Health Benefits of Pomegranate Seeds

Have you ever tried pomegranate seeds? The seeds in a pomegranate are also called arils, they are small and filled with juice on the inside. Pomegranate seeds are high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and good source of fiber. Because they are a high in many vital nutrients they have many properties that have been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, arthritis, and risk for heart disease. They have also been shown to improve memory and exercise performance.

When picking out a pomegranate to purchase in the store choose one that is round, plump, and heavy for its size. Pomegranates are typically in season from late summer to early winter in North America. They can actually be stored in a cool dry area for 1 month or up to 2 months in the refrigerator.

Never tried pomegranate seeds before? There are a variety of ways you can add pomegranate seeds to your diet. They provide sweetness and a crunch to salads or can be used in cooking or baking. Give the recipes below a try and add a little extra sweetness to your diet!

Pomegranate & Popcorn

Ingredients:

1 pomegranate

5 c popcorn, popped

Salt to taste

 

Directions:

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate. Pop the popcorn in an air popper and salt the popcorn to taste. Add pomegranate seeds to the bowel and mix well. Serve immediately.

Spinach Pomegranate Salad

Ingredients:

1 (10 oz) bag baby spinach leaves

¼ red onion, sliced thin

½ c walnut pieces

½ c crumbled feta cheese

1 pomegranate, peeled and seeds separated

4 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette

 

Directions:

Place spinach in a salad bowl. Top with red onion, walnuts, and feta. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the top and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Ingredients

2 c whole wheat flour

1/3 c sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

1 1/2 c orange juice

1/4 c unsweetened applesauce

1 c fresh cranberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix sugar, egg, orange juice, and applesauce in a separate bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Once mixed, fold in cranberries. Using a measuring cup, portion into a regular or mini muffin pan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on the top.

Light Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

1 c unsalted butter

1 c Truvia baking blend

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c low fat sour cream

4 c flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl cream the butter and truvia baking blend until well mixed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract until well mixed. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well using an electric mixer.

Once all ingredients are combined and formed the dough, cover and let stand in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (or up to 2-3 days).

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Roll out the dough on a flat surface and add flour as needed so the dough is not too sticky. Use cookie cutters of desired shapes and sizes to create your cookies. Bake in the oven for 8-9 minutes on a dark pan or 10-11 minutes on a light pan.

Allow cookies to cool and store in an airtight container.

Add a Little Spice

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Do you add oregano to your salad or sprinkle cinnamon on your cereal? Adding herbs and spices to your food is one of the easiest ways to enhance flavor without adding calories, sugar, sodium or fat. In addition to being delicious, these types of seasonings provide a variety of health benefits, including protection against diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Cinnamon is one of the most commonly used spices in the United States. If you have diabetes, as little as 1.5 teaspoons per day can help to control your blood sugar by enhancing your body’s response to insulin. Cinnamon is high in antioxidants, which can protect your body from developing cancer and heart disease. To incorporate cinnamon into your diet, try sprinkling it on top of oatmeal, Greek yogurt, coffee, or roasted vegetables.

Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used to reduce pain from arthritis and has been helpful in managing diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cystic fibrosis. Try to incorporate 2 teaspoons per day into your diet by sprinkling on top of lentils, egg salad, casseroles, or popcorn.

Garlic helps to fight off colds, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, and has anti-inflammatory properties. Add at least ½ clove to your diet each day to protect your blood vessels from oxidative stress and inflammation. Roast garlic cloves in your oven and serve with fresh bread or sprinkle chopped garlic on top of pasta, stir fry, pizza, tomato sauce, or chicken.

Oregano is packed with antioxidants and is an effective anti-bacterial agent. It has been shown to help to fight off intestinal bacteria. Add 1/8 teaspoon of this tasty spice to your salad or marinara sauce.

Ginger is known to help to settle an upset stomach, alleviate morning sickness, and can help to decrease inflammation and pain. Add ginger and honey to your tea, sprinkle on top of a stir fry, grate on top of cooked carrots, or mix it in with your favorite soup.

Newer studies are showing that dihydrocapsiate, a compound in chili peppers, can help to increase metabolism and enhance your body’s fat burring abilities. In general, foods that are spicier are more satisfying than bland foods, leading people to eat less. Try adding chopped chili peppers to soups, salsa, chili or egg dishes.

Whether you’re interested in boosting the flavor or your food or easing a medical ailment, try incorporating more herbs and spices into your meals. Even a small amount can provide health benefits.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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Omega-3 fatty acids are unsaturated fats that are found chiefly in fish and fish oils, as well as some plant-based sources, such as nuts and vegetable oils. There are two types of Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which are EPA (eicosapetaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaeonic acid), and one type found in plant-based sources, which is ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some studies have shown that increased blood levels of EPA and DHA may be linked to a reduction in irregular heartbeats and fatal heart disease.

Eat fish! Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish that is high in EPA and DHA two to three times a week, as this has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and related deaths. Fish that are among the best sources include anchovies, bluefish, herring, salmon, sardines, tuna, and lake trout. Not only are the omega-3 fatty acids that these fish provide heart healthy, they are important for brain and body function as well. In addition to being a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish is also an excellent source of protein and a source of vitamin D.

Include plant-based omega-3 sources! ALA, which is the form of omega-3 found in plants, has been shown to also reduce the risk of heart disease. ALA can be found in various oils, nuts, seeds and some beans. To incorporate sources of ALA into your diet, try using moderate amounts of vegetable oils, such as canola oil, walnut oil, or flaxseed oil, and add walnuts or ground flaxseed or chia seeds to your cereal, yogurt, salad, or smoothie. Nibbling on nuts or beans, like walnuts or edamame, as a snack is also a great way to incorporate ALA omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

Although these unsaturated fatty acids are necessary for your health, it is important to recognize that foods containing high amounts of fat are also high in calories. Therefore, stick to appropriate serving sizes, such as 1 ounce of nuts and seeds or 3 ounces of fatty fish.

Try this delicious salmon recipe from Bon Appetit to add some omega-3 fatty acids to your diet!

Spiced Salmon Kebabs

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lemons, very thinly sliced into rounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
16 bamboo skewers soaked in water 1 hour

Preparation (25 minutes):
Prepare grill for medium heat. Mix oregano, sesame seeds, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes into a small bowl to combine; set spice mixture aside.

Beginning and ending with salmon, thread salmon and folded lemon slices onto 8 pairs of parallel skewers to make 8 kebabs total. Brush with oil and season with reserved spice mixture.

Grill, turning occasionally, until fish is opaque throughout, 5-8 minutes.

Serves 4
Nutrition information per serving: 390 calories, 22 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 3 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 44 g protein, 580 mg sodium

Eat Local!

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Eating locally grown foods has more benefits than one. Not only are these foods tasty, you are supporting local farmers and producers, being sustainable, supporting the local economy, and choosing healthy and nutritious options. Whether you make weekly trips to the local Farmers’ Market or choose restaurants and stores that carry local products, you are benefiting yourself and the community and environment.

            Locally grown food is more nutritious. Because it is local, there is a shorter amount of time between the farm and your table. This helps prevent the loss of nutrients during travel time if food has to travel long distances before it reaches you. Furthermore, imported food usually sits in distribution centers before it ends up in a store, meaning more time for the food to lose nutrients.

            Locally grown food looks and tastes better. Local food is picked at its peak of ripeness, while non-local food is often harvested early in order to account for the travel and distribution time. When shopping at a local market, many times the produce has been harvested within 24 hours of your purchase, which provides you with a flavorful and nutritious product.

            Locally grown food promotes a safer food supply. With less time between the harvest and your table, there are less steps of processing and handling in between, which results in a lesser chance of contamination. Food grown in distant locations has a greater chance of food safety issues during harvesting, washing, shipping, and distributing. Additionally, local growers can tell you how and where the food was grown or how it was produced, are not anonymous, and take their responsibility to the consumer seriously. You can also talk to your local farmers about their food safety practices.

Locally grown food benefits the environment. Not only does locally grown food need to travel less distance, but by purchasing locally, you help maintain farming and green or open space in your community.

Locally grown food supports the local economy and community. When you purchase locally, the money spent usually stays local, which means it can be reinvested into local businesses and services in your community.

By purchasing locally grown food, you engage with local farmers and gain a better understanding of the seasons, your land, and your food. You benefit yourself and your community while promoting a more sustainable environment. So next time you get the chance, head to your local Farmers’ Market to get some delicious and nutritious produce and food!

Healthy Summer Grilling

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The warm summer weather calls for less time in the kitchen and more time outside cooking on the grill. However, the way that grilled food is prepared can have an effect on how healthy it is. Here are some tips to ensure a tasty and healthy cookout.

Turn Down the Heat. When meat is cooked at scorching temperatures, it often chars, and this causes the development of cancer-causing substances called heterocyclic amines. In order to keep charring to a minimum, it is important to lower the temperature and increase the length of time that the food is cooked. Think: low and slow. Furthermore, another method that can reduce or prevent charring is flipping food frequently.

Trim the Fat. As your meat is cooking, the fat can drip onto the grill’s flame, which causes it to flare up. The flame and smoke that result from this flare up contain compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to cancer. To prevent this, trim the fat from your meat before cooking it, and remove the skin from chicken and fish. Additionally, in order to prevent flaring, cook outside the flame instead of directly over it.

            Marinate. To minimize the cancer-linked substances that can result from grilling, marinate the meat for at least half an hour before grilling it. Ingredients that are acidic, like vinegar, lemon juice, or orange juice are especially effective.

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies. Instead of animal proteins, try grilling fruits and vegetables for a different flavor. Fruits and vegetables are also less likely to form carcinogens at high temperatures, so not only are you cutting cancer-causing substances from your meal, but you are adding cancer-fighting phytochemicals as well. Grill a veggie or Portobello mushroom burger in place of a beef burger, or make kabobs out of tomatoes, onions, squash, and peppers. For a naturally sweet desert, grill pineapple, peaches, or nectarines.

Keep It Clean. Make sure to keep your food safe by discarding any unused marinade and using clean utensils and plates for the cooked food. It is also important to clean your grill and be sure that it has not come in contact with any lighter fluid or charcoal, which also hold harmful substances. When using the grill-cleaning brush, be sure that there are no loose bristles that can fall onto the grates and potentially stick to the food in your next barbeque.

Spring and Summer Healthy Eating Tips

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What a relief that we can finally say that Spring has arrived and Summer is just right around the corner. Flowers and trees are blooming, days are getting longer and kids are getting excited for school to be over! This is a great time, to examine what we eat on a weekly basis and find new ways to add in the fresh fruits and vegetables that will be more available now that the weather is warmer.

  • First of all, something that is easy and fun for the whole family is to start a little garden. This can be as simple as growing some tomatoes, peas, beans or herbs in a garden pot. It is always fun to see how quickly these little plants can grow and it is a great way to get kids involved as well. This is a great time of the year to start too so that we can have a nice long growing season.
  • Attending weekly Farmer’s Markets or local CSA memberships are also a great way to obtain healthy fruits and vegetables from our local neighbors. Try to find something new and interesting and see what new recipes you can try. Ask the farmer as well to see what they use this particular food item in. They are a great resource!
  • Try to prepare common fruits and vegetables in a different way then you currently use. For example, try to freeze grapes and use this in place of popsicles. Another example is using frozen bananas and blending them to make ice cream (see recipe below). Lastly try to grill different vegetables that you usually prepare in the house. Use fresh herbs for seasoning in place of salt.
  • Have fun with making your own smoothie by adding in whatever you have in the house. Any frozen fruit you have in the freezer or from the farmers market, juice/milk/ice and try some Greek Yogurt as well for a good protein source. This is a great summer drink and kids love it, especially when they are involved in helping to make it.
  • In addition to healthy eating during this time of the year, this is a great opportunity to get moving as well. Talking family walks or bike rides benefits everyone. Take advantage of the extra daylight and have fun outside. Look at local Recreational Departments to see what they have available for kids of all ages to spend some quality time outside. We also have the great opportunity to live close to Governor Dodge Park which has many activities available throughout the Spring and Summer months.

Take the lead during these upcoming warmer months and be a good example to your kids, neighbors, friends and family to eat healthier and get active!

Healthy Fats

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Fat often has a bad reputation, but it is a nutrient that is essential for your health. It comes in different forms, including saturated, Trans, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. It is best to choose unsaturated fats, such as the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, because they offer health-protective benefits. These heart-healthy fats are typically liquid at room temperature and come from plants. Furthermore, it is recommended to limit saturated and trans fats, which usually solid at room temperature and have been shown to increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Saturated fats and are found in fatty meat, poultry skin, bacon, sausage, whole milk, cream and butter, while trans fats are found in stick margarine, shortening, fried foods, and packaged foods made with hydrogenated oils. To cut back on the amount of saturated fats you eat, select lean cuts of beef and pork, such as those labeled “loin” or “round.” When eating poultry, remove the skin before serving it. It is best to bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry lean proteins rather than deep frying. If you are preparing ground meat, choose leaner options and drain off the fat after cooking. You can also get protein in your diet from plant foods instead of meat. Some good options are egg whites, soy protein, tofu or tempeh, edamame, lentils, split peas, and dried beans.

Unsaturated fats are heart healthy and reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Monounsaturated fats are usually found in nuts and seeds, oils (like olive oil, canola, oil, and safflower oil,) avocadoes and peanut butter. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. Alpha linolenic acid, which is one type of Omega-3 fatty acid, is found in vegetable oils, such as canola oil and soybean oil, nuts, seeds, and soy foods. EPA and DHA, which are long-change Omega-3 fatty acids provide the most benefit for your heart. They can be found in fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, mackerel, lake trout, and sardines.

To add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your meals, try adding flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed to your foods. It is important to note that your body cannot digest the beneficial fat if flaxseed is left whole. Walnuts are a great source of alpha linoleic acid, so add walnut oil to salad dressings or whole walnuts to your salads. When planning your meals, be sure to include two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish weekly. Some eggs are also high in Omega-3 fatty acids depending on the type of feed that was given to the chickens, so read labels on the egg cartons. Finally, if you are interested in taking a fish oil supplement, the American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease receive 1 gram of Omega-3 fatty acids daily.

Even though some types of fats are heart healthy, fat is still a concentrated source of calories. It is recommended to limit the total amount of fat that you eat, including heart-healthy fats, to 25% to 35% of the calories you consume. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, it means your fat intake should be between 50 grams and 75 grams per day.

Eating Healthy While Traveling – Summer Travel Tips

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Summer is here, and warmer weather often meals family vacations. Summer travel does not have to mean giving up on healthy eating. Whether you are going to the beach, another country, or just on a road trip, you can still have a healthy and happy vacation.

If you are going a road trip, you can plan ahead and pack nutritious snacks to curb any hunger pangs that may strike. Packing your own nutritious snacks also eliminates the need to stop at a fast food restaurant, which may have less-healthy options. Here are some examples of some easy travel-friendly foods:

  • Yogurt
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Ready-to-Eat Vegetables
  • Applesauce
  • Dried and Fresh Fruit
  • Popcorn
  • Trail Mix
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches
  • Whole Grain Crackers

It is important to keep perishable items in a cooler, and also try to stick to your regular eating pattern. When stopping at a restaurant for meals, choose milk or water as a beverage choice, and opt for options with fruits and vegetables.

If you are spending the day at the beach, you can follow the same general guidelines as you would for a road trip; pack a cooler with nutritious options and make sure to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

If your summer travels make a trip to the airport necessary, you can still have a healthy trip. At the airport, there are nutritious and easy-to-carry options available at most kiosks, including salads with lean meat, pre-cut vegetables, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, yogurt, or whole-grain sandwiches with lean meat and vegetables. You can also pack non-perishable food items, like the ones listed above, and an empty water bottle to fill up after making it through security.