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Curcumin―the active form of turmeric―has shown promise in the prevention and therapeutic management of Alzheimer’s Disease. While much research remains to be done for conclusive evidence, adding turmeric in food preparation may show some benefits. The appropriate amounts of curcumin supplements remain unclear. Without more definitive research, it is wise to avoid these supplements and rely on its use in foods.

While the use of curcumin supplements remains uncertain, a little turmeric added into your dishes can provide one more step toward healthy eating. I recall as a child my mother sprinkling this distinct flavored spice on coleslaw. Occasionally, I do the same. Curious as to how I could use this spice that has been advocated for several years as affecting memory, I sought new recipes. You can find a few online, but I stayed with the tried-and-true, a Green Tomato Relish. This recipe has been handed down in my family from generation to generation for about 100 years.tomatoes green

 

Green Tomato Relish

1 gallon ground green tomatoes

5 green sweet peppers

1 hot red pepper

6-8 small white onions

1 stalk celery

1 medium head cabbage

½ cup salt (not iodized)TURMERIC .jpg

4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon mustard seed

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 quart vinegar (5 percent acidity)

juice of 4 lemons

Grind vegetables together. Add salt. Put into a cheesecloth bag and drip (several hours or overnight). Mix spices, sugar, lemon juice, and vinegar. Heat to dissolve sugar. Add vegetable mixture gradually, combining with vinegar mixture, and heat thoroughly. Pack into hot, sterile jars and seal. (I water bath for about 20 minutes to make sure no microbes remain). This can remain sealed and stored for several months.

Another choice is to use curry. How does curry compare to turmeric? Curry is a combination of spices; turmeric, chili powder, and cumin. Because it has turmeric in it, it has similar qualities and nutritive values but in smaller quantities. Include this spice as well not only to enhance flavor of favorite dishes, but as a bonus to a healthy diet. Below is another family favorite, Chicken Asparagus Casserole, that began with my generation.

Chicken Asparagus Casserole 

8-10 frozen chicken breasts stripsCURRY

¼  cup olive oil

1 can asparagus pieces (15 ounce)

1 can asparagus spears (15 ounce)

1 can (10 1/2 ounce) low-fat cream of chicken soup

½ cup calorie reduced salad dressing (Miracle Whip)

1 teaspoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon curry powder

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Defrost 8-10 chicken breast strips. Place in a microwavable dish, cover and cook until tender (or brown lightly on both sides in a skillet with cooking olive oil). Drain asparagus (or peas) and place in bottom of 9″ X 9″ X 2″ baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (I often use 2 (15 ounce) cans of Lesueur sweet peas instead of asparagus or one can of peas and one can of asparagus spears). Top with chicken strips. Mix together soup, salad dressing, lemon juice and curry powder. Pour over chicken and asparagus. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and bake at 375o F. for 30 minutes. Leftovers freeze well.

How do you use turmeric or curry? Please share some of your favorite healthy dishes. We all want new ways to keep our memories intact.

 

October is National Pasta Month. Many people have a favorite variety, but whatever kind you prefer, pasta seems to be an internationally liked food. It is versatile for any meal and used in various ways from appetizers to desserts.

wheat

Pasta is a simple product made from flour, eggs, and water. While today many ancient grains are substituted to make pasta, wheat remains the most abundant source used for flour. When possible, choose whole wheat pasta, and if you have a wheat sensitivity, try gluten free.

We identify pastas by their various shapes and flavor. Among the most common ones are spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, fettuccine, vermicelli, penne, rotini, farfalle, orzo, and ziti.

Spaghetti is an all-time favorite and probably our most popular pasta. The long, thin, solid cylindrical pasta is a staple in many Italian dishes. Typical cooking time is 8 to 12 minutes.

Macaroni, a tubular pasta cut into short lengths, is a kid’s favorite, especially combined with melted cheese. Typical cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes.

Linguine is a ribbon pasta meaning “little tongues” in Italian. It is similar to fettuccine but elliptical instead of flat. Typical cooking time is 9 to 13 minutes.

Fettuccine, a ribbon pasta meaning “little ribbons,” is popular in Tuscan cuisine. Typical cooking time is 8 to 13 minutes.

Vermicelli, a strand pasta, is thinner than spaghetti. It literally means “little worms.” Typical cooking time is 5 to 7 minutes.

Penne is an extruded short, tube-shaped, and hollow pasta with ends cut at a bias. Typical cooking time is 10 to 13 minutes.

Rotini, meaning “twists,” are screw-like pasta cut into about one and a half to two-inch lengths. Typical cooking time is 8 to 12 minutes.

Farfalle is a type of pasta commonly known as bow-tie or butterfly pasta. The name is derived from the Italian word farfalle, which literally means “butterflies.” Typical cooking time is 8 to 15 minutes.

Orzo, also known as risoni, is a short-cut pasta shaped like a large grain of rice. It originated in Greece, but in Italy, orzo means “barley.” Typical cooking time is 7 to 10 minutes.

Ziti, an extruded pasta shaped into a long, wide tube, is broken by hand into smaller pieces before cooking. It may be stuffed and baked. Ziti comes from the word “zito” meaning bridegroom. Typical cooking time is 9 to 15 minutes.

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In case you have wondered, the difference between pastas and noodles is the type of flour from which it is made. Pasta is generally made from durum semolina, a coarser product than bread flour. It is made into a stiff dough and extruded through a mold to form varied shapes and sizes. Noodles, also made from unleavened dough, are passed through a series of rollers to produce a flat sheet of dough, a process called “sheeting.” Dough is sent to a cutter to make into individual strands.

Now that you know a little more about pasta, take the opportunity tonight to cook up your favorite dish. It’s quick and easy and loved by most everyone. Here is a quick family favorite. I often add other vegetable choices including bits of leftovers. Substitute salad shrimp for chicken to enjoy shrimp alfredo. Serve with hot fresh Italian bread and add a fruit dessert to complete a delicious and nutritious meal.

CHICKEN ALFREDO

8                     ounces penne or other pasta

1                     (15 ounce) jar creamy Alfredo sauce (Bertolli preferred)

1                     cup cooked chicken, cut into about 1″ pieces

½                    cup grape tomatoes, cut into halves

½                    cup frozen broccoli florets, chopped

½                    cup carrot coins, slice into 1/8″ to 1/4″ widths crosswise and cook slightly in a small amount of water in microwave

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In a separate pan, heat sauce until it begins to bubble. Add in vegetables, either all or select a favorite. Cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add chicken and heat thoroughly. Serve over penne pasta or other favorite choice. Top with Parmesan cheese.

September is Healthy Aging Month. Don’t let this month end without assessing how healthy you are, especially if you are over the age of 50. Regardless of your current age, all of us want to remain as healthy as possible. Yet, the aging process may start much earlier than we think. Our minds and bodies don’t wait until we’re 70 or 60 or even 50. Aging begins by the age of 30. How fast we age depends on the reaction of the cells within our bodies. Even our body organs age at different rates.

Many factors influence the aging process such as heredity, lifestyle choices, habits, environment, and disease conditions. We can’t change some things, like heredity. However, one major aspect of aging we can control is the food we put into our bodies. Whether normal aging changes in vision, hearing, taste, and bones and organs or some disease condition such as diabetes, metabolic disorders, heart disease, or numerous other maladies, food can play a role in how rapidly cells deteriorate.

The recommended diet for the aging is similar to a healthy diet for all adults. According to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines, older adults as a group tend to have healthier eating habits than other age groups. However, based on the Healthy Eating Index, older adults scored 63 out of 100 which leaves a lot of room for improvement. Recommendations for a healthy diet include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and adequate amounts of protein foods. Nutrient intake hampered by insufficient amounts of these food categories include calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber. Because of the decreased ability to absorb B12, older adults are encouraged to consume protein foods, a major source, and foods fortified with B12 such as cereals.

Healthy Food, Healthy Eating, Dietetic, Food, Fruit

The following dietary suggestions can help to maintain and improve health. Unless otherwise indicated, these are listed as serving per day. For those with a healthy BMI, the number of servings is based on daily recommended calories starting at 1,600 calories for women and ranging to 2,600 calories for men. Greater diet improvement occurs when limiting added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. For fruits and vegetables, ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw is considered a serving.

  1. Fruits: Choose a variety of 3 to 4 each day. Blueberries and strawberries contain antioxidants which enhance memory and brain health, help prevent cancer, heart disease, and dementia, and boost the immune system.
  2. Vegetables: Eat 4 to 6 serving a day based on the following.
    • Dark green – 3 to 4 servings weekly (kale, spinach, etc.)
    • Red or orange – 8 to 12 servings weekly (sweet potatoes, winter squash, etc.)
    • Beans/legumes – 2 to 4 servings weekly (pintos, dried lima beans, etc.)
    • Starchy – 8 to 12 servings weekly (white potatoes, corn, etc.)
    • Other vegetables – 7 to 10 (a variety of vegetables not included in the above categories)
  3. Grains: Select 10 to 16 ounces with half of selections from whole grains.
  4. Dairy: Consume 6 cups milk or the equivalent per day, preferably low-fat. Choose milk, cheese, yogurt, or other forms of dairy.
  5. Protein foods: Include 10 to 13 ounces daily. Select from meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; nuts, seeds, and soy products.

In addition to appropriate foods, conditions to assist in healthy eating include; a pleasant environment to enhance meal enjoyment, good dentition and the ability to swallow, and consuming food that is safe and wholesome.

While food plays a significant role in healthy aging, other considerations include (but are not limited to):

Senior man and senior woman jogging side by side on the street Couple of seniors jogging outdoors in the city Exercising Stock Photo
  • Adequate exercise: Depending on current physical abilities, walking and other exercises help our bodies retain flexibility and prevent stiffness as well as lethargy. Advancing years may slow our pace, but exercise, like appropriate eating, is a lifetime function.
  • Plenty of sleep: Our bodies rebel when we fail to get adequate sleep. While rest may be disturbed by pain or health issues, talk with your health professional for help and suggestions.
  • Socializing: Staying secluded is more likely to result in psychological problems. When we have little to focus on other than ourselves, depression is more likely to set it. It’s important to retain friends and leave your dwelling when possible.
  • Stimulating your mind: Many avenues exist to stimulate your mind and memory. Whether you choose a favorite game, read, or start a new hobby, the challenge can be rewarding. Many older adults return to the classroom to expand their knowledge while also improving their brain cells.
  • Counting your blessings: A negative attitude helps no one. Whatever our age, we are blessed to reach that chronological age. A scripture verse I find helpful is, “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps.118:24 NRSV). Try it

Although there is no guarantee we will live a long life, these guidelines can help. As Spock (Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek) said, “Live long and prosper.” Don’t wait a day longer. Start now. Happy, healthy aging.

Old, Youth, Contrast, Young, Power

Before June slips away, don’t forget it is National Dairy Month. Milk has been considered a wholesome beverage for many years, and studies continue to confirm the nutritional value of dairy in the diet.

ACME Markets June Dairy Month Sweepstakes 2021 | SweepstakesBible

Milk contains 13 known nutrients. Foods providing from 10 to 19 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of needed nutrients in a food serving are considered as good or excellent sources. At 20 percent DV or above, excellent nutritional sources include calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, iodine (60 percent DV), and B12 (50 percent DV). At 16 percent, milk has remained a major contributor of protein for many years. Milk is also a good source of vitamin D— fortified with 400 I.U. per quart—Vitamin A, niacin, zinc, selenium, and potassium.

Who drinks dairy milk? Consumption of dairy is more prevalent among those over the age of 55. More than 80 percent of this age group consume milk several times a week while those age 18-34 are prone to choose nondairy sources (67 percent). Half of those over age 55 never consume nondairy milks compared to less than 8 percent of those age 18-34.

Nutrients Milk Stock Illustrations – 424 Nutrients Milk Stock  Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime

What about the fat in milk? In spite of numerous nutrients, many associate the cholesterol content as bad for health. In recent studies, milk fat was found to lower LDL and HDL levels. Those who regularly consumed milk had a 14 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. More studies are needed to confirm the impact on heart health. One thing did not change. Those who consumed more milk also had a higher BMI (body mass index) indicting an association between milk and weight gain. Researchers did not differentiate between regular milk with higher fat content and dairy milk with less fat content.

Consumers can choose from a variety of milks varying in fat content from whole milk (meaning no fat has been removed) to skim milk with negligible traces of fat. Whole milk has about 3.6 percent butter fat, depending on the type of cows producing it. For 2 percent milk and those with less butterfat, calories are reduced along with fat content. In other words, the less the fat, the lower the calorie count.

Regardless, milk is a wholesome addition to the diet. Few if any foods can compete with the quality nutrients dairy milk provides. Make milk a regular part of your diet if you haven’t already. It’s good for you.

Dairy groups applaud new dietary guidelines but Physicians Committee slams  'racially tinged promotion of dairy products'

It’s strawberry time—one of my favorite seasons of the year. I look forward to May and celebrating “National Strawberry Month” when those luscious red fruits abound.

I grew up on a farm where my Dad grew acres of berries. In my younger years, “picking time” filled my days with unending excitement. Help came from nearby towns along with friends and neighbors to glean the fields. Not unlike the biblical story of Ruth, at the end of the season, Dad welcomed anyone into the fields to gather the last remnants of the season and whatever pickers may have missed.

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Today, I maintain a “wild” strawberry patch in my garden. Unlike the tended rows in my Dad’s fields, my berries are on their own and surprise me with a plentiful supply of fresh berries for about three weeks with enough yield for several jars of jam. Our expanding family of grandchildren and greats love the home prepared product. It’s become a generational delight. However, we don’t miss enjoying those berries throughout the year. We freeze many for future months. Freezing has no effect on the nutrients in these tasty fruits.

Strawberries provide abundant amounts of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and are a good source of manganese, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Along with these nutrients, they are excellent sources of antioxidants which help in lowering risks of several disease conditions.

According to recent studies, strawberries may help slow the aging process of the brain. They are considered one of the most healthful fruits in preventing memory loss. Research confirms that healthy adults who eat strawberries can improve some aspects of cognition. Their high flavonoid content may also contribute to reduction in Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

Strawberries also have positive effects on heart health. Their high levels of antioxidants, known as polyphenols, combined with their many nutrients may improve HDL and lower LDL cholesterol levels. Nutrients also function to decrease oxidative stress and inflammation to improve vascular function. Potassium helps control blood pressure.

The fiber in these berries can improve digestive health. The prebiotics in strawberries may increase gut bacteria and help maintain lean body weight and longevity.

Frequent consumption of strawberries may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Strawberries tend to slow glucose digestion which helps to prevent spikes in both glucose and insulin. The American Diabetes Association considers strawberries as one of the major ten superfoods for those with diabetes. They have a low glycemic index with about half the calories found in apples or bananas.

These delicious berries are sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low-calorie. A serving of berries contains less than 50 calories. First cultivated in Rome, they are considered the world’s favorite berry. Regardless of where you reside, don’t miss out on strawberry season and the opportunity to splurge on one of the tastiest and healthiest foods. Why not consider making them a part of your healthy meal plan?

To say the pandemic of 2020 took a toll on our normal lives is an understatement. Routines were wrecked, and we may have had too much time without any foreseeable outlet. With many families now at home, the pitter-patter of little or big feet may have halted peace and quiet.

Corona, Coronavirus, Virus, Blood, Plasma, Blood Plasma

Each of us had different experiences, but one common factor for many was unwanted weight gain. Already a national pandemic by itself, weight gain exacerbated problems. Nearly 70 percent of the US population is overweight. About half of those are obese. Obesity, an underlying factor in many diseases, now has Covid-19 added to the list. Those with excessive weight, especially if plagued with other serious health conditions, are much more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19.

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Research published by JAMA Network Open found that in early months of the pandemic, many gained an average of 1.5 to 2 pounds per month. That adds up in a hurry. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on the perils of restricted activities. With lost paychecks and concerns about how to afford the next meal, thoughts of exercise faded away. Not everyone had space to make a walking track through their household to help maintain step counts.

However, limited space is only one aspect for weight gain. Many became discouraged, depressed, and lonely—not good motivators for exercise or losing weight. Just getting out of bed may have proved a challenge, not to mention the shear obsession of becoming Covid-19’s next victim. Problems experienced during lock-down affected us differently. Many on the road to a healthful weight slipped into former overeating patterns. In times of stress, many regressed to less healthy foods, whatever those might be. Snacks became more prevalent and less nutritious. Some filled extra time with excessive eating or indulgences in larger portions sizes.

The question is, “What can we do?” Now that many venues have reopened, perhaps we can return to at least some normal activities. Whatever the cause, we can start over. Here are a few guidelines to help.

To Do List Royalty Free Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image  12157386.
  • Assess where you have strayed from healthy eating and analyze the exact reasons why.
  • Determine ways to cope with problems you can’t change.
  • Seek ways to change the circumstances you can control that interfere with good food choices.
  • Set tentative goals. The sun still comes up even if you miss your mark. Try again. However, indifference pushes you farther from where you want and need to be.
  • Set a specific time frame to assess your progress.
  • Find a partner if possible, even if you can’t encourage each other in person. Just sharing difficulties, frustrations, and successes can help.
  • Get back on track. Covid-19 changed our world, but it doesn’t have to define us. Whatever the unpleasant and hurtful experiences, focus on ways to move forward instead of dwelling on the negative past.

You are worth it. You can do it.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Sars-Cov-2, Virus, Stamp, China

Additional help for confronting unhealthy weight and other issues.

So, what did we do on those cold winter days with many of us stranded because of weather conditions or the lingering pandemic? Did this time call for stuffing more food into our mouths with hope that all the chaos —whatever that was in our lives—would go away? Or maybe a case of blues bordering on depression caused us to stop eating or to eat too much?      

Whether or not we read the latest nutrition or diet news, most of us would like to eat healthier, and many of us would love to lose five pounds or more. Sometimes we don’t know if special diets are good or bad. Compilations from experts, such as those selected by US News and World Report, give a rundown of the best and worst diets for our health. In the last blog, we looked at diets considered the healthiest. The news panel ranked 39 diets for losing weight as well as for other health conditions such as heart health, diabetes, and others.

Fad Diets HD Stock Images | Shutterstock

Lowest Ranking Weight-Loss Diets3

Of diets assessed, those related to specific health issues may have scored low for Best Weight-Loss Diets because they were intended for other conditions and not for weight management.

  • The Glycemic-Index (GI) diet identifies carbohydrates in foods according to their effect on blood glucose (sugar) levels. The lower the GI, the more slowly food is digested, absorbed, and metabolized. It tied with the better-known Paleo diet, touted for weight loss and healthy eating, at #32.
  • The Fertility diet (#35), as the name indicates, was never intended for weight loss. However, the panel considered it expensive, inconvenient, and labor intense. It tied with the popular Whole30 diet.
  • The AIP (Autoimmune Protocol Diet) is designed to reduce inflammation and help those with autoimmune disorders.
  • The GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) is an elimination diet which tied with AIP for the two lowest ranks.       

Most weight-loss diets, good or bad, will help us lose a few pounds. However, they may be unhealthy, or they are diets structured so that they’re difficult to continue indefinitely. From the 39 evaluations of the news panel, here are the top five losers in reverse order.

  • The Fast diet (#30) mirrors a pattern of eating often referred to as the 5:2 diet: you eat normally for five days of the week and reduce calories to about one-fourth of normal intake on two nonconsecutive days of the week. The diet failed to provide guidance on healthy eating for non-fast days.
  • The Paleo diet (#32 tied with GI) has a strong following. The premise is that if the caveman didn’t eat it, neither should we. The diet is considered too limited for a healthy eating plan. It restricts refined sugar, legumes, grains, and dairy and embraces meats, fish, poultry, fruits, and vegetables.
  • The Dukan diet (#34) ranked among the lowest in several categories and last for Best Diets Overall. Proponents claim dieters lose 10 pounds the first week and 2 to 4 pounds the following week. Some question whether this is actually a weight-loss diet. The panel stated it does not work, and one went so far to call it idiotic. Rules are stringent, and the protocol is hard to follow.
  • The Whole30 diet (#35), according to the developers, is not a diet, weight-loss plan, or quick fix. It supposedly changes your life. For 30 days dieters (or life changers) restrict sugar, dairy, grains, and alcohol. This diet isn’t recommended for the faint of heart and fails to meet government standards for carbohydrates.
  • The Alkaline diet (#37) comes with lots of rules and little research. One expert panelist described it as ridiculous. The theory is, alkaline is good—acid is bad. The diet is measured by a 0 to 14 pH scale with 7.0 as neutral. The higher the number above 7.0, the more alkaline a substance. Likewise, the lower the number below 7.0, the more acidic. What we eat has little effect on blood’s normal pH of 7.35 to 7.45 (slightly alkaline). Those following this diet may have difficulty maintaining adequate protein and calcium intake, and the diet could eventually cause problems with blood pH levels.

I point out lower ranking weight-loss diets for us to realize that just because a diet is popular doesn’t make it a good choice. If you need help in losing weight, consult with a registered dietitian proficient in weight management. This is National Nutrition Month so whatever diet you choose, make sure it will be helpful and not harmful.

Fruit Free, Vegetables, Healthy, Fruits, Food

Once again, the U. S News & World Report issued rankings of the best and worst diets for 2021. Their expert panel ranked 39 diets into 9 categories including: Best Diets Overall, Best Weight Loss Diets, Best Commercial Diet Plans, Best Diabetes Diets, Best Diets for Healthy Eating, Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets, Best Heart-Healthy Diets, Best Plant-Based Diets, and Easiest Diets to Follow.

For several years, the Mediterranean Diet has ranked in the top three for best overall diet. This year not only was it #1, but it scored first in best plant-based diets and easiest diets to follow. The Mediterranean Diet also tied for first place in the best heart-healthy diets, best diabetes diets, and best diets for healthy eating. The diet has no specific eating plan. Instead, individuals choose from a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans (legumes), nuts, olive oil, fish and seafood at least twice a week, and poultry, eggs, cheese and yogurt in moderation. The typical Mediterranean diet allows one glass of red wine daily for women and two for men.

The Dash diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension), also a top three contender for the U. S. News & World Report survey, for many years ranked #1. In 2021, it tied for second place with the Flexitarian diet. The Dash diet includes daily servings of 4 to 5 each of vegetables and fruits, 6 to 8 grains, 2 to 3 dairy products, 6 or less one-ounce servings of fish, lean meat, poultry, and 2 to 3 fats or oils. It suggests 4 to 5 servings a week of nuts, seeds, and legumes and less than 5 servings per week of sweets. Initially developed to reduce hypertension (high blood pressure), the diet recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2,300 mg/day of sodium. The Dash diet recommends elderly or those with certain health issues refrain from consuming more than 1,500 mg of sodium/day.

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Dawn Jackson Blatner developed the Flexitarian diet, a blend of the words flexible and vegetarian. For 2021, this diet tied for first place in best weight-loss diets and best diabetes diets. It tied for second in the best overall diets, second for the best plant-base diets, and third for best diets for healthy eating and easiest diets to follow. The diet begins with a five-week meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Individuals have flexibility in substituting different foods within the same food category. Recommended calorie levels include 300 calories for breakfast, 400 calories for lunch, and 500 calories for dinner with two snacks of about 150 calories each for a total of about 1,500 calories (which for many results in weight loss). Calories can be adjusted for those needing additional calories.

In previous years, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet ranked in the top three for best overall diet. For 2021, it tied with the Mayo Clinic Diet for #5. The MIND diet has 10 brain-healthy food groups and 5 unhealthy food groups. Brain-healthy foods include green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries (especially blueberries and strawberries), nuts, beans (lentils, white beans, etc.), whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and red wine (optional). Foods to avoid include red meat, butter/margarine, cheeses, pastries/sweets, and fried/fast foods.

The magazine evaluated the Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet, published in 2013 and revised in 2019, for the first time. Its purpose is to lower and stabilize blood sugar levels. Designed for people with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, it tied for #5 with the MIND diet in the category of best overall diets.

Any of the top-ranking diets constitute a healthy eating plan. Check the links to learn more about each diet. The year is still early, and one of the best ways to help keep your body healthy is through a wholesome diet.

Tomato Mozzarella, Mozzarella, Mozzarella Salad, Salad

A future blog will address rankings of diets on the lower end for healthy eating. These may include diets you have tried or considered for weight loss. Find out what the experts say.  

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Most describe 2020 as an extraordinary year they are happy to see end. We look forward to new beginnings. Perhaps we have set new goals or revised old one for 2021. One thing is sure, most of us had no idea at the close of 2019 how much 2020 would impact our lives. As we reflect on a year of illness and death, we also remember riots and national chaos. And who can forget a divided nation enduring the conflict of a contentious election.

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But was there anything good to remember? Some of our family members contracted Covid-19 yet sustained mild symptoms and rapid recovery. Thousands of people weren’t so fortunate. I recall a pantry stocked full of abundant food supplies, ever mindful of many who went hungry because of limited funds to feed their families. With multiple reasons for caution, I worship in a different way. Inspiring spiritual messages from social media or television have replaced attendance within church walls. Hopefully, the pandemic has caused others to take advantage of alternate means to worship God if unable to visit with local congregations.

And how does all this relate to my blog title of Food from the Garden? We live within city limits on a rather large lot where we attempt to grow a few fruits and vegetables. Although we are poor farmers by most standards, a few plants survive. Kale and mustard greens, highly nutritious foods, seem to thrive in our poor soil. Whether a city dweller or otherwise, in the new year, try your hand a placing seeds or plants in flower beds or pots if you lack space for a small garden. As shoots of varied greens grow several inches, break off a few tender leaves for a salad or to cook. Check a few days later for more fresh shoots. They will produce throughout the summer.

From time to time, other foods do well, especially strawberries. They make nice borders or ground covers in sunny areas. The list of fresh fruits and vegetable to grow in unusual places is limitless.

But new beginnings are about more than food. Assess your personal situation for a healthier happier new year.

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  • If you lost loved ones this past year, think of ways you can honor their memory. What did they cherish that can bring fond recollections? Maybe a sunset/sunrise, smelling the scent of special flowers, preparing or enjoying a special food, and endless opportunities and activities can bring pleasant thoughts for which you can be grateful they were a part of your life. Be positive instead of sad or negative.
  • Evaluate your own health. If you haven’t contracted Covid-19, consider ways you may help keep it at bay. Take the vaccine, eat healthier foods, lose weight appropriately (yes, weight is a major factor in the disease), and many other ways to get or stay healthier.
  • Keep a positive attitude. That’s hard when you have lost a job (I know), but look around to help others, even with an encouraging word. Focus on the future, and always consider those things for which you can be thankful.
  • Get to know the God who loves you and cares about your well-being. Talk to Him and contemplate what He may want you to learn from this experience. Seek to rely on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Don’t expect a revelation overnight. That may or may not happen but, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” Proverbs 3:5-6.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, but God reassures us by His words in Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”

January 1, 2021 begins a new year. With divine help, make a good start and maintain hope whatever the year brings.           

A happy new year to all and God bless!

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Sweet potatoes, a traditional fall favorite, are delicious year-round. This versatile autumn vegetable is a mainstay for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, especially in the southern United States. While its history extends back 5,000 years to warm climates, it is recognized and grown throughout most of the world. It’s believed to have originated along the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and the mouth of the Orinoco River in Venezuela.

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Sweet potatoes are not the same as yams or white potatoes. Sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family, and its flowers look similar. True yams, related to the lily family, are starchy, dry tubers grown in Africa. Their bark-like skin is black or brown with white, purple, or reddish flesh. Grocery stores often identify sweet potatoes with deep orange flesh and copper skin (those we most commonly eat) as yams, but they are not.

Unlike sweet potatoes, white or Irish potatoes are members of the nightshade family (eggplant, tomato, capsicum, petunia). They are indigenous to the Andes region of South America and date back to 7,000 to 10,000 BC. The first known potato crop in North America was grown in Londonderry, New Hampshire in 1719, and the potatoes were known as Irish potatoes because the plants were from Ireland.

Sweet potatoes start mostly from cuttings of small pieces of tuber from the sweet potato known as slips. A single potato can produce fifteen or more slips. Plants produce long stems, five to 20 inches, that grow along the ground. This vegetable grows best in temperatures with abundant sunshine and warm nights.

            China leads in the harvest of sweet potatoes, but it will remain popular in the deep south of the US. Traditionally, sweet potatoes in the Southern US are cured to improve storage, flavor, and nutritional value. Potatoes are dug from the ground and left in the field for two to three hours and then stored in relative high humidity at temperatures of 35 to 90o F. for five to fourteen days. Properly cured and stored, sweet potatoes will keep for a year at temperatures of 55o to 60o F. Storing at refrigerated temperatures or below 50o F. will injure the root.

            Sweet potatoes are considered one of the vegetables highest in nutritional content. They are high in complex carbohydrates (starches) and a great source of dietary fiber and vitamin A (beta carotene, carotenoid). Sweet potatoes with darker orange flesh have a higher nutritional value than those with lighter color.

            Sweet potatoes can be cooked in a variety of ways. A great way to retain nutrients and enjoy eating is by baking. As they bake, the high starch level in the potatoes tends to caramelize. Not only are they great to eat straight from the oven, but they can also be refrigerated or frozen and used later in preparing other recipes. To bake these simple tasty vegetables, wash potatoes, spray with cooking spray and rub into the outer skin.  Place on a large baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Space potatoes so they do not overlap or pile on top of each other. Bake at 325o F. in a preheated oven for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on size of potatoes. Make sure they are barely soft when squeezed lightly. Overcooking will cause potatoes to dry out and lose flavor. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat later. While sweet potatoes have a higher calorie count than many vegetables, and I choose to eat them plain, many prefer to slit the potato down the center and add brown sugar and butter.

While fall and winter holidays find sweet potato casseroles as a must for dinners, their goodness extends year-round. Below is a sweet potato bread recipe I acquired from my sister-in-law. This is just one more way to enjoy this healthful and delectable vegetable.

SWEET POTATO BREAD

3 1/3                cups sifted all-purpose flour

1                      teaspoon cinnamon

2 2/3                cups sugar

2/3                   cup vegetable oil

4                      eggs

1 ½                  cups sweet potatoes, mashed

2/3                   cup water

2                      cups raisins

2                      cups pecans, chopped

Combine flour and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, oil, and sweet potatoes. Beat in 1 egg at a time. Dredge raisins and nuts in 1/3 cup flour. Add water and flour alternately to potato mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Spray loaf pans with cooking spray. Fill half full of mixture. Bake at 325o F. for 1 hour or until bread pulls away from side of pan.

Note: I cut the raisins and nuts to one cup each. It’s your choice.

Pumpkins are a favorite for indoor and outdoor decorating in the fall. My daughter often saves those in her fall décor for me to salvage and use in many savory dishes. While pumpkins add a festive touch at Halloween and throughout the fall, some of us think more about eating them.

Pumpkins are a member of the winter squash family. Their name evolved from the Ancient Greek word pepon meaning melon. After a few derivations, the English colonies called them pumpkins. Most are deep yellow or orange although recent varieties may range from white to dark green. They are one of the oldest known domesticated plants dating back as early as 7,500 to 5,000 BC. While pumpkins are grown almost worldwide, they are native to northeastern Mexico and the southern United States. Today, Illinois produces about 95 percent of the annual US crop with Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California also top pumpkin-producing states.

Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients. Although 92 percent water, they are great sources of fiber and vitamin A. They also contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are thought to help prevent cataracts.

When I don’t receive these colorful decorations from my daughter, I find large selections at cheap, cheap prices after Halloween. Pumpkin can readily be cooked and frozen for many dishes. When they are long gone on the market, pull a package from the freezer and use in many tasty recipes.

Don’t be intimidated by cooking this large vegetable. Wash the outside of the pumpkin thoroughly. We don’t know how many hands and other things have touched it. For best results, follow these guidelines.

  • Preheat oven to 350oF.
  • Place pumpkin, stem end up, on a steady flat surface.
  • With a sharp kitchen knife, cut pumpkin down from the stem all around.
  • Divide pumpkin into halves and scoop out seeds and pulp. Seeds can be saved for toasting.
  • When cleaned, rub inside and cut surfaces lightly with olive oil.
  • Place pieces face down on a roasting pan. Add about ½ to 1 inch of water to the pan to prevent drying.
  • Bake for about 90 minutes or until flesh is tender when pricked with a fork.
  • Remove from oven and cool.
  • Scrape pulp into a bowl. Use a stick blender or regular blender to make flesh smooth and free of lumps.
  • Refrigerate and allow to drain in the container for about two hours. Because of its high-water content, baked food products may have better quality if thoroughly drained. After using the amount desired for your cooking spree, freeze any remaining pumpkin within a few days.
  • Use fresh pumpkin in the same proportion as canned. One 15-ounce purchased can is equivalent to about 1 ¾ cup.

Thanksgiving is noted for its pumpkin pie. Compared to the competition of pecan pie and other calorie laden desserts, it is much lower in calories. We prefer pumpkin pie with such additions as almonds, whipped cream, or other ingredients that add calories. Many, like my daughter, prefer it plain, which makes it much lower in calories than most any holiday dessert .

We enjoy baked pumpkin pie, but the family favorite is my pumpkin bread. I bake loaves and freeze them for future use. However, should we run low, we have a backup of frozen to make more. Below is the recipe.

PUMPKIN BREAD

1 ½                  cup brown sugar

1 ½                  cup white sugar

1                      cup vegetable oil

¾                     cup orange juice

4                      eggs

2                      cups canned or fresh pumpkin

3 ½                  cups all-purpose flour

2                      teaspoons soda

1 ½                  teaspoons salt

1                      teaspoon nutmeg

1                      teaspoon cinnamon

1                      cup raisins

1                      cup pecans, chopped

Combine all dry ingredients. Mix oil and sugars thoroughly, add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add pumpkin. Beginning with dry ingredients, add alternately with orange juice to pumpkin mixture. Fold in raisins and pecans. Spray loaf pans with cooking spray and fill half full of mixture. Bake at 350o F. for 45 minutes or until done.

Hint: Measure several batches of dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, spices) and place each in a Ziploc or plastic sandwich bag. Close tightly, label, and date. I do this even days or weeks before I plan to bake. Saves so much time when collecting and combining ingredients.

If you haven’t already, try cooking a fresh pumpkin this fall. It’s such a versatile vegetable to include in many recipes, and it’s great heated plain with a little butter and brown sugar or sorghum molasses added. Yummy!

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