Tag - fiber

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 – Strawberries

 

While many folks today would list strawberries as their favorite fruit, this now beloved berry has gone through periods of history where it was practically shunned. Technically, it’s not truly a fruit since the seeds are on the outside surface. Botanically speaking it’s related to the rose.  We know that early peoples enjoyed strawberries as the seeds have been found at Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age sites. However, the fruit was not cultivated until the 14th century.

The strawberry is mentioned in early Roman writings, including Virgil who warned children to keep an eye out for snakes when picking the wild, low growing fruit. This caution toward the berry stuck and strawberries became associated with danger, with 12th century Saint Hildegard of Germany declaring them unfit for eating because snakes and toads and other slithery creatures could crawl on and among the fruit. Finally in the 14th century, the French put an end to its undeserved bad reputation and began cultivating the plant.  The first 1200 strawberry plants were put in the gardens of the Louvre on the command of King Charles V.

As European settlers arrived in Americas they discovered that native people had also cultivated a wild strawberry with much more success in size and flavor. In the 18th century, the American and Chilean varieties were crossed, resulting in the first of all cultivated strawberries known today Fragaria x ananassa. The word “strawberry” more than likely derives from the practice of growing the cultivated fruit upon straw and some Native Americans called them “wuttahimneash” which translates to “heart-seed berry”.

High in fiber, the strawberry helps to improve digestion, especially if you are suffering from constipation or irregular stools. They help to improve cardiovascular health as the ellagic acid and flavonoids provide antioxidant effects. Strawberries also help to lower LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol which leads to plaque build-up in the arteries and the potassium found in the berry helps to counteract the negative effects of sodium, regulating pressure and preventing high blood pressure. They are also wonderful for skin care as the salicylic acid exfoliates dead skin cells, brightening and softening the skin and tightening pores.

 

Strawberry Oatmeal Face Mask

 

Strawberry Salsa
Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad with Chicken

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

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

Whole Foods Spotlight – Brussel Sprouts

“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! This week we’ll remind you why you need to add more Brussel sprouts into your diet!

brussels_sprouts

Oh poor brussel sprouts! Hatred for them amongst most children is even worse than broccoli. However, as our taste buds develop and change many people come to more enjoy the taste of cruciferous vegetables. This is great for one’s health as this family of vegetables offer some excellent nutrition and protection against a host of issues.

As with other cabbage species, brussel sprouts are native to the Mediterranean region and first appeared in northern Europe during the fifth century. Later, in the thirteenth century, brussel sprouts began being cultivated near the city of Brussels in Belgium, where they derived their name.

Brussel sprouts are loaded with important phytonutrients for our health called glucosinolates which are chemical starting points for a range of cancer-protective substance. Specifically four of these glucosinolates found in brussel sprouts (glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin and gluconasturtiin) seem to provide a unique and important combination when it comes to cancer prevention. This along with the fact that their total glucosinolate content tops the charts among that found in mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, cauliflower or broccoli makes the brussel sprout a smart choice to add into one’s diet.

This vegetable is also high in fiber and acts an excellent weapon against constipation. A serving of six contains about 3g of fiber and supports the formation of soft stool, enabling a more comfortable bowel movement. In addition, brussel sprouts are loaded with folic acid, a b vitamin that keeps our blood healthy and prevents anemia. We cannot store folic acid in our bodies and that means we need daily intake. Just one brussel sprout provides enough folic acid for a whole day!

A study conducted by Heinz in 2008 concluded that brussel sprouts are the most hated vegetable in America and a similar poll in Great Britain revealed the same. We hope that knowing some of their powerful medicinal qualities and a few recipes to make them tastier will help encourage you to give them a try!

P.S. The very best way to unleash their powerful nutrients is through steaming. Ironically, it’s this cooking method that is one of the very reasons why people don’t seem to like them. If you want to get all the benefits through steamed brussel sprouts just be sure not to overdo it to the point where they get mushy. For those of you who just can’t handle that steamed taste, never fear, we’ve got links below that just might help you grow a little love for the brussel sprout!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Balsamic Reduction

Crispy Thai Brussels Sprouts

Beef and Brussels Sprouts Stew