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Gardening: Top 10 Vegetables to Grow and Eat for Health

sb10062327dd-001Growing your own food doesn’t have to be difficult. If you have never gardened, start small using containers or a small plot of land. Plant vegetables you really like to eat.

Several vegetables that grow well in Iowa made it to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach “Top 10 Vegetavcbles to Eat for Health” list. Choose to grow and eat the following vegetables to boost your health:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels spouts
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  •  Red bell peppers
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter squash

These vegetables earned their ratings by providing at least 20 percent of the recommended dietary intake for one or more nutrients such as Vitamin A or potassium.

Each vegetable was also rated for its oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC). This measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances. Consuming high-ORAC foods may help protect cells from damage by oxygen radicals. This, in turn, may slow down the processes associated with aging in both the body and the brain.

Numerous publications are available to download and print as you plan and plant your garden. Go to the Extension Store at store.extension.iastate.edu and enter either the title or number of the publication of interest in the search box:

  • Planting a Home Vegetable Garden (PM 819)
  • Small Plot Vegetable Gardening (PM 870A)
  • Container Vegetable Gardening (PM 870B)

If you have further questions, contact your local county extension office or enroll in classes to become a “Master Gardener.”

2016 – International Year of Pulses

ThinkstockPhotos-512114678If you’ve never heard of pulses you are not alone. The United Nations declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses as a way to increase public awareness of the nutrition benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production.

What is the difference between a legume and a pulse?

Legume: Legumes are plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod like peas and beans, soybeans and peanuts, alfalfa, and clover. When growing, legumes fix nitrogen into the soil, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

Pulse: Part of the legume family, the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils, and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses. Pulses are high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients. They are naturally low in fat and sodium.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 1.5 cups of dried beans and peas (pulses) per week for a 2,000-calorie eating pattern. This includes cooked from dry or canned beans and peas such as kidney beans, white beans, black beans, red beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, edamame (green soybeans), and pinto beans. It does not include green beans or green peas.

Ways to increase dried beans and peas in everyday eating:

  • Add dried beans to soup. Think beyond the traditional bean soup and chili and add to vegetable- and tomato-based soups. Try new soup recipes that include dried beans.
  • Experiment with beans you have never eaten and learn more about cooking dried beans. They can easily be cooked in a slow cooker and don’t necessarily require presoaking.
  • Add beans to salads. They are delicious added to any vegetable-based salad such as a tossed salads, slaws, and pasta salads.
  • Add to any taco/Mexican dish, casseroles, and even egg dishes.

Sprouted Foods

A new trend showing up in the cereal, bread, pasta, and snack aisles is products made with sprouts. Most people have heard of bean sprouts, but other foods that can be sprouted include grains, legumes, radish seeds, broccoli seeds, and nuts.

The health benefits touted include being higher in vitamins such as B and C and minerals such as zinc and iron, as well as increased digestibility. Currently there is little research on sprouted foods, and the results of these studies show the benefits to be small compared to nonsprouted foods. The few studies that have been done show that vitamin C is slightly higher in sprouted grains, and iron and zinc may be more easily absorbed. In regard to digestibility, sprouting does break down the seed, which means less work for your digestive system.

If you are considering adding raw sprouts to your diet, first look at food safety. To reduce the risk of a foodborne illness, the Food and Drug Administration recommends the following:

• Children, elderly, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems should avoid eating raw sprouts.
• Refrigerate any sprouts you buy.
• Cook sprouts thoroughly to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.

Sources: chnr.ucdavis.edu/faq/, www.webmd.com/food-recipes/sprouting-food

Superfoods: More than Kale and Quinoa

Though there is no legal or medical definition for “superfoods,” the term is typically used to describe foods that are high in nutrients and antioxidants and low in fat, sugar, and sodium. Eating these foods may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. The following “superfoods” are packed with vitamins and minerals and are versatile in recipes.

Cruciferous Vegetables – This category includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage, which are good sources of fiber and vitamin C and are easily added to a stir fry or a casserole. Substitute shredded cabbage for iceberg lettuce on tacos. Broccoli is also great for snacking raw with a low-fat dip.

Citrus Fruits – Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, and the ugli fruit are included in this group. Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C. These fruits can be enjoyed as a snack or tossed in a fruit salad or a leafy green salad. Squeeze the fruit to make fresh juice and to replace the flavor of salt in recipes.

Green, Leafy Vegetables – Spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, watercress, arugula, and other dark green lettuces are nutrition powerhouses. They are packed with fiber and are a high source of vitamins A and C. Enjoy these greens shredded in a salad, sautéed with olive oil and garlic, or added to soup or casseroles.

Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are good sources of fiber and vitamin C. Add them to cereal or oatmeal or enjoy them for a snack. Try adding them to a leafy green salad for a different twist.

Beans – Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, lima beans, pinto beans, and navy beans are a few of the more popular bean varieties. Beans are fat free, high in dietary fiber, and a good source of folate and potassium. Enjoy them in bean burritos, black bean burgers, bean salads, or bean soups.

Source: Fruits and Veggies More Matters, www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/

Grill Food Safely

grilling vegetables meals summerThaw safely. Completely thaw meat, poultry, and seafood before grilling so it cooks evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water.

Marinate food in the refrigerator. If you use a marinade to enhance flavor, marinate the food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Do not reuse marinade on cooked meat that was used on raw meat. If you want to add more marinade after the meat is cooked, make up a fresh batch.

Cook to the correct temperature. Grilling browns the outside of meat, poultry, and seafood quickly, so you can’t rely on color as an indication of doneness. Always use a food thermometer to ensure that the food is cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature.

Keep hot food hot. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill rack, not directly over the coals where they could overcook. At home, the cooked meat can be kept hot in an oven set at approximately 200°F, in a slow cooker (135°F or higher), or on a warming tray.

Use a different plate for serving cooked meat. When taking food off the grill, don’t put cooked food on the same platter that held raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Any harmful bacteria in the raw meat juices could contaminate safely cooked food.

Source: www.fsis.usda.gov.

Biggest chunk of calories comes from processed foods, study finds

Highly processed foods, such as prepared meals, white bread, cookies, chips, soda and candy, account for more than 60 percent of the calories in products Americans routinely buy in grocery stores, according to a new study.

This study found that many Americans have strongly held opinions and beliefs about processed foods. Some consider processed foods to be tasty, convenient, and affordable choices, while others contend that the combination of sugar, fat, sodium (salt), and flavoring in these foods promotes overeating and contributes to obesity.

Not only are highly processed foods a stable part of U.S. purchasing patterns, but the highly processed foods households are buying are higher in fat, sugar, and sodium on average than the less-processed foods (e.g., fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, fresh meat, milk, eggs, and dried beans) they buy.

The biggest contributors to unhealthy diets and chronic disease are added sugars, excessive fat, and sodium. Too much sugar and fat may result in weight gain, increased cholesterol levels, and aggravation of other health issues. Excess sodium can lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure, putting extra stress on the circulatory system and increasing the risk for heart disease, heart or kidney failure, stroke, and other health problems.

Add a little spice to your life!

Eating less sodium, sugar, and fat may seem challenging but using herbs and spices can help! Herbs and spices help flavor foods when you cut back on dietary fat, sugar, and sodium.

You can reduce or eliminate sugar with these sweet-tasting spices: allspice, cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace, cinnamon, and nutmeg. When reducing sodium, improve the taste of recipes by adding savory flavors such as black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, basil, and onion. Instead of using salt for your pasta, try basil, oregano, parsley, and pepper or use an Italian seasoning blend.

Sources: American Society for Nutrition, news release, March 28, 2015; www.lancaster.unl.edu/food/spiceherbshandout-color.pdf.

Fruit Smoothies

Serving Size: 1 cup  | Serves: 3Fruit Smoothie

Ingredients
2–3 cups of fresh or frozen fruit
1 (6–8 ounce) carton vanilla, plain, or fruit-flavored yogurt
1/4 cup milk
3 ice cubes

Instructions
1. Wash hands.
2. Put all ingredients in a blender.
3. Blend on high speed until smooth.
4. Pour into glasses.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.9g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5.5mg cholesterol, 61.3mg sodium, 31.5g total carbohydrate, 2.8g fiber, 22.6g sugar, 4.9g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart Eat Smart website (www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings).

A Look at Energy Drinks: Paying the Price for Caffeine?

energy drinkEnergy drinks (e.g., Red Bull®, Monster®, Rockstar®, and Full Throttle®) are among the fastest growing beverages in the United States, with half of these highly caffeinated drinks being sold to youth. The caffeine content of an 8-ounce serving can range between 72 and 150 mg. However, most energy drinks come in cans or bottles with 2–3 servings, amounting to 450 mg of caffeine (general recommended intake is no more than 200–300 mg caffeine daily for adults)! There are no guidelines established in the United States for youth regarding caffeine consumption. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks because they are categorized as “food,” caffeine in energy drinks is not “monitored” because they can be categorized as “dietary supplements.”

Energy drinks are promoted as a means to increase energy levels; however, there is little evidence to support this. With the large quantity of caffeine comes serious nutritional consequences. Large quantities of caffeine can hinder how well the body is able to absorb and use calcium, which can impact bone health. Additionally, high caffeine intake is associated with increased irritability, anxiety, tremors, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has expressed concerns for youth because of caffeine’s effect on their developing neurological and cardiovascular systems, as well as the risk of physical dependence and addiction. Many of the “specialty” ingredients (e.g., guarana, taurana) found in energy drinks are also ingredients in over-the-counter diet drugs. This raises significant health concerns because it is unclear what combined health impact these ingredients may have.

Because of the potentially high caffeine content, it is recommended youth avoid energy drinks and healthy adults should limit their use. Teach youth to ask for and enjoy water as the thirst quencher of choice.

For more ideas on better or healthier beverage choices, please look at the MyPlate Better Beverage Choices Handout available at
www.choosemyplate.gov in English http://1.usa.gov/1k0nH4D and Spanish http://1.usa.gov/1IIhb0V.

Sources: http://bit.ly/1aOlBF1, http://bit.ly/1xYGmSp, http://bit.ly/1IIh05J, and http://1.usa.gov/Pog5yZ

Reconsidering the Egg

dv1897034Experts have warned against diets high in cholesterol for years and have suggested, for example, limiting egg yolk intake. The previous Dietary Guidelines for Americans* stated that Americans eat too much cholesterol and that high-cholesterol foods like eggs should be limited. Preliminary reports, however, indicate that the 2015 guidelines may no longer consider cholesterol as a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.

New research suggests that dietary cholesterol intake may not significantly increase blood cholesterol levels or increase the risk of heart disease in healthy adults. Saturated fat and trans fat in the diet are of greater concern for keeping blood cholesterol levels down than the actual cholesterol content of food. However, it is still recommended that we consume limited amounts of foods high in saturated fat or trans fat (e.g., butter, margarine, fats in meat, and high-fat dairy).

Eggs are an inexpensive protein food that is relatively low in total fat and saturated fat and rich in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, eggs can be part of a healthy diet. It is still recommended to eat them in moderation and prepare them with low-fat cooking methods like boiling or poaching.

*The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services. They provide dietary and physical activity recommendations for Americans ages two years and over to reduce risk of chronic disease and promote overall health.

Sources: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp; http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines/

Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups | Serves 6chicken alfredo pasta

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat penne or rotini pasta
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add the frozen broccoli the last three minutes of cooking. Drain the water from the pasta and broccoli. Return food to the pot.
  2. Remove fat from chicken on a cutting board and cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Wash hands.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium high. Add chicken cubes to skillet and stir to coat with oil. Cook the chicken until it is done (165oF, about 7–9 minutes).
  4. Remove chicken from skillet when it is done cooking and cover to keep warm.
  5. Add the milk and cream cheese to the skillet. Stir the mixture constantly over low heat. The mixture will thicken and be smooth.
  6. Add the garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture. Then add cooked chicken and heat mixture.
  7. Combine meat mixture with the pasta and broccoli mixture. Serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories, 12 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 390 mg sodium, 29 g total carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 30 g protein

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