Ugly Fruits and Vegetables – Are They Safe?

Grocery shoppers tend to avoid fruits and vegetables that have odd shapes or unappealing spots. As a result, many tons of edible food go uneaten and wasted.

Although it’s true that bacteria can cause blemishes on produce, that doesn’t necessarily mean that blemished produce is unsafe to eat. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are usually tasty and healthful. They provide the same—in some cases, more—nutrients as their more attractive cousins.

Several studies have shown some imperfect fruit and vegetables have higher amounts of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that give produce its color and flavor. Phytochemicals may also protect us from cancer and heart disease.

So go ahead and eat ugly produce! It usually costs less because of its appearance. The nutrients it gives you, though, are priceless to your health.

Source: Today’s Dietitian (www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/1216p10.shtml)

Autumn Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cups sliced apples
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 ounces Neufchatel cheese, cubed

Instructions:

  1. Prick squash skin 6–8 times. Microwave for 5 minutes.
  2. When the skin is cool enough to touch, cut off the top and bottom of the squash. Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Cut squash into cubes.
  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add onion. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add squash, apples, and chicken broth. Heat to boiling and then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 25 minutes until squash and apples are tender.
  5. Blend soup until smooth using a blender.
  6. Return soup to saucepan and add cheese. Cook and whisk until cheese is smooth.

Nutrient information per serving:

210 calories, 7 g total fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 440 mg sodium, 35 g total carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 6 g protein

Bowl of soup with vegetables, fruit, and milk

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu).

Why You Might Need More Potassium

Vegetables

If you read Nutrition Facts labels, you may have noticed they now list the potassium content of foods. So why is potassium a mineral we need to pay attention to?

For starters, potassium controls your heartbeat, builds muscle, and helps your body make proteins. Potassium can protect you from heart disease, stroke, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. If you get enough of it, you can lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of dying from all causes by 20%!

Potassium is in many common foods, such as bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, milk, yogurt, beans, and leafy greens. However, fewer than 2% of adults meet their daily recommended potassium requirement. Adults should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day.

For example, this is one potassium-rich meal that would fulfill 40% of that requirement:

1/2 cup Swiss chard480 mg
1 baked potato610 mg
3 ounces turkey breast249 mg
1 cup low-fat milk366 mg
1 cup fruit cocktail225 mg
Total1,930 mg

Please do not rush out to buy potassium pills. High-dose potassium supplements can disrupt heart rhythm. They are also dangerous for those who have undetected kidney disease. Enjoy your potassium by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables!

To find out more about potassium-rich foods, visit MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm)

Source:
Today’s Dietitian (www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/121112p50.shtml)

Yoga: Health Benefits Beyond the Mat

The purpose of yoga is to build strength, flexibility, and awareness. The muscle stretching in yoga can lessen arthritis pain, backache, and headaches. Yoga has many benefits for your heart and lungs as well. It lowers your blood pressure and slows your heart rate. Yoga may also help increase muscle strength, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve breathing and energy.

Yoga mat

Aside from the physical benefits, yoga can help manage stress. Yoga involves paying attention to your breath, which can improve mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness. It relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, and sharpens concentration.

More than 100 different types of yoga exist. There is a form of yoga for everyone! Your size or fitness level does not matter. Every yoga pose can be modified. Beginner classes are available in every style. If you’re new to yoga, practice these 12 basic yoga poses to get started at WebMD (www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-yoga-pose-basics).

Sources:
Harvard Health (www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-the-mat)
American Osteopathic Association (www.osteopathic.org/what-is-osteopathic-medicine/benefits-of-yoga)

Animals in the Kitchen

Owning a pet may be great for your mental health, but pets may also carry harmful germs through their fur, feces, and saliva. The risk of getting a foodborne illness from a pet is low for most people. However, young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems have an increased risk.

If you cannot keep pets entirely out of your kitchen, here are ways to guard the safety of your food:

  • Always wash your hands after touching your pet and before handling food.
  • Clean your pet’s paws after it plays outside or has been in the litter box before entering the kitchen.
  • Keep your pet off of counters and tables.
  • Don’t eat or drink while playing with animals.

We all love our pets, but it’s important to be aware of the risks that come with them.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/healthypets/health-benefits)

Peanut Butter Balls

Serving Size: 2 balls | Serves: 25

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) great northern beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

Instructions:

  1. Mash the beans with a fork in a bowl until smooth.
  2. Add honey and vanilla. Stir.
  3. Add peanut butter. Stir until blended.
  4. Stir in the oats.
  5. Wash hands. Use a tablespoon to scoop up some of the peanut butter mixture. Shape each spoonful of the mixture into a ball (makes 50 balls).
  6. Store leftover balls in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrient information per serving:
130 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 100mg sodium, 12g total carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

Let’s Talk Nuts

October 22nd is National Nut Day, so let’s talk nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, minerals, and heart-healthy fats. So healthy that the FDA approved this health claim: “Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Assorted nuts

The heart-healthy fats that make up as much as 80% of the nut are unsaturated fats, which include omega-3 fatty acids. These fats work to protect your heart by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Each type of nut has its own unique profile of nutrients. For example, one Brazil nut can meet 100% of your daily need for selenium, which can keep your mind and heart healthy. Eat a wide variety of nuts for the most benefit. Specific nutrition information about each variety can be found in the USDA article, Go Nuts! (www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/go-nuts).

One serving of nuts is 1.5 ounces of whole nuts (a small handful) or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Try these tips to add more nuts to your diet:

  • Choose nuts instead of your typical less-healthy crunchy snack.
  • Add nuts to yogurt, salads, or hot cereals for the perfect crunch.
  • Mix nuts into your favorite smoothie for a richer, creamier texture.
  • Put nut butter on your morning toast instead of butter or margarine.
  • Slivered almonds are a tasty addition to sautéed green beans.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635)
Harvard Health (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nuts-for-the-heart)

Any Movement Is Better Than No Movement!

Crunched for time? Any workout is better than no workout! It is recommended adults get at least 150 minutes of cardio training (i.e., walking, biking, swimming) a week and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities (i.e., weight training) to promote living a healthy lifestyle. Working out and getting the blood pumping has many health benefits—including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving sleep, enhancing mood, relieving stress—and it can be fun! At-home circuit workouts, biking, walking, gardening, jogging, and bodyweight exercises (strength-training exercises that use your own body weight to provide resistance against gravity) are some easy ways to incorporate extra movement into your busy day. To reach the goal of 150 minutes per week, spread out your workouts into 30 minutes a day and bring a family member or friend along too!

Visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/move-your-way-activity-planner) to find more ideas to increase your daily activity.

Herbs and Spices Have an Expiration Date

Herbs and spices do not spoil; however, they do lose their flavor and potency over time. Next time you go through your spice cabinet, look at the expiration dates!

Rows of spices

Typically spices last 2–3 years, but make sure to check the “best by” date. Try the fresh test:

  • Smell: aroma should be strong
  • Taste: flavor should be potent
  • Color: should look vibrant and not dull

Average Shelf Life of Common Fresh, Ground, and Dried Household Spices

SpiceFreshGroundDriedWhole
Allspice2-3 Years2-3 Years
Basil5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Bay Leaves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years3-4 Years
Black Pepper2-3 Years2-3 Years5-6 Years
Cayennne
Pepper
5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Celery Seed5-7 Days2-3 Years1-2 Years2-3 Years
Chili Powder2-3 Years2-3 Years
Chives7-10 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cilantro5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cinnamon2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Cloves5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years4-5 Years
Coriander5-7 Days2-3 Years2-3 Years
Cumin2-3 Years

Sources:

Eat by Date (www.eatbydate.com/other/how-long-do-spices-last)

McCormick (www.mccormick.com/toss)

Croutons

Serving Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola, olive, or vegetable)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut bread into one inch cubes.
  3. Stir bread and oil together in a medium bowl.
  4. Sprinkle garlic powder and dried basil on top of bread cubes. Stir until the bread is evenly coated with garlic and basil.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread croutons evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake for up to 5 minutes more or until croutons are golden brown.
  6. Let croutons cool and store in an airtight container for up to one week.

These croutons are wonderful on top of your favorite soup or salad. To add extra tang to your salad, add some fresh herbs to the mix like basil or mint. They add extra flavor and are a great way to use up those herbs!

Nutrition information per serving:

70 calories, 3g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 85mg sodium, 8g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.

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