Take a Tastebud Adventure

Bowl of rice and vegetables

March is National Nutrition Month. This year the focus is “Celebrate a World of Flavors.” While food patterns are influenced by family traditions and ethnic or cultural groups, it is also wonderful to try and explore new foods. Here are four reasons to try new foods.

  1. Gain Appreciation for Other Cultures. Trying foods from other areas of the country or world can give you a greater appreciation and understanding of a different culture. Try nearby restaurants that serve cuisine you’ve never tried before. Go to a specialty grocery store (such as an Asian market or bodega) to buy something to try at home. Cook a new recipe. Explore the USDA Culture and Food website, https://bitly/3AR0Bek.
  2. Expand Your Options. By being adventurous and trying new foods, you’ll increase your meal options. This will help stop meal prep boredom of cooking the same meals or going to the same restaurants.
  3. Improve Nutrition. Eating and enjoying a wider variety of food also means that you’ll get more nutritional variety. This means finding new sources of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in which your current food patterns may be lower.
  4. Find Common Ground. A common social activity across nearly all cultures is eating. Mealtime is an opportunity for people to gather lowering feelings of loneliness and enhancing happiness.

Physical Activity Melts Stress

Yoga mat

Does just thinking about getting more exercise stress you out? It may help you to remember that once you do start a physical activity regularly, you will be melting your stress away.

“Exercise produces a relaxation response that serves as a positive distraction,” says Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. Getting enough physical activity can counteract the effects of stress. It strengthens your immune system. It helps ward off fatigue and illnesses. A 20-minute walk may energize you more than an afternoon nap!

Source: WebMD.com, www.webmd.com

Strength Training for Strong Muscles

Too much stress is bad for your mental and physical health. Stress is your body’s reaction to real or perceived threats. This “fight or fight” response releases chemicals that affect many areas of your physical health, including your immune system.

Chronic stress can lead to the following:

  • Frequent muscle aches, headaches, or changes in sleep habits
  • Greater frequency of colds and fu
  • Increased sadness, anxiety, anger, or irritability
  • Reduced concentration and forgetfulness
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
Woman feeling stress

The good news is that there are ways you can help lower chronic stress like eating well, moving more, and getting enough sleep. If you believe you are suffering from stress symptoms, check out one of these free publications from the ISU Extension Store, store.extension.iastate.edu, to help you cope. If you think you may need counseling to help you cope with your stress, contact the Iowa Concern Hotline, www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, at 1-800-447-1985.

Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups | Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium carrot (sliced 1/8 inch thick)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic (minced)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry yellow or brown lentils
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) no-sodium-added diced tomatoes or 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bunch kale (about 7 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, carrot, garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add water to pot. Heat to boiling.
  4. Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add to pot, simmer 20 minutes. Do not drain.
  5. Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5–10 minutes.
  6. Rinse kale leaves; cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1” pieces.
  7. Stir kale, salt, and ground black pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, simmer for 3 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving:
200 calories, 5g total fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 170mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrate, 12g fiber, 4g sugar, 11g 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

Can Foods Fight the Flu?

Vegetables in grocery store

In the last two years, Americans have become more interested in “functional foods” to boost their immune systems. Unfortunately, there is no one magic food that will make you invincible to colds, flu, and COVID. Over the long run, though, two eating habits can cut your risk of catching contagious illnesses.

Limit foods high in sugar, salt, and/or saturated fat. Too much of these can keep your white blood cells from
working as well as they should. Drink water, unsweetened tea, or milk more often instead of pop. Snack on fruits or
vegetables; choose baked chips over regular; enjoy whole grain granola bars over cookies. Eat baked or grilled meats
instead of fried.

Aim for at least 4–5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of the vitamins
and minerals you need to resist illnesses. For example, the tomatoes and kale in this month’s soup recipe give you lots
of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. The lentils are rich in zinc, which is also important to immune health.

Interested in finding out more about foods and health habits that strengthen your immune system? Visit Today’s Dietitian, www.todaysdietitian.com, to read an excerpt from The Family Immunity Cookbook.

Source:
Today’s Dietitian, www.todaysdietitian.com

Encouragement Goes Far

You can do it!

We all can use encouragement at times, even some celebration when we meet a goal. Cheering on a friend or family member who wants to be more physically active is a wonderful way to show your support. Be open and listen—congratulate first steps and celebrate progress along the way. Help it happen—take a walk or explore new activities together. Don’t push too hard and DO keep it positive.

Source: How to Encourage Someone Toward Physical Fitness, nextavenue.org

Food Safety Mythbusters

Blocks saying Facts and Myths

We all do our best to serve our families food that’s safe and healthy. However, do you know all you should know? A few food safety practices that many people believe and follow are actually myths.

Myth: I don’t need to wash fruits or vegetables if I'm going to peel them.

Fact: Because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from the peel or rind when you’re cutting to the inside of your fruits and veggies, it’s important to wash all produce, even if you plan to peel it.

Myth: To get rid of any bacteria on my meat, poultry, or seafood, I should rinse off the juices with water first.

Fact: Rinsing meat, poultry, or seafood with water can increase your chance of foodborne illness by splashing juices and any bacteria they might contain onto your sink and counters. If you choose to rinse for cultural reasons, make sure to clean and disinfect the sink and counters immediately afterward.

Myth: It is OK to wash bagged greens if I want to. There’s no harm!

Fact: Rinsing leafy greens that are ready to eat (those labeled “washed,” “triple washed,” or “ready to eat”) will not enhance safety. In fact, it could increase the risk for cross-contamination. This means harmful bacteria from your hands or kitchen surfaces could find their way onto the greens while washing them.

Source: Home Food Safety Mythbusters, fightbac.org

Loaded Potato Soup

Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

Bowl of potato soup
  • 4 medium potatoes(scrubbed, peeled, and cubed) (about 4cups)
  • 1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Optional: sliced green onions, crumbled bacon, diced ham, croutons, soup crackers

Directions:

  1. Combine potatoes, onion, garlic powder, ground black pepper, and broth in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium high heat until boiling.
  2. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally (12–15 minutes).
  3. Use a potato masher or fork to slightly mash the potatoes. This will also thicken the soup. There should still be pieces of potato in the soup.
  4. Stir in the peas, milk, and shredded cheddar cheese. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted (3–4 minutes).
  5. Add garnishes and serve right away.

Nutrition information per serving:
340 calories, 8g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 20mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 53g total carbohydrate, 7g fiber, 9g sugar, 16g protein

This information 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.

Potato 101

Potatoes are a staple in many households. While potatoes may have a bad reputation, they’re versatile (baked, mashed, fried, boiled) and nutrient rich. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.

Potatoes

Keeping an eye on your blood sugar? You can still enjoy potatoes. Compared to many vegetables, potatoes may raise blood sugar quickly. However, the effect on your blood sugar is influenced by the type of potato and cooking method. For example, a white potato can increase blood sugar more quickly than a sweet potato, while a boiled russet potato raises blood sugar more slowly than a baked russet potato.

It’s also important to look at your entire meal versus just one food. When you enjoy potatoes with foods higher in protein and healthy fat, the potato is digested more slowly, which slows the rise of blood sugar.

FUN FACT: Don’t store potatoes with apples. Apples and many other fruits produce ethylene gas, which promotes sprouting.

Sources:
What Potatoes Have the Highest Glycemic Index?, nutritionletter.tufts.edu
7 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Potatoes, healthline.com
Produce Basics – Potatoes, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics/

Strength Training for Strong Muscles

Woman lifting small weights

Current physical activity guidelines recommend strength training, which helps to prevent or reverse sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the decline of skeletal muscle tissue, or muscle mass, as we age. Doing strength exercises at least twice a week keeps your muscles strong, so that you can do everyday activities such as lifting groceries and rising from a chair.

Visit the National Institute on Aging Go4Life exercise videos, bit.ly/3ocqDmy, on YouTube for strength-training exercises, 7 tips for a safe and successful strength-training program, bit.ly/3GNZQ8p, or download the Prevent Sarcopenia handout, store.extension.iastate.edu/product/14826.

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