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Archive for the ‘HEALTHY EATING’ Category

Image result for pixabay clip art for cranberries

What is Thanksgiving turkey and dressing without cranberry sauce? This unique, brightly colored food is a must for most during the holiday season.

Now, just in time for Thanksgiving comes information from the Cranberry Institute about the many health benefits of this bright red addition to our holiday meal. Alas, cranberries aren’t just for urinary tract infections (UTI). In a paper titled “A Berry for Every Body,” the Institute confirms a number of positive effects on human health. They identify seven specific conditions:

  • Anti-bacterial benefits: Compounds found in cranberries may help stop bacteria which can irritate infections in several body organs by sticking to cells.
  • Heart health: On going research shows promise of a connection between consumption of cranberries and heart health. A 2016 study showed that cranberry juice may help improve blood flow and blood vessel function.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Studies in 2009 found that in animal models, consuming cranberries significantly lowered pro-inflammatory markers. This suggests a potential protective effect for specific body functions impaired by inflammation.
  • Urinary tract health: This ongoing controversy continues. For decades, researchers have battled whether cranberry juice can help prevent UTIs. According to The Cranberry Institute, cranberry products help reduce the incidence and recurrence of UTIs. Some studies indicate otherwise and suggest that cranberry juice may not treat UTIs or bladder infections.
  • Antioxidant activity: Studies indicate that antioxidant activity in cranberries protects against destruction of free radicals. This is significant in such disease conditions as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Glucose metabolism: A 2017 study showed that dried cranberries added to a high-fat meal lowered glucose response and inflammation.
  • Gut health: Gut microbiota is a newer area of concern in physical health. Recent research indicates that cranberries may affect the gut microbiota in positive ways.

Cranberries are good sources of fiber plus the vitamins C, E, and K and the minerals copper and manganese. They contain high amounts of some plant compounds and antioxidants. Less familiar to us than vitamins and minerals, these substances include myricetin, peonidin, ursolic acid, and A-type proanthocyanidins which have shown promise in prevention of stomach cancer.

While these tasty red berries may or may not be a cure-all for ailments, it is a healthful food to include at Thanksgiving or other times. Try this Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries that I discovered and slightly modified last week.

Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Cranberries

2             acorn squash

1             cup onion, chopped                                                   Step 1 QUINOA CRANBERRY

1             cup celery, chopped

1             cup quinoa, plain or flavored

2             cups vegetable or chicken broth

1             teaspoon rosemary

1             teaspoon thyme

1             teaspoon sage

½           teaspoon black pepper                          FINAL QUINOA (2)

½           cup pecans, chopped

½            cup crumbled feta cheese, optional

1-2         tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Prepare the acorn squash. Wash outside of squash and cut into vertical halves. Remove seeds and pulp. Place cut side up in a baking dish and cook until tender, about 30 minutes, in a 400o F. oven.

Heat oil in a skillet and add onion and celery. Cook until tender and yellowish. Add quinoa, cranberries, seasonings, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 18-20 minutes. Add pecans.

For larger acorn squash, cut halves vertically and spoon quinoa mixture onto each quarter. Sprinkle with feta cheese, if desired, and place under oven broiler unit until cheese begins to brown. This is such a filling dish a quarter should be enough for a serving. For vegetarians, use this tasty dish as a complete meal.

While this is a great fall dish when acorn squash and cranberries are plentiful, don’t forget the cranberry sauce to go with your turkey and dressing. It’s great from the can, either jellied or whole berry, or make your own from fresh berries. Most packages have a recipe.

COOKED CRANBERRIES

However you serve it, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day knowing that cranberries are nutritious and a delightful low-calorie addition.

 

 

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TRICK OR TREAT)

For many, Halloween is a fun day. Kids and adults dress up to pretend they are someone or something else. Baskets loaded with goodies―sugary sweet ones―highlight the evening for most children. It’s hard for a parent to explain to their three-year-old why they mustn’t eat all that sugar at once, especially before mealtime.

We could lament problems of too much sugar, but instead, let’s focus on alternatives. Changing times have made parents of trick or treaters more cautious about allowing their youngsters to accept homemade fares. But we can prepare healthy snacks for family and good friends. In close-knit communities, parents and children learn where to find safe treats and will look forward to your mouthwatering treasures.

For simple, healthy, and tasty treats, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Apricot Drops pack lots of nutrition that children and adults will love. And the real bonus? They are so easy to make. Even young children can help with parts of this preparation.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Apricot Drops

1/2                      cup margarine

1/2                      cup skim milk

1/2                      cup cocoa

1                          cup granulated sugar

1/3                       cup crunchy peanut butter 

1                           teaspoon  vanilla

3                           cups instant oats

40                        dried apricotsChocolate Peanut Butter Apricot Drops 1

 Place apricots in rows on a sheet of wax or parchment paper.  

Place margarine, milk, cocoa, sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla in a large microwave proof bowl or a two-quart measuring cup. Heat until margarine melts and sugar is dissolved, about two to three minutes. Stir mixture and add oats. Mix thoroughly. Drop cookie mixture onto apricots. 

Step 2

Let cool. Makes about 40 drops.

Serve plated or place in individual bags. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Apricot Drops

Halloween Drop Gifts

Keep a basket close by of varied healthy snacks for those who aren’t comfortable taking home-prepared foods. Let children choose from purchased individual treats such as:

  • Cereal bars
  • Miniature boxes of raisins
  • Individual packets of peanuts or other nuts (lightly salted if available)
  • Individually wrapped rice cakes
  • Selected packets of Nabs
  • Babybel or string cheese

Other great possibilities include fruit cups, small bottles of water, or other choices that come to mind.

Don’t forget about fruits. Who could resist these adorable little tangelo jack-o’- lanterns? Maybe fill a basket with these along with miniature bananas and small apples.

Jack o Lantern

There’s no reason for kids to miss out at your house. These interesting selections just may be the hit of the neighborhood. And remember how much healthier these little goblins will be as they grow into the next generation. Make this Halloween memorable. Scare away tricks of too much sugar with healthy treats. Yummy!

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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.

 

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As we push beyond the 40-year mark, we detect slight physical changes. Maybe eyesight isn’t as keen. We have difficulty keeping up with that two-year old grandchild, or even our teenager. What other changes draw our attention? Along with our bodies reminding us of creeping age, our brains no longer function as we would like. We notice subtle decreases in our ability to recall names of people or events. Maybe forgetting a friend’s name is far into the future, but for many, by the time 50 rolls around, remembering facts and faces could require more effort.

The 60s may send attacks of panic as we go from room-to-room and wonder why we are there. While memory losses occur with advancing years, many can be slowed and become less frequent. What can we do?

Someone recently asked me if any foods are directly related to health or disease conditions. Well, yes. Let’s start with memory (See “Part 1: Can Diet Affect Memory?” and “What’s On Your Mind?”).

An article published in Neurology on December 20, 2017 reported the effect of green leafy vegetables on the aging brain. Researchers found that one serving daily of green leafy vegetables helped slow cognitive decline―that’s thinking and remembering. For the approximately 1,000 participants over a period of almost five years, that lone serving was equivalent to being eleven years younger mentally compared to those who rarely or never ate their spinach or similar greens. However, eating greens does not guarantee slower brain aging, but it does suggest an association between the two.

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And what are the best choices? Spinach, kale, and collards seem to top the list. As a side note, if you have a yard, kale grows easily among flowers or shrubs. The curly type adds a nice touch to the landscape. Kale prefers a sunny location. Generally, plants die down during the hot summer season but revive in the fall to produce until frost. If you live in an apartment, try sowing seeds in planters or pots. You can enjoy this healthy food for salads or cooked as a vegetable serving. It’s great mixed with other types of greens or in many entrees.

Growing your own kale gives you the option of omitting pesticides and harmful chemicals. To harvest, clip or pinch stems close to the base of the plant. Within several days or a week, new leaves will produce enough for another harvest. While other green leafy vegetables are good, I find kale the easiest to grow. Before using wash thoroughly and remove any thick stems. Store in the refrigerator in a covered plastic container (not bag) for a few days. To leave in the refrigerator longer, place in a covered container and wait until ready to use before washing. This food is not only rich in antioxidants to help the brain, it is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.

See the source image

While green leafy vegetables aren’t the only foods to thwart aging brains, it is one easy way. Try adding to your diet, regardless of your age. It’s worSee the source imageth a try.

 

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News reports and advertising alert us to the connection between many types of foods and health. Most recognize that too much sodium (salt) may increase blood pressure. We know that obesity may make us more susceptible to many health conditions including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Certain types of fats have been linked to heart disease. We don’t hear as much about the effect of foods on our brains. Do certain diets make a difference? For the next few weeks, I will share current research on the impact of what we eat and memory.

As we age, every little slip in remembering someone’s name or misplacing our car keys may stir fear and panic. While a few blunders here and there may be no cause for worry about developing dementia, or worse, full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), memory loss is real. More than five million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a common form of dementia. What if certain foods or diets could make a difference? Would we pay attention? For several years, research has sought answers. We now know that the foods we eat can make a difference.

Dr. Lisa Moscone, author of Brain Food, compared brain imaging scans of healthy dementia-free 30- to 60-year-olds. One group ate the typical Western diet of high saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar. The other group followed a Mediterranean diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein such as fish or chicken. Good fats (mono- or poly unsaturated) like avocado and olive oil replaced saturated fats, and the diet limited red meats and added sugars. Scans at the beginning of the study showed that those who ate Western-style foods had more beta-amyloid deposits and less brain activity, both indicators of early development of dementia.

Follow-up studies two or more years later revealed increases in beta-amyloid deposits and reduced active energy levels in those who ate Western diets, regardless of other potential risk factors for AD, i.e. sex, age, and a specific gene linked to AD. Changes in brain scan images showed up in areas of the brain most likely to be affected by AD.

What does this study tell us? Diet does make a difference. What is more important, to modify our diet in younger years with the potential of improved memory in later years or eat what we want, a Western diet, and wonder why we are so forgetful? Is our priority to eat whatever we want with no regard for the future or had we rather make a few changes to improve our odds of reaching old age with our brains mentally intact? Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating condition. Even if we aren’t concerned about our future mental health, is it fair to our potential caregivers―children, spouses or friends―not to take care of ourselves? Diet may not prevent all memory loss, but it can make a difference for us and our families.

 

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June is National Dairy Month. In recent years, cow’s milk has taken a bad rap for several reasons. A few individuals have food sensitivities and more readily tolerate milk from other animal sources. Some people prefer omitting any meat or meat-related products and opt for plant-based forms of milk such as coconut, soy, or almond. These milks lack many of the nutritional values of animal milk and often have added sugars and other substances. (See my blog, “Milk―It’s Your Choice”)

Woman Drinking Milk

Cow’s milk, which most of us drink, is available in four forms: Whole milk has 3.5 percent fat. In an eight-ounce serving, it has 8 grams of fat and 150 calories. Reduced fat milk has 2 percent fat plus 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per eight ounces. Low fat milk contains one percent fat with 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per eight-ounce serving. Fat free (skim) milk has no fat and provides 80 calories per eight-ounce serving.

All forms of cow’s milk contain major nutrients but vary in fat content. Each eight-ounce serving of milk provides eight grams of protein. Milk is a significant source of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A and D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and others.

Vitamins A and D are found only in the cream (fat) of whole milk. All other cow’s milk must be fortified with 400 I. U. per quart for vitamin D and 2,000 I. U. per quart for vitamin A. Even whole milk with less than the required amount must be fortified to these standards.

A student once asked, “Is skim milk made from whole milk that has been watered down?”  While I stifled a smile, the student was serious. In recent years, I have learned she is not the only one with that misconception. How would you have answered her question?

Milk Terms to Know:

  • Organic: Organic milk is produced from cows without any exposed to hormones or antibiotics. Today, very little milk has these two substances. More recently, guidelines for organic milk require a certain amount of free-range time for cows.
  • Lactose-Free: Some individuals are sensitive to lactose. The lactose-free form is real cow’s milk with the natural sugar (lactose) broken down for easier digestion. Lactose-free milk has the same nutrients and standards of other forms of  milk.
  • Flavored: While chocolate is the best-known flavored milk, it is also available in other flavors and has the same nutritional qualities of unflavored milk. Lower fat choices are available, but most will have added sugar.
  • Raw: The raw form comes straight from the cow without any processing. Federal law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines. For health reasons, raw milk is not recommended.

Benefits of Milk:

A few studies have indicated adverse effects from drinking cow’s milk, but the benefits more than outweigh any harm. Milk provides nearly one-third of the daily requirement of calcium. It works conjointly with other nutrients, especially vitamin D, in the development of bones and teeth in children. While significant throughout the life cycle, it is particularly important in aging as a deterrent of osteoporosis and other bone conditions more common to those over age 50. The body also needs calcium and vitamin D for several other functions.

Milk is a major source of protein. The higher quality protein in milk may benefit weight management because it helps to maintain lean body mass. Muscle, as opposed to fat, assists in burning more calories. In addition, higher quality protein increases satiety, reduces hunger, and fits into appropriate weight-loss plans.

What can be more refreshing than a tall glass of cold milk? Well, for me, that may be a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Whatever your choice, milk is a healthy option in any eating plan. During National Dairy Month, enjoy more milk in your diet. It’s good for you.
Cows grazing on a green field.

 

 

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Who knew? May is National Egg Month, and I almost let it slip by. But don’t be deterred from celebrating. This versatile food is great all year.

The poor egg has been maligned for decades. In the 1970s, I taught a nutrition class in New Orleans to nursing students. My office, on one side of the river, required I traverse the old Huey P. Long bridge connecting to the other side. It was scary. The rickety bridge rattled and reaching the other side safely seemed dubious. It revved my adrenalin and blood pressure.

When my class discussed the role of LDL (low density lipoprotein), known to have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system, I would say to my students, “If I have a heart attack on my way to class, it isn’t the egg I had for breakfast. It was driving across that bridge.”

Stress remains a factor in heart disease, but eggs? Now some forty years later, my stand on eggs has been vindicated. For many years, researchers have known that cholesterol in the foods we eat has less effect on blood cholesterol levels than does the type of fats we eat. Individuals with diets high in saturated fat (those mostly from animal sources) are more likely to have increased cholesterol blood levels (LDL) than those who consume unsaturated fats (mostly from plant sources).

Many still argue that those who eat the yolk, which contains small amounts of cholesterol, should limit intake to three to four eggs per week. While an egg yolk has about 200 mg of cholesterol, the effects may be more positive than negative.

A nine-year Chinese study of nearly a half-million people compared the risk of heart attacks and strokes of those who consumed an average of a half to one egg per day with those who never ate eggs. Researchers concluded that eggs eaten in moderation had no effect on elevated risks for developing heart disease or stroke.

Naysayers pointed out that the study wasn’t a controlled experiment. They claimed results might not apply to other parts of the world such as the U. S. where westernized diets prevail, and most people are overweight. Other recent research suggests that eggs may block the production of LDL in the liver while at the same time boosting HDL, known as the good cholesterol. The Egg Nutrition Center is one source of more  nutrition information about the value of eggs in the diet. 

A study published in the May 7, 2018 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of a high-egg diet on the cardiovascular system of people who were pre-diabetic or had type 2 diabetes. Compared to a low-egg diet (less than two per week) the high-egg diet had no adverse effects on the heart. Both diets were weight-loss diets and results from the two diets were similar.

That’s not the only good news about eating moderate amounts of eggs. Besides its many nutrient benefits and its quality protein, studies find more health attributes for this wholesome food. Eggs are significant sources of choline and lutein (a xanthophyll carotenoid). These nutrients may influence cognitive functions. As the number of Americans over age 65 rapidly increases, so does the incidence of cognitive decline. Scientific evidence substantiates the role choline and lutein in brain and neurological development post conception, and it is believed that lutein may influence cognition across the lifespan.

I remain a proponent of eggs as part of a healthy diet. Unless advised otherwise by a qualified health professional, add eggs into your diet with the assurance they are unlikely to affect heart conditions in a healthy person. It just may keep your brain more healthy and active during the latter years of life. Most of us need all the help we can get.

                                                     

 

 

 

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