All Posts tagged healthy eating

Almonds: Go Nuts

Personally, I’m a big fan of having nuts for a snack.  It provides that saltiness, but not all of the carbohydrates and saturated fat of chips or other typical snack foods.  I’ve always heard that almonds were healthy for you, but I never realized how healthy until I started doing a little research.  They are high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, and they are considered one of my most nutritious nuts. The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers.  Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, it bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut. The almond is one of the healthiest snack foods you can eat.  Its health benefits are wide and varied.  Below are some of the health benefits that almonds have:

  1. Helps heart health:  A study showed those who consumed almonds five times a week had a 50% reduction in risk of heart attack.  They have large amounts of vitamin E that acts as an antioxidant and reduces the risk of heart diseases.  Almonds also help reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) which causes artery-damaging inflammation.
  2. Reduces bad cholesterol:  Almonds are a good source of monounsaturated fats and some polyunsaturated fats which help to lower the low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol).  A handful every day can lower your bad cholesterol level by 8 to 12 percent.
  3. Improves blood circulation:  Almonds are high in potassium and low in sodium, both are factors that regulate blood pressure.  The high level of magnesium in almonds has a very positive effect on our arteries and veins and helps to improve the overall flow of nutrients through our bodies.  It also contains iron, which helps carry oxygen to all of the body’s cells and organs.
  4. Good source of Protein:  Almonds provide one of the best plant sources of protein.  They provide high quality and highly absorbable protein. A quarter-cup (containing around 30 nuts) contains around 7.6 grams of protein.
  5. Strengthens the bones:  Almonds are a good source of calcium which prevents osteoporosis and strengthens the bones, teeth and muscles.  It also provides other nutrients that help to increase the bone mineral density, which helps to strengthen the skeletal system.
  6. Good for brain power:  The almond is a source of many nutrients which helps in development of the brain development.  I’ve heard it recommended having 5 almonds in the morning everyday for maximum brainpower.  They contain phenylalanine, a brain-boosting chemical, which aids in healthy development of our cognitive functions.
  7. Helps you lose weight:  Almonds have high fiber content, protein and the good type of fat which satisfies your appetite very soon therefore you are less likely to have cravings and overeat.  Studies have revealed that almond rich low calorie diet is good for obese people to assist in shedding their weight.
  8. Good for diabetic people: They are a low glycemic index (GI) food. When eaten with a high GI food, it helps in reducing the rise in sugar and insulin levels after meals.
  9. Reduces the risk of Cancer:  Being high in natural fiber, it improves the movement of food through the colon, thereby preventing colon cancer.  Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, phytochemicals and flavonoids which suppress the growth of cancer cells. It is also rich source of boron which helps to prevent prostate cancer.
  10. Prevents Gallstones: People eating at least 5 almonds a day have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones, a study confirms.  Almond oil also possesses laxative properties and helps to produce soft stools and avoid any constipation.
  11. Good for skin:  An almond face pack prevents dry skin, pimples and black heads and is a good long term cure for acne.  It also improves skin complexion and premature aging. It nourishes the skin making it smooth and soft.
  12. Energy booster:  Nutrients present in almonds like Protein, Manganese, Copper & Riboflavin are all used to generate energy in our body.

So you can see, almonds are a nutritious snack that will have a positive effect on your overall health.  So Go Nuts on Almonds!!!!

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More Healthy Snack Recipes

Because I had such a good response to my previous post on healthy snack recipes, I added some more for you on this post.

Chipotle spiced shrimp

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 32 shrimp)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped

Directions

Rinse shrimp in cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel and set aside on a plate.

To make the marinade, whisk together the tomato paste, water and oil in a small bowl. Add garlic, chili powder and oregano. Mix well. Using a brush, spread the marinade (it will be thick) on both sides of the shrimp. Place in the refrigerator. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill or broiler (grill). Away from the heat source, lightly coat the grill rack or broiler pan with cooking spray. Position the cooking rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source .Put the shrimp in a grill basket or on skewers and place on the grill. Turn the shrimp after 3 to 4 minutes. The cooking time varies depending on the heat of the fire, so watch carefully. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 73, Cholesterol 85 mg, Sodium 151mg, Carbohydrates 3g,

 Ambrosia with coconut and toasted almonds

Serves 8

Ingredients

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 small pineapple
5 oranges
2 red apples, cored and diced
1 banana, halved lengthwise, peeled and sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons cream sherry
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a plate to cool. Add the coconut to the sheet and bake, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer immediately to a plate to cool.

Cut off the crown of leaves and the base of the pineapple. Stand the pineapple upright and, using a large, sharp knife, pare off the skin, cutting downward just below the surface in long, vertical strips and leaving the small brown “eyes” on the fruit. Lay the pineapple on its side. Aligning the knife blade with the diagonal rows of eyes, cut a shallow furrow, following a spiral pattern around the pineapple, to remove all the eyes. Cut the pineapple crosswise into slices 3/4-inch thick, and remove the core with a small, sharp knife or small cookie cutter. Cut into cubes and set aside.

Working with 1 orange at a time, cut a thin slice off the top and the bottom, exposing the flesh. Stand the orange upright and, using a sharp knife, thickly cut off the peel, following the contour of the fruit and removing all the white pith and membrane. Holding the orange over a bowl, carefully cut along both sides of each section to free it from the membrane. As you work, discard any seeds and let the sections fall into the bowl. Repeat with the remaining oranges. In a large bowl, combine the pineapple, oranges, apples, banana and sherry. Toss gently to mix well. Divide the fruit mixture evenly among individual bowls. Sprinkle evenly with the toasted almonds and coconut and garnish with the mint. Serve immediately.

Nutritional info:  Calories 146, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrates 26g, Sodium 1mg, Total fat 4g, Saturated fat 1g, Monounsaturated fat 1g

Apples with dip

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces fat-free cream cheese
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts
1/2 cup orange juice
4 apples, cored and sliced

Directions

Place the cream cheese on the counter to allow it to soften, about 5 minutes.  To make the dip, combine the brown sugar, vanilla and cream cheese in a small bowl. Mix until smooth. Stir in the chopped peanuts.  Place the apples in another bowl. Drizzle orange juice over the apples to prevent browning. Serve the sliced apples with the dip.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 177, Cholesterol 4mg, Sodium 326mg, Carbohydrate 28g, Total fat 3g, Saturated fat 1g, Monounsaturated fat 1g

 Quesadillas

Serves 16

Ingredients

4-ounce can diced green chili peppers, drained

Half a small onion, diced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

8 10-inch fat-free whole-wheat tortilla

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

Directions

In a bowl, combine peppers, onion and cumin. Sprinkle each tortilla with cheese, using 1/4 cup cheese on each. Divide pepper mixture among tortillas, spreading it over cheese. Roll up each tortilla and put in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover pan with foil. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese melts. Remove foil. Turn oven to broil. Broil 4 inches from heat for 1 1/2 minutes a side, or until lightly browned. Cut each tortilla into 4 pieces. Serve with your favorite salsa for dipping.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 103, Cholesterol 10 mg, Sodium 200mg, Carbohydrates 16g, Total fat 3g, Saturated fat 1.5g, Monounsaturated fat  0.5g

Fresh tomato crostini

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 plum tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup minced fresh basil

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound crusty Italian peasant bread, cut into 4 slices and toasted

Directions

Combine tomatoes, basil, oil, garlic and pepper in a medium bowl. Cover and let stand 30 minutes. Divide tomato mixture with any juices among the toast. Serve at room temperature.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 120, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 175mg, Carbohydrates 19g, Total fat 3.5g, Saturated fat 0.5g, Monounsaturated fat 2g

 Crispy potato skins

You can use any number of herbs or spices to season the potato skins. Try fresh basil, chives, dill, garlic, cayenne pepper, caraway seed, tarragon or thyme.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 medium russet potatoes
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Place in the oven and bake until the skins are crisp, about 1 hour.  Carefully — potatoes will be very hot — cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/8 inch of the potato flesh attached to the skin. Save the pulp for another use.  Spray the inside of each potato skin with butter-flavored cooking spray. Press in the rosemary and pepper. Return the skins to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 114, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Total fat 0g, Saturated fat 0g, Monounsaturated 0g.

Vegetable salsa

Store-bought salsa can have as much as 400 milligrams of sodium in 1/4 cup. This thick vegetable salsa has much less sodium — 150 milligrams in 1/2 cup. If you prefer hotter salsa, add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno peppers.

 Serves 16

Ingredients

1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup chopped red onion
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and diced
4 tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Wash vegetables and prepare as directed. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Toss gently to mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Nutritional Info:  Calories 20, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 150mg, Carbohydrates 5g, Total fat 0g

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The Hot (And Healthy) Foods For 2010

Every year certain foods become more popular because of some newly discovered nutritional property, or their virtues are touted by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey or Martha Stewart.  So here’s my list of this year’s most popular nutritional foods:

1. MANGOSTEEN

  • Where it’s from: Southeast Asia
  • What it tastes like: Very sweet, similar to a strawberry or peach
  • How to eat it: The Mangosteen’s dark purple rind is cracked open to reveal a soft opaque fruit, which can be eaten fresh or juiced.

2. RAMBUTAN

  • Where it’s from: Southeast Asia
  • What it tastes like: Juicy, tangy and sweet
  • How to eat it: Slice this prickly fruit open. Inside is a jelly-like substance (packed with vitamins A and C) that tastes good by itself or mixed in a fruit salad.

3. NONI

  • What it is: A tropical fruit from the Pacific Islands, full of vitamin C and fiber.
  • How to eat it: Peeled and then juiced.
  • What it tastes like: Growers talk of the fruit’s “smokey coconut” flavor and say its juice blends well with apple or cranberry juice.

4.  ACAI BERRIES

  • What they taste like: Slightly bitter, with a hint of chocolate.
  • How to eat them: Not by the handful! Packed with antioxidants, these berries (which come from the Amazon palm tree) are best enjoyed as a juice or blended into a smoothie.

5. STEVIA PLANT

  • What it is: This South American herb, used in the Truvia line of sweeteners,  is all-natural and has zero calories.
  • How to eat it: One packet of Truvia is equal to 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar.

6. GOJI BERRIES

  • What they are: Dried Himalayan superfruits with nutrients that boost the immune system.
  • What they are: Like Black raisins
  • How to eat them: By the handful: for those with a sweet tooth, try coating in chocolate.

7. TURBINADO SUGAR

  • Why it’s good for you: Although it tastes like regular brown sugar, there are no artificial colors or flavorings.
  • How to eat it: Its large crystals make this sweetener a good choice when baking.

8. AGAVE NECTAR    

  • Why it’s good for you: Because it can be 25 percent sweeter than table sugar, you can use less of the Mexican cactus extract.
  • How to eat it: Agave is a great substitute for honey or white sugar in your coffee or tea.

9. PALM SUGAR

  • What it is: Harvested from the palm trees, it’s an all natural sweetener.
  • How to eat it: Sprinkled on top of fruit or blended with cinnamon or vanilla, for when you need a little extra sugar fix.
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Is Milk Bad for You?

Lately I’ve heard a lot of people saying that cow’s milk is not good for humans.  Researching a lot of the comments against milk, I’ve found a lot of the people who say milk is bad for you are animal rights activists or people disposed towards the vegan lifestyle.  Whether to eat meat or animal products is a personal decision, but it doesn’t have a bearing on whether milk is healthy or not for those who choose to drink it.

One of the most popular arguments I’ve heard against drinking milk is that it is unnatural. We humans are the only beings to drink the milk of another species and to drink milk at all past infancy. To some, this seems like a perversion of the natural order. Now, I actually do have some opinions on these issues but this isn’t the time or the place to discuss opinions.  For the purposes of this blog, I’m going to stick to the nutritional issues.

Here are the positive aspects of milk in your diet.

  1. It’s a good source of high-quality protein. Now, most Americans get more than enough protein in their diet. However, it is a relatively inexpensive source of protein, which can be helpful for those who are raising families on tight budgets.
  2. Dairy products are rich in calcium. Most Americans don’t get enough calcium in their diet, which raises concerns over our long-term bone health.  To get calcium without consuming dairy products, you need to eat things like canned salmon or sardines, legumes, kale, broccoli, and other green vegetables, plus calcium-fortified orange juice or soy milk. Only a determined adult can get the recommended daily dose (1,000 milligrams) this way, but good luck getting a child to eat all that.
  3.  Dairy products are a major source of vitamin D in the American diet. It’s ironic because dairy products contain no vitamin D naturally. In fact, there aren’t a lot of foods that do. Therefore, the government mandated that milk and other dairy products be fortified with D.  However, many brands of soy milk and other non-dairy alternatives are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
  4. There have been some studies, many of them funded by the dairy industry, suggesting that Americans who eat more dairy products tend to be thinner than those who eat less.  The dairy industry has made a big deal out of this.  On the other hand, there are cultures where people eat little or no dairy and are much healthier than Americans, so I tend to think that dairy products are not some sort of magic bullet for weight loss.

Now let’s consider the negative aspects of dairy in the diet.

  1. Dairy foods can be high in fat and, therefore, calories. Low-fat dairy foods, such as skim milk and low-fat cottage cheese, have had most of the fat skimmed off, and they can be good choices for those of you who are counting calories.  But all the good stuff, like cheese, ice cream, and butter, are not necessarily good for the waistline.
  2. In higher fat dairy products, most of the fat is saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fats can raise your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease.  It’s easy to switch to the low-fat variety of those foods.  But to keep fat consumption under control, you need to stick to low-fat everything, not just milk.
  3. Dairy products can have high levels of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones Because of the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk yields, some studies say cow’s milk promotes breast cancer; others say it suppresses it. Some studies suggest milk is linked to significantly elevated risk of prostate cancer; other says the risk is insignificant or nonexistent.  Some investigators have found milk protects against colorectal cancer; others say the opposite.  In short, research to date has been all over the place.  Don’t trust blanket statements about little-known dangers or benefits of milk–for example, PETA’s claim that milk causes osteoporosis.  (For the record, current evidence suggests that young women who drink milk reduce their risk, but that the protective benefit diminishes as they age.)  But there are concerns that milk may be contaminated with hormone residue, antibiotics used to treat udder infections, and dangerously elevated levels of a natural growth factor called IGF-1.  At this point no human health risk stemming from rBGH use has been demonstrated, but one never knows.
  4. Dairy products contain lactose, a type of milk-sugar that many people have difficulty digesting because they lack the digestive enzyme lactase.  Lactose intolerance affects between 10-20% of the population.  You are much more likely to be lactose intolerant if you are of African, Asian, or Native American heritage.  Lactose-reduced dairy products or lactase tablets can allow lactose intolerant people to eat dairy with fewer difficulties.
  5. Although cow’s milk allergies are fairly rare in adults, many babies and small children are allergic to milk, and experience symptoms including ear infections, skin rashes, and digestive problems.  Avoiding dairy products can alleviate symptoms.

So where does all of this leave us?  Frankly, I can’t make a case for dairy being essential to a healthy diet.  There are plenty of other ways to get protein, calcium, and vitamin D.  Adults in other cultures get along without milk, and so can you with a little ingenuity.  But I wouldn’t try giving up milk purely because of the supposed health concerns.  If you like dairy products and you can tolerate them, I think you can enjoy them in good health, as long as you consume them in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

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How to Make Healthier Baked Goods Recipes

If part of your New Year’s Resolution is to get healthier, one way you can do this is making some substitutions in your recipes.  If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve made “healthy” versions of some of your favorite baked goods and ended up throwing them away.  I remember last Christmas we tried to decrease the fat and sugar content in my grandmother’s pizzelle recipe.  Instead of those nice, crisp, Italian cookies I remember from childhood, we ended up with soft, rubbery, tasteless things that I wouldn’t even call a cookie.  So this year as I try to cook healthier, I started looking into ways to bake with less calories and fat but maintain the same good taste.

The more I researched this, the more I discovered that you can’t make a baked good 100% healthy and still expect it to taste ok.  It’s still a baked good after all.  However, you can make it healthier.  That’s important because, as I pointed out in a previous post – the point is to still eat a wide variety of food but in healthier ways.

To Reduce Sugar/Simple Carbohydrate Content:

  • Up to 1/2 cup of sugar may be substituted with a sugar substitute.
  • You can usually reduce sugar in a recipe by ¼ to 1/3 in cookies, pies, and quick breads.  Although, it may not work as well in cakes
  • Adding vanilla extract in baking goods gives the essence of sweetness that makes up for the reduced sugar.
  • Whole-wheat flour can be substituted for up to half of the called-for all-purpose flour.  However, whole-wheat pastry flour is less dense and works well in softer products such as cakes and muffins.

To Reduce Fat Content:

  • You can usually reduce fat in a recipe by 1/4 to 1/3 in cookies, pies, and quick breads without affecting the product.
  • Replace half of the fat in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce, low-fat yogurt, or prune puree.
  • Use lower-fat versions of the ingredients called for in a recipe, such as 1% or skim milk rather than whole, use low-fat cheeses, etc.
  • To avoid dense, soggy or flat baked goods, don’t substitute oil for butter or shortening.
  • Use cooking sprays or non-stick pans instead of butter or shortening to grease the pans.

To Reduce Salt

  • Use half the amount of salt called for in a recipe.  In some dishes, you can totally omit salt.  For example, cooking rice or pasta.  However, DO NOT eliminate salt from yeast bread or rolls; it is essential for yeast action.
  • Rather than using salt for seasoning, try spices, herbs, vinegar, flavoring extracts, fruit peal, or your own blend of seasonings.
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