Why to Eat Your Greens

 Canned spinach. No matter how many cartoon characters gained super strength from it, you’d be hard pressed to get me to eat it. Luckily for me, that’s not the only (nor is it the best) way to get some greens in your diet. Leafy greens are really really good for you, and there are so many different ways to eat them.

 

What am I referring to when I talk about leafy greens? They are exactly what it sounds like; any green leaf vegetable can fit in this category. The darker green they are the better for you they tend to be. So while iceberg may be a starting point, it doesn’t really have much nutritional value. Let’s try to move on up to kale, beet greens, collards, chard… the list goes on. In the past couple years I’ve tried and enjoyed many, but there are more left for me to experiment with. Hopefully by the time you are finished reading this article, you will be inspired to try a new variety yourself.

Leafy Greens are one of the most, if not the most, nutrient dense foods. In other words there are a lot of nutrients per calorie; we get more bang for our buck. Since they tend to be high in fiber they take up stomach real estate so you don’t feel like you need that second portion of whatever. That makes them great for those you are trying to lose weight. For those who are trying to stretch their grocery budget they are also perfect because per pound they cost less then your meat while being better for you than trying to fill up on starches. Greens contain many many vitamins and minerals, more than I could describe in this post. Below I’ll list some of them, and let you know which kind has the most of that particular nutrient. That way if you are looking to add a specific one to your diet you’ll have a starting point. If you try one and don’t like it, go ahead and try it cooked a different way, a different variety, or a totally different plant all together. For example, my favorite way to eat kale is baked as a chip, but swiss chard I prefer sauteed.

One other thing before I get started on the nutrient list. Some of the vitamins in greens are fat-soluble. In order for your body to properly absorb them you need to eat them with a healthy fat. Try an olive oil based dressing on your green salad, or use plenty of butter or an oil such as sesame or sunflower to saute them in. Go ahead and get creative with your combinations.

     »Magnesium:
Although it’s needed in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, millions of            people are magnesium deficient. It is used for bone density, energy production,        and brain function. Low magnesium has been linked to depression, inflammation,      constipation, and many other issues. Spinach is the green with the highest                  magnesium content but beet greens and swiss chard aren’t too far behind.

     » Calcium :
         The most well known benefit of calcium is strong bones and teeth. It is also used in            muscle function, maintaining the heart’s rhythm, acid/alkaline balance, the release of                  neurotransmitters, and many other things. A single serving of collard greens contains over        26% of your daily suggested value of calcium.

     » Vitamin K:
          Vitamin K is another vital nutrient that most people don’t get enough of. It is important        for blood clotting, preventing osteoporosis and atherosclerosis, and preventing                        inflammation. Greens are a great source of vitamin K. Kale has the most, with over 10 times      the daily value. Spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, beet greens, swiss chard and turnip      greens also have a lot of this valuable nutrient.

     » Fiber:
          As stated above fiber is important in helping us feel full, but it also has other uses. Fiber      can lower cholesterol, level out swings in blood sugar, and helps with the excretory system.      All greens are high in fiber, but turnip greens may have the most.

     » Vitamin E
          Vitamin E is good for your hair and skin, protects against heart disease, and may even          fight against mental degeneration due to aging. Spinach and swiss chard contain 25 and 22        % of your daily value respectively.

     Greens are nutritional powerhouses. Other helpful things they contain include the B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, beta-carotenes, folate, betain, lutein, and iron. They are good for your heart, brain, skin, digestion, muscles, nerves, liver, pancreas, eyes, bones, blood…. pretty much every part of your body.

     Next time your in the store make a stop in the produce section and choose a new type of leafy green to try out. The internet is full of creative ways to eat them. Don’t be afraid to give them a second, third or even fourth chance. There are so many different options, don’t give up until you find one you like!

Non-dairy Calcium Sources

qeFMYJ1365273151When you tell people you’re on a dairy free diet a common question comes up. “But where do you get calcium?” We all know how important calcium is for our bone health, so that is a good thing to ask. Luckily calcium can be found in a lot of other foods. Dark leafy greens like collards and kale are a good choice. Any green vegetable will have magnesium which is needed for our bodies to be able to use calcium properly. The leafy greens also have vitamin D, which as many know, is needed for the absorption of calcium. Therefore, they are my first choice. Other calcium sources include nuts, sesame seeds, black-eyed peas, oranges, etc. Below is a list of foods and the amount of calcium they contain in mg per cup. It would be a good idea to take calcium supplements for what your diet is lacking. The recommended amount for adults is 1,00-1,300 mg a day. For comparison, milk contains 300 mg a cup.

 

Vegetables
cooked turnip greens 450
Collard Greens 357
cooked bok choy 330
cooked collards 300
cooked kale 200
broccoli (cooked) 198
cooked mustard greens 180
dandelion greens 150
Swiss chard 102
Chinese Cabbage 74

Herbs
dried savory 85 (per tbs)
celery seed 124 (per tbs)
dried thyme 57 (per tbs)
dried dill 53 (per tbs)
fresh parsley 200

Fruit
Rhubarb, cooked 348
Dried Figs 107 (in 8 whole fruit)
Oranges 72

Beans
navy beans 140
pinto beans 100
garbanzo beans 95

Grains
tapioca (dried) 300
quinoa, cooked 80
corn meal, whole grain 50

Nuts/Seeds
sesame seeds 2,100
almonds 750
hazelnuts (filbert) 450
Flax seed 428
walnuts 280
sunflower seeds 260

Sea Vegetables
wakame 3,500
kombu 2,100
nori 1,200
agar-agar 1,000

Sea Food
sardines with bones 1,000
mackerel with bones 600
salmon with bones 490
shrimp 300
raw oysters 240

Other
hummus 132 (average, varies with recipe)
Blackstrap molasses 172 (per tbs)

 

Sources

http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1061

http://www.ellenskitchen.com/faqs/calcium.html

http://greatist.com/health/dairy-free-calcium-sources/

http://www.organicauthority.com/health/healthy-bones-with-non-dairy-sources-of-calcium-rich-foods.html

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/osteoporosis_and_calcium/page5_em.htm

http://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-calcium.php

Avocados The Super-est Super Food

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avocado

In my opinion avocados are the most super of all super foods. I wasn’t introduced to them until college, and I’m glad I didn’t know what I was missing. The world would be a darker place without avocados…. ok, I exaggerate.

Anyway, they are really packed with essential nutrients, including Vitamins B5, B6, C, E and K, potassium, riboflavin, folic acid, niacin, fiber, and good fats like omega-3’s. Not only are they full of good stuff themselves, they bring out the goodness in what’s around them. Avocados contain a lot of oleic acid which helps our body absorb fat-soluble nutrients. For example, one study found that adding a cup of avocado to a salad with romaine, spinach and carrots increased carotenoid absorption 200-400%!

But, but, high in fats, isn’t that bad? Nope! Many fats are good. The one fat you really want to avoid is trans-fat, and saturated fats should be taken in “moderation”. In other words, just don’t pig out on them every day. Only 10% of an avocado’s fat content is saturated, and it contains no trans-fats. Monounsaturated fat (70% of the fat) is actually GOOD for your heart. Avocados are also anti-inflammatory thanks to two more fats; PFA’s (polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, usually only in ocean plants) and phytosterols. These are particularly good for those with arthritis. Then there are the well known omega 3’s (another fat) that actually lower your blood cholesterol.

And listen to this: new research shows avocados target and kill cancer cells. Sounds too crazy to believe right? I thought so too, so I looked into it a little more. Avocados contain antioxidants, which is this great word we throw around a lot that I knew was good but wasn’t quite sure why. Free oxygen radicals damage cell tissue and DNA and cause aging. They are a natural waste product of our metabolism, but we make more around things like cigarette smoke, radiation, and pollution. Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals. Somehow the avocado is able to target cancer cells. It seems to increase the damage caused by the free oxygen radicals in the cancer cells while antioxidizing (new word?) the healthy cells. I knew when I started researching this post that avocados were awesome, but I never expected this.

In summary: avocados are full of good nutrients and make healthy food we eat with them even healthier, they are good for your heart, anti-inflammatory, lower cholesterol, and they kill cancer. Oh, I almost forgot, they’re delicious too. I say avocados are the super-est super food. Who’s with me?

 

 

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/8-healthy-facts-about-avocados

http://www.avocados.org

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9220272/Avocados-could-protect-against-cancer.html

http://einron.hubpages.com/hub/avocadocuresprostateoralcancer

Dirty Dozen And Clean Fifteen

If you want to start buying organic food but are a little overwhelmed, start here. The Environmental Working Group independently tests fruits and vegetables to find the ones that have the highest amount of pesticide residue. As I mention in a previous post on why you should eat organic food, pesticides are dangerous; they cause cancer and other problems. Each year they put out a list of the top 12. While I suggest buying as much of your food organic as you can, these are the most important.

Dirty Dozen

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Sweet bell peppers

4. Peaches

5. Strawberries

6. Imported nectarines

7. Grapes

8. Spinach

9. Lettuce

10. Cucumbers

11. Domestic blueberries

12. Potatoes

New Category: Dirty dozen plus.

While these foods don’t contain the most pesticides, they often have organophosphate based pesticides, which are nuerotoxins.  They should also be avoided.

Kale/Collards and Green Beans

The group also lists the fruit and veggies with the least amount of pesticide residue. These are commonly referred to as the clean 15. If you just can’t find organic versions of these, or you haven’t found a way yet to cushion the blow to your pocket book, then these are what you could buy conventionally grown and not worry about as much. A little poison is never a good thing, but we all have to start somewhere.

Clean 15

1. Onions

2. Sweet corn

3. Pineapples

4. Avocado

5. Cabbage

6. Sweet peas

7. Asparagus

8. Mangoes

9. Eggplant

10. Kiwi

11. Domestic cantaloupe

12. Sweet potatoes

13. Grapefruit

14. Watermelon

15. Mushrooms

Why Organic

organic label 2So what’s the big deal about eating organic? Its becoming more and more popular for many reasons. Are you wondering if its a good idea for you and your family? Read on to find out.

  • No Poisons

    A Harvard study says that 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides could cause cancer.. A study among farm workers showed exposure to pesticides increased the risk of Parkinson’s Disease by 70%. Like apples? If you eat a conventionally-grown apple, even if you washed it, you eat 20-30 different kinds of poisons.

  • No Hormones

     Six different kinds of hormones are put into meat, and rBGH is in milk. There have been no studies to determine if they have an effect on the hormone balance in the humans who consume the meat. The European Union has decided this is unacceptable, and has banned the importation of U.S. grown beef due to questions about its safety. We however continue to eat it. The rBGH, or bovine growth hormone, in milk is linked to infection, sores, and disease in cows. And high levels if IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor) have been found in the milk of cows treated with the growth hormone. IGF-1 has been linked to colon and breast cancer.

  • No Antibiotics

    Animals used for the food industry receive a cocktail of antibiotics to prevent infections that they would get due to other chemicals put in their systems combined with unsanitary quarters. The widespread use of antibiotics is causing bacteria to evolve and become more resistant to these drugs. This means that when we get sick the antibiotics no longer kill the bacteria. For example, MRSA is a term for a specific type of resistant bacteria. In 2000 the average resistance level in the US was 29.6%. By 2009 that number has jumped to 52%. This means that the drugs we have that can save our lives are slowly no longer working. This is partly due to overuse in agriculture. To watch the spread of the resistance go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov3G9GQo0fg .

  • Not Genetically Modified

    Organic foods cannot contain GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms). The number of problems potentially caused by GMO’s is shocking. Food allergies, autism, gut and bowel issues, high blood pressure, the list goes on and on. However the companies that make and sell them have been given top positions in the FDA. The agency that is supposed to keep food safe is run by people high up in companies who sell possibly toxic food. Because of this it is hard for studies to be done. There has been a study in Canada showing that the toxins in GMO’s are in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses. This toxin breaks open the stomachs of bugs, killing them. It is likely eroding the lining of our stomachs, causing disease.

  • Better for the Environment

    Chemicals used in agriculture enter the water table. Hormones in the manure of animals enters lakes and streams where they alter the reproductive cycles of fish. According to the EPA half of Americans drinking water supply has been contaminated with pesticides. We our poisoning our own water.

  • No Additives, Preservatives, Flavorings

    Various additives in our food have been linked to things like food allergies, asthma, hyperactivity, high cholesterol, liver and kidney damage, heart defects, cancers, birth defects, vitamin deficiency, heart attack, and stroke.

  • Safer for Children

    If you have kids you have an even stronger incentive to eat organic. Children are more sensitive to toxins. Since they are smaller the toxins in their bodies are more concentrated. A small amount that my barely affect an adult can wreak havoc on a child. They are still developing so their bodies are more susceptible to damage. Exposure to pesticides doubles a child’s risk of developing ADHD.

So, have I convinced you yet? Organic food is not just a passing fad. It is not an attempt to cheat you of your money. Eating organic is necessary for the health of ourselves, our children, and for future generations.

Sources:

http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/issue-1/why-eat-organic.php

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-reasons-to-eat-organic-food.html?page=1

http://www.organicconsumers.org/organlink.cfm

http://www.naturalnews.com/z022264.html

http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/hormones/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ov3G9GQo0fg

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/dangers-of-food-additives-and-preservatives.html

Energy Trail Mix Recipe

There are many energy bars out there today, but a lot of them are high in sugar. Because of this they raise energy levels quickly, but then the dreaded crash sets in. I was planning a vacation with my husband that involved a 14 hour road trip, one way. We were also planning on doing a lot of walking and hiking so I knew we needed a snack that would help provide us with lasting energy without the crash. This trail mix recipe was born out of that need. Unfortunately we had to postpone the trip, but it certainly did the trick while we were raking our yard!

Keep scrolling after the recipe to read some of the health benefits of the individual ingredients. And of course, remember to use all organic ingredients whenever possible. I am sensitive to even natural sugars so this recipe is really low in all forms of sugar. If you are less sensitive than me you could add a small amount of dried fruit such as cranberries or cherries.

 

Energy Trail Mix Recipe:

(Yields 4-5 cups)

1 1/2 cups almonds

1 cup shelled pistachios

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (roasted or raw)

3/4 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes

(optional 1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks and/or 1/2 cup unsweetened dried fruit)

You can combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together, or toss them in a resealable bag and shake them up a bit. Easy, right? Make sure only one of your nuts is salted, the first time I made it I didn’t pay attention to that and boy did it make you thirsty,

 

Health Benefits:

Almonds

  • High levels of copper, riboflavin, and copper aide in energy production
  • Good for your heart, brain, skin, blood pressure and cholesterol balance
  • High in vitamin E, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and fiber

 

Pistachios

 

  • High in vitamin B6, which is essential for your nervous system, red blood cell production, energy production and immune system
  • Contains the minerals copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, and zinc
  • Has as much fiber as oatmeal per serving
  • Antioxidant
  • Aides in glucose tolerance
  • Cholesterol balancing

Pumpkin seeds

  • Contains diverse forms of vitamin E
  • High in minerals manganese, tryptophan, phosphorous, copper, iron, zinc and magnesium
  • Antioxidant
  • Lowers bad cholesterol
  • And men, it’s good for prostate health

Coconut

  • High in fiber, B vitamins, potassium
  • Raises good cholesterol

 

Sources: