The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is not just for your bones! It’s also important for the health of your nerves, muscles, and immune system. Research suggests it can even help combat depression. Many Iowans have difficulty maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the winter months, 40–75% of us being deficient.

It is recommended those up to the age of 70 years consume 600 International Units (IU) and those over the age of 70 consume 800 IU of vitamin D. We get vitamin D three ways: through our diet, our skin, and supplements. Yes, vitamin D is so important your body makes it with a little help from the sun!

In order to reach therapeutic levels described by research requires a supplement. You should always speak with your health care provider before taking any supplements. Eating vitamin D-rich foods during the winter months is especially important. Try these vitamin D-rich foods:

  • Fatty fish (e.g., tuna, wild salmon, sardines canned in oil; canned fish is just as good as fresh or frozen)
  • Eggs (yolk)*
  • Beef liver*
  • Fortified foods (e.g., milk [skim, 1%, 2%, or whole], yogurt, cereals, etc.)
Vitamin D rich foods including oil, butter, eggs, cheese, milk, fish

*If you avoid these foods because of the cholesterol content, don’t worry. A review of science revealed dietary cholesterol intake doesn’t significantly impact your cholesterol levels.

Sources:
Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951)
Vitamin D: Finding a Balance—Harvard Health Publishing (www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-d-finding-balance-2017072112070)

Baked Fish and Chips

Serves: 4 | Serving size: 2 fish strips, 1 cup potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups potatoes (4 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 fish fillets, thawed (wild salmon, about 3 oz. each)
  • 3 cups cornflakes
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup flour

Directions:

  1. The potatoes (chips) take longer to bake. Once they are in the oven, prepare the fish.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Scrub potatoes under running water using a clean vegetable brush. Cut in half and then into 1/4 inch slices.
  4. Combine potatoes, oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Stir so potatoes are covered with oil.
  5. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil spray and lay slices out in a single layer.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn potatoes over and bake for 15 minutes more (for a total of 30 minutes).
  7. Cut each fillet into two strips.
  8. Place cornflakes in a plastic ziplock bag. Crush by rolling a glass over the bag.
  9. Beat egg and water together in a bowl.
  10. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil spray. Put flour in a dish. Dip each strip into flour, then egg mixture, then cornflakes.
  11. Place fish on the sheet and bake in oven for 15 minutes until fish is 145°F or flakes easily with a fork.

Nutrition information (per serving): 410 calories, 7g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 90mg cholesterol, 300mg sodium, 63g total carbohydrates, 6g fiber, 4g sugar, 26g protein

Recipe source: Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/recipes)

Try A New Winter Sport

Skiing

Have you always wanted to learn how to ski? How about ice skating? Snowboarding? Snowshoeing? Now’s the time! There are a variety of winter activities right outside your doorstep that are affordable and fun. The best part—you can burn calories while enjoying yourself! A 150-pound person can burn approximately 415 calories per hour cross-country skiing. Check out the DNR website for trails and other winter activities!

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources (www.iowadnr.gov/About-DNR/DNR-News-Releases/ArticleID/457/Iowa-Winter-Treks-and-Trails-to-Test-Those-Fitness-Trackers)

Make Fitness Fun Again

Are you bored with your current fitness routine? If so, try these ideas to make fitness fun again.

  • Download a fitness app that works as your own personal trainer.
  • Go to your local library and check out some fitness DVDs or go online and find free videos to move along to.
  • Make it a social time by inviting a friend or coworker to exercise with you.
  • Make a playlist that excites you and gets you moving faster.
  • Buy some new workout clothes that make you happy and excited to wear them.
  • Try new classes at a local gym, recreation center or community center.

Holiday Food Safety Hacks

Food is a big part of holiday celebrations. Follow these safe food handling tips to prevent unwelcome foodborne illness from ruining your holidays!

  • Safely thaw food in the refrigerator, in the microwave or in a cool water bath (change water every 30 minutes).
  • Wash hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before, during and after food preparation.
  • Use hot, soapy water to wash countertops, cutting boards, refrigerator door handles and utensils.
  • Use two cutting boards, one to prepare raw meats and one to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
  • Place leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours of serving.
Washing hands in sink

Adapted from 10 Holiday Home Food Safety Tips (www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/holidays/10-holiday-home-food-safety-tips)

Vegetable Pasta Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 4 cups vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini) (chopped or sliced)
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
  • 2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
  • 6 cups fresh spinach leaves* (about 1/2 pound)

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Stir often. This should take about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3-4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
  4. Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
  5. Cook until the pasta is tender using the time on the package for a guide.

Nutrient information per serving:

130 calories, 2.5g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans-fat, 20mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 23g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. Visit the website for more information, recipes, and videos.

Go Green for Healthy Eyes

What we eat affects the health of our eyes. Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in the antioxidants lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh-zan-thin). The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) found that lutein and zeaxanthin, lowered the risk of developing age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) by about 25%.

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older adulthood. It affects nearly 10 million Americans. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are stored in the macula of the human eye. They help filter light and protect and maintain healthy eye cells

Since the body does not naturally make the lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s important that our diets provide it. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, the substances that give fruits and vegetables their deep green, yellow, and orange colors. Thus eating a variety of dark green, yellow and orange foods will help. Try to include these lutein-rich foods in your daily meal plans:

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Yellow sweet corn
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Green peas
  • Winter squash (e.g., butternut, acorn)
  • Arugula
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin
  • Egg yolks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
Greens  like spinach and swiss chard

Adapted from American Optometric Association (www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition/lutein)

Workouts with a Buddy

It can be hard to stick to an exercise routine. The demands of work and family can ruin your good intentions. Research shows that exercising with another person may help you succeed.

One study found that married couples who exercised together did it more consistently than married people who exercised alone. A family member or friend who shares an activity with you provides support and motivation.

Water bottle and weights

Activities that go better with a buddy include partner yoga, dance classes, martial art classes, hiking, tennis, and many others.

Sometimes two people may not find the same activity enjoyable. For couples or buddies with different preferences, just committing to the same exercise time together may be beneficial. They might try the following:

  • Go to the same gym together.
  • Try activities that are new to both of them.
  • Sign up for a competition or fun fitness event.
  • Plan a group session with a personal trainer.

Having the support of a partner for both diet and exercise helps us stick to lifestyle changes.

Source: Today’s Dietitian

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).

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