Tippin' the Scales


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Yes Peter, sorry Doctor!

My specialist at the hospital is also called Peter, and last Monday I had my 3 month visit. A lot was well but some points, like my bloodsugar levels were up (again). I admitted I was drinking alcohol again, just a few glasses of beer in the weekend. But we also talked about nutricients and he suggested to look for healtier foods. I Googled some and was surprised by the results, especially number 1. I haven’t eaten spinach in a long time, ever since I had my gall bladder removed, I just couldn’t keep it down. The same thing that’s still happening with whole eggs. (Never wondered why there are almost no eggs used in the Thursday Recipes?!).

Here are 20 foods that offer the most benefits pound for pound than any other foods on the planet. They not only show up on our massive list of Superfoods they also make it onto plenty of top tens across the Internet, and several have long been known to provide plenty of nutrients and good things for the body. There are a few that you might not be familiar with, so consider this your introduction, and now you can get to know them better in the near future. Number 6 to 20 you’ll find on the PDF, just as the first five.

01-spinach1. Spinach
Much has been written about the virtues of spinach, and rightly so. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. It’s also readily available at most local supermarkets, and reasonably priced. You can get it fresh in the produce section, or you can buy it frozen in leaf form, and also canned in the canned veggies aisle. The main concern is getting more of it into your system so you can reap all of the positive benefits.

Benefits
Right away spinach is going to go to work for you, providing you with energy, and helping you to fill your stomach without adding a lot of calories to your daily intake. When you factor in the phytonutrients working as antioxidants you’re doing yourself a huge favor with the battle against free radical damage. Not to mention you’re helping to nourish your body on a cellular level, providing increased energy, and it aids any weight loss efforts.

Vitamin Breakdown per Cup – Raw, think fresh leafy greens
Vitamin A – 2813 IU – over half of what you need daily.
Vitamin K – 145mcg – almost twice as much as needed daily.
Folate – 58.2mcg – a good chunk of your daily requirement.

02-gojiberries2. Goji Berries
Many people are just finding out how good goji berries are for your overall feeling of well-being. You’ll want to find dried goji berries, and not simply rely on a juice or other product claiming to contain goji berries in it. They make a great snack to hold you over between meals, and when compared to drinking phony energy drinks, you can get actual energy from these, and also be introducing plenty of antioxidants into your system.

Benefits
Your immune system gets a dose of support when you eat a serving of goji berries, and you’ll also be helping yourself beat the onslaught of free radicals that occur as a result of a stressful environment and processed foods that don’t offer nutritional support to the body. The benefit that most of us would be interested in is the ability of goji berries to help us fight fatigue. It’s no wonder that our modern lifestyles have us burning the candle at both ends, and by eating food like these berries you’ll be increasing the amount of time it takes you to wear out.

Vitamin Breakdown per Ounce – Dried, the most commonly found version.
Vitamin A – 170% of your daily value.
Vitamin C – 20% not quite as good as an orange, but still good.
Protein – 4g – a surprising amount of protein for a fruit.

03-salmon3. Salmon
What makes this fish so special that it stands apart from all the others? It’s the omega-3 content that does it, and of course it has the benefit that most fish has of being high in protein. Many also prefer the delicate, not-so-fishy flavor of salmon to other fish. You’ll want to stick to Alaskan wild salmon to get the full amount of benefits, and make sure that you’re not eating smoked salmon as it does not have the same nutritional benefits as freshly caught and cooked.

Benefits
For those of you that are strength training, salmon will provide support to your muscle tissue with the protein it contains. The reason the omega-3’s are so important is that they provide vital support to your heart and circulatory system. You’ll also receive tertiary benefits in the form of increased memory function and a decrease in the likelihood of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also helps to make your skin and hair look their best.

Vitamin Breakdown per 100g – wild Alaskan, seek this out specifically.
Vitamin A – 9% of your daily needs.
Vitamin B1 – 13% of what you need each day, helps with heart health.
Protein – 20g – making this a fantastic protein source for those lifting weights.
Niacin – 42% of your daily needs, helps to keep your skin and hair tip-top.

04-avocado4. Avocado
If you’re not already a fan of avocado, you should try adding more of it into your life. It tends to be one of the more expensive items in the produce section, especially if you go the organic route. It can also be a little tricky to pick the right ones and then consume them before they go bad. But you don’t have to eat them everyday in order to benefit from them. Adding one or two a week to your diet would be a great start, and would keep costs down.

Benefits
One of the most referenced benefits of avocado is their amounts of healthy monounsaturated fat. It’s interesting that this is a high-fat fruit, as most of them are very low-fat or fat-free. These fats actually help you to lose fat, if that’s what you’re trying to do. They also help you to feel fuller longer, and are not the same sort of fats found in a cheeseburger. The carotenoid levels help with eye health, and avocados in general will help stabilize your blood glucose levels so you don’t hit dangerous peaks and valleys.

Vitamin Breakdown per 100g – Raw
Monounsaturated fat – 10g – This means roughly 10% of the avocado is healthy fat!
Vitamin B6 – 16% of what you need daily for proper metabolism.
Folate – 22% of your daily requirement, for heart disease prevention.

05-quinoa5. Quinoa
Known by vegetarians for several years now, quinoa has been catching on more in the mainstream as a tasty and filling way to complement a meal, or be the foundation of a meal. Even those that follow a no wheat diet can turn to quinoa, although it doesn’t quite appeal to those that have written off grains altogether. If you’re not familiar with how to cook it you can get up to speed quickly, and it’s now readily available at most supermarkets, where once it was a bit rare.

Benefits
You’re getting a quality protein without the cholesterol and fat that can come with animal sources. You’re also getting smart carbs that don’t register very highly on the Glycemic Index, so your body can process them without converting them to fat later. On top of that it doesn’t contain much fat, so you can eat this when following a weight loss plan, and it also keeps you under the limit for calories if you’re watching those.

Vitamin Breakdown per Cup
Fat – 1.9g – A low-fat count and low-calorie count make this a winner for dieters.
Folate – !0% of your daily requirement, good for maintaining a healthy heart.
Protein 4.4g – A relatively high protein level for a grain.

PDF of these 20-Healthiest-Foods-on-Earth

Remember, these are just the big dogs when it comes to the healthiest foods out there. You can make an effort to include them in your daily diet, but don’t think that these are all you can have. The best way to eat is by giving your body what it needs from several different sources, while still hitting all of the most important vitamins and minerals. Keeping it balanced is also important, and there’s no need to “overdose” on certain foods just because they’re good for you.


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Wok This Way…

wok-this-wayStir fry is one of the easiest meals to cook, and it is great fun to do as well.

Cook your rice or noodles first.

  1. Prepare meat. Cut it into thin strips.
  2. Prepare your vegetables as needed. Peppers should be cut into thin slices, onions chopped, etc.
  3. Heat up your wok. Usually a wok is at temperature when it starts smoking.
  4. Put a small amount of oil (1-2 tablespoons) in your wok. If you want more flavor in the meat, you can add a small amount of soy sauce to the oil.
  5. Add your meat, constantly stirring it until it is just cooked through (this requires about 5 minutes).
  6. Add the flavoring additions like onions and garlic next.
  7. Add any vegetables you want (for example, bean sprouts or vegetables from a ready-made packet). If you are adding fresh vegetables, add the ones that require the least cooking (like mushrooms) last.
  8. Add any stir fry sauce you are using at the very end. It is best not to add too much sauce at once, as too much can make the vegetables soggy in addition to lowering the heat of the wok.
  9. Wait about 3-4 minutes, the vegetables and sauce should be done, and you can serve.
  10. Enjoy!

Tomorrow we start stir frying.


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Summer Salads

When produce is at its peak, a simple salad can be magical.

As summer hits its stride, it’s easy to turn salads from side dish into entrée. To turn it into a complete meal, just add a little protein.

Salads are a great way to use up leftover barbecued chicken or steak. Any kind of lunchmeat is good too, smoked turkey, ham, tuna, salami, corned beef, and prosciutto are all great on salads. If you want to keep it meatless, open up a can of beans, like kidney, cannellini, garbanzo, and black beans all make tasty, satisfying salad toppers.

Fresh raw sweet corn adds a wonderful crunch when cut off the cob and sprinkled into a salad. The vines and brambles are bursting with plump berries right now, try sprinkling some into your next salad. You’ll be surprised at how delicious that touch of tart sweetness is in an otherwise savory salad. Toasted nuts are tasty, too. Toss some pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts into a skillet and stir over medium heat until the nuts turn a shade darker and give off an enticing aroma.

It doesn’t need to be leafy and green to be called a salad! Try a Greek salad of tomato wedges, sliced cucumber, white onions, bell peppers, tart olives and tangy feta mixed with a simply delicious dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped oregano.
Another spectacular salad for the peak of tomato season is the Insalata Caprese: rounds of garden-fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella layered on a platter and crowned with basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt.
There’s a whole world of grain and bean salads, too! Try tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern favorite with nutty, chewy bulgur wheat flecked with refreshing cucumber, tomato, green onions, and fresh mint and parsley.

Tomorrow we start with a series of salads.


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Did You Know?

Stuffing can moisten dry meats or soak up the juices from fatty meats. Since Roman times, it has also been used to introduce an element of surprise at dinner. The French approach to stuffing was noted as being ‘de trop’ in Kettner’s Book of the Table in 1877. Apparently, their cork-shaped stuffing balls tended towards farce. Ironically, the word ‘farce’ derives from the French verb for… stuffing.

A good recipe you’ll find on Simply Recipes


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Whole Grains

wholegrainsMove over potatoes. Make way, pasta. Wild rice, brown rice, couscous, bulgur wheat, quinoa (keen-wa) and barley are rolling into town! When you are looking for a side dish with a twist, look no further than the versatility of grain. Grains are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, iron and dietary fiber. In addition, each type of grain has its own distinctive flavor, making them as tasty as they are nutritious.

Barley
Barley is a mild-flavored kernel-shaped grain known for its success at adding thickness to stews and soups. Barley is also a great addition to casseroles containing winter vegetables such as carrots, root veggies, and onions. The two most often used (for cooking) types of barely are pearled barley and hulled barley. Pearled barley is barley that has been milled. Because of this, it takes only 40 minutes to cook. Hulled barley–barley with its outer layer removed–is more nutritious than pearled but takes a full 90 minutes to cook.

Bulgur Wheat
If you want a grain that’s a snap to prepare, you’ve found it in bulgur wheat. Bulgur wheat’s latest and greatest claim to fame is tabbouleh salad, a Middle Eastern wheat and vegetable salad that has become wildly popular in the U.S. Bulgur wheat cooks by rehydration: in other words, pour twice the amount of boiling water or broth over dry bulgur and let it stand for 45 minutes. Bulgur wheat is often used as a ground beef substitute in vegetarian cuisine. When cooked in vegetarian chili, for example, the bulgur texture becomes very similar to ground beef–but lends more fiber and far less fat!

Couscous
Okay, we admit it: couscous is not a grain. It is a tiny pasta made from fine semolina wheat. Couscous is like a very light grain, making it ideal for those who are just beginning to experiment with specialty grains. Like bulgur, couscous is a breeze to prepare. The same method of rehydration (two cups of water or broth to 1 cup of couscous) is used, except that couscous will absorb the liquid much quicker than bulgur will. Couscous will be ready in a quick 5 minutes! Couscous makes a fluffy bed for chicken or fish kebabs.

Quinoa
Quinoa is not a new grain to South Americans. In fact, it’s been growing in their fields for years (the Incans loved quinoa so much they called it “the mother grain”). Quinoa has a wonderful nutty taste and aroma, which explains why it is commonly used in salads, soups, pilafs and side dishes. Like couscous, quinoa is an ideal grain to try if you are new to the world of grains or are one for instant gratification. In a saucepan filled with a ratio of 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, the grain will cook in 15 minutes. More and more supermarkets are stocking this “ancient” grain on its shelves, so don’t let its funny name scare you off!

Wild Rice
Wild rice is not really rice at all: it is the seed of a grass grown in Minnesota and Canada. Wild rice has an assertive flavor, so you may want to combine it with other grains before serving it straight. (It is also very expensive, since it’s hand-harvested.) Many people are more willing to consume wild rice than they are brown rice, so consider serving wild rice at your next dinner party or family meal. Wild rice is delicious in soups and great paired with split peas. It is one of the longer-cooking grains, using three to four times the amount of water or broth versus grain. The rice must simmer for a full 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving. The results are worth it!

Brown Rice
Brown rice is probably the most familiar of all these grains. Try to substitute brown rice for white rice when you can because brown rice is more nutritious–it contains more fiber. If you are in a hurry, quick-cooking brown rice will suffice. But whenever possible, cook up a batch of brown rice and store it in a container in the refrigerator for future days when you don’t have time to let it cook slowly. Brown rice cooks in double the amount of water or broth and it needs to simmer for a full 45 minutes.


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Spicy… chillies

chillies3

Heat
As a general rule of thumb, the larger the chilli, the milder it is. Smaller chillies tend to be much hotter because they contain proportionally more seeds and veins than the larger varieties. Those seeds and veins can contain up to 80 per cent of a chilli’s potency in the form of capsaicin, the powerful compound that gives chillies their fiery nature.

In the US, chillies are rated in Scoville Heat Units, which measure their capsaicin content. While a green capsicum would score 0, Habaneros can hit 300,000 units.

Varieties
There are hundreds of varieties of chillies. They vary in length and size, ranging from long thin ones to plump round ones, and in colour, from yellow through to green and bright red.

Certain chilli varieties are known to be hotter than others, but it’s worth bearing in mind that even on the same plant individual fruits can contain different levels of capsaicin. Here’s a selection of some of the most common chilli varieties, from the relatively mild to the lip-tinglingly, mouth-burningly hot…

  • Poblano and Mulato Isleno are mildly hot varieties which develop a deep, sweet flavour and can be used in chiles rellenos (stuffed chillies). Poblanos can be dried and used in the Mexican mole poblano sauce. Elongated New Mexican chillies such as Ortega, as well as the Hungarian Hot Wax, also hold back on the fire and are ideal for use in stews and salsas, much as you’d use a sweet pepper.
  • Pasillas are long and very dark brown. They’re usually sold dried and are ground to add to sauces.
  • Jalapeños are quite fiery varieties, popular in the US and Mexico. They’re commonly used either fresh or pickled in salsa or as a pizza topping. Towards the end of the growing season, when they turn deep red, they’re often dried and smoked to make chipotles, which impart a distinctive flavour to salsas and marinades.
  • Cayenne peppers can grow to 30cm/12in long. They’re used mainly in hot sauces and their seeds are dried and ground to make cayenne pepper, a pinch of which can be added to or sprinkled over a variety of dishes, particularly cheesy ones.
  • Tabasco chillies are slightly hotter, and are used almost entirely in making Tabasco sauce, the distinctive flavour of which comes from a fermentation process in which the chillies are combined with vinegar and salt.
  • Bird’s-eye chillies are proof of the ‘smaller equals hotter’ rule. These tiny but powerful green and red fruits are especially common in Thai and South-east Asian cooking.
  • Habanero and Scotch Bonnet chillies are not for the faint-hearted, hitting the top of the heat scale. These lantern-shaped chillies are related but distinct types. Habaneros have a slightly fruity flavour and are usually orange, while the Caribbean Scotch Bonnets vary in colour.

Selecting, storing and preparing chillies
When shopping for chillies, farmers’ markets and ethnic stores are the best hunting grounds for more interesting varieties. Look for a smooth, glossy skin that is deep in colour and firm to the touch. Discard any with shrivelled skin, brown marks or watery bruises. Chillies in prime condition can be stored for a week or two in a ventilated plastic bag in the fridge. Chilling affects the flavour, so bring them to room temperature before use.

To prepare fresh chillies, slit them lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes with the tip of the knife and cut off the stem. Rinse them under cold running water and then prepare according to the recipe.
After working with chillies, it’s extremely important to wash your hands thoroughly. Failure to do so can result in painful burning of the eyes or skin – wearing rubber gloves is a good tip.

Dried chillies are a great ingredient to have on hand in the kitchen, as they’ll keep for around 12 months if stored in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. For a very simple Italian-style storecupboard dinner with tons of flavour, crumble them, seeds and all, into a pan and lightly fry in a little olive oil with some chopped garlic, then stir into spaghetti.

Some of the larger dried chillies work better when reconstituted. If you’re making a liquidy dish such as a soup or sauce, you can add the dried chillies in whole and they’ll plump up during cooking. Otherwise, you can reconstitute them by soaking in a bowlful of water for about an hour. They can then be used in the same way as fresh chillies.

Cooking with chillies
Although mainly known for their heat, chillies can add flavour to bland dishes, and a small amount of finely chopped chilli is good with grains, pulses or mildly flavoured root vegetables.

Chillies are also great for livening up white fish

Chillies are also great for livening up white fish. Chop a little into a marinade of lime juice, olive oil and coriander, and brush the fish with this before grilling. Try them in Chinese stir-fries, too.
If you want to roast chillies, put them under a very hot preheated grill, directly in a gas flame or – best of all – over hot coals, until the skin blackens and blisters. Be careful not to over-roast chillies as they tend to disintegrate.

Burn relief
Should you find yourself with a mouthful of fire, the most effective antidotes are dairy products (particularly when combined with cooling cucumber, as in the Indian raita), because capsaicin is fat-soluble. Eating starchy foods such as bread or rice can also help. A drink of cold water won’t help – it will actually seem to increase the heat.

Sweet dishes can also benefit from a chilli kick – try grilling thick slices of mango or pineapple on a griddle or barbecue, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and finely chopped red chilli. Chilli’s affinity with chocolate has long been known, dating back to the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America, who are thought to have made a frothy hot chocolate drink flavoured with chilli or vanilla. A little bite of chilli warms the tongue and helps to cut through the richness of the chocolate.


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The Breakfast Routine

muesliTen ideas for a healthier meal.

There’s a reason they call it the most important meal of the day. Not only is breakfast the first food and drink your body has had in more than 8 hours, but studies find that what you eat for breakfast influences what you eat the rest of the day. Additionally, people who eat breakfast are significantly less likely to be obese and have diabetes than those who don’t.

The most important tip we can give you is to eat breakfast every day. Without exception. This one action alone can make a huge, positive difference in your health. But a doughnut or oversized muffin won’t do it. The key is to choose energy enhancing, health-invigorating foods. That’s what we’ll focus on in the tips ahead.

1. Be consistent with your portions.
For most people, a perfect breakfast has three components: one serving of a whole grain carbohydrate, one serving of a dairy or high-calcium food, and one serving of fruit. Together, that would add up to roughly 300 calories. A high-protein serving (i.e., a meat or an egg) is unnecessary but certainly acceptable, as long as it doesn’t add too much fat or calories to the mix. Here are a few winning combinations, based on this formula:

  • A bowl of high-fiber, multigrain cereal, lots of strawberries, and low-fat milk on top.
  • A granola bar, an apple, and a cold glass of milk.
  • A cup of nonfat yogurt, fresh blueberries mixed in, and a slice of whole wheat toast with a fruit spread on top.
  • A mini whole wheat bagel, spread lightly with cream cheese and jam; a peach; and a cup of yogurt.
  • A scrambled egg, a whole wheat roll, fresh fruit salad, and a cup of low-fat milk.
  • A low-fat muffin, a wedge of cantaloupe, and a cup of latte made with skim milk.
  • 2. Have a bowl of sweetened brown rice.
    Consider it a takeoff on prepared cereal. Brown rice is full of energy-providing B vitamins, as well as a great source of filling fiber. Cook the rice the night before, then in the morning, put it in a bowl with a spoonful of honey, a handful of raisins, a cut-up apple, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a unique yet delicious treat. Don’t like rice? Try any of the cooking grains: barley, rye, red wheat, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, or millet.

    3. Pour a cup of fruit smoothie.
    Simply whir a cup of strawberries and a banana in the blender, add a scoop of protein powder and a cup of crushed ice, and you’ve got a healthy, on-the-go breakfast filled with antioxidants. Toss in a cup of plain yogurt, and you’ve just added a bone-strengthening dose of calcium. An added bonus: You’ve just crossed three of your daily fruit servings off the list.

    4. Use organic eggs.
    They’re not much more expensive than regular eggs but are much higher in all-important omega-3 fatty acids, shown to benefit everything from your mental health (reducing risk of depression) to your heart health (reducing risk of atherosclerosis and atrial fibrillation), says Fred Pescatore, M.D., author of The Hamptons Diet and a physician at Partners in Integrative Medicine in New York City.

    5. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of ground flaxseeds.
    It could be over your cereal, over your yogurt, over your smoothie, or over your eggs. Next to fish and organic eggs, flaxseeds are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

    6. Use Benecol, Take Control, or Smart Balance instead of butter.
    These newly developed soft food spreads contain heart-healthy plant stanols. Just 2 tablespoons daily can significantly lower your total cholesterol level. In Europe you can use Flora, Becel or Blue Band.

    7. Have lunch for breakfast.
    Instead of butter or cream cheese, top your morning (whole wheat) toast with 2 tablespoons tuna prepared with low-fat mayonnaise. The tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent source of energy-boosting protein. For the same healthy boost with a bit of variety, try lox or canned or smoked salmon [they also seem to go better at breakfast].

    8. Sprinkle a whole wheat burrito
    with 2 ounces grated, low-fat cheddar cheese and broil for 3 minutes. While it’s cooking, peel and eat an orange for valuable vitamin C. In this one small, quick meal, you’re getting vitamin C and other antioxidants, calcium, fiber, and enough appetite-satisfying protein to sustain you for hours.

    9. Make your own granola.
    Most store-bought brands are filled with sugar and fat. To make your own, mix 2 cups rolled oats with 1 cup dried fruits and seeds and a little brown sugar. Toast 3-5 minutes in a warm oven and store in an airtight container. Not interested in do-it-yourself? There are a few store-bought brands with reasonable sugar and fat levels, including Nature’s Path and Familia.

    10. Pour a bowlful of Kashi GOLEAN Crunch!
    With 10 grams of fiber, it will put you well on your way to the 25-30 grams of fiber you should be eating every day. Plus, studies find that people who regularly start their day with a bowl of cold cereal get more fiber and calcium, but less fat, than those who breakfast on other foods. Another study found that people who ate two bowlfuls of high-fiber cereal every day spontaneously cut the amount of fat they ate by 10 percent. Don’t like Kashi? Other high-fiber cereals include Raisin Bran, Multi-Bran Chex and Wheat ‘N Bran Spoon Size [8 grams], Kellogg’s All-Bran Original [10 grams], and General Mills Fiber One [14 grams].

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