Nutrition

Garden Planning – Companion Planting

 

It’s a wise idea for new gardeners to familiarize themselves with companion planting for best success in the home garden. Certain plants offer protection to other plants against pests and disease. Today we’ve picked three very easy to grow plants that offer protection to each other. At the end, we’ll give you a few more ideas of what to plant and what not to plant next to each other for a successful garden!

Green Beans – This is another plant whose seeds are directly sown into the ground. They are prolific producers that sprout quickly. Half runners are very popular because they are so tender but be advised that you’ll need to grow these alongside a trellis since they are a vining plant. Also, these beans have strings which have to be removed prior to eating. If you are looking for a simpler option, bush beans are the route to go. Beans really give back, helping to fix nitrogen levels in the soil, which makes them a great companion planting for another easy to grow option in the garden. . .

Radishes – Radishes need nitrogen to thrive, which means they will thrive if you have companion planting in mind and place them near the green beans. These fast growers will produce in as short a time span as 21 days, making them a great “quick reward with little effort” for those of us impatient to have something pop up quickly. You’ll want to provide constant moisture and stay on top of harvesting so that they are crisp and mild flavored. To determine when to harvest, simply push back a little garden soil to see if there’s a bulb and pick and taste a few. Not crazy about raw radishes? Try baking them in the oven to bring out a little sweetness. Radishes are a great companion planting for . . .

Cucumbers – Radishes are natural repellents of cucumber beetles! Other than that pest, cucumbers are super simple to grow. If you try sowing from seed, they will need to be started indoors about three weeks before going outside into the ground, after the last spring frost. They need well drained soil and ample sunlight. It’s a good idea to build a trellis for these plants to produce optimally.

Here are some other good companion plantings to keep in mind. . .

 

  • tomatoes with asparagus
  • eggplants with peppers
  • melons/squash with corn

 

And on the flip side of companion planting here are some combinations to avoid. . .

 

  • Keep the strawberries away from pest prone cabbage.
  • If you want both crops to grow hardy, keep the onions away from the beans and peas.
  • Fennel should just pretty much be planted far away from everything!

Check back next week as we’ll focus on the superstars of the summer garden!

Whole Foods Spotlight – Bananas

When talking about foods that are nutritional powerhouses, there are few better to wax poetic over than humble bananas. Not only does it come in its own packaging, making it ideal for busy folks on the run, inside that yellow peel is a treasure trove of nutrients and vitamins! Here are some of the top apPEELing (sorry, couldn’t resist) health benefits of eating  bananas. . .

 

  • Bananas are a significant source of potassium which plays a key role in cardiovascular health. Lack of potassium can also cause muscle cramping so if you are getting those charley horses in the middle of the night, it’s time to reach for a banana. You’ll be helping your bones as well since potassium plays a key role in retaining calcium in the body.

 

  • Tryptophan is also found in bananas. When consumed, tryptophan is converted into serotonin which elevates mood and relieves stress. It also helps to regulate sleep patterns, body temperature, memory and appetite.

 

  • For digestive health, bananas are a super hero of the fruit world. They are a natural antacid, giving relief from heartburn and acid reflux. Because they coat the lining of the stomach against acid, they are the only raw fruit recommended to people suffering from stomach ulcers. The pectin in bananas aids in digestion and removal of toxins and heavy metals from our system. They produce enzymes which assist in absorbing nutrients during digestion. They play the role of prebiotic, acting as a food source for friendly bacteria in the gut. A banana can also be a soother for two very opposite problems, soothing both constipation and diarrhea.

 

  • The high water content and levels of Vitamin A in bananas help to repair dry and damaged skin cells. By ingesting the fruit or using a banana face mask, you can help restore moisture to the skin and renew damaged cells. Many also swear by banana peels for treating acne and it’s also effective at neutralizing the itch from bug bites.

 

They are a perfect food all in their own cute yellow package but we’ve included a few tasty banana recipes below as well. Enjoy!

 

Brown Sugar Banana Overnight Oats

Banana Bread Scones

Dairy Free Banana Chocolate Ice Cream

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!

Eye Health and Nutrition

 

In regards to eye health, you have probably heard “Eat your carrots, they’re good for your eyes!” from mom several times throughout childhood. There are several foods that contain vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health. Protect your peepers by consuming more of the following. . .

Brightly colored Fruits and Vegetables – Yes, carrots are on the list of top foods for eye health. So are bell peppers, strawberries, pumpkin, corn and canteloupe and other yellow, orange and red fruit and veggies. Carotenoids are the compounds responsible for this bright coloring and help decrease the risk of many eye diseases. The Vitamin C found in many of these fruits and vegetables also lowers your risk of developing cataracts. Mom was right! Carrots and other foods which contain Vitamin A or retinol help your body to synthesize a pigment in your eyes that operates in low light conditions called rhodopsin. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness.

FishCold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which offer protection against dry eyes, macular degeneration and cataracts. Tuna, Salmon, anchovies and trout have high levels of a type of omega 3 called DHA, a fatty acid esential for the health of the retinas but one that our bodies don’t make efficiently. We need to replenish DHA with food rich in this nutrient.  Low levels of DHA are linked to dry eye syndrome.

Nuts – Pistachios, walnuts, almonds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and also offer healthy doses of vitamin E for eye health. Vitamin E helps protect membranes of cells throughout the body against free radicals, including parts of the eye. Cataracts may be formed due to oxidation in the lens of the eye and Vitamin E offers preventative help.

Leafy Greens – Spinach, kale, collard greens and seaweed are rich in luteins, nicknamed the “eye vitamin” as it is incredibly important for eye health. When we consume foods rich in lutein it is deposited in high quantities in the retina. It helps to fight free radical damage caused by exposure to sunlight, reduces eye fatigue and light sensitivity, protects against the development of cataracts. and halts the growth of cancerous cells. Lutein can also be found in those brightly colored fruits and veggies mentioned above!

Eggs – Another great source of both lutein and Vitamin A to protect against night blindness, dry eyes and general eye health and function.

Legumes – Kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils are good sources of zinc which assists the body in absorption of Vitamin A and reduce one’s risk of macular degeneration.

#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

Foods for a Healthy Liver

Earlier we talked about the functions of the liver and the important role it plays in keeping us well. We focused in on what not to do in order to keep it functioning optimally such as limiting alcohol intake and acetominophen consumption and exercising to maintain a healthy weight. Today we’ve got some suggestions of what one can consume to promote liver health!

Leafy Greens (spinach, swiss chard, kale, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce)

These foods should be a staple in any healthy diet. They supply us with good amounts of protein, calcium, iron and fiber and are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. They are one of the best sources for Vitamin K which triggers the production of the protein osteocalcin, essential for healthy bones. They are also low in calories, making them ideal for weight management. In regard to the liver, leafy greens act as protectants for the liver due to their ability to neutralize chemicals, pesticides and metals.

Turmeric

We’ve discussed turmeric and it’s many great properties on this blog before. This rhizome which is typically grated into a powder, typical to Indian cuisine, is gaining more and more attention here in the west and throughout the world for it’s many health benefits including protection against inflammation. Turmeric is a great friend to the liver in that it assists our bodies in the digestion of fats and stimulates the production of bile.

Fruits  – Grapefruit, Lemon and Avocados

Citrus fruits such as lemon and grapefruit are high in Vitamin C and antioxidant properties and aid in the digestion process. They also assist the liver in flushing out carcinogens and toxins.

Avocados produce a type of antioxidant, glutathione, which is required by the liver to filter out harmful materials.

Fermented Foods

Foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchee are loaded with good bacteria due to the fermentation process. They are known immunity boosters and also help the liver flush out heavy metals.

#TBT – Rose – 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. In honor of Valentine’s Day we are focusing on the rose!

Fossil evidence dates the rose as 35 million years old and there are around 150 species spread through the world. The Chinese were most likely the first culture to begin garden cultivation of roses, some 5,000 years ago. Throughout time the rose has come to symbolize romantic love and you are bound to love some of the surprising health benefits of this sweet smelling queen of flowers.

Dietary Benefits

Rose hips, the flowers which have swollen to seed are commonly used in tea and have been used throughout the ages to aid in relieving bladder infections, menstrual cramps and diarrhea. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, a natural antioxidant which can block some of the damage that can result from exposure to toxins and helps to support the immune system The flower petals are also edible and can be mixed into salads! The petals contain polyphenols which research shows help to prevent cardiovascular disease as well as osteoporosis.

Skin and Hair Health

Rosewater is a perfect choice for sensitive and irritated skin. Along with balancing out oily skin, softening, deep cleansing and toning the skin, rosewater also provides relief from irritation and itching. Those battling acne will want to reach for the rosewater as it contains antibacterial properties to dry up the acne, a natural antiseptic called phenyl ethanol and its a good moisturizer to boot! Rose essential oil is also useful in maintaining a healthy scalp and hair and many swear by it’s ability to prevent hair loss.

Aromatherapy

No wonder the rose has become such a symbol of romance and considered an aphrodisiac. The scent of rose essential oil is known to boost the libido and reduce symptoms of sexual dysfunction. The oil has also been used to treat depression, stress, anxiety and headaches.

Ready to reap the rewards of the rose? Here are some links you might want to check out. . .

Rose Petal Iced Tea

Rosehip Jam

Homemade Rosewater

Whole Foods Spotlight – Orange

“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! Today it’s all about the juicy, sweet orange!

The first wild ancestor of the sweet orange we are familiar with today probably evolved in Australia and New Guinea. These early citron fruits made it to the Asian continent and spread west toward Africa. Citrons have been found in Egyptian tomb paintings from 1000 BC.  These fruits were not juicy and people mainly ate the rind of the fruit and used it for perfumes. Very early on it was used in India as a treatment for scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency). However, these citrons are not the ancestors of the modern orange. Either Chinese or Indian food scientists bred the pomelo and mandarin together sometime around 314 BC and developed both the bitter orange and the more familiar to Western culture, sweet orange. The word orange is derived from “naranga”, the word for orange trees in India. As oranges spread their way across the world throughout the centuries they have been prized for their sweet, juiciness and many health benefits.

Immune Support and Digestive Health

High Vitamin C content means oranges are a fantastic choice to drive away nasty germs and bugs and preventing colds, flu and ear infections. Vitamin C is also aids in the prevention of ulcers and the high fiber content of oranges ensure a healthy colon. Fiber also helps to reduce constipation and diarrhea.

Vision Protection

Loaded with carotenoids, oranges are a great choice in preventing night blindness and macular degeneration.

Healthy Skin

Sweet Orange Oil has been touted for its ability to stimulate collagen production, easing inflammation and improving the flow of blood to the skin and clearing clogged pores.

Heart Health

Oranges contain hesperidin which has been shown to lower both high blood pressure and cholesterol in animal studies. Most of this phytonutrient can be found in the peel and inner white pulp of the orange so it’s benefits are lost when the fruit is processed into juice. Vitamin C also helps to prevent arteriosclerosis which is hardening of the arteries.

Hopefully reading this made you long for an orange as much as writing it did for me! I’m off to peel one now. Hope you enjoy the links below . . .

Sliced Fennel, Orange and Almond Salad

20 Orange Essential Oil Uses

Make Your Own Dried Orange Peel

Whole Foods Spotlight – Chickpeas

“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. . .including fiber rich chickpeas!

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans or ceci, were one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains of chickpeas dating 7,500 years ago have been found in the Middle East where they remain a staple of the region’s various cuisines and they are enjoyed around the rest of the world as well. In fact, it’s the world’s second most widely grown legume just behind the soybean. Today, they are only found in the wild in areas of Turkey and Syria and it was likely domesticated there around 11,000 years ago.

Considered both a vegetable and protein, chickpeas are a staple in most vegetarian diets and are a great source of minerals including magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. A 1 cup serving provides 270 calories, 4 grams of fat, 15 grams of protein and 13 grams of fiber. Fiber is one of many reasons to add this nutty legume to your diet. The average person needs about 21 to 38 grams of fiber a day and that serving of chickpeas meets about a third of your daily need. Fiber not only helps to keep you regular but chickpeas also contain soluble fiber which helps to lower bad cholesterol and thereby reduces hypertension and protects against heart disease.

You can find chickpeas dried, precooked/canned or precooked/frozen but many say that making them from scratch (in their dried form) leads to the best flavor and texture. If you do use the canned variety, be sure to rinse them thoroughly to remove excess sodium. If cooking the dried variety, be sure to soak them as you would any dried bean overnight prior to cooking them. This makes them more digestible, decreases cooking time and aids in nutrient absorption.

Need some recipe ideas to get you going? We’ve included links to a few recipes featuring the magnificent chickpea below!

Easy Chana Masala

Chickpea Avocado Feta Salad

Roasted Carrot and Garlic Hummus