Archive for Nutrition

Love Your Heart Week – Heart-healthy ingredients

One in four deaths in America. 600,000 deaths each year. The number one killer in the country. Do you know what it is?

It’s heart disease, and February is the month we hope to raise awareness and learn how to our risk of disease. The good news (well, from a food-blogger’s perspective) is that diet is one of the major ways we either help or hurt our hearts. So I’ve pulled together a week’s worth of recipes that feature foods rich in fiber, phytonutrients, healthy fats and more, to help keep hearts in tick-tock shape.

Chocolate (the darker, the better). It’s not for nothing that chocolate and heart-themed Valentine’s Day are paired up in our collective consciousness. Full of heart-friendly flavonoids, chocolate can help control blood pressure if you eat the high-cocoa content stuff (70% or more) regularly. And if you try it in my chocolate veggie enchilada recipe, you’ll also get some healthy fats from avocado and a good dose of vegetables.

Nuts. Your heart goes nuts for the mono- and polyunsaturated fats and phytosterols in foods like walnuts and almonds. And the little buggers are tasty, too, especially when ground up into creamy nut butters like the simple maple walnut butter from Eating Well With Janel.

Legumes. Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you… reduce your risk of heart disease! Yeah, my version isn’t as melodic (or amusing to first-graders), but it casts these fiber-rich, vitamin-packed legumes as the nutritional powerhouses they are. Give lentils a while in my curried lentil shepherd’s pie, or check out Bean Week for more recipes.

Berries. Blueberries, cranberries, cherries, elderberries, and more – they’re all packed with phytonutrients (flavonoids, carotenoids, polyphenols) that have been shown to promote cardiovascular health with regular consumption. Work them in easily as a snack or dessert with Cooking Light’s blueberry orange yogurt parfait.

Green vegetables. Well, duh, green vegetables are healthy for you. But foods like broccoli, spinach and others are especially good for the ol’ ticker because they’re rich in carotenoids, fiber, and potassium, among other nutrients. Epicurious has a simple, colorful side-dish recipe for chard with pine nuts and golden raisins that can ease anyone into the green-vegetable habit.

Orange vegetables. Carotenoids give foods like carrots, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes their lovely orange hue, and contribute to their associated with lower risk of heart disease. So orange you glad there’s a recipe like carrot “pasta” with kale parsley pesto from Betacyanin?

Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and other omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods. There’s some confusion about unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids’ role in heart health, because supplementation hasn’t conclusively been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there’s ample evidence that eating foods rich in omega-3s does reduce your risk. So if you put down the pill bottle, pick up your fork (or spoon) and try adding fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and other good food sources to your diet. Cooking Light has a pan-seared salmon with jalapeno-pineapple relish recipe that sounds great for fish eaters, and veg-heads like me might want to throw some flaxseeds on their yogurt or into a bowl of oatmeal.

The Missing Week: Magnesium’s turn in the spotlight

There are several rockstar nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C – who can’t seem to share the spotlight with the rest of the cast. But somewhere a few steps off the red carpet, there’s a lesser known but hard-working mineral that deserves some attention: magnesium.

This salad will make a lot more sense after a few paragraphs.

Magnesium keeps bones strong, helps nerves zzzzap like normal, and is needed for a few other minor tasks like, oh, keeping your heart beating. (Lots more info here) But apparently that isn’t glitzy enough for the average eater, because nearly half of people age 1 and older have inadequate intakes (pdf).

Why? Well, our love of refined grains may be one culprit – wheat’s germ and bran are rich in magnesium, but those get stripped out when processed into flours and such. Green Veggie Phobia is another contributor, because if you aren’t eating your greens, you’re not getting the magnesium-rich chlorophyll.

I think we all agree that we like non-brittle bones and still-beating hearts, so what should we eat to get more magnesium? In general, whole grains, vegetables (especially the green ones), legumes, seeds and nuts are the way to go.

And that brings us to the salad I tossed (har) together that boasts several magnesium-rich foods on the marquee: garam-masala-roasted cashews, curried black lentils, and spinach, along with sweet potato and a simple dressing. Not only does this salad have a sweet and spicy crunch, but it delivers approximately half the magnesium required daily by the average adult.

The salad recipe follows below, and here’s a few additional ways to add more of the magnificent mineral to your meals:

  • “Good morning blend” yogurt parfait from Rodale (here)
  • Poached egg with walnuts and spinach from Cooking Light (here)
  • No-bake molasses, dates, seed and nut bites from Oh My Veggies (here)
  • Jumbo prawns with balsamic-orange onions from Eating Well (here)
  • Grilled halibut with roasted tomatoes from Rodale (here)
  • Papaya avocado salad from Eating Well (here)

Spiced cashew, curried lentil and sweet potato salad

(4 servings, approx. 460 calories each)

Ingredients:
1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1 Tbs garam masala
3 Tbs orange juice, divided
½ cup dry black lentils
2 cups water
1 tsp curry powder
2 medium sweet potatoes
6-8 cups fresh spinach
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar

Roast the cashews: Heat the oven to 250F. Mix the cashews, garam masala and 1 Tbs orange juice in a bowl. Spread the cashews on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring once or twice during that time.

Cook the lentils: Combine the lentils, water and curry powder in a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20-22 minutes.

Cook the sweet potato: Pierce each sweet potato several times with a fork. Microwave each for 3 minutes on one side, then flip and microwave another 2-3 minutes.

Mix up the dressing: Whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar and remaining 2 Tbs orange juice in a small bowl.

Put it all together: Divide the spinach among four bowls. To that add ¼ cup of the roasted cashews, one fourth of the cooked lentils, ½ of a sweet potato (sliced/cubed), and ¼ of the dressing (roughly 1.5 Tbs).

 

Rocky Balboa Week: Eggs, eggs, and more eggs

“You need higher quality protein, and more of it,” said the sports dietitian I consulted recently, when I was looking for help with my out-of-whack appetite and over-the-waistband squishiness. Since I already eat eggs, she encouraged me to work them into my diet whenever possible, along the way toward increasing my daily protein intake by a good 35-65% (yeesh).

So there I was, staring them down by the dozen, and wondering just how many eggs over medium I could take before I (ahem) cracked.

And I’m thinking now that my RD has some sort of Client Reluctance Sensor, because just today as I was firing up the ol’ blogamjig to write about eggs, I saw her tweet this…

…about her egg-centric blog post. Ok, I’m on board, I swear! I get how eggs are an economical source of high quality protein (meaning they contain all the essential amino acids, the ones your body can’t make itself). I’ve even extolled their virtues on ETW previously.

So I started with an ingeniously simple but novel (to me) way to prepare them – microwave scrambled eggs, from an article over on Greatist. Two eggs, a Crown Royal glass (look, that’s all I had clean), 90 seconds, and voila.

Simple enough on its own, but then they can be fancied up with any sort of add-ins. I went for another nutritional powerhouse – beans – and some salsa to make a quick filling snack.

But there are myriad other ways to fancy up these awesome ovals – from a vegetarian Cobb salad to tangy lemon curd – that I found when hunting around for more ways to empty that long brown cardboard container. Want to try? They’re all in this week’s recipe round up:

  • Microwaved eggs from Greatist (here)
  • Eggs poached with curried tomato sauce from Cooking Light (here)
  • Mini chile relleno casseroles from Eating Well (here)
  • Scrambled eggs and oats from Spark People (here)
  • Lemon curd with berries from Cooking Light (here)
  • Poached eggs with yogurt and mint from NY Times (here)
  • Chickpea Cobb salad from Chubby Vegetarian (here)

Lettuce Week: Salads are great, but…

Lettuce  just get the pun out the way up front, so we can jump right in and make good use of the leafy green bounty in the spring garden.

From the Lynch Farm

I’m pretty thrilled that our little lettuce crop survived the bizarre hot-and-dry-then-rainy-and-cold spring, and didn’t end up as groundhog food. But now there’s the question of how to use all of it. We’ve been eating plenty of simple green salads, and tried a strawberry and goat cheese salad from Eating Well that was very tasty. Some of our lettuce also has ended up in tacos when we had make-your-own taco bar recently.

From there, though, I ran out of lettuce ideas besides just eating green salads for 27 days in a row. Thankfully, Teh Internets provided a week’s worth of recipes that make creative use of the leafy green stuff. Head past the jump for the list & a recent award.

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Stalking the Week: Waving the magical celery wand

Maybe it’s the wand-like shape of a celery stalk which suggests it is imbued with magical, “negative calorie” powers. Let’s just get this out of the way up front: it’s a myth that you burn more calories digesting celery than are actually in the celery itself. And nutritionally, it’s not really a big standout – there’s a reasonable amount of water and vitamin K in each stalk, but mostly it’s just a fiber delivery system.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy this relative of carrots and parsley for its other merits, like the crunchy texture and clean, distinctive flavor. Those firm green ribs stand up great to all sorts of dips and schmears, making celery a perennial favorite on the veggie-and-dip tray at parties. But there are several other ways to enjoy it, especially in crunchy salads with fruit or other veggies.

The recipe that got this all started for me was a vegan creamy celery soup in the recent issue of Vegetarian Times. But that recipe isn’t yet posted on their site, and I’m not a big fan of copyright infringement, so I can’t share it with you here. I did manage to find a very similar recipe from Pamela Goes Primal, however, linked in the recipe list at the end of this post.

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Happy as a nutrition nerd eating clams

The phrase “happy as a clam” is baffling – really, who’s happy about living in a scraggly shell wedged deep in briny, sandy muck? But these guys certainly can bring a smile to the face of nutrition nerds.

Clams (and a few other shellfish)

Did you know that ounce-for-ounce, these little mollusks boast more iron than the red meats we typically think of as good sources? You’d probably guess that, as seafood, they’d have a favorable fat profile (read: lots of omega-3 fatty acids, little of the bad-for-you fats). But unlike many other seafoods, clams are typically low in contaminants and can be grown and harvested sustainably.

So what kind of foods can we prepare that take advantage of the nutritional value, substantial texture, and simple flavors of clams? Head past the jump.

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Recipe Redux: Whole grains – accidental warm spelt salad

What food blogger – especially one with Obsessive Pun Disorder – wouldn’t love the chance to say they bit off more than they can chew? Thanks (I think?) to Recipe Redux, I had the opportunity to do just that. For November, we Reduxers were charged with using a new whole grain. So I dove right in and tried to modify a recipe I’ve never made before (pan-seared oatmeal) with a grain I’ve never eaten, much less prepared – spelt.

The idea was to modify the sweet breakfast recipe into a savory version that would highlight the richer, mushroom-y flavor of spelt. The result? Well, let’s call it Accidental Spelt Salad, because there were some… structural issues that required a salvage job and a bowl.

I mixed cooked spelt with egg and Dijon mustard and layered it with some Gruyere cheese in the middle. This chilled for about an hour; I then inverted it and cut it into neat little triangles. Alas, here’s where things went south.

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Mushroom Week: tasty little recyclers

We now know that mushrooms are tasty little buggers, adding earthy flavor and filling texture to all kinds of recipes. Nutritional science has also revealed that they are decent sources of B vitamins, copper, and selenium, and a few varieties even boast surprisingly large amounts of vitamin D. But I sometimes wonder, before all that, who first saw a bulbous fuzzy growth atop a pile of decomposing matter and thought, “That belongs in my mouth?”

Maybe we shouldn’t think about that too much, actually; my job of extolling their dietary virtues would become more difficult if we’re fixating on terms like “gilled fungi” or “spore-bearing fruiting body” (thanks, Wikipedia). Instead, let’s focus on melty risotto, savory pancakes, and the recipe that saved my relationship with veggie burgers: pecan mushroom burgers with gorgonzola sauce.

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Can’t beet this Week

Jacksons Michael and Janet, Gloria Estefan, Public Enemy, and many more that will really date me – there are a lot of musical references that could lead into this week’s theme. But after a week of exams and a new volunteering gig, I’ve got decision fatigue like you wouldn’t believe. Since I couldn’t pick just one, humor me and hum the “beats” related song of your choice while gazing on these:

Are beets musical? No. Good source of vitamins A and C, folate, potassium, and beneficial pigmented phytochemicals betalains and anthocyanins? Yes. Tasty when roasted, boiled, or even grated raw, and especially well-paired with earthy soft cheeses like brie or goat cheese? Oh, heck yes.

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Apple Week: Keep those peels!

Here in the American northeast, it’s that time again – the trees have hints of red and orange peeking out, the mornings are cool enough to warrant a sweater (and gloves, if you’ve got Raynaud’s cadaver hands like me), and many of us are faced with the dilemma of what to do with a big bag of these:

Apples lend themselves to all sorts of sweet fall-season treats, and that’s a popular way to work through the bounty. But there are only so many slices of apple pie, dollops of apple butter, and candied apples people can eat before getting completely. sugared. out.

And the other downside to the dessert-y apple recipes is they typically leave out the phytochemical-rich peels. The entire apple contains a good amount of vitamin C and fiber, but those peels are especially interesting because they contain flavanoids that have potent anti-proliferative and anti-inflammatory properties. While it’s not yet clear if it’s the peel, the interior, or the entire apple that confers these benefits, research has shown that higher apple consumption is associated with decreased risk of some cancers and improved cardiovascular health markers.

So what to do? Try some of the peel-saving, meal-making recipes I’ve listed for this week, including apple pizza with spinach, blue cheese and mustard sauce.

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