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)

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)

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)

Eating Fish Protects Your Heart

salmon and asparagusAccording to the American Heart Association, eating fish twice a week will lower your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. The best fish for heart health are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna. These fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.

So many people have heard about the benefits of omega-3s that fish oil is the most popular nutrition supplement in the United States. However, the latest research shows fish oil isn’t as beneficial as actually eating fish. Whole fish offers a wealth of nutrients besides omega-3 oil, such as protein and selenium. For reasons scientists do not yet fully understand, nutrients often provide the most benefit when they are combined with other nutrients—in the form of food!

Eating fish is both healthy and delicious! Here are a few tips for including fish in your meal plan:

  • Keep seafood on hand. Seafood doesn’t need to be fresh to give you health benefits. Canned and frozen seafood varieties are just as healthy.
  • Be creative. Try different ways to enjoy seafood like seafood salads, tacos, stir-fry, or with pasta.
  • Cook it safely. Make sure you follow safe food handling practices and cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145oF.

ChooseMyPlate.gov offers tips on how to get more heart-healthy seafood on your plate.

Sources:  American Heart Association and Harvard Health

 

Summer Bounty Salad

Summer Bounty Salad

Serving Size: 1 cup | Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, carrots, radishes, green onions), chopped
  • 1 pepper (green, red, or yellow) sliced (1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 tomatoes (red, yellow, or mixed)
  • 2/3 cup light or fat free salad dressing

Instructions:

  1. Wash and prepare the vegetables. (Cut the carrots, zucchini, radishes, green onions, and pepper in slices. Make the broccoli and cauliflower into florets. Slice or chop tomatoes.)
  2. Combine all vegetables and salad dressing in a bowl, stirring to coat vegetables with dressing.
  3. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours to blend flavors. Store any leftovers in refrigerator and use within 3 days.

 

Nutrition information per serving:

60 calories, 2.5 g total fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 10 g total carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 2 g 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.

June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

Asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries are just a few of the fresh fruits and vegetables available in June! They provide a range of colors to eat and enjoy. It’s important to get a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.

Colorful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds in food that your body uses to maintain good health and energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and heart disease.

Phytochemicals may be considered just as important as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Many of the phytochemicals and other compounds that make fruits and vegetables good for us also give them their color. It’s important to eat the rainbow of colors every day to get the full health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables

When planning meals, try to use colorful fruits and vegetables. Usually the darker the color, the higher the amounts of phytochemicals. When introducing children to a new fruit or vegetable, consider designating a color for each day or week.

Berry Banana Popsicles

Serving Size: 1 popsicle | Serves: 8Berry Banana Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries, diced
  • 1 medium banana, diced
  • 2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt

Instructions:

  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  2. Pour mixture into popsicle molds.
  3. Freeze for at least 6 hours. Run molds under hot running water until popsicles can pull out easily to serve.

 

Nutrition information per serving:  50 calories, 0g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25g sodium, 10g total carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 6g 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.

 

MIND Your Diet

Brain filled with good foodMother always said you are what you eat. What we eat becomes more connected to our bodies every day. Now scientific evidence suggests diet plays a bigger role in brain health than we ever knew. Following a brain healthy diet (MIND diet) can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by 35–53%. MIND diet research at Rush University followed 923 individuals aged 58–98 for more than four years. Reduction in dementia risk among those who closely or moderately followed the diet was observed.

The MIND diet combines the Mediterranean diet pattern and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet with mild calorie restriction. The MIND diet encourages minimally processed plant-based foods and limited consumption of animal foods high in saturated fat. It also encourages food found to be potentially brain protective such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, and berries. Research continues on the effects of the MIND diet on cognitive decline in the brain.

Foods to Eat More:

  • Beans, every other day
  • Berries, at least twice per week
  • Fish, at least once per week
  • Green leafy vegetables, every day
  • Other vegetables, at least once per day
  • Nuts, every day
  • Olive oil
  • Poultry, at least twice per week
  • Whole grains, three times per day

Foods to Eat Less:

  • Fried food or fast food, less than one serving per week
  • Pastries and sweets, no more than five servings per week
  • Red meat, three 3- to 5-ounce servings per week
  • Butter and stick margarine, less than one pat a day
  • Whole fat cheese, one to two ounces per week

 

Source: Diet for the Mind, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, 2017.

Food for Thought: The Gut-brain Axis

Ogut-brain connectionne of the biggest buzzwords in current media refers to the smallest subject: the human gut microbiome. This microbiome is a collection of microorganisms living in the human intestinal tract; aka the “good gut bugs.” These good gut bugs help our gut produce compounds needed for digestion and absorption of other nutrients. They also provide protection against harmful “bugs” and support our immune system. These good gut bugs have also been shown to promote brain health.

There is communication between the human microbiome and the brain, called the gut-brain axis. This means the health of your gut microbiome may impact the health of your brain—a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain.

The best way to take care of your gut microbiome is to focus on your overall eating pattern.

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Choose fiber-rich foods because increasing fiber can promote abundance of gut bugs.
  • Try fermented foods and foods with pre- and probiotics to improve the variety of your good gut bugs.
  • Prebiotics are plant fibers that promote the growth of healthy bacteria. They are found in many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including apples, asparagus, bananas, barley, flaxseed, garlic, jicama, leeks, oats, and onion.
  • Probiotics contain specific strains of healthy bacteria. The most common probiotic food is yogurt; other sources include bacteria-fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kombucha, and kimchi.

Sources:

  • Shreiner AB, Kao JY, Young VB. The gut microbiome in health and in disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2015;31(1):69–75. doi:10.1097/MOG.0000000000000139.
  • Foster JA, Lyte M, Meyer E, Cryan JF. Gut microbiota and brain function: An evolving field in neuroscience. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016;19(5):1–7. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyv114.
  • Jandhyala S, Talukdar R, Subramanyam C, Vuyyuru H, Sasikala M, Reddy D. Role of the normal gut microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2015;21(29):8787–8803.

Is Your Fruit-infused Water Safe?

Fruit-infused water

Fruit-infused water has become popular in recent years. It’s a great way to drink more and stay hydrated. With no added sugar, it’s a good alternative to juice or soda. The endless flavor combinations are tasty and refreshing. There are some important food safety tips to remember, however. To avoid increased bacteria growth and foodborne illness, follow these tips:

  • Start with clean hands; wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds.
  • Wash produce thoroughly under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush on firm items such as oranges or lemons.
  • Use clean cutting boards and utensils to avoid crosscontamination.
  • Store infused water in the refrigerator at 40°F or below in a sealed pitcher.
  • If you are taking your infused water on the go, make sure to drink it within four hours. Infused water at room  temperature must be used or discarded after four hours to prevent bacteria growth.
  • For best results, drain fruit solids within 24 hours and refrigerate water up to three days.
  • Always start with clean equipment for new batches; avoid refilling the same pitcher.

 

Source: Michigan State University Extension

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