make winter warm.
What's your favorite way to eat squash?  If you haven't tried squash yet, which one do you think you'll give a try?  Some people just like to use them with fall decor.  What are your ideas?

I think I'll give the delicata a try.  I've never eaten it before and trying some of the recipes gives me some ideas for the preparation.  

acorn squash
Acorn — Try its sweet, nutty, peppery flavor oven-roasted with butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh herbs or filled with a wild rice stuffing.
butternut squash
Butternut — This gently sweet squash is a pleasure pureed in soups, roasted with various spices as a side dish, or roasted and added to salads for a flavor boost.
delicata squash
Delicata — This squash tastes like a combination of corn, butternut squash and sweet potato. Try it in this succotash.
hubbard squash
Hubbard — This grainier, less sweet squash is tasty boiled, baked or mashed with butter and seasonings, or pureed into soups.
kabocha squash
Kabocha — The rich, sweet flavor of this squash tastes divine tempered with soy sauce, ginger and other seasonings from Asia as with this recipe.
spaghetti squash
Spaghetti — When cooked, this squash, with a mild, nutlike flavor, separates into strands similar to its namesake noodles, creating a high-fiber, low-carbohydrate alternative to pasta.  Try this recipe or just add butter, olive oil or pasta sauce and you have an easy side dish or main course.
sugar pie pumpkin
Sugar Pie Pumpkin — Much smaller in size than your typical carving pumpkin, this squash is sweeter and perfect for pies and other sweet treats.  I grew some in my garden this year and can't wait to cook them into some pies and muffins.
turban squash
Turban — But you don't want to wear this quirky squash.  It has orange-yellow flesh and tastes slightly like hazelnuts when baked or steamed. Its hollowed-out rind can double as a soup tureen. I have fun serving food in the hollowed out shell. People think I'm such a gourmet cook!(sly grin)  Or, keep it whole for an easy harvesttime centerpiece.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Super Spinach!

The Spinach Spectacle - A Super Food That Steals The Show

Do you remember that cartoon character Popeye?  All he had to do was eat a can of spinach and instantly he was stronger and healthier.  You can see why spinach is considered a super food. Sure, spinach may not give you the same super powers, but it is packed with enough nutrients to give your diet a healthy blast. Spinach is part of the chenopod super-food family, along with beets, chard, and quinoa.  Add spinach to your healthy diet and you are keeping some good company. Let's take a look at why spinach has gained super food status.

Making The Case For Spinach

Years ago, spinach was not considered a very kid-friendly green. Typically, either canned or frozen spinach was served. This processed spinach could have a bitter taste or an unpleasant texture, and no matter how parents tried to disguise it, there was no getting around the fact that it wasn't tasty.

However, with the increased availability of fresh spinach, the popularity increased considerably.  Cooking fresh spinach properly, or serving it raw in salads, maintains the texture and flavor of the spinach making it much more palatable and, yes, tasty. These improved methods of serving spinach have made spinach a 'new' favorite super food.

Where Did Popeye Get the Power

The image of Popeye becoming super strong after eating a can of spinach is only a hint of what sorts of benefits spinach provides. The list of health benefits is very long, including off-the-chart amounts of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, riboflavin, calcium potassium, and vitamin B6. For a complete meal, all you would need to add is an omega rich protein. That's what makes spinach a super food!

What do all these nutrients do for you?  Vitamins A helps prevent cholesterol from oxidizing inside our bodies. Spinach contains good levels of antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc, and selenium. These antioxidants help lower the risk of several blood vessel related problems, such as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Antioxidants are also your first defense against the free-radicals roaming around your body trying to damage your healthy cells.

If you eat one cup of fresh spinach leaves, your body is provided with almost 200% of the daily recommended value of vitamin K. This is a remarkable amount of vitamin K which will ensure you are receiving the ultimate nutrition for your bone health.

Magnesium is a nutrient that our body just loves, considering it is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body. Magnesium protects against heart disease and helps lower blood pressure. Another important mineral found in spinach is potassium, which maintains proper pH levels in our body fluids and regulates the kidneys, heart, and adrenal glands.

Spinach has been shown to do everything from fighting cancer to lowering the risk of diabetes. Because spinach helps build strong bones, we know it helps minimize the incidence of osteoporosis. Even skin conditions ranging from acne to psoriasis to cancer can benefit from adding a healthy dose of spinach to your diet. There is also evidence that spinach can reduce the incidence of migraines, cataracts, and memory loss.

When cooked, spinach provides the most benefit from its lutein and beta-carotene values. Cooking the spinach also neutralizes oxalic acid, which inhibits iron and calcium absorption and adds to the risk of developing kidney stones. If you are not at risk for kidney stones, raw spinach may be your preferred method for enjoying, but consider the health benefits of eating cooked fresh spinach, as well.

Choose Wisely

Popeye's canned spinach may have introduced us to the super food qualities of spinach, but the taste just couldn't sell it.  I believe that if canned spinach was our only option, spinach would not be making the super food splash it is today. However, frozen spinach is often a tasty alternative.

If you choose fresh spinach, you will receive the same super nutrition in both regular size spinach or  baby spinach. Be sure to choose spinach that is a rich, dark green, and not yellow in color.  If the spinach in the produce section looks slimy, avoid it. That is a sign of spoilage. Store your spinach without washing it first as moisture will cause the spinach leaves to decay quickly. You only have about a 4 or 5 day shelf life, so buy as close to serving as possible. When ready to serve, wash leaves and dry thoroughly.

Endless Eating Choices

Begin your search for spinach dishes by going back in time to find classic menu fare. Let's start with the always popular Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing.  This is traditionally made with cold spinach on a plate topped with a hot sweet-sour dressing, red onions, crispy bacon, and slices of hard boiled egg.

Of course, another traditional dish that you'll find on any good steakhouse menu is Creamed Spinach.  This classic is made simply but elegantly by cooking the spinach until tender, then adding the ingredients which include garlic, heavy cream, a pinch of nutmeg, and sometimes a little Parmesan cheese.

Those two classic restaurant dishes are delicious enough, but that's just the beginning.  Spinach goes well in a number of recipes including hot and cold pasta dishes, casseroles, and obviously a number of different salads. Spinach can form the basis for a dish, like spinach lasagna, spinach quiche, spinach soup, spinach salad, etc., or it can be a part of a dish like a ham and cheese filled omelet with spinach, pizza with spinach, fish and spinach wrap, shrimp stir fry with tangy spinach, or any number of recipes where spinach adds a nice element.

All the leafy greens like kale, collards, Swiss chard, and spinach deserve our attention.  With spinach, we have the image of Popeye to help convince us that this is one super food we do not want to pass up. If you still haven't gotten past the spinach of your childhood memory, now is the time.  Fortify your nerve with a pile of great recipes, then go ahead and eat your spinach!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Salmon- This is the way to go!

The Salmon Solution – A Super Food With All The Right Stuff

We love salmon in our family.  Ever since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, we have been eating this healthy fish and loving it.  You've probably heard a lot of talk over the years about salmon being one of the healthiest fish to eat.  You may have even added salmon to your diet.  But, do you know why?  Here is some information as to why salmon is a super food and what specific benefits salmon has to offer as a part of your regular diet.

Meet the Super Fish

The mighty salmon is probably one of the most widely studied fish we know. These studies often involve sustainability and contaminants comparing farmed salmon with wild caught salmon. Farmed salmon represents a large majority of available fish in the U.S. However, these farmed salmon have been treated with antibiotics, have more fat content, and have less beneficial omega 3. For these reasons alone, wild salmon is a much healthier choice for regular consumption.  It's the only salmon we eat.

Salmon is categorized as a 'fatty' fish, but don't let that scare or confuse you.  The fat that is referred to is where we find the most powerful super food imaginable – omega 3 fatty acids.  You have probably heard a lot of about these fatty acids recently.  They are essential nutrient elements that contribute to your body's healthy functioning, beginning right at the top with the brain, and continuing throughout the body.  And, you can get more omega 3 fatty acids in just one 4 ounce serving of salmon than you would get in several days of trying to eat other healthy foods containing some omega 3s.

With so much emphasis on the tremendous amount and availability of omega 3 fatty acids in salmon, some of the other healthy aspects have tended to be overlooked. Salmon is rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that helps the nervous system relax, rest, and even sleep. With more than 100 IU's of vitamin D in a serving of salmon, you have one of the very best sources available. Also, a super source of selenium, which is associated with decreased risk of joint inflammation, prevention of certain types of cancer, and is known to protect against cardiovascular diseases.

And that's not all. Don't forget the protein. Salmon, like other fish, is a great, low fat, low calorie source of protein.  Then you get B3 (niacin), B12, B6, phosphorus, and magnesium.  And not just minimal amounts either... you're getting serious doses of nutrients in this seriously delicious fish.

More Salmon Benefits

As you can see, salmon has a lot to offer, but along with all those vitamins, minerals, and omega 3s, salmon is also lower in cholesterol than other seafood and shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.  So, while the omega 3s are improving cardiovascular health, the salmon is not adding a lot of cholesterol to counteract all the benefits.

The all-important omega 3s we've been talking about in salmon not only contribute to better brain function and memory, but also supports skin health, joint health, heart health, and digestive health, along with a host of other benefits.

Salmon also has selenium and certain amino acids that protect the nervous system from the effects of the aging process. It is also known to lower the risk of Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease, and can help prevent blood clots that can contribute to stroke.

Salmon tends to speed up the metabolism which helps regulate blood sugar levels in the body. That little four ounce serving of salmon we talked about earlier provides up to 30 grams of protein, which we know supports muscle strength. But, don't forget about one of our most important muscles – the heart. Yes, salmon has a lot of offer every system of our body. But, how can you enjoy salmon a couple times a week without getting tired of it?

Preparing Pleasing Salmon Dishes

A broiled, baked, or grilled salmon fillet is delicious all on its own, for most fish lovers.  Simple dishes include basic lemon or tomatoe slices on top of the salmon and bake, broil or grill (my favorite!)  But for some, the unique flavor of salmon is better when fixed in slightly different dishes or with a variety of sauces.

Cooked salmon works well with a lot of flavors.  A number of different glazes and seasonings can turn each salmon experience into a unique one.  Some herbs and spices to try in your rubs or sauces include cayenne pepper, mustard, fennel, ginger, and paprika.  A classic sauce for salmon that's worthy of your time is a maple syrup glaze. Made simply by reducing a mixture of maple syrup with various ingredients like brown sugar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and even chili powder, makes a splendidly sweet and savory glaze that compliments the salmon perfectly.

My family has a favorite recipe called Bourbon Basted Salmon.
For every pound and a half of salmon mix
3 TBLS of bourbon,
1/4 Cup of brown sugar,
3 TBLS of green onion, chopped,
2 TBLS soy sauce (tamari if need to be gluten free), and
2TBLS of olive oil

Place salmon, skin side down, in a shallow baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine all marinade ingredients.  Pour over salmon and marinate in refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Brush the insides of a fish grilling basket with oil.  Remove salmon from the marinade but reserve the marinade.  Place salmon in basket and close securely.  Grill salmon in basket over hot coals, turning once, until opaque throughout, about 7 minutes per side.  Baste with reserve marinade during cooking.  Serve hot or cold.  Using the grilling basket carmelizes the brown sugar and bourbon.  It gives the most delicious crust with a tender moist inside meat.

Alternately, you can cook the salmon directly on an oiled grill, or wrapped in aluminum foil, turning once, about 7 minutes per side

Creamed soups are another good option for enjoying salmon.  Much like lobster bisque, salmon bisque has a rich flavor that can be slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and definitely delicious.  Keep this bisque simple as the flavor of the salmon will carry it just fine.

Salmon that has been cooked, cooled, and tossed in a big salad with mixed greens is a great choice for folks who like a little crunch surrounding their salmon. Choose a light vinaigrette and a variety of vegetables for your salmon salads. One vegetable that is especially complimentary with salmon is cucumbers. Try making a simple flaked salmon and diced cucumber sandwich spread for something extra special.  Just mix in a bit of light mayonnaise and spread on toasted English muffins or hearty crackers.

Of course, a favorite for holidays and buffet tables is smoked salmon. A few pieces of smoked salmon on a hearty cracker is enough to convince most non-believers that salmon is a food to favor.  But, you can also used smoked salmon to create wonderful salads, spreads, and more.  There is really no end to the ways you can enjoy this super-food.

This popular fish lends itself to lots of different ideas and recipes, so don't be afraid to experiment with new flavors to find the ones you like best. Salmon is a super healthy food that provides countless beneficial nutrients all wrapped up in a super tasty fish.  Now you know why we LOVE it sooo much!  Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Weekend Adventures

Our family gatherings are always so much fun.  Between the little kids and the big kids, there is a lot of food and always something happening.

This Labor Day weekend was no different.  We are a family with a lot of allergies.  So any meal needs to be designed around nut, dairy and wheat allergies, not to mention my one daughter is vegan.

As I started to plan the menu, I realized that it would entail cooking 5 different foods for everyone.  Not my idea of fun.  So I decided to make a few of our favorite dishes and throw in some new recipes.  I came up with salmon patties, hamburger patties, quinoa greek salad, broccoli and homemade ice cream with fresh picked blackberries.

Never having made salmon patties before I found a good recipe on the internet that seemed simple enough.  And it was except for the fact that I had to take all the skin off the salmon and then made sure there weren't any bones in it.  The recipe called for PANKO but since we have the wheat allergies, I didn't use any.  Everyone concurred that the patties would be fine since part of the salmon was processed in my food processor with the veganaise, mustard and spices.

Next, the quinoa salad.  Everyone loves this salad as it's easy and has enough to please everyone's taste.  After cooking the quinoa, I always add spinach, Greek olives (sliced), feta cheese, cut cherry tomatoes, and chopped cucumbers.  Then a dressing of Greek seasoning and balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Now for the broccoli.  Some fresh from my garden and some fresh from the farmer's market, I steamed the broccoli and afterwards add a splash of olive oil and Celtic salt.

Final menu item - ICE CREAM!  Earlier in the morning, we all went out to pick fresh blackberries.  The ice cream was stirring in the ice cream maker except for the blackberries.  Everyone agreed that they wanted to put the blackberries ON the ice cream not IN it.  So fresh ice cream with fresh blackberries to end the evening.

It was so much fun making everything with my daughters there to help.  I just love having everyone over and trying new recipes.

The verdict:
The salmon burgers were ok.  Nothing that great, they definitely needed more spicing up.  We all decided that we liked grilled salmon the best and next time, save the time and grill the salmon like we always do.  Some traditions are difficult to break!

The quinoa salad is always a hit and everyone asks for that everytime we get together so that's a given.  Broccoli, how could you go wrong with that - even the little ones love their 'trees'.

The ice cream enjoyed and savored by everyone.  My daughter's boyfriend said it was the best he ever had (do you think he just said that because he's the boyfriend?)

Another successful weekend.  Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Quinoa Quiz

The Quinoa Quiz - A Super Food That Answers Your Nutrition Questions

What is quinoa? If you haven't heard about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), you're not alone. Many people have yet to learn the encouraging details on this super food. Although not a pantry staple in most kitchens YET, quinoa soon will be. This seed (no, it's not a grain) has a rice-like appearance with a fun crunchy texture and slightly nutty flavor.  If you know spinach, Swiss chard, and beets, you know some of quinoa's relatives. Once called the Gold of the Incas, quinoa is well on its way to becoming revered all over the world. Let's see why.

Winner of 9 Essential Amino Acids

With just a quick run down of the nutrients in quinoa, it's not hard to see why this food is considered  one of the best super foods in the world.  Quinoa is a good source of protein, but not just any protein.  The protein quinoa supplies the body is complete protein, supplying all nine essential amino acids. This fact alone makes quinoa the perfect super food choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone concerned about getting a healthy dose of protein in their diet. Quinoa is especially rich in lysine, the amino acid that is essential for healthy tissue growth as well as repair.

What Can Quinoa Do For Me

We can start with a few basics you will recognize right away.  Besides being a complete protein, quinoa is loaded with dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Magnesium is abundant in quinoa. Known to be beneficial for relaxing blood vessels, magnesium, along with riboflavin, appears to benefit those who suffer from headaches, even migraines. Manganese joins with copper to form an enzyme which guards against cell damage caused by free radicals.

The health benefits gained from including quinoa in your diet include helping reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, and gallstones. For pregnant women, quinoa is a great way to increase iron intake naturally, which is important for baby's healthy development.

Because quinoa is lower in carbohydrates than other grains, many people substitute quinoa for grains because it is a very filling food that releases its energy slowly throughout the body, to satisfy your appetite longer. This is a great way to stay on a weight loss program without starving.

If you are eating a gluten-free diet like me, this is a wonderful new food to discover.  Because quinoa is gluten-free, and has many of the same characteristics of grains and rice, there are numerous ways to use quinoa in your recipes.

What Do I Do With This Stuff

Raw quinoa is most often bought pre-rinsed, but if it isn't, rinse it in a colander lined with cheesecloth. (I always rinse mine) Then follow the directions on the box. Quinoa is cooked similar to rice; usually a 2 to 1, water to quinoa ratio.  Cooked quinoa has a nice light texture and a mild, slightly crunchy and nutty flavor.  You'll see the little white "rings" when it's cooked.  Quinoa can be found in 'red' or 'white'.  The nutritional value does not change with the color.

Once cooked, you can use quinoa in many pilaf dishes, adding vegetables, stocks, and seasonings to taste. Just try substituting quinoa into any of your recipes that call for rice and see how you like it.  Quinoa also makes a nice fluffy side dish all by itself.  Add herbs and seasonings if you like and spoon alongside chicken, fish, or meat for a tasty side dish with great crunchy texture.

Another favorite way to serve quinoa is cold in salads.  Add sweet corn kernels, spring onions, kidney beans (or any bean or choice), bell pepper, and celery into a bowl of cooked and cooled quinoa, toss, and you have a light salad that's full of flavor.  Mix in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for even more pizzazz.

One of my favorite recipes using quinoa is to mix it with feta cheese, Greek olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and some Greek seasoning.  Then add some Balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.  It's a great lunch or dinner!

Quinoa can be served at any meal, and is available in several forms, even flour. For breakfast, you can serve quinoa with berries, nuts, and milk as a cereal. The flour can be used for baking along with whole grain wheat or as a substitute. Fitting quinoa into your healthy diet is not at all difficult with all these choices.

Once you include quinoa in your diet, you'll be looking for all sorts of ways to serve it.  It won't be hard to find! This is a very versatile super food that deserves a spot in your pantry.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The GREAT Pumpkin

The Pumpkin Puzzle – A Super Food Getting Its Just Desserts

Pumpkin really is GREAT!  It's more than that huge round orange ball we carve out every October or the pie we eat in November.  Thinking of pumpkin as a nutritious super food can be a bit puzzling.  After all, isn't the image that comes to mind sweet and smooth and covered in whipped cream?  But, according to nutritionists, we should be thinking of pumpkin more often than during the annual Charlie Brown cartoon or as a delicious way to top off a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.

Pumpkin is a vegetable, regardless of those images. In fact, pumpkin is a nutrient-rich super food that has a great number of health benefits. Let's take a look at why pumpkin should get its just desserts... beyond desserts.

A Well-Rounded Vegetable

The list of nutrients in pumpkin is almost endless. Starting with the basic vitamins and minerals we all know, pumpkin has a healthy amount of vitamins C and E, and is a rich source of  potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is also right up there with other super foods in the dietary fiber category.

Pumpkin also contains two lesser known elements called carotenoids, which are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are specifically linked to decreasing the risk of a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risk for heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Beta carotene is an important antioxidant. Foods rich in beta carotene, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots, have the potential to lower cholesterol and to slow the aging process of our vital organs. Antioxidant rich foods, like pumpkin, are key to fighting the free radicals which attack our healthy cells and can cause many illnesses.

And, it’s not just the flesh, the insides, of the pumpkin that is healthy. The seeds from the pumpkin also earn their super food status. These seeds, or pepitas, are also nutrient-rich and beneficial, containing high concentrations of phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium, and other nutrients. The seeds also have essential Omega 3 fatty acids and even the amino acid typtophan, known for its anti-depressant benefits. So, as you see, the pumpkin has a lot more to offer than you might think.

Thinking Outside the Pie Pan

Of course, pumpkin is associated first with pie. Beyond pie, many folks know about making pumpkin muffins or cake. These are great and delicious, but trying to branch out into more pumpkin dishes takes a little more imagination.

But, first to clarify; no, pumpkin does not taste like pumpkin pie. That flavor comes from the spices used in the pie, like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Because pumpkin basically has very little flavor of its own, it will taste like whatever you want it to taste like.

Pumpkin is truly versatile enough to go into soup, chowder, stews, casseroles, and other main dishes.  You can puree pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener and to add great fiber and nutrition. Try roasting pumpkin and mashing like you would any squash. Flavor with herbs, salt, and pepper for added taste. You can steam it, boil it, or puree it to use in a variety of other recipes, like pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. The seeds, of course, can be roasted in a number of ways, then added to cereal, trail mix, or salads.

For a real different twist, and a very pretty presentation, scoop out the flesh from several small pumpkins, chop up and add to your choice of meat, vegetables, rice or bread cubes, and seasonings. Then stuff the pumpkin shells with the mixture and bake to make an entrĂ©e that your guests won’t soon forget.

Pumpkin has definitely earned its place among the top super foods for a healthy diet. Colorful, nutritious, delicious, and oh so versatile – all the things a super food should be!

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Omega 3 Factor

The Omega 3 Factor – A Super Food Element From Within

We have heard many reports concerning the attributes that Omega 3's play in heart health.  Therefore, no discussion of the world’s healthiest foods would be complete without talking about Omega 3 fatty acids.  In addition, no diet would be complete without Omega 3 fatty acids.  These specific types of molecules play a vital role in our health and development throughout our entire life. Let’s take a closer look at these odd sounding nutrients to find out why they are so important.

Wellness Starts at the Top

First, let's try to understand a bit of brain science. The brain is made up of about sixty percent fat. This fat is found mainly within the membranes that surround the brain's nerve cells. The composition and chemistry of these membranes has a direct effect on chemical reactions in the brain. These chemical reactions are the brain's signals. Extensive studies have been conducted to analyze the Omega 3 fat influence on these brain signals.  It is believed that Omega 3 fatty acids promote better and faster transfer of signals in the brain. Great!  I guess that means Omega 3 fatty acids are good for you.  Let's see how.

When your brain signals are working well, your whole body benefits. Other than brain health itself, other health benefits related to Omega 3s have been discovered.  These GOOD fats are found to inhibit cancer cell growth, reduce inflammation throughout the body, prohibit excess clotting in the blood, and reduce the risk of obesity by stimulating a hormone called leptin.  Leptin helps regulate metabolism and body weight.

While there is some speculation about the true power of Omega 3s in treating or improving things like mental disorders, heart disease, and cancer, many researchers still claim there are significant benefits to consuming foods that contain these vital fats.

Looking for Omega 3s

If you live in Alaska, Taiwan, or Japan you may already be eating enough foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These populations routinely consume fish that is fatty, in a good way. Diets that contain fatty fish continue to show better results with respect to less inflammatory ailments and less obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

But, if you don't live in one of those areas, you can still find plenty of the Omega 3s you need.  These fatty acids are most prevalent in seafoods, with salmon, tuna, scallops, sardines, and trout being particularly rich. Other sources of Omega 3s are algae, krill, and shrimp, as well as certain nuts and seeds, like walnuts, hemp seeds and flaxseeds.

Other vegetables and spices like cloves, mustard seeds, cauliflower, collard greens, and cabbage are good sources for Omega 3s. Even certain berries, like strawberries and raspberries, provide at least some of the same healthy benefits.

Generally speaking, eating a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables, lean meats, seafood, as well as nuts, seeds and berries, will contribute to your overall health. This general guide just happens to include many foods that are naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. That could be one of the simplest ways to supplement your good health!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Humble Bean

The Humble Bean - A Super Food Leading A Double Life

There aren't a lot of foods that can hold more than one place on the food pyramid. But, long before we started talking about super foods, ancient peoples knew the benefits this humble food had to offer; as a vegetable, a protein, and a healer.

In traditional Indian medicine, there exists an ages-old system of living and healing that includes a vegetarian diet using legumes like lentils, beans, and peas to keep the body healthy. Now, beyond the Middle-Eastern cultures, many people recognize the power of the bean to support whole nutrition and well-being. Here, we discuss some of the benefits of beans, and why they are leading a double life as a well respected super food.

Perfect Nutrition On Many Levels

Legumes are edible seeds contained in pods, and beans are part of that family. By their very nature, beans have a convenience factor that makes them a favorite food in many parts of the world. They are generally inexpensive and store well with the potential for a long shelf life, particularly when they are dried. Beans offer sustained nutrition and energy due to the fact they have a low glycemic index, meaning they provide energy to the body over a long period of time.

You won't get bored quickly eating beans, either. There is virtually an endless variety of beans and legumes to choose from, as well as a mountain of recipes to try when adding beans to your healthy diet. A short list of beans would include navy beans, black beans, lentils, soybeans, great northern beans, mung beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black eyed peas, and kidney beans.

Beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins, and are naturally low in fat, calories, and sodium. You can serve beans in nutritious main dishes or side dishes that will satisfy your appetite with less-costly consequences to your body, or budget. These reasons alone would easily earn beans their super food status, but there's more!

Eating several servings of beans each day not only helps you reach your daily vegetable requirement, but those same beans also add up as your protein intake. Yes, those inexpensive, versatile beans are a protein. That's why we consider them a double-duty super food. Beans can easily be combined in recipes with other protein sources, vegetables, and starches like corn, whole wheat, or brown rice to create 'complete proteins' containing all the necessary amino acids our bodies require to function well.

Good Health Contributions

Beans have numerous healthy qualities that make them excellent additions to any diet. As we mentioned, not only are beans a nutritious vegetable source, but a perfect choice as a meat substitute. By reducing high-fat protein sources like red meats in your diet, and substituting low fat beans as your source of protein, you are fighting high cholesterol, high blood pressure, as well as a host of other ailments that can occur from a diet high in fat.

Antioxidants battle those nasty free radicals, the cell damaging agents in your body, and beans have some of the highest antioxidant content of any food on the planet. Although the benefits vary between different types of beans, all beans help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and improve digestion. The dietary fiber and enzymes in beans have the added benefit of helping to block cancer-causing cells and compounds in the intestines and colon.

The humble little kidney bean contains a healthy dose of thiamin, which regulates memory and brain function. Many beans also contain isoflavones, which can ease menopause symptoms and improve bone and prostate health, just to name a few benefits. Choose any bean and you've chosen a super food well worth the title.

Unlimited Possibilities

Beans can be cooked in countless dishes like chili, stew, soup, stir fry, tacos, salads, casseroles, and omelets. Try your hand at several main dishes or side dishes and explore your options. Don't limit yourself to just the classic beans and rice dish. Choose a new salad or a tasty dip for chips. Hot, cold, mashed, or whole, the bean will constantly surprise you with its versatility.

As opposed to canned beans, dried beans are the cheapest way to have this super food on hand. In general, cooking dried beans is easy. Rinse your dried beans, cover in water and soak overnight. Then, set the beans in a big pot, cover them with fresh water, bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour or so until they are soft. You can skip soaking them overnight, just increase the cooking time to about two hours. You will also find many recipes for cooking dried beans in a crockpot or pressure cooker. Do a bit of research or follow the directions on the package of beans for best results.

No matter how you choose to eat this super food, your body will thank you.  You can eat enough beans to satisfy even the heartiest appetite without worrying about fat or calories.  Beans are economical, a great source of dietary fiber, and are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Besides all that good news, a bag of beans in your pantry means you've always got protein in your house, too. As far as super foods go, beans easily make it to the top of the list.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Broccoli Boost - A Super Food For Every Body

The Broccoli Boost – A Super Food For Every Body

In our home, broccoli is one of our favorite vegetables.  Even when my daughters were little, they loved broccoli.  There's just something about those little power 'trees' as my girls called them.  But when former President George W. Bush made his shocking proclamation that he didn't like broccoli and that he wasn't about to eat any, you could almost hear parents across the country gasping. While some kids might have praised the proclamation as an excuse to justify their own broccoli beliefs, the popularity of broccoli has really never wavered. Parents still are finding ways to get broccoli on their kids' plates by using any means possible, even by pretending they're trees! We're going to peek inside and see what this versatile vegetable has to offer on the nutritional level.

What's In It for Me

Today, broccoli remains one of the best selling vegetables in America for many reasons. This low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable has been praised for some miraculous health benefits. This list of benefits includes fighting cancer, boosting our immune systems, building stronger bones, and lowering the risk for cataracts. Broccoli earns its distinction as one of the top super foods in diets around the world.

Broccoli is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate, potassium and manganese. We're familiar with most of these, of course, but did you know that folate is linked to reducing birth defects and heart disease? Along with these nutrients, broccoli is also a good source of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.

The words super-food and antioxidant often go together, and broccoli is no exception. Rich in antioxidants, those damaging free-radicals don't stand a chance against broccoli. One of those antioxidants is Q10 which helps the body produce energy. Another specific component of broccoli’s superpower status involves a compound called sulforaphane which triggers potent anti-cancer enzymes. These enzymes are also effective in eliminating bacteria that can cause peptic ulcers.

And, you don't have to eat a lot of broccoli to get all these super nutrients. Just one cup of broccoli provides over 40 milligrams of calcium and almost 80 milligrams of vitamin C. That even beats milk as a nutritional food source. All this nutrition is available in only 25 calories, plus broccoli is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Choosing the Right Bunch

Selecting fresh broccoli isn’t difficult. Look for sturdy stalks with compact, dark green florets, and avoid wilted specimens with yellowing buds, as these stalks are already past their prime. Broccoli stores well in the refrigerator for up to three days before losing its vitamin content. In some supermarkets, you will even find hybrids like broccoflower or broccolini, which combine kale or cauliflower with broccoli.

Trim any leaves from the stalk and trim the woody end of the stalk off the bottom. If you prefer to eat only the florets, or your recipe calls for just the florets, cut the broccoli florets off the stalk, rinse under running water, and drain. Save the stalks for another recipe if desired.

Cooking and Serving Tips

Broccoli is one of the more versatile vegetables you can eat, holding up well in a number of recipes and cooking methods. Of course, the closer you keep your broccoli to its raw state, the more nutrients you will maintain.

If you are cooking your broccoli to serve as a side dish, you should only cook it for a few moments, until the florets turn bright green. Cooking broccoli for more time than necessary causes the nutritional benefits to deteriorate. If the broccoli becomes mushy during steaming or boiling, it's cooked too long. You may choose to flash-cook the broccoli in a microwave to keep the cooking time short and to maintain more of the nutrients. Although, the microwave debate still goes on about whether it reduces or destroys nutrients in broccoli. You decide.

Broccoli can be used in anything from stir-fry to casseroles, omelets, soups, and salads. The florets are a pretty, and nutritious, addition to many dishes. The stalks can be chopped and sauted, roasted, or cooked and pureed for a creamy broccoli soup. You'll find thousand of recipes using broccoli once you start searching.

Of course, we can't talk about broccoli and kids without talking about broccoli trees. My grandsons call them dinosaur trees. Raw broccoli florets look like little trees, so use this to your advantage when trying to get kids to eat their broccoli. With a bit of creamy dressing for 'snow,' make a little forest of broccoli trees and your kids will be tempted to gobble them up in no time.

It should also be noted that sprouts from broccoli have the same healthful benefits as the plant itself. Toss a handful of sprouts on top of a salad for a real boost of flavor and nutrients. Or, tuck a pile of broccoli sprouts into a tortilla wrap sandwich for a crunchy treat. Anywhere you want to add crunch, add broccoli sprouts.

No matter how you serve broccoli - raw, blanched, or steamed as a side dish, or as an ingredient in a main dish, you can't go wrong with this powerhouse vegetable. Besides the boost broccoli gives your immune system, and your overall health, broccoli is just plain tasty. This is one super food you don't want to skip.

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