Diet

Whole Foods Spotlight – Asparagus

 

Springtime is the perfect time to enjoy thin, tender, flavorful stalks of asparagus! This vegetable has long been consumed and valued for its nutritional properties. An Egyptian frieze dating at around 3000 BC pictures asparagus as an offering and it’s name comes from a Persian word meaning stalk or shoot. During Roman times, Emperor Augustus coined the phrase “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action, as the vegetable is best when lightly and quickly steamed, broiled or sauteed. The thickness of the stem indicates the age of the plant and newer, slender stalks are the most tender. The stalks of older plants can be woody but can be peeled or easily snapped off.

While we typically think of asparagus as green, there are white and purple varieties of the vegetable as well. Purple asparagus grows naturally and has a fruitier flavor that makes the purple variety a great choice for eating raw. White asparagus has no chlorophyll to give it its green color as it’s grown underground or under plastic domes, completely shaded. Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally balanced vegetables. It’s low in calories and sodium, has no cholesterol and is a great source of fiber. It’s also loaded with minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc as well as vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B9 (folate), C, E and K.

The abundance of B vitamins, including folate, helps to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine, produced by the blood when amino acids break down. A deficiency of B vitamins will elevate these homocysteine levels leading to ailments such as damaged blood vessels, venous thrombosis which is the clotting of blood in the veins and other cardiac disorders. Folate is also linked to preventing neural health disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s also crucial for a developing fetus and women who are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant are strongly encouraged to increase their intake of folate.

Asparagus supports kidney health as well. A known diuretic, it helps to flush out excess salt and fluids from the body and helps to prevent toxins from building up in the kidneys and the formation of kidney stones. However, if you have uric acid kidney stones, your physician may tell you to avoid the vegetable to keep your urine from getting too acidic and worsening your condition. If you’ve ever noticed that eating a lot of asparagus causes urine to smell strong, this is because it’s the only food to contain a chemical called asparagusic acid. During digestion, this acid breaks down into compounds which contain sulfur which leads to the strong scent that everyone produces but only a small percentage of people can smell.

In addition, the high fiber content of asparagus and it’s prebiotic nature which acts as a food source for good gut bacteria makes it a fantastic choice for good digestive health. It also helps to support the immune system, provides protection for the thyroid gland and has anti-inflammatory benefits as well. All great reasons to pick up a bundle the next time you are at the farmer’s market or grocery store!

 

Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes

Asparagus Egg and Bacon Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Grilled Sriracha Meatball Skewers with Coconut Rice and Asparagus

Whole Foods Spotlight: Sweet Peas

How many times did you hear, “Eat your peas!” when you were growing up? That piece of parental wisdom is definitely one to follow because sweet peas are tiny little powerhouses of nutrition. Today we share some reasons why you should put another spoonful of peas on your plate.

Packed with anti-oxidants including flavenoids, carotenoids, phenolic acid and polyphenols, peas provide protection to the immune system and protection against the effects of aging. Pisumsaponins and pisomosides, primarily found in peas, are two anti-inflammatory phytonutrients providing protection against heart disease. Also at work to keep the heart healthy? Generous levels of vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and folate which lower homocysteine levels linked to a risk factor for heart disease.

While peas are low in fat, they are jam packed with fiber and only have 100 calories per cup making them a great choice for weight management. They contain a phytonutrient called coumestrol which has been linked to stomach cancer prevention. The high fiber content helps stave off constipation and keep the bowels running smoothly.

For optimum bone health and osteoporosis prevention, getting enough Vitamin K and B is key. Once cup of peas contains over 40% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin K.

Peas are one of the best plants you can have in the garden to maintain healthy soil. The plant works with bacteria in the soil to replenish nitrogen levels. The plant easily breaks down into the soil after a crop has been harvested. They are also able to grow with minimal water, saving that valuable resource as well.

Soon after harvesting, much of their sugar content rapidly converts to starch so it’s best to consume them as soon as possible after they are picked. They can be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days, which helps to keep the sugars from turning to starch. If you are looking to freeze them for later use, blanch them for 1 to 2 minutes prior to putting them in the freezer where they can last from 6 months to a year.

Essential Vitamin List

We all want to feel and look our best, have lots of energy and keep our bodies healthy. Making sure we are getting the right amounts of essential vitamins is key to all of that! Today we’ve put together a list of the essential vitamins your body needs, what they do for your health and great sources to incorporate more into your diet!

A

What doesn’t Vitamin A do? This powerhouse is in charge of general growth and development. It’s crucial for eye health, teeth, skin and helps to boost the immune system and cuts the risk of heart disease.

You know you are getting a dose of A when you are eating foods with an orange hue, caused by the carotene pigment. Carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe are all packed with Vitamin A.

The recommended daily dosage is 2,300 IU. Be advised that it can be toxic in large doses so stick with the recommended amount.

B VITAMINS

The eight B vitamins include B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin), B12 and Folic acid. These are responsible for energy production, maintaining metabolism, muscle tone, iron absorption, immune function and memory.

These nutrients can be found in whole foods including potatoes, bananas, lentils, peppers, beans, whole grains, yeast and molasses. Recommended daily allowance is as follows. . .

  • B1: 2-10 mg/day
  • B2: 5-10mg/day
  • B3: 15-30mg/day
  • B5: 1-15mgs
  • B6: 6-12mg/day
  • B7 : 100-300 mcgs
  • B12: 12-100 mcg
  • Folic acid: 200-400 mcg/day

C

Known for boosting the immune system, Vitamin C is also hard at work giving skin elasticity, strengthening blood vessels, assisting in iron absorption, helping wounds heal faster and preventing heart disease.

Oranges, guava, bell peppers, kiwi, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussel sprouts and cantaloupe are all great sources for C. A single orange covers your recommended daily dosage, 75 mg.

D

Here’s one of the essential vitamins you may want to strongly consider supplementing. While milk, eggs, orange juice, fish and mushrooms provide Vitamin D, the amounts are not enough. The recommended daily dosage is 1,000 to 2,000 IU.

The best source of Vitamin D is spending time in the sun. However, with rising skin cancer rates we have to balance how much time we spend in the sun without sunscreen with our need for Vitamin D. It’s necessary for strong, healthy bones and optimum muscle function. It’s believed that it can reduce the risk of breast cancer by as much as 50 percent!

E

Many cells of our body use vitamin E to carry out important functions. It gives a boost to the immune system, widen blood vessels, prevents clots and offers protection against free radicals.

Almonds are absolutely packed with Vitamin E and other nuts like peanuts and hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are also good sources. For adults, the recommended daily allowance is 15 mg or 22.4 IU.

K

Blood coagulation, the process by which blood clots is dependent upon K. Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli and brussel sprouts are the best natural sources.

The recommended daily doses differ for men and women at 120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women. Research is finding that vitamin K has been shown to help improve insulin resistance in older men.  

#TBT – Dill – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. Today we focus on the wonders of dill!

These days, dill is known primarily as a pickling herb and though it is common in many gardens, it’s not widely used for medicinal properties. However, since ancient times and still today it’s been used by herbalists as a digestive aid to ease gas, infant colic, to induce sleep and treat kidney problems.

In the ancient Egyptian Ebers papyrus from around 1500 BCE, lists dill as an ingredient for a painkiller mixture. The Greeks are said to have used fronds of dill to cover their eyes to induce sleep and even it’s name is derived from a Norse word “dylla” which means “to lull” or soothe. Modern German studies have shown the herb to be an effective treatment against intestinal bacteria.

The seeds of the plant contain an oil which has antibacterial properties which help destroy the intestinal bacteria that lead to ulcers and other intestinal issues. The herb contains stimulating essential oils that activate digestive juices and is helpful in relieving constipation. It’s also very effective at combating halitosis and in India, the seeds are often chewed to treat bad breath.

It has also been commonly used throughout history by nursing mothers to increase milk production and deter colic in newborns. The essential oils of the herb can also help with the stimulation of hormones helping to keep menstrual cycles regular. The plant is also a good source of calcium, helping to reduce bone loss in postmenopausal women.

In addition to all of the above, dill is also a good source of fiber, manganese, magnesium and iron.

To store fresh dill, it’s a good idea to keep it wrapped in a damp towel or stems in a glass of water in the refrigerator. It is a fragile herb and therefore will only keep for a couple of days. You can also freeze it, whole or chopped in an airtight baggie or container. Dill seeds, if stored in a sealed container and kept in a cool, dry place, will stay fresh for about six months.

Cucumber Dill Greek Yogurt Salad

Creamy Cauliflower Dill Soup

Pickled Dill Green Beans

Garden Planning – Part One – Early Spring Crops

Have you been thinking about growing some of your own food? While it’s a bit too early in most of the country to really start digging in the dirt, this is the perfect time to do a little garden planning! Whether the prospect seems a little overwhelming or you are just hoping to keep the process as simple and productive as possible, over the next few weeks we’ll be offering some suggestions for you of the easiest items to grow in a home garden. Today we’re focusing on those crops that can be planted in these early days before true spring arrives.

Lettuces – For a new gardener, starting plants from seed can be a difficult and intimidating prospect. Lettuces are a great option as they can be directly sown into the soil. A few weeks after planting in the garden, you will want to go over the area and thin out the seedlings a bit. Since it’s a cool weather plant they can be sown in early spring or fall and are tolerant of a little bit of frost. If temperatures dip below 45 degrees or there’s snow in the forecast, covering the plants with plastic or a sheet should help to protect them. To keep a continuous supply, replant every two to three weeks.

Potatoes – It depends upon what zone you live in and soil temperatures but traditionally, in many parts of the United States, potatoes are planted in the garden around St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of days before you plant them, you’ll want to quarter the seed potatoes and store them in a warm dark place, allowing them to toughen up and dry out a little. In a typical garden, you’ll want to plant them about 2 inches deep and 8 inches apart and mulch them with straw. However, if space is limited, you can always try bucket planting.

Peas – Sweet, delicious peas are a favorite in the home garden as they are relatively easy to grow and produce well. The seeds are small and should be planted shallowly, no more than a ½ inch deep. This allows them to germinate and sprout quickly, usually in about a week. Sow the seeds about 2.5 inches apart and as the plants grow, you will want to install some sort of trellis for them to climb.
Check back with us next week for more ideas for your spring garden!

#TBT – Thyme – History and Benefits

Spices, herbs, tinctures and essential oils have been used for millennia to season our food, heal our bodies and boost our spirits. In our Throwback Thursday (#TBT) series, we at re:iimmune will take you back in history to learn how these gifts from Mother Nature have been used. We’ll focus on their use through the ages and beneficial purposes in regard to nutrition, natural health and household care. This week the focus is on the powerful protector and palate pleaser: thyme!

Thyme, the most common variety being Thymus vulgaris, is an evergreen herb with a fragrance Rudyard Kipling described as being, “like dawn in paradise.” There are a couple of possible origins for the name. It may be derived from the Greek thumos and/or the Latin fumus, which both mean “smoke” or the Greek word thumos can also signify courage. The Greeks burnt the herb as incense in their temples believing it a source of courage. Later, during the Middle Ages, ladies would give knights and warriors gifts embroidered with a bee hovering over a spray of thyme as a symbol of protection. Danish and German folklore listed wild thyme patches as a place favorable to find fairies.

Thyme does have some powerfully protective disinfecting and deodorizing properties. The disinfecting qualities of thymol, a primary component of the oil, has been useful in treating psoriasis, eczema and ringworm. It’s also useful in dental care, traditionally used to treat tooth decay, gingivitis, plaque and bad breath as it helps to kill germs. It can help keep those outdoor pests away too and treat the bites you may suffer from the little critters. For women, it’s been used to help improve progesterone production and relieve the symptoms of PMS and menopause. Thyme is also a powerful immune system booster, encouraging white blood cell formation and increasing resistance to germs and bacteria. This makes it a great herb to use in your defense during cold and flu season.

As for its culinary uses, it’s best known for flavoring meat dishes, soups and stews. In some parts of the Middle East it’s a vital ingredient for the condiment za’atar. Thyme is also a component of the bouquet garni and Herbes de Provence. It can be used fresh or dried and in its dried form it retains its flavour better than most other herbs.

DIY Lemon Thyme Upholstery and Carpet Deodorizer

Honey Roasted Beets with Balsamic and Thyme

Eczema Skin Salve DIY

Whole Foods Spotlight: Quinoa

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf

It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition! This week we encourage you to incorporate quinoa into your meal plan. . .

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) originated in the areas around Lake Titicaca in South America. Around 3,000 to 5,000 BC Pre-Columbian peoples domesticated the plant and used the grains as a staple food of their diet. The Incas called quinoa the “mother grain” and considered it a sacred food. Technically, the plant is not a cereal grass like wheat, oats or barley but is a broadleaf plant and a member of the same family as spinach and beets. Sometimes it is referred to as a “pseudocereal” which is used to describe foods that are not grasses but can be ground into a flour or boiled and consumed much like rice. The entire plant is edible and what ends up looking like a grain on our plates is actually the seed. Quinoa plants are actually really beautiful and put on purple or reddish flowers before going to seed.

Those little seeds are packed with nutritional benefits! It is one of the most protein-rich plant sources and unlike cereal grasses it’s gluten free. It is considered a complete protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids, including a high amount of lysine which is essential for tissue growth and repair. It’s a great source of fiber, containing nearly twice as much as those traditional grains and it’s also packed with magnesium, manganese and riboflavin. Quinoa is a great source of energy, keeps you fuller longer and yet is low in calories. This is a food that really earns it’s “superfood” title!

Quinoa comes in many varieties and can be red, cream, pink, orange purple and even black in color. It cooks up quickly and has a somewhat nutty flavor. Because the outer coating of the seeds contains saponins which can give a bitter taste, it’s a good idea to rinse the seeds in a fine meshed strainer and rub them together under cold water prior to cooking. It should be stored in an airtight container and will last longer if kept in the refrigerator, with a shelf life of about 3 to 6 months.

You can use quinoa in a variety of ways, and can be a fantastic substitute for rice, pastas and couscous if you are watching your carbohydrates. We’ve included some links below to yummy recipes to help you add more of this super delicious superfood into your meal planning.

Cinnamon Maple Breakfast Quinoa

Quinoa Enchilada Casserole

Garlic Butter Shrimp, Quinoa and Asparagus

Moroccan Chickpea Quinoa Power Salad

Making a Healthy Smoothie

A well made smoothie is a delicious, simple and quick way to get in servings of fruits, veggies and protein. They are a favorite “on-the-go” breakfast for a lot of folks and can help keep you away from donut shops and drive throughs where you may be tempted to load up on empty carbohydrates. A well concocted smoothie made with natural, nutrient dense ingredients are a great source of vitamins and fats for complete nutrition. Dietary fat assists the body in absorbing vitamins and nutrients.

However, there are some things you could be doing that are limiting or working against nutritional benefits. So today we’ve got some do’s and don’ts when it comes to concocting a truly healthy smoothie.

What to avoid using in a smoothie

  • Store bought fruit juices which are typically laden with sugars and sometimes even high fructose corn syrup
  • Ice cream and sherbert
  • Chocolate syrups and powders
  • Milk that comes from cows treated with hormones and antibiotics
  • Commercial peanut butter (avoid ones with additional sweeteners and hydrogenated oils

What to choose when making a smoothie

  • Fresh and frozen fruit
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Yogurt (organic, Greek, homemade)
  • Fresh fruit and veggie juices either extracted from a juicer or squeezed
  • Almond and coconut milk or organic cow’s milk
  • Fermented beverages like kefir and kombucha
  • Local honey, pure maple syrup
  • Raw nuts and nut butters
  • Hemp seeds and/or protein, chia and flax seeds
  • Cacao, aloe vera, spirulina
  • Herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne, mint, etc.

Don’t forget the greens! Smoothies are a great way to reap the nutritional rewards of greens. Spinach, kale, collard greens, parsley, dandelion greens and watercress are all great choices and pair really well with fruits like apples, pears, bananas, mangoes and avocados. For those of you who really struggle getting those greens into your diet, this is the perfect option!

We’ve gathered up some links to several smoothie recipes to give you some inspiration. . .

Strawberry Spinach Green Smoothie

Kale Berry  with Almonds

Green Ginger Apple

Peach Mango Smoothie

Banana Kiwi Chia Seed 

Iodine Deficiency

The World Health Organization (WHO) regards iodine deficiency as the most prevalent yet easily preventable cause of impaired cognitive development of children around the world. In fact, they report that this deficiency affects 72% of the world’s population. Iodine is an essential component of thyroid hormones which play a vital role in the development of most organs but especially the brain. Inadequate intake of this trace mineral can lead to disorders such as hypothyroidism, goiter, decreased fertility rate, increased infant mortality and increased cholesterol levels.

Iodine also has the following benefits

  • Aids in the removal of heavy metals and  toxic chemicals in the system
  • Boosts immunity
  • Stimulates the activity of antioxidants in the body
  • Aids in shiny hair and healthy skin
  • Prevents enlarged thyroid gland
  • Controls metabolic rate
  • Helps to maintain energy levels

The recommended daily intake for children ages 1- 8 is 90mcg. For kids 9-13: 120 mcg daily, 14 years and older: 150 mcg daily. Pregnant women are advised to have 290 mcg daily. Iodine does not occur naturally in specific foods like calcium, iron or vitamins do. Instead, it’s present in the soil and then ingested through foods grown on that soil. Seafood and sea vegetables are also a good source. Switzerland was the first country to add iodine to table salt in the 1920’s in an attempt to combat deficiency.

There are plenty of iodine rich food sources to add into your diet, including. . .

  • Seaweed, whole or 1 sheet can contain 11% to 1,989% of recommended daily intake! Nowhere is it as highly concentrated as in seaweeds. Kelp and bladderwrack have especially high levels. In Japan, consumption of iodine is 25% higher than compared to American intake due to a diet rich in seaweed. Studies are even being done that correlate breast cancer rates between the two countries to iodine intake.
  • Cod, 3 oz = 66%
  • Cranberries, 1oz = 60%
  • Plain yogurt, 1 cup = 50%
  • Shrimp, 3oz = 23%
  • Egg, 1 large = 16%
  • Dried Prunes, 5 pieces = 9%

Whole Foods Spotlight: Collard Greens

 

 

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well” – Virginia Woolf

It is in this spirit that we present re:iimmune’s new blog series “Whole Foods Spotlight” where we will focus in on a specific whole food, its nutritional benefits and provide you with a few links to some tasty recipes that may inspire you to add more of that particular food into your diet. After all, good health begins with good nutrition! Bone health booster, collard greens is our focus this week!

collards

Collard greens are a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale. This family of veggies is known for their cholesterol-lowering abilities and collard greens are the king of the family when it comes to it’s impressive means of binding to bile acids (which are made of cholesterol) in the digestive tract, making it easier for them to be excreted from the body. They are much more effective at this when cooked than when ingested raw.

Collard greens are also a rich source of vitamin K, beneficial for bone health as it helps improve calcium absorption. Which is great because collard greens are also loaded with calcium! Two cups contain over 450 mg of calcium, which is almost 90% of daily recommended intake. They are also high in folate which is one of the B vitamins necessary for red and white blood cell formation in bone marrow. It also assists in converting carbohydrates into energy and producing DNA, so it’s doubly important to increase folate intake during pregnancy, infancy and adolescence, all periods of rapid growth. In addition, collard greens are loaded with choline which assists in good restful sleep, muscle movement and memory. Collard greens also contain thiamin, niacin, phosphorus and potassium.

When purchasing collard greens, you want to look for firm, unwilted, vivid green leaves. Smaller leaves mean tenderness and milder flavor. Be sure to store them in the refrigerator to prevent wilting and bitterness and to minimize loss of nutrients. Collard greens are also relatively easy to grow. Planted in spring and fall, gardeners typically prefer fall plantings as the frost brings out sweetness in the leaves. They need fertile, well drained soil and at least 4 to 5 hours of full sun to bring out their flavor.

Black Eyed Pea Soup with Collard Greens and Sausage

Sweet Potato and Collard Green Frittata

Chicken and Collards Pilau