September 29, 2010
Try Something New: Black Rice
According to ancient Chinese legend, black rice was so rare, tasty, and nutritious that only the emperors were allowed to eat it.
Times have changed. Although black rice is still relatively rare, researchers are trying to bring its distinctive flavor and mix of antioxidants to the masses -- or at least to a grocery store near you.
If you've never heard of black rice, much less seen it, the dark-hued grain is now available at supermarkets such as Whole Foods and appears to be gaining a foothold in kitchens and restaurants in the U.S.
Like brown rice, black rice is full of antioxidant-rich bran, which is found in the outer layer that gets removed during the milling process to make white rice. But only black-rice bran contains the antioxidants known as anthocyanins, purple and reddish pigments -- also found in blueberries, grapes, and acai -- that have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, improvements in memory, and other health benefits.
September 27, 2010
The Anioxidant Power of Green Tea
Polyphenols are potent antioxidant compounds that have demonstrated greater antioxidant protection than vitamin C.
Research suggests that polyphenols provide cancer-protective properties by blocking the formation of cancer-causing compounds, suppressing the activation of carcinogens and effectively detoxifying cancer-causing agents, as well as reducing the inflammation associated with cancer and other diseases.
Numerous studies show that polyphenols reduce the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, including cancers of the stomach and colon, lungs, prostate and breast. Polyphenols may also improve a woman's prognosis once she's diagnosed with breast cancer by lowering the risk of the cancer coming back by 46 per cent.
How much do I need?
Green tea is a popular source of polyphenols, with health benefits if about three cups daily are consumed (at least 240 to 300 milligrams). To achieve some degree of protection, nutrition and health experts recommend you drink two to three cups a day.
Studies suggest hot, brewed green tea is better than the cold variety as adding ice dilutes the tea. As tea cools, the polyphenols and caffeine may bond and sink to the cup's bottom where you are less likely to consume them.
Instant tea has a very low amount of polyphenols.
Tea also contains 50 to 100 mg of caffeine. Overconsumption may produce nervousness, anxiety, insomnia and irritability. Look for varieties that use water to decaffeinate the leaves rather than a solvent such as ethyl acetate, which lowers antioxidant content up to 70 per cent.
Avoid milk in your tea, as research suggests that it interferes with polyphenol absorption.
On the other hand, adding lemon or other citrus fruits to tea increases the bioavailability of green tea's antioxidants.
Green and white teas require water that is hot but cooler than boiling, since hotter temperatures may affect their flavor. Steep tea for one to three minutes to absorb polyphenols, but not so long that it tastes bitter.
Where do I find it?
Both green tea and black tea come from the same plant. Green tea is produced by lightly steaming the fresh-cut leaf. The color of a tea actually depends on its processing method, particularly on how much oxidation it undergoes during production.
As a rule, the less oxidized a tea, the lighter colour it is and the more antioxidant compounds it contains. Green tea therefore has higher antioxidant levels than black tea.
The major polyphenols in green tea are flavonoids (catechin, epicatechin gallate (EGCG) and proanthocyanidins). When selecting commercial green tea and extracts, look for the highest level of EGCGs and total polyphenol content.
Find varieties with whole tea leaves, as they have more surface area for hot water to extract the flavor and the antioxidants in the leaf. For green tea, look for matcha and sencha varieties, as they tend to have the highest antioxidant values.
Green tea extracts and other food products containing green tea are available, but typically do not have the same health benefits as the beverage.
Do-it-yourself decaf green tea
This will remove nearly 80 per cent of the tea's caffeine, while retaining its flavor and the majority of its polyphenols.
- Steep tea in hot water for about 30 seconds. Since caffeine is water soluble, most of it will be released into the water.
- Discard this liquid and save the tea leaves.
- Add fresh hot water to tea leaves and steep as usual.
September 23, 2010
1. Cut each of 2 nectarines into 8 wedges and cut 8 slices prosciutto in half lengthwise. Wrap each nectarine wedge with a piece of prosciutto.
2. Grill over medium-high heat, turning often, until the prosciutto begins to crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Brush with 2 tablespoons maple syrup during the last minute of grilling.
September 20, 2010
Fall Farmers' Market Finds
Why should you make the weekly trek to your local farmers' market instead of to the nearest mega-grocer? It all starts with quality. The ingredients from your farmers' market will always be in season, meaning they were grown and harvested during peak conditions. The farmers' market also brings you food from right outside your front door. The fresher your food, the longer it will last and the better it will taste.
Arguably fall's favorite (and most prevalent) vegetable, winter squash can be seen on seasonal menus across the country. Whether simply roasted with butter and sage or tossed with ricotta as a ravioli filling, acorn squash (pictured) is versatile and simple to prepare, but has a limited peak from October to December.
Winter Squash Risotto
Nothing heralds the arrival of fall like a bushel of apples. You'll start to see a few show up in markets come late August, but most are really at their peak around late September. Apples come in dozens of varieties with each one serving a very specific culinary purpose. Gala and Jonagolds are great for applesauce, while Honeycrisps are great for baking and cider, and Granny Smiths make a wonderful tart snacking apple that doesn't come into season until the end of October.
Silence your inner child with these delicious, diminutive members of the cabbage family. Available and at their peak from late September through mid-February, Brussels sprouts hold up to almost any preparation, from oven roasting to braising and blanching. Go savory with thick-cut bacon or toss them with reduced balsamic vinegar and pecans for a sweet fall side dish.
Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Crisp Bacon
Although some varieties, like Bartlett, start creeping into markets by the end of summer, pears don't truly hit their peak until late fall and winter. Don't stop at just peeling and eating them raw — pears are perfect for poaching in spiced wine or stirring into risotto and topping with cheese. For a meatier alternative, kick applesauce to the curb and serve sugar-syrup poached pears with pork chops instead.
Fall Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Long a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, the pomegranate has recently become popular because of its intense health benefits. Available from September through January, the pomegranate has almost 20% of the daily required vitamin C for adults, and its juice is packed with healthy antioxidants. Mix the seeds into couscous or sprinkle them over a green salad with orange segments for a Mediterranean-inspired meal.
Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Glaze
September 16, 2010
Benefiting from Spices and Herbs
Common herbs and spices may help protect against certain chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Herbs, including basil and parsley, are from plants and plant parts. Spices often come from the seeds, berries, bark, or roots of plants.
Seasonings, such as cinnamon, often lead lists of commonly eaten foods with the highest levels of measured antioxidant activity.
Polyphenols, a type of plant compound, provide one of the main health benefits associated with herbs and spices. Polyphenols are also abundant in certain fruits and vegetables, tea, and red wine.
Certain herbs and spices curb inflammation in the body, which may give rise to heart disease and cancer. For example, antioxidants in cinnamon have been linked to lower inflammation, as well as reductions in blood glucose concentrations in people with diabetes.
You don’t need to make drastic changes in your eating plan to benefit from seasonings. Here’s how to incorporate more herbs and spices into your favorite foods.
* Add 1.25 teaspoons to prepared oatmeal; 1 cup yogurt mixed with fruit; and French toast batter.
* Sprinkle half a teaspoon of cinnamon over ground coffee before brewing.
* Top a fat-free latte or hot cocoa with ground cinnamon.
Chili peppers: Add chopped peppers to chili, burgers, soups, stews, salsa, and egg dishes.
* Sprinkle on egg salad.
* Mix half a teaspoon turmeric with 1 cup Greek yogurt and use as a dip or sandwich spread.
* Add to chicken or seafood casseroles, and to water when cooking rice.
Garlic: Add fresh chopped or minced garlic to pasta dishes, stir-fry dishes, pizza, fresh tomato sauce, and meat and poultry recipes.
* Add 1/8 teaspoon dried to scrambled eggs, salad dressings, and store-bought or homemade marinara sauce.
* Sprinkle some on top of pizza, and stir into black bean soup.
Basil: Make a sandwich with low-fat mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and fresh basil leaves; add fresh leaves to green salads.
* Sprinkle dried thyme onto cooked vegetables in place of butter or margarine.
* Add 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme to two scrambled eggs, and to salad dressings.
* Use it in a rub when cooking salmon.
* Add fresh thyme to chicken salad and chicken soup.
Rosemary: Add dried crushed rosemary to mashed potatoes and vegetable omelets.
Parsley: Add chopped flat leaf parsley to meatballs and meat loaf, and to bulgur salad.
* Grate fresh ginger into quick bread batters and vinaigrette.
* Add chopped ginger to stir-fries. Sprinkle ground ginger on cooked carrots.
Cloves: Sprinkle ground cloves on applesauce, add to quick bread batters, and add a pinch to hot tea.
September 13, 2010
Live Well. Feel Well. Be Well.
It's that time of year again! The kids are back in school. The weather's getting cooler. Cold and flu season is upon us. Be sure you and your family are armed and ready to fight back:
-- Get moving. Sedentary people are more likely than others to become ill. Exercise -- even just a half-hour to an hour of walking -- has been shown to keep you functioning and to boost immunity.
-- Stay rested. It's essential to get enough sleep -- ideally 7 1/2 to nine hours -- because proper rest helps the body repair injuries caused by stress, illness and invading organisms such as viruses.
-- Don't stress. Stress hormones can make you more susceptible to infection. So try not to get worked up over that resurgent rush-hour traffic and focus on maintaining a less confrontational and low-stress lifestyle.
-- Look on the bright side. Optimistic people tend to have a better immune response.
-- Drink up. If you feel a cold coming on, consume plenty of fluids. This helps keep your organ systems functioning optimally and is very important for proper immune response.
-- Avoid germs. Many people don't follow basic rules of hygiene. It's important to wash or sanitize your hands frequently -- such as after using that germy shared pen at the supermarket -- and to steer clear of coughing, sneezing or otherwise obviously ill people.
-- Get a flu shot. This is one of the simplest means of staying well, particularly for the very young, for older people and for those whose immune systems are compromised.
September 9, 2010
1. Place 4 6-ounce pieces skinless salmon fillet on a baking sheet; season with salt and pepper.
2. Sprinkle with a mixture of ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs and 1 tablespoon each prepared horseradish, olive oil, and chopped parsley, pressing gently to help it adhere.
3. Roast at 400º F until opaque, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve with salad.
September 7, 2010
Packing a Healthy Lunch
Students everywhere are starting to head back to school, meaning parents will be packing school lunches again – and trying to give their children a leg up with a healthy meal.
Busy schedules can leave little time for meal planning, and the seemingly endless supply of prepackaged foods – many full of sugar, salt, calories and fat – can be tough to resist.
1. Ask kids to help plan their lunches. When kids help plan their lunches, they are much more likely to eat them.
2. Make a plan for the week, bagging items for each day on the weekends.
3. Keep a checklist of what foods kids like from each food group.
4. Come up with a list of alternatives for picky eaters. For a child who doesn't like sandwiches, pack a wrap, cracker sandwich or a slice of lunch meat wrapped around a cheese stick.
5. It doesn't matter how healthy lunches are, though, if kids don't eat them. Make lunches as fun as possible. A visually appealing lunch has a better chance of competing with a cleverly packaged store-bought item. Choose bright and colorful foods or experimenting with shapes – cutting sandwiches with cookie cutters, for example.
Follow an 80-20 rule: Pack 80 percent healthy items and 20 percent "fun foods".
6. Stay away from the Lunchables! You can easily make your own at home using whole grain crackers, low fat cheese, fruit and a "treat".
7. Stick with low fat milk or water to drink. Even low fat chocolate milk is better than juice or soda.
September 2, 2010
A common toxin found in our kitchens includes potatoes that have turned green. Solanine, a natural glycoalkaloid, can occur when potatoes are exposed to too much light. The green color just under the skin strongly suggests that toxic build-up may have occurred.
If you notice a slight green layer just under the potato skin, cut away the green portions of the potato skin before cooking and eating; there is no need to discard your favorite tuber since the non-green portion is safe to eat. It is recommended not to consume potatoes with a bright green layer just under the potato’s skin since it may cause headache, nausea, fatigue and GI issues. You can avoid this problem by storing potatoes in a dark, cool, dry place.