Category Archives: super foods


superfood pumpkin

Three Delicious Pumpkin Recipes For Fall

Pumpkin season is here!

It’s that time of year when the days are getting shorter, the temperatures are dropping, and all those scrumptious, warming, Fall foods are appearing at your grocery store. This includes pumpkin, one of my favorite, most versatile vegetables. Fabulous in soups, baked goods, as a side vegetable, and even as a snack using the seeds. Pumpkins are so tasty that I find it surprising how in the United States we spend nearly $600 million on pumpkins just to carve them up for Halloween and then discard them. They’re so nutritious and delicious that I think we should all be eating more of them.

Superfood benefits of pumpkin

Qualifying as a superfood, pumpkins are a wonderful source of potassium, vitamin A, a good source of vitamin C, and also provide quite a bit of fiber. Health-wise, due in part to their high antioxidant status, studies show pumpkin may be supportive in decreasing the risk of cancer. They’re also believed to help with improving insulin regulation, lowering blood pressure, providing lignans (which can have an antimicrobial benefit), and consuming pumpkin may even be helpful for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.

It’s not just the flesh of the pumpkin that’s good for you. The seeds also have health benefits. Helpful for cholesterol metabolism and in addition to being a good source of protein, the seeds also deliver tryptophan, manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and zinc. All of this goes a long way towards making pumpkins and their seeds something you definitely want to add to your nutritional plan.

Pumpkin Recipes

While almost everyone is familiar with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, and possibly even pumpkin soup, there’s so much more you can do with them.  Here are a few delicious ways to add more pumpkin to your Fall menu and bump up your nutrition.

Pumpkin Hummus

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15 oz can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
15 ounces pumpkin puree
juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/2 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp sea salt 
2-4 Tbsp chickpea liquid, as needed for consistency

Blend all ingredients except salt and liquid together
If needed, add chickpea liquid 1 Tablespoon at a  time for smoothness and consistency
Once fully blended add salt to taste
Best served at room temperature

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound gluten-free tagliatelle (my preferred brand is Jovial)|
2 Tbsp organic butter
2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
4 cups organic milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
shaved parmesan for topping
minced rosemary for topping

Cook, drain, and lightly rinse pasta
Heat butter in a saucepan, add flour and whisk until combined
Add garlic, pepper, rosemary, and milk, reduce heat
Whisk all ingredient together until fully combined
Add pasta to the sauce and combine, coating noodles well
Garnish with extra minced rosemary and shaved parmesan

Superfood Pumpkin Shake
makes 2 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree, cold, not freshly cooked
2 bananas
½ cup plain organic Greek yogurt (full fat if possible)
½ cup unsweetened almond milk (avoid carrageenan)
2 tbsp protein powder
1 tsp honey
1 tsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp bee pollen granules
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 cups ice

Blend well until fully combined
If needed add extra liquid to fully blend ingredients together

For a few more Fall posts be sure to check these out:

 

Amazing Health Benefits Of Kimchi

amazing health benefits of kimchi
A lot of research has recently come out praising the health benefits of kimchi, a popular fermented food originally from Korea. It’s made by a simple process of fermenting cabbage, spices, and other vegetables in a tightly closed jar. Although traditionally made kimchi does have a specific type of crock that is used, it can be made at home in glass jars.  Kimchi is practically a super-food; a low-calorie, high fiber condiment that can be used to heal many ailments and improve overall health.

Due to the fermentation process kimchi is an excellent source of probiotics, these are the good bacteria that help your body fight off various infections. Kimchi is also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, some B vitamins, iron, calcium, and selenium.  These all contribute to supporting muscle growth, improve your immune system, and improve blood flow.

If you suffer from high cholesterol kimchi may be the answer you’re looking for as part of a heart-healthy diet. Recent research has proved that kimchi has the ability to lower cholesterol levels when eaten on a daily basis. Garlic, one of the key ingredients in kimchi, is a great source of both allicin and selenium. Allicin is a well-known compound that can reduce cholesterol levels, which will help decrease chances of developing strokes and heart attacks. The selenium, another active compound in garlic, can help lower cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol plaque from building up in your artery walls.

The fermentation process to make kimchi also contributes to the delicious taste and creates a rich source of probiotics. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria your body needs to maintain a balanced state of bacteria  in your colon. The cabbage, which is the main ingredient in kimchi, will also help your body get rid of waste, and stabalize your bowel movements.

As a weight loss food kimchi is believed to be highly supportive due to its lactobacillus content. Lactobacillus is one of the many good bacteria your body needs to function at a top level. This good bacteria in kimchi can help control your appetite by lowering blood sugar levels. The fiber content in kimchi may also help you feel less hungry so you are not as likely to over=eat during the day.

Most of the ingredients used to make kimchi such as ginger, pepper, and garlic have all been known to support the immune system and are believed to have the ability to stop or shorten cold and flu symptoms. The antioxidants in kimchi are beneficial for protecting your body from free radicals.  There are some theories which support the idea that high levels of free radicals may increase susceptibility to flu and colds.

Eating kimchi regularly may also help reduce your chances of developing certain cancers, such as stomach cancer. It is the cabbage used to make kimchi that gives it powerful antioxidants and flavonoids known to help prevent cancer. Along with the antioxidants and flavonoids it possesses, cabbage is also a rich source of glucosinolates. Glucosinolates when digested convert into a compound known as isothiocyanate, which is an effective anti-cancer phytochemical found in many cruciferous vegetables..

Although kimchi is considered a super-food with extraordinary health benefits it is important to eat it with caution. Eating too much of this fermented dish can cause digestive distress and may even increase your chances of developing gastric cancer. Also if you have high blood pressure be sure to carefully monitor your kimchi intake as it normally has a high amount of salt in it. You can eat kimchi by itself as a pre-meal or with meal condiment, add it to soups, to rice, or as a topping on sandwiches.

John Maddox is an experienced herbalist who writes about natural alternatives to medicine, nutrition, diet, and fitness. He is currently doing research on natural acne treatments; his work can be found online at Natural Acne Med.

photo: jqn

Blueberry Bliss

I recently went blueberry picking with a friend.  We went to our local blueberry orchard, Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm.  The owner, Sid, told us that his dad started the place 35 years ago and he worked there every summer as a kid.  Now he owns it and works there every day during the season.  They don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers which is a plus in my book.*

These bushes were fabulous!  Over six feet tall and loaded with berries.  In just 30 short minutes I managed to pick two and a half pounds of plump delicious berries.  As I was picking I was hearing parents with small children scattered throughout the field.  I laughed to myself as I remembered blueberry picking with my girls when they were little.  The three of them were more interested in eating the berries.  They would pick for a while, eating as they picked, and then when they were tired of picking they would come raid my blueberry bucket for handfuls of sweet berries.  Quite frankly I never managed to pick enough to satisfy three hungry tummies and have some for home.  I often had to go back without them in order to have a reasonable amount of berries.

I consider blueberries super-fruits, very high in antioxidants they are one of the few native American fruits.  I’ve written about some of their health benefits in the past.  New research appears to show that higher consumption of blueberries may be helpful in warding off conditions such as Alzheimers and Parkinson’s as well as improving general cognitive function in aging adults.

Whatever their health benefits, no one can deny that they taste wonderful.  After my husband and teenaged daughter plundered the batch I brought home I had just enough left to make a gluten free blueberry coffee cake.  Obviously I’m going to have to go back for more….I guess some things never change.

Gluten Free Blueberry Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 F
grease and flour a 9 x 9 baking pan

1 C. buckwheat flour
1 C. gluten free oat flour
1 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 C. blueberries
1 C. chocolate chips
4 T. butter, cold
1/2 C. Greek yogurt
1/2 C. unsweetened almond milk
1 large egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract

topping:

1/2 C. gluten free rolled oats
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 C. evaporated cane juice crystals
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Mix together all of the dried ingredients
Shred butter into flour mixture using the large side of a box grater
Mix butter into the flour mixture with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
Add blueberries and chocolate chips and toss well to coat
In a separate bowl mix together yogurt, almond milk, egg, and extract, blend well
Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and quickly blend together, do not overmix the batter
In a separate bowl mix together topping ingredients
Spread topping evenly on the coffee cake
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top of the coffee cake springs back lightly when tapped
Remove from oven and cool
Serve warm or room temperature

*Sid did share that he uses roundup for weed control (obviously not on the blueberries) because it is  a short-lived weed killer.  I’m hopeful that he will consider switching to something else like vinegar which is shown to be effective. 

Superfoods Trending Down

According to a news article I read recently superfoods are trending down.  Not all superfoods, just the ones that have been the media darlings, acai, goji berries and the like.  I actually like this trend because as I wrote previously (back in 2008 I might add) we don’t need to import superfoods.  We would do better to utilize those that are readily available.  It’s more sustainable, eco-friendly, and also easier on your wallet.
 
So what are these superfoods that we should be more aware of (and eat more often)?
 
Berries- with lots of fiber and antioxidants they’re great and easy to add to the diet in cereal, yogurt, salads, plain, anytime.
 
Eggs – high in protein (1 egg provides 6 g) with lutein and zeaxanthin (good for your eyes) they’re versatile and satisfying.
 
Nuts – raw, unsalted are the best.  Providing monosaturated fats they are a great heart-healthy choice.  Add them to foods such as cereals or baked good or take some along for a healthy nutrition boosting snack.
 
Broccoli – yes, it is a super food.  With an amazing nutritional punch it provides not only fiber and a wide range of vitamins, but it also has sulforaphane which is a potent cancer fighting detoxifier.
 
Beans – with a hefty dose of fiber and iron beans are just an all around good for you food.  Soups, stews, and dips are a great way to add them to your meals.
 
Beta-carotenes – okay so this isn’t a food but rather a group of foods.  Found in orange foods (think sweet potatoes, winter squashes, carrots, etc) and dark leafy greens (the chlorophyll hides the color) like kale, spinach, collards and more betacarotene is a powerful antioxidant that support immune system health, reproductive health, and it’s very good for your eyes.
 
So while imported superfoods may be trending down I’m rooting for an overall upward trend in the concept of super foods.
 

Turmeric, The Word Of The Day

I just got back from the annual conference of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.  It was a fabulous two day event, lots of wonderful conference sessions, catching up with friends, making new ones, and great food (of course, what else would one expect at a conference of nutrition professionals).


I attended sessions on a wide range of diverse topics from “Dietary Triggers of Pain and Inflammation” to “Nutrigenomic Regulation of Adaptive Stress Response” to “Fermentation Around the World” and I was struck by the fact that one word kept coming up over and over again.  Turmeric.  It truly was THE word, not just of the day, but of the weekend.  One seminar that I took with Agnes K. Green of The Healer Within Us even referred to turmeric as a “major mojo” herb.  I think she’s right; examining all the wonderful benefits of turmeric it’s easy to see why it is gaining such popularity.


Made from the root of the Curcurma longa plant, turmeric is a power anti-inflammatory herb.  It has uses ranging from treating flatulence, colic, jaundice, and bruises to being helpful for IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and is now being researched as a powerful anti-cancer ingredient.  High in manganese, B6, iron, and potassium it gives a pleasant kick to recipes with it’s warm, distinctive flavor.  Although most commonly thought of for curries, it goes well with many dishes, such as egg salad, rice salads, lentils, soups, pickles, and relishes.


Some folks even use turmeric to make a tea.  According to Dr. Andrew Weil, Okainawans, noted for being remarkably long lived, “drink copious quantities of turmeric tea.”  In addition to the other health benefits mentioned above studies are showing that turmeric has some effect on reducing the inflammation of brain tissue associated with Alzheimer’s.  Major mojo indeed.


Although I like turmeric and use it in my cooking, I’m beginning to believe I may not be using it nearly enough.  I’ve added the following books to my wish list:


               




























and plan to start experimenting more in the kitchen.


If you’ve got any particularly tasty recipes that you’d like to share, please feel free to pass them along, we could all use a little more of this beneficial herb in our diet.


Be well.


photo courtesy of Sanjay Acharya | Wikimedia Commons

Resources:
http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=78#howtouse
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02833/turmeric-tea

Chayote Squash

I recently had a wonderful sandwich made with a soft cheese and raw chayote squash on a crusty french bread.  The crisp fresh flavor of the chayote complimented the soft cheese and gave the sandwich a wonderful consistency.


Chayote (pronounced chai-oh-tee) is a member of the curcurbitaceae family, which also includes melons, cucumbers, and squash.  Sometimes call a pear squash it can be eaten either raw or cooked.


Nutritionally it is an excellent addition to your diet, being very low in calories, only 25 per cup, with a high level of vitamin C, folate, and manganese (a mineral that is important for bone growth).  That one cup also provides a modest amount of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  It is believed to have diuretic properties and apparently there are Central American cultures that use it to treat kidney stones and other urinary disorders.


Currently at their peak they can be added to a wide range of raw salads or cooked dishes.  Consider trying this wonderful recipe from Epicurious.


When choosing a chayote in the grocery store or farmer’s market make sure to choose a firm unblemished fruit.


photo courtesy of David Monniaux | Wikimedia Commons

Is baobab the next superfruit

What’s The Next Superfruit?

According to an article I recently read, the baobab is the next superfruit. I imagine this means it should be hitting the shores of the USA any day now. No doubt to be found in a wide variety of items at the grocery store.

Health benefits of baobab

Apparently the fruit has extraordinarily high levels of vitamin C, nearly six times that of an orange. It is also reported to be high in calcium, potassium, and both soluble and insoluble fibers. The fruit is also anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (fever reducing).

In addition to all of the wonderful benefits of the fruit, many other parts of the tree are usable. These include the seeds,  fibers, and leaves.  These other products are apparently sometimes used in cosmetics and folk-medicines. Once they come to the United States they will no doubt find their way into every imaginable product.

What’s wrong with superfoods?

While I am always happy to find foods that have great nutritional benefit or plants that have beneficial value, I confess to being underwhelmed at the thought of another “super” food.  From açaí  to goji berries to mangosteen and more, every new discovery brings a touted superfood. These are delivered to us at an enormous premium and pushed into our everyday consciousness via massive marketing campaigns to try to convince us to buy a product, any product, that has this newest discovery in it (sometimes in the most minimal quantities). In addition to the push by producers to include the newest, latest, greatest thing, by consuming, and often over-consuming, whatever this newest product is. Sometimes to the detriment of those who produce it.

One prime example of this trend is what has happened/is happening in Peru with the rise in popularity of quinoa. Farmers, feeling pressure to produce, are depleting the soil that would otherwise have an opportunity to lay fallow and recover. They are also switching not using the natural llama fertilizer as they reduce their herds to allow them to grow more quinoa. In the long run this quite possibly may lead to a reliance on chemical fertilizers which is not the best option for the soil or the plants.

Consider local superfoods

While it’s interesting, and tasty, to have the availability of superfoods from other parts of the planet, don’t lose your awareness of what is available around you. Before you rush off and buy the latest baobab concoction, think more about what you eat on a regular basis. Blueberries, sweet potatoes, avocados, liver, and pumpkin seeds are among just a few of the wonderful and delicious superfood that are available in the United States. If you live outside of the US consider looking for those nutrient dense foods that are available closer to home.

Improving daily nutrition is better for long-term health than jumping on the latest-and-greatest bandwagon.   Spending your food dollars for overall health, such as fresh, local, organic food is better than spending a large sum for a small quantity of any food, no matter how super it purports to be. Remember to eat well from the abundance that surrounds you.