Live Total Wellness

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.

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