Tag: healthy

Are you a Cereal Pro?

Cereal still remains one of the most popular breakfast (or snack) options across all age groups. In fact it is estimated that 50% of Americans eat cereal for breakfast daily.

After milk and carbonated beverages, breakfast cereal is the third most popular item sold in grocery stores. With hundreds of options to choose from, it can sometimes be overwhelming to select the right variety for your health goals.
Here are some helpful pointers to assist you the next time you hit the cereal aisle:
  1. Read the food label! The food label provides you with all the pertinent nutrient and ingredient information needed to determine whether a product is in fact healthy.
  2. Choose whole grain options. To know if a product is made with whole grains check the package for a) the words “100% whole grain” or b) the ingredient list to see if the first one listed is: whole wheat flour, stone wheat, durum wheat, or wheat flour. If you see “enriched white flour” the product is a refined (less healthy) grain.
  3. Go for the fiber. Select a cereal that provides 3 grams or more of fiber per serving.
  4. Be careful of the sugar. The cereal industry in the U.S. uses over 882 million pounds of sugar per year in its production! Aside from weight gain, added sugar contributes to many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. To check for grams of added sugar, look under “total sugar” on the food label. For example, the label will read 30 grams of total sugar, 20 grams of added sugar. That means 20/30 grams of sugar were added by the food company. Don’t be fooled by the bright packaging or your favorite cereal mascots. The sugar is everywhere!
Healthier cereal options provide important key nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins. However, like any food, it is very important to watch portion sizes. Typically, 1 serving of dry cereal = 1 cup.
Now you are ready to take on the cereal aisle like a pro! Which cereal do you like to eat?

Food Spotlight: Artichokes

Not only do artichokes make such beautiful centerpieces with their unique texture and flower-shape, but they also provide several health benefits.
History: Artichokes are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. They originate from the Mediterranean and Northern African regions and have been harvested since the 5th century BC. It takes 6 months for the buds to be ready to eat, however they can be harvested as many as 30 times a season, with their peak season being in both the Spring and Fall.
Nutrition Profile: Artichokes are high in fiber and are loaded with vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, phosphorus, and magnesium. In fact, a medium artichoke contains almost 7 grams of fiber, which is a whopping 23-28% of the reference daily intake (RDI). They are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, which is particularly important with both corona virus and flu season upon us. Additionally, artichokes have been shown to: reduce both unhealthy (LDL) and total cholesterol, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, lower blood pressure for those with pre-existing elevated levels, and improve digestive issues such as bloating flatulence, and constipation.
How to Eat: Artichokes can be eaten both warm or cold. The heart, which is fully edible, is a culinary delicacy and is known for its smooth and nutlike flavor. The smaller heads, or buds, are usually the most tender and are typically served as a warm vegetable with a sauce or as a cold salad or appetizer. They can be steamed whole, cooked in a microwave, baked, roasted, grilled, or sautéed.
Additional Tips: Artichokes are typically served with butter, cream, or mayo-based sauces. Because these options are high in saturated fat, be mindful of portion sizes. For healthier options, prepare a sauce with: nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, dijon mustard, garlic powder, and a pinch of salt or tahini with lemon, garlic, and salt.

Reading Does the Mind & Body Good

“Some books leave us free and some books make us free.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We all need a much needed escape from reality right now so why not use the gloomy and cold wintery days to curl up on the couch with a good book.
Reading helps relax the body by lowering the heart rate and easing tension in your muscles. Not to mention, it helps transport us to an alternate world for a temporary time making us forget about everything that is going on. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading reduces stress by up to 68%, which is a more effective method for reducing stress compared to listening to music or doing art.
With endless options, stay at home orders, and cold weather, why not pass the time with a good book or two. For the ultimate cozy experience, grab a blanket, make a warm beverage, and light a candle.
Comment below with your book recommendations.

Food Spotlight: Pears

With over 10 varieties to choose from in the U.S. and 3,000 varieties worldwide, pears are a perfect seasonal fruit for this time of year. Their crisp, soft texture and sweet taste make them versatile in many dishes.
History: The common pear is probably of European origin and has been cultivated since ancient times. The pear was introduced into the New World by Europeans as soon as the colonies were established.
Nutrition Profile: Pears are roughly 100 calories each and provide fiber, Vitamins C, K, potassium, copper and tons of antioxidants. One medium-sized pear provides 22% of your daily fiber needs. Pears contain a soluble fiber called pectin, which is a prebiotic that nourishes gut bacteria and improves gut health. Because they have a high water content, they also help keep stools soft while flush toxins from the digestive system. Pears, particularly the skin, contain a variety of polyphenols, which help fight against oxidative or cellular stress inside the body. Vitamins C, K, copper, and copper help reduce inflammation and protect against certain diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, assists with muscle contraction, and promotes kidney function.
Additional Tips: Since several health benefits are found in the skin, so be sure to include the skin in your eating and preparation methods.
Healthy Recipe Ideas: They can be eaten on their own, cut up onto a salad, made into a sauce, jam, or spread, baked into a dessert, mixed in with alcoholic drinks, topped onto a crostini, or roasted with vegetables. Popular cooking methods include roasting and poaching. They pair well with chicken, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, cheeses like Gouda and brie, and ingredients like lemon and chocolate.

Food Spotlight: Quinoa

History: Quinoa originates from South America, specifically Peru, Bolivia and Chile. It is often considered to be in the grain category, however it is actually a seed.

Nutrition Profile: Quinoa is not only packed with fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, but it also contains high amounts of protein and is gluten-free. It is one of the few plant foods that has all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein and a great protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Quinoa has twice the amount of fiber compared to other whole grains and is a much healthier alternative to white rice. Fiber helps lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and promotes both heart and gut health. Quinoa can be found in different colors and varieties, however they all offer the same health benefits.

Cooking Instructions: Quinoa can be prepared over the stove top or in a rice cooker. Use the ratio of 2 cups of liquid per 1 cup of dry quinoa. One cup typically cooks in about 20 minutes and yields about three cups cooked.

 Additional Tips: Quinoa has a bitterness to it, which is mainly due to its outer coating. One way to get rid of this is to rinse it in a mesh strainer under cold water prior to cooking. In order to add some additional flavor, you can replace the water or add low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth as the main liquid. Additionally, you can try adding other spices, garlic, or salt and pepper to it.

Food Spotlight: Cranberries

Cranberries are often known for being made into sauces and juices, but in reality fresh cranberries are extremely tart and are nowhere close to the sugary levels you may be familiar with.  
 
History: Cranberries are one of the few fruits native to the swamps of northeastern North America. Native Americans used them as a staple beginning in the 1550s. By the 1620, the Pilgrims learned from the Native Americans how to use cranberries in their cooking. They are now one of the many symbols of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S.  
 
Nutrition Profile: Cranberries are low in calories and are packed with fiber, Vitamin C, and tons of antioxidants. With both corona virus and flu season upon us, cranberries are great to incorporate into your diet to help support your immune system. If you are prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs), 100% cranberry juice can help reduce your risk and serve as a natural way to reduce severity of symptoms. Additionally, cranberries have been shown to prevent stomach cancer and ulcers, reduce unhealthy (LDL) cholesterol, increase good (HDL) cholesterol, and promote heart health.   
 
Additional Tips: When drinking juice, only drink 100% Cranberry Juice and do not have >8 fl oz. All other cranberry juice products are simply cocktails, blends, or only contain 10% juice. The rest is plain old sugar! Cranberry products contain high amounts of oxalates, so for those prone to kidney stones, be mindful of portion sizes.
 
Healthy Recipe Ideas: Add sliced raw cranberries to a spinach salad. mix them with vanilla yogurt, use them to top sirloin steak, salmon, or chicken, and use them as a dessert topping for angel food cake with cool whip.

Scrambling to Find New Recipes?

Scrambles are the perfect edition to your meal options. Not only are they full of healthy protein and packed with essential vitamins and minerals, but they allow for full creativity in the kitchen.

Scrambles can be eaten any time of the day. They are not just limited to eggs or egg whites, but can also be prepared using tofu instead. Add your favorite vegetables and spices to give it your own flare and boom you are done in 10 minutes! Scrambles are a suitable dish for all cooking skill levels and are a perfect option when trying to use up any leftover produce. Not to mention, they are easy on the wallet.

Try this delicious recipe for a vegan-friendly tofu scramble. Feel free to add more vegetables/spices or change any of the options listed below to fit your taste preference. You can easily swap out the tofu for 4 eggs, or 8 egg whites, or a combo for both.

Servings: 2

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package of firm or extra firm tofu (approximately 7-7.5 oz)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Water (to thin)
  • 1/4 red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup kale or spinach (loosely chopped)
  • 1 cup of broccoli florets (chopped)

Directions:

  • Drain the tofu until it is very dry. A good trick is to place the tofu under paper towels then place something heavy on top (like a pot or pan) for about 15-20 minutes. Change out the paper towels when saturated.
  • While the tofu is draining, prepare your marinade by adding the dry spices to a small bowl with just enough water to make a pourable sauce. Set aside.
  • Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and broccoli. Cook about 5 minutes until softened.
  • Add the kale (or spinach) for 2 minutes until it is slightly wilted.
  • While the veggies are cooking, use a fork, your hands, or a potato masher to crumble the tofu into bite-sized pieces.
  • Add the tofu to the skillet and sauté for 2 minutes. Next, pour your marinade mostly over the tofu and a little over the veggies. Stir immediately, making sure it is evenly distributed. Cook for another 5 minutes until the tofu is slightly browned. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes.

Fill your Day with More Laughter

You may have heard the expression, “laughter is the best medicine” and this statement could not be more true! Not only is laughter free and accessible, but did you know it has numerous physical and mental health benefits? 

Laughter is truly the best form of therapy for it helps relieve stress, release anger, sadness, and tension, increase relaxation, and improve your overall mood. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, which are chemicals released by the brain to boost pleasure and make you feel great. It also reduces cortisol, which has several health implications. Laughter is a particularly helpful tool for those who suffer from depression and anxiety and need a quick, free, and drug-free way to relieve symptoms.

When you laugh, there is an increase in oxygen, which helps stimulate your heart, lungs, and muscles. This effect causes an increase in circulation followed by the relaxation of muscles and a decrease in blood pressure. What you are left with is decreased muscle tension, physical stress, and body pain. A healthy dose of laughter can actually leave your muscles relaxed for a whole 45 minutes! This is certainly more beneficial than spending time in a jacuzzi or sauna.   

Didn’t have time to exercise today? That’s okay, because laughing is actually a great abdominal and cardio workout. A study found that you can burn approximately 40 calories in a 10-15 minute bout of laughter. When you laugh, you are contracting your abdominal muscles, helping to strengthen your core. Additionally, laughing increases your heart rate and causes the lungs to draw in oxygen. Have you ever felt out of breath after a good, hearty laugh? Much like running, laughing produces a similar cardio response. While laughing should not replace regular physical activity, it certainly is a powerful enhancement to your exercise efforts.   

Immunity is a hot topic right now and laughter can actually help boost your immune system. It does so by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies. Positive thoughts produced by laughter release neuropeptides that can help fight against free radicals and other stressors of the cells and tissues.

It is no secret that laughter has several health benefits. But what is most important is that laughing helps us live a longer, more fulfilling, and happier life. We could all use a little extra laughter in our lives, especially now. It is time to turn that frown upside down and get your laughter on. Trust me, your body and mind will thank you later.

Homemade Baked Cheese Snack Recipe

I have a confession to make. I have an obsession with all baked cheese snacks. Goldfish, Cheez-Its, you name it, I love it! Even though these snacks are baked rather than fried, they are typically full of sodium, saturated (unhealthy) fat, and various dyes and additives.

For a healthier alternative to these tasty snacks, try this delicious recipe created by the uber talented Chef Julia from @uclateachingkitchen. For the full instructional video, including the nutrition information, head over to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g74GFriGZhE

Cheddar cheese contains protein and is rich in calcium, Vitamin D, and potassium, all of which are important for bone health. Choose lower-fat cheddar cheese when possible as high amounts of saturated fat can be harmful to your heart. Ingredients Needed:

  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons of cold butter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 2-3 Tb water

Directions:

  • Mix cheese, butter, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder in a food processor, or combine in a large bowl
  • Add flour and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, if mixing in a bowl, use a pastry cutter to cut it all together
  • Add 2 Tb of water and pulse until the mixture resembles dough, might take a couple minutes of mixing. Add additional water only if the dough is too dry to come together
  • Divide the dough into thirds and roll into logs, chill in the fridge
    for at least ten minutes, up to 2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • Either roll the dough out and cut into squares, or slice pieces
    from the chilled log and place on a cookie sheet lined with
    parchment or a silicone mat
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes, they should be a light to medium golden brown when finished
  • Enjoy!

Nutrition for Immunity Support

As people around the world cope with the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves asking whether there are any particular foods we can eat to boost our body’s natural defense system. While regular hand washing and self-isolating have now become part of our daily routines, there are several key nutrients we can focus on, which support a strong and healthy immune system.

Protein 

  • Immunity Functions:
    • Amino acids (the building block of protein), play an important role in immune response by activating the “killer” cells that destroy bacteria and harmful cells
    • Amino acids regulate the production of antibodies, which are proteins in the blood that bind to specific invaders, such as germs, viruses, or tumor cells. Without antibodies, bacteria and viruses would be free to multiply in the body
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA):
    • Adults 18+ years: 0.8 grams/kg body weight
    • More is needed during pregnancy, lactation, illness, sports, and advanced age
  • Dietary Sources of Protein:
    • Animal (contain all 9 essential amino acids): meat, chicken, fish, eggs, milk
    • Plant-based (contain all 9 essential amino acids): tofu, tempeh, edamame, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, hemp seeds
    • Plant-based (missing 1 or more essential amino acid): Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, lentils
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Protein supplements are generally not needed because most Americans consume more than the RDA
    • Ensure you eat a variety of protein sources from the options listed above

Vitamin C

  • Immunity Functions:
    • Our bodies cannot make the vitamin; therefore, we must obtain it from food
    • Serves as an antioxidant that fights against free radicals in the body
    • Stimulates white blood cells at the site of infection and enhances microbial killing
    • Helps prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease, promote healthy aging, and prevent and treat respiratory and full-body infections
    • Vitamin C intake cannot prevent a common cold; however, some evidence shows that doses of >200 mg/day may decrease the length or severity of symptoms by >1 day. Taking Vitamin C after symptoms begin does not appear to be beneficial
  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):
    • Men 19+ years of age: 90 milligrams
    • Women 19+ years of age: 75 milligrams
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin C:
    • Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit and tangerines, red/yellow bell peppers, papaya, strawberries, berries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli, cherries, guavas, spinach, kale, kiwis
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Make sure to look at the labels of Vitamin C boosting products such as: Emergen-C, Ester-C, and Airborne. They often contain syrups, added sugar, dyes, and other additives
    • Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning the body does not store it. This is particularly important for those who overload on supplements, for the body will just excrete any excess via the urine
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin C through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Probiotics 

  • Immunity Functions:
    • Live microorganisms or “good” bacteria that support a healthy microbiome
    • Inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms in the GI tract, neutralize toxins, produce cytokines (messenger molecules that help immune cells work together against an infection)
    • A 2015 evaluation of 12 studies with 3,720 total participants found that people taking probiotics may have fewer and shorter upper respiratory infections. However, the quality of evidence was low. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium have the strongest antiviral activity against respiratory viruses, particularly influenza virus type A
  • Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA):
    • More research is needed on the recommended dosage, however 1 – 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU)— the amount contained in a capsule or two — can be safely taken several days per week
  • Dietary Sources of Probiotics:
    • Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and fermented foods such as: kimchi, kombucha (a fermented tea), sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), miso (a fermented soybean-based paste), and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain probiotics through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement
    • Supplements can be found in different forms. Ensure the supplement has a variety of bacterial strains and does not include any additives

Vitamin A

  • Immunity Functions:
    • A fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines, and respiratory system healthy
    • Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which protects cells from free radical damage
    • Involved in the production and function of white blood cells, which help capture and clear bacteria and other pathogens from your bloodstream
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA):
    • Men 18+ years of age: 900 micrograms
    • Women 18+ years of age: 700 micrograms
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin A:
    • Sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers, squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, apricots, mangoes
    • Dairy/meat: beef liver, eggs, salmon, tuna, fortified milks, yogurt, cheese
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin A through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Vitamin E 

  • Immunity Functions:
    • A fat-soluble vitamin that increase the body’s immune response and function by acting as a powerful antioxidant against free radicals
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA):
    • Men and women 14+ years of age: 15 milligrams
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin E:
    • Fortified cereals, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, almonds, vegetable oils (such as sunflower or safflower oil), hazelnuts, peanut butter, peanuts, broccoli, spinach
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin E through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Vitamin D

  • Immunity Functions:
    • A fat-soluble vitamin naturally produced in the body via sun exposure
    • Can help reduce the risk of acute respiratory infections, including colds and flu, particularly among people who are severely deficient or those with little exposure to sunlight
    • Immune cells (B and T cells) from multiple autoimmune diseases appear to respond well to Vitamin D
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA):
    • Adults 19-70 years of age: 600 IU
    • Adults 71+ years of age: 800 IU
    • Upper limit: 4,000 IU/day
  • Dietary Sources of Vitamin D: there are very limited food sources of Vitamin D, so it is important to incorporate them as frequently as possible
    • Fatty fish such as: salmon, tuna, mackerel, swordfish, cod liver oil, dairy (choose non-fat options): milk, yogurt, cheese, beef liver, mushrooms exposed to UV light for at least 10 minutes, and fortified non-dairy milks and 100% orange juice
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Vitamin D is made from cholesterol when your skin is exposed to the sun’s UVB rays. Spend 10-30 minutes in the sun daily without sunscreen, then immediately apply sunscreen. The best time of day to get sun is midday 10AM-3PM
    • At nutritional doses Vitamins D2 and D3 are equivalent, but at higher doses Vitamin D2 is less potent. If you need purchase a supplement, choose Vitamin D3
    • Always ensure you obtain Vitamin D through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Zinc 

  • Immunity Functions:
    • A mineral that helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses
    • There is no evidence that zinc doses >100 mg/day leads to better treatment of the cold. However, taking zinc at the beginning of a cold may shorten its duration
  • Recommended Daily Amount (RDA):
    • Men 19+ years of age: 11 mg
    • Women 19+ years of age: 8 mg
  • Dietary Sources of Zinc:
    • Oysters, beef, crab, lobster, beans, chicken, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, whole-grains
    • Zinc is best absorbed from animal sources. Foods such as whole-grains and legumes have phytates, which bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption
  • Supplemental Facts:
    • Aside from vegetarians and vegans, most Americans get enough zinc in their diet
    • Supplements may interfere with certain medications and could cause side effects such as loss of taste
    • Long-term zinc consumption over 40 mg/day for adults can result in copper deficiency
    • Always ensure you obtain zinc through food sources first, before resorting to a supplement

Other nutrients that support a healthy immune response include: Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, copper, folate, selenium, and iron. Several herbs have also been linked to an increased immune response including: ginger, ginseng, elderberry, turmeric, and garlic. In addition to eating a diet rich in the immune-supporting nutrients listed above, ensure you sleep 7-9 hours a night and keep your stress levels to a minimum. By following these recommendations, you can help reinforce your body’s fight against infection and foreign invaders.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17403271

https://www.cancerresearch.org/blog/april-2019/how-does-the-immune-system-work-cancer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwmdzzBRC7ARIsANdqRRmjs7AI9DORNJdvPPfjwYPNeKc29F3jvgUs28tOGzvTjeFu8cBJInMaAhBUEALw_wcB

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