Vegan Valentine Treats!

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!  We found a couple of yummy treats to share with loved ones that might be better solutions to the classic box of chocolates with extra tips that’ll help keep you and your family on track to a healthy new year.

Heart Shaped Bites

Heart Shaped Cookie Cuts

{Photos courtesy of Help Ornament My Eden.}

Replace the white bread for whole grain bread & add almond butter to make it complete.   Kiwi’s are in season right now and also make a perfect heart.

Visit the frozen aisle

 

Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie

{You can find this delicious, creamy recipe here at allrecipes.com.} 

Since strawberries are not in season, frozen is a great alternative since most frozen foods are picked at their nutritional peak and preserved with only losing a small percentage of its nutrients.  ***Remember to replace the sugar (the recipe calls for 1.5 tsp.) with 1 to 2 dates.  The dates will amp the nutritional value while giving you the sweetness :)

For a little Indulgence ;)

 

vitamix nutella

 

 
{Video, recipe and photo from Vitamix.}

 

We hope your day is full of love, laughter, vitamins, kisses and hugs!

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7 Benefits of Grapes

Eating foods with the highest level of nutrients per calorie can significantly increase longevity.  Grapes, a very nutrient dense food, can help protect you and your family with these awesome benefits:

1. Combat cardiovascular disease (CVD)

CVD is the leading cause of death in the US, claiming over 600,000 lives every year. Grapes can reduce the likelihood of your family developing CVD by,

  • Clearing and inhibiting plaque buildup in the arteries
  • Reducing LDL (the bad cholesterol)
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Preventing cell aging

Help her fall in love 3

2. Reduce inflammation

Chronic inflammation is extremely stressful for the body.  Inflammation is often thought to be a significant factor in causing cancer, CVD and autoimmune disorders – even minor nuisances such as psoriasis and rosacea!  In addition to being a powerful anti-oxidant, grapes also have powerful anti-inflammatory benefits.

3. Balance blood sugar

Grapes have a low glycemic index especially when they’re consumed whole with the skin – even better if you can get into eating the crunchy bitter seeds!  According to The World’s Healthiest Foods,

Studies have now connected grape intake to better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity. We suspect that the strong phytonutrient content of grapes plays a key role in providing these blood sugar-related benefits.

4. Anti-aging & Longevity

‘Nough said.

5. Protect your brain

ROS (reactive oxygen species) are reactive oxygen-containing molecules that have important roles in cell signaling as well as homeostasis (your body’s way of keeping things balanced such as your PH).  Under normal circumstances, this is exactly what should happen.  However, when ROS levels increase dramatically, cell structures can be damaged and over a long period of time can lead to what’s known as oxidative stress.

What does this have to with grapes you might ask?  Grapes can prevent excess accumulation of ROS from forming in the brain.  While there is still much needed research to better understand the affects grapes have on the brain, there is an overwhelming amount of research that shows oxidative stress is a contributor to a plethora of diseases including Alzheimer’s.  Enjoying grapes on a regular basis is a risk-free precaution worth taking.

6. Anti-bacterial & Anti-microbial

Grapes contain oligopeptides, AKA peptides, which are small protein-like molecules that have anti-bacterial properties.  The phytonutrients found in grapes are also anti-microbial.  All of this combined with grapes’ vitamin C can help keep your little one from getting sick.

7. Butt-kicking cancer fighting properties.

If you have the time to watch this, it is certainly worth it!

{A bit of history}

According to The Journal of Nutrition,

“The medicinal value of the grapevine and its fruit, Vitis vinifera, has been recognized for over 6000 y. In ancient Egypt, sap from grapevines was made into an ointment to treat skin and eye conditions. The fruit was crushed into wine elixirs or ripened to serve as therapeutics for a multitude of conditions, including nausea, constipation, cholera, smallpox, liver disease, and cancers.”

Photo courtesy (from left to right): winesisterhood.com, wherethecookiesare.com,vegetariantimes.com

{Photo courtesy (from left to right): winesisterhood.com, wherethecookiesare.com,vegetariantimes.com}

Making grapes a part of your day-to-day

  1. Wash well & choose organic (when possible) – You can use a water/vinegar solution from Good Green Habits or Sarah’s salt with baking soda from Nature’s Nurture.
  2. Read about themOur Oliver & Friends’ Great Grape Adventure is a children’s book packed with fun adventure and filled with sneaky education about health that’ll get them super excited about eating grapes.
  3. Freeze them –  Frozen grapes make a perfect replacement for candy.  Kids absolutely love them.
  4. Enjoy them in a salad –  The vitamin C in grapes is a perfect way to increase the veggies’ nutrients. Check out this mouth watering vegan salad from Vegetarian Times (shown above):

Roasted Shallot, Squash, Grape, and Green Bean Salad

Serves 4

This salad’s earthy flavors heralds the arrival of fall. Grating garlic on an Oxo or Microplane zester/grater delivers the same burst of flavor as crushing garlic in a press, but it’s faster and easier to clean up.
  • 6 oz. green beans, trimmed
  • 1 butternut squash with 4-inch neck
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup red grapes
  • 1 ½ Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 ¼ tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. finely grated garlic
  • 1 large bunch watercress, thick stems trimmed (4 cups)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Blanch green beans in boiling, salted water 2 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

3. Cut 6 1/2-inch-thick wheels from neck of squash. (Reserve remaining squash for another use.) Peel and halve squash wheels. Toss squash and shallots in bowl with 1 1/2 Tbs. oil; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Place squash and shallots cut side up on baking sheet. Transfer green beans to same bowl, and toss to coat with oil that remains in bowl. Place green beans and grapes on baking sheet, separated slightly from squash and shallots. Roast 8 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender and grapes are warmed through. Remove green beans and grapes to foil sheet. Roast squash and shallots 15 to 20 minutes more, or until browned.

4. Whisk together remaining 2 1/2 Tbs. oil, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic in bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

5. Divide watercress among serving plates. Divide squash, shallots, green beans, and grapes among serving plates, and drizzle with dressing.

 

Please remember to share with others that health is a learnable skill and a journey worth taking.

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References

Brain Aging: Models, Methods, Mechanisms: ch.15 – Oxidative Stress and the Aging Brain: From Theory to Prevention.
Carmelina Gemma, Jennifer Vila, Adam Bachstetter, and Paula C. Bickford
CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2007

Antimicrobial and other oligopeptides of grapes
Olga L. Voronina, Alexander Zamyatnin
Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria, Departamento de Informatica, El Centro Cientifico Tecnologico de Valparaiso, Valparaiso, Chile. alexander.zamyatnin@usm.cl
Biochemistry (Mosc). 2010 Feb;75(2):214-23.

Grapes and Cardiovascular Disease
Mustali M. Dohadwala and Joseph A. Vita
The Journal of Nutrition. 2009 Sep; 139(9): 1788S–1793S.
doi:  10.3945/jn.109.107474

THE Best Gazpacho Recipe you’ll ever try.

I realize that’s a bold title, but I wouldn’t put it there if I couldn’t back it up! This cold Spanish soup is a healthy must-have for hot summer days. It’s super easy to make and makes an elegant first course or a simple refreshing treat after playing in the pool. A convenient dish to have on hand, you can make it hours in advance and store it in the fridge.

Most importantly, kids love it!  We had plenty left over and within the same day, Oliver, Alexandra and Peter demolished it.  I think it has an extra attractive quality to them since no heating is necessary. Of course, the amounts of the ingredients can increase or decrease depending on your taste & what’s available in your fridge. Enjoy every sip even more knowing one serving is full of Vitamins A, K & C.

Gazpacho

Ingredients:

2 lbs ripe tomatoes (roma are a good choice), washed, cored, and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1 cucumber, peeled well, and roughly chopped. (Make sure it is not bitter before you use it!)
½ a piece of a green onion, white/very light green part only (about 3 to 4 inches)
½ a red pepper, washed, seeded, and chopped
½ a green pepper, washed, seeded, and chopped
2 Tb sherry vinegar (or any wine vinegar if you don’t have sherry on hand)
½ tsp salt
6 TB virgin olive oil
1 piece of bread, (try a baguette kind) preferably stale, soaked in water and then squeezed, about 4 inches long)
Cold filtered water (as much as needed to make your gazpacho smooth)

Recipe:

Put in about ½ cup of cold water into your blender. Throw all the other ingredients in and process until smooth and creamy adding a little bit of water at a time if it is too thick. Make sure that the blades don’t heat up gazpacho, so process slowly and then turn up to smooth out further. Put your finished mixture through a sieve. Pour into a carafe and store in your fridge. Garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil, small pieces of cucumber, thinly sliced green onions, and little bits of chopped tomato, or just throw in an ice cube and serve in a glass. Enjoy!

Served in a glass

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Fruityland’s Reader of the Month

We’ve mentioned this in the past that sometimes the workload of a small family company like ours can be daunting… until we connect with our readers.  Ellyssa Simpson is nothing short of that inspiration.  Her perseverance, energy and attitude has us revitalized and calling her Fruityland’s Reader of the Month!

Elly Reader of the Month

While I was visiting some schools in North Carolina, I had the pleasure of meeting Ellyssa and her exceptional mom, Tiffany. I was impressed with their communication regarding nutrition and how great both of them looked despite Ellyssa’s condition.  ‘Elly’, as her mom calls her, developed type 1 diabetes when she was twelve months old. She is now 5 and looks great! I know many parents have the same difficulties as Tiffany does, so I asked her what has worked for her and if she had any recommendations for other parents.

“Elly eats a balanced diet and I think that has been important with her good health today. She enjoys fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, so I know that helps too. She has been taught that eating is a priority and she cannot play or have privileges unless she has eaten all of her meal, so I have never had issues with her and eating. She takes multivitamins and probiotics, but no other medications other  than  insulin.

Her exercise routine is whatever she wants to do that day, bike riding, playing on the playground or just playing tag with me or her dad in the house. Basically, her exercise routine is just being 5 :)

Elly uses an omnipod insulin pump and a dexcom G4 glucose monitor. We have been using this equipment since February 2013. Prior to that she was on insulin shots and took a minimum of 4 shots per day.  Her A1c and control have greatly improved since we started using the pump and cgm.

As far as advice for other parents, I can only say this: you are your child’s best advocate. You have to educate yourself to make the best outcomes for your child’s health. Your child’s doctor and diabetes educators are the first line of care, but it is ultimately you who takes care of your child from day to day, and education is key to doing that. Diabetes is unpredictable and sometimes things just happen. Don’t spend time beating yourself up if something goes wrong with your child’s care. Just allow the mistake to be a teaching moment and vow not to make that mistake again :)

The Best Advocate 3

Are there any parents with a diabetic child that would like to share their experience and wisdom?  Please leave a comment below or drop us a note.  We love to hear & learn from our readers.  By the way, we’re posting a special recipe that came all the way from Italy that might be your family’s summer favorite.  Until then!

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Comforting Vegan Lentil Soup!

This soup is high in fiber, protein, vitamin A, C, iron, folate, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Because lentils are high in fiber, they provide you with stable energy levels. Make it a complete protein meal by serving it with wild or brown rice so that you have all the nine amino acids, essential to dietary needs.

I grew up eating this soup hearing about the great benefits that came with it, making me love it that much more.  To this day it’s one of my favorite go-tos when I’m craving a filling, yet light, meal. Here’s my mom’s great recipe straight from her, a nutritionist, talented author and fantastic cook!  :)

Nydia Lentil Soup

 

Ingredients:
1 cup lentils

1 large carrot (sliced in ½ inch pieces)

1 large celery stalk (sliced into ¼ to ½ inch pieces)

2 medium white potatoes (cut in cubes)

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. paprika

3 tbs. cilantro

1 tbs. parsley

2 whole garlic cloves

1 tbs. tomato paste

1 medium onion (chopped)

Recipe:
Prepare the lentils – In a large pot, boil the dry lentils in 4 cups of water uncovered.  After they have been boiling for 5 minutes, remove the lentils and drain the water. Put the lentils back to cook with 8 cups of fresh water. Do not cover the pot. Boil them until almost tender using medium heat.

Then add potatoes, carrots, celery, turmeric, paprika, cilantro, parsley, garlic, tomato paste, onions and salt to taste.

Once the potatoes are tender, add the spinach and simmer for 5 more minutes.


Bon appétit!

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Luna’s Mediterranean Fennel Soup

IMG_9369 PNG

Beautiful and ancient, fennel has a subtle sweet licorice flavor and crunchy texture that has been all the rage since ancient Greece. Today, research is showing that a substance found in fennel, anethole, blocks tumor necrosis factor (TNF).  What does that mean for us exactly?  Quite a lot actually.   Tumor necrosis factor is linked with many immune disorders such as :

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • psoriasis
  • asthma

The pharmaceutical industry has been extremely invested in developing TNF inhibitors.  So much, in fact, that the global market for these inhibitors grew from 13.5 billion to 22 billion from 2008 to 2009.  The great news is that we can skip the bill and scary side effects of these synthesized drugs by incorporating more foods that naturally have TNF inhibiting properties.  Cumin, tumeric, green tea, and echinacea all seem to behave similarly by inhibiting TNF.

Fennel’s TNF inhibiting awesomeness is just the cherry on top in addition to its anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogen, antimicrobial qualities.  Now that you’ve developed a new found respect for that unsuspecting, but gorgeous, bulb, here’s my Iraqi mother-in-law’s recipe that’ll make you wish you had made more.

Luna’s Mediterranean Fennel Soup ingredients:

2 potatoes

2 small purple (or white) onions

a few small fennel bulbs (or 1 to 2 large ones)

dash of salt and pepper

water (sorry, the cook laughed when I asked her for measurements! – they run an old-school style kitchen here)

1 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil (optional)

IMG_9308

Recipe:

Cut vegetables into large chunks

Add all ingredients to boiling water

Cover and cook until tender (about 20 to 35 minutes)

Blend

 

Top with Golden Garlic Crispy Bits: In a small pot, heat 1 to 2 tbs. of vegetable oil that’s suitable for high heat.  Add thinly sliced garlic slivers (4 to 6 cloves) making sure you “deep fry” the garlic by tilting the pot so that the garlic is immersed in the oil.  Remove garlic when it starts turning a golden brown.   Sprinkle over your newfound winter soup and enjoy!  :)

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Kanye West, Pomegranates & the Latest Diet Trend

You wouldn’t end a friendship if they liked Kanye West.  Arguably you should could, but you know better.  You know that ending that friendship would mean you’d also lose their (usual) insight-fullness, kindness and the love and laughter that comes with being around that person. Yes you hate Kanye, but focusing on that single aspect would distract you from everything else, good and bad, that makes up your friend’s character.  After all, we’re complex beings.

And so is your body…

People’s personalities are complex and their physiology is arguably more so.  To illustrate this, it was only until the end of last year that a team of scientists humbly published an attempt to estimate the number of cells in the human body… a whopping 37.2 trillion.

A possible 37.2 trillion cells, reacting, communicating and fulfilling sophisticated jobs simultaneously throughout the day, that we’re just beginning to understand. Take adipose (fat) cells for example, that vary in type and behavior.  Some make up healthy brown fat and others collect under your abdominal muscles, coating and suffocating organs like a ticking time-bomb.  Fat isn’t only responsible for sabotaging bathing suit season but also takes part in the regulation of hormones such as insulin and those that tell the brain whether or not you’re full.

 With our busy schedules and limited memory space, it’s no surprise that the loudest, simplest messages are enthusiastically accepted, published and repeated over and over again.  Moving, crowd-pleasing speeches follow that same formula; simplify the problem, single out a villain to carry the blame, give a simple solution and promise immediate results.  Does this sound like the latest diet trend to you?  Nobody ever followed the person who started with, “There is a problem indeed!! But unfortunately it’s complicated! So now let’s get riled up and analyze those tedious details and we’ll take it from there!  WHO’S WITH ME?!”  The only thing following that speech is uncomfortable silence.  In this case, it might mean you’ve already stopped reading  :(  For those of you who are still here with impressive stamina:

Food is also complicated.
Macronutrients (fiber, protein, fat, and carbohydrates) dominate health and nutrition media because they are extremely important.  They are crucial to providing us with energy in a system called the metabolic system. However, an increasing amount of research is pointing to the promise of better health through micronutrients including phytonutrients.

While macronutrients are critical for our metabolic system (obtaining, processing, using and storing energy), micronutrients are critical for a lot of other functions.  Your metabolic systems is one of many systems and overall health is accomplished by ensuring that all of your body’s systems are balanced and working properly.

For example, antioxidants are important since free radicals are constantly being produced in our cells.  Another important example is the immune system.  Macronutrients might play a marginal role in your body’s immune system while micronutrients are critical and central to an efficient, functioning immune system.  If you’re reading this, you probably already know that these imbalances are thought to be the root cause to most modern diseases such as cancer.

Ignoring the details and the Whole Truth.

If you’re still reading this, your patience by now is probably wearing thin.  ‘BUT What IS the connection between pomegranates and Kanye West??!’, you might be asking.  We evaluate people around us and hopefully take all of their qualities into consideration.  Why not apply the same principle to something as comprehensive as nutrition?

Sugar, a subcategory of macronutrients under carbohydrates, is a specific chemical found in food.  It’s today’s new villain.  We thought we had identified fat as the monster but after our waistlines continued to grow, we needed a new suspect. Like the boogieman, it hides in unsuspecting places, tempts us with ice cream, and casts a powerful spell over us.  There is a lot of truth in this message but sugar is only one characteristic within a food.  Remember that good friend who liked Kanye?  Judging a food based on a single component is a one dimensional way of thinking that could be detrimental to your health, specifically to all of those complicated systems that depend on diverse nutrients in large, frequent quantities to work properly.

A healthy compromise: Whole Analysis

Pomegranates, for example, have A LOT of sugar!  Seeds from 1 whole pomegranate have almost 40 grams of sugar.  Equivalent to about 1.25 cups of ice cream.  However, pomegranates are also full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that boost not just one system but many systems.  Pomegranates is one of a handful of foods that have an extremely important phytochemical. The high fiber content also slows down the rate of sugar absorption, making it difficult to compare to refined sugar.  Cutting out sugar from your diet will certainly make you lose weight and even cutting back on fruits can give you a boost in the beginning.  If your looking to reduce the sugar in you and your family’s diet, having half of a pomegranate will give you the benefits and take the sugar amount to less than 20 grams.

Table sugar, on the other hand, has no nutritional value whatsoever.  Absolutely no redeeming qualities.  None. This is a complete/whole analysis of table sugar.  Pomegranate is considered to be The most antioxidant dense fruit.  Judging it then based solely on it’s sugar content might rob you of all the other qualities pomegranates have.

Applying this evaluation method to the latest diet trend will empower you and not leave you and your family vulnerable to incomplete, misleading information.  The key is whole, critical analysis.

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Tuesday Tip(s): Beans, Kale & Saute Onions

Things have been crazy for us here on the farm.  We’re in the middle of finishing our house and if anyone has any experience with this, you know how chaotic things can get towards the end!  Last minute changes, plumbing, unexpected surprises, and Moroccan-style tiling has our house upside down, full of loud banging, flying cement, plaster and curious cats (just the cement and plaster are flying, the cats are safely on the ground – most of the time).

Long story short, I’ve been too busy to write a new post but here are 3 quick cooking techniques that have revolutionized my health.

1. Raw tenderized kale

One of my absolute favorite dishes that I never get tired of, here’s a great 25 second video that shows you how to do this.

**Since tenderized kale shrinks down significantly and processed fats (in this case olive oil) should be kept to a minimum, I normally use 1 tsp. per 1 to 2 servings.  2 tablespoons for the the amount of kale used in the video is way too much but this technique is an invaluable one!!

2. Saute onions… in water??!

Yes, it’s doable and delicious.  Maybe you don’t want to do this for a decadent weekend meal but this is an easy way to improve you and your family’s health daily without compromising on taste.

** This video from Jane Thompson starts the saute with a little bit of water in the very beginning while I personally start with a hot dry pan and wait until the onions begin to stick.  I think both ways work and it’s something you can easily experiment with.  The secret is to use very very little water.

3. How to boil perfect beans

I’ve tried A lot of recipes to get the perfect beans and this way has never failed me.  Of course cooking time depends on the type of bean and how old they are but this is the only thing that varies in this perfect how-to.  You can read the entire article here from The Kitchn.

** Number 5 is key to your success!

{Photo courtesy from The Kitchn's How to Cook Beans on the Stove}

{Photo courtesy from The Kitchn’s How to Cook Beans on the Stove}

Instructions

1. Soak the beans overnight. The night before you plan to cook (10-14 hours), soak the beans to reduce cooking time and help them cook more evenly. Empty the dry beans in a bowl. Pick through the beans and discard any shriveled or unappealing beans. Cover the beans with a few inches of water and leave them on the counter.

2. Drain the soaked beans. The next day, the beans will have absorbed much of the water and nearly doubled in size. Drain the beans from their soaking water and rinse them gently under water.

3. Transfer beans to a cooking pot. Transfer the beans to a Dutch oven or other heavy cooking pot. Add the aromatics, if using.

4. Bring the beans to a boil. Cover the beans with an inch of water. Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat.

5. Reduce to a simmer and cook. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and bring the beans to a very gentle simmer. You should barely see the water moving. Leave the lid off for firm beans meant for cold salads and pasta dishes. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar for creamier beans for soups, casseroles, and burritos. (Learn More: Leaving the Lid On Vs. Off When Cooking Beans)

6. Cook the beans. Cook the beans for one hour, and then begin checking for doneness. Depending on their age, size, and variety, beans can take anywhere from an hour to three hours to cook through. Be patient. Keep the beans a gentle simmer and taste frequently as they start to become tender. Add more water as needed to keep the beans submerged, and stir occasionally.

7. Add the salt when beans are just barely tender. When beans are tender but still too firm to enjoy eating, add the salt. Adding the salt too early can keep the beans from becoming tender. Continue simmering until the beans are as tender and creamy as you like them. Add more salt to taste.

8. Cool and store the beans. Cool the beans in their cooking liquid and transfer to refrigerator containers, still with their cooking liquid. Beans will keep for one week refrigerated or can be frozen for up to three months.

Additional Notes:

Dry vs. Canned Amounts: One pound of dry beans makes about five cups of cooked beans, equivalent to about 3 cans of canned beans.

Cooking Beans for Soup: If you intend to use your beans in a soup, it’s best to slightly undercook them here and then finish cooking them in the soup itself.

The Cooking Liquid: Don’t pour it down the drain! Unlike the slimy liquid from canned beans, this cooking liquid is full of flavor and good nutrients. Once you’ve scooped up all your beans, this liquid makes a great base for soups and quick sauces.

Let me know how these come out for you and if you guys have any tricks and tips of your own you’d like to share!  See you next Tuesday!  ;)

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Tuesday Tip: 5 Foolproof ways to boost nutrients

Macronutrients have dominated our view on what constitutes health.  How much fat does that have?  Am I getting enough protein?  It’s only been the past 10 years that we’ve started to really consider the significance of micronutrients. While macronutrients are essential to living, more and more experts are looking to vitamins, trace minerals and phytochemicals to truly achieve optimal health and prevent today’s most common ills and diseases.

Micronutrients are essential in:

  1. Maintaining and boosting the immune system
  2. Keeping organs healthy and working properly
  3. Regulating body weight
  4. Preventing disease (such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes…)
  5. Detoxification
  6. Regulating mood
  7. Growth & Development
  8. Healing
  9. Cognitive function
  10. Inflammation

This is just a small, simplified list that continues to grow since we’ve just started to discover their benefits.  Here are 5 easy tips and tricks to get the most nutrients into your diet.

1. Reduce your cooking time and heat

Why? The longer the cooking time, the less nutrients.  Raw vegetables, in general, have the highest nutrients but lightly steaming them can increase your overall vegetable intake and nutrient absorption. 

Vegetable tagine Small Copy

Steamed vegetables such as broccoli, for example, are easier to chew (and digest) than raw broccoli, making it easier for your body to absorb more nutrients.   An extreme example of this would be flax seeds.  These miracle seeds are wonderful, unfortunately, our teeth can’t chew through the tough shell which means it’ll likely pass through the system intact without releasing any of the benefits inside its shell.  Grinding flaxseeds (a coffee grinder works perfect) allows us to access and absorb these nutrients. 

How to:  Bring water to a boil, add the vegetables, cover, reduce heat and simmer for the least amount of time until tender.

2. Keep it colorful

Why?  Phytochemicals (only found in plants) are often expressed in the plant’s color.  Not only is adding color to your dishes visually appealing, expanding the spectrum of colors will ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.  This is another reason why overcooking should be avoided since the lack of color indicates the loss of nutrients.

Overboiled Vegetables

How to:  Make it a habit to include colorful foods such as purple cabbage, carrots, red peppers and greens in each meal.  The more colorful, the more variety, the better!

Homecooking

3.  Buy frozen foods

Why?  Seasonal foods tend to be more nutrient dense. If you don’t have access to seasonal foods or a farmers’ market, frozen fruits and vegetables are a surprisingly good option.  The average nutritional loss is 5% for freezing and foods are usually frozen at their peak ripeness, which = more nutrients.

How to:  Thaw in the fridge or kitchen counter before steaming to avoid excess heat and cooking.

4. Steaming with water – Drink up or cut back

Why? Vitamins and minerals leach into the water used to boil or simmer vegetables.

How to: You can either use the least amount of water possible so that the vegetable reabsorbs the water or use the remaining liquid in sauces or soups.

5. Add healthy raw fat

Why? If you find yourself starving after having just a salad it could be because a slice of tomato and iceberg lettuce isn’t cutting it… nor should it.   This is a common problem for those trying to increase whole, plant foods in their diet.  Healthy fat from raw, unprocessed plants can help boost your energy, keep you satisfied, provide you with essential nutrients and increase their absorption.

How to:  Add these to your daily diet – Avocados, seeds, raw nuts, sesame seed paste (tahini), coconut,  and olives.

Coconut chips for breakfast

{delicious slivers of coconut sprinkled over fruit salad}

*Tip:  Keep a few mason jars on your dining table with different seeds such as hemp and pumpkin seeds next to the salt and pepper.  This way you can easily sprinkle your food or salad to enhance the flavor and reap the nutritional benefits on a daily basis.

Check out this great recipe from Kimberly Snyder that incorporates most of these tips to make a delicious, easy, decadent meal for less than $6 and under 10 minutes to make!

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Tuesday Tip: Orange Creamsicle (that’s actually good for you)

I discovered this drink in a small colorful restaurant tucked away in an old, windy city by the Atlantic.  It was listed on the menu as “Advocate”, the mistranslation making us giggle (because we’re immature) and because we love to “advocate” the awesomeness of avocado (because we’re also dorks).  The drink’s ingredients were simple – fresh squeezed orange juice & avocado.

Orange Creamsicle

The first sip is something I will cherish forever.  It tasted just like an orange creamsicle… without the heaviness and weird processed food aftertaste.  It was perfection and it made me wonder why more kids aren’t enjoying this drink that actually tastes better than the ice cream flavor that’s been synthesized in a lab. You’ll have to try it to believe me and your kids will be absolutely thrilled with this treat.  We’ll keep it just between us that it’s actually good for them when they’re begging you for more  ;)

Avocado sometimes gets a bad rap because of its fat content which is a shame because there is so much more to this perfect little package.  Here’s just the short, summarized list of all the things you and your family can benefit from by making avocado an addition to daily meals.  This drink is just one of many!

  1. No cholesterol
  2. High in monounsaturated fats (good fats)
  3. Healthy omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
  4. High in beta-carotene, fiber, folate, and potassium
  5. Anti-inflammatory benefits which come from:
    • Phytosterols
    • Other non-carotenoid antioxidants including flavonoids, vitamins C and E, manganese, selenium and zinc
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: ALA
    • Polyhydroxylated Fatty Acids (PFAs)
  6. High in carotenoids:
    • Carotenoids are a class of phytochemicals normally found in bright red and orange plants such as carrots and tomatoes.
    • Carotenoids are essential in growth and development, boosting your immune system and can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
    • The greatest concentration of carotenoids is in the dark green flesh right under the skin so don’t forget to scoop that part out!
    • Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, avocados are a perfect package in that in provides these nutrients and increases the nutrient absorption by literally binding to the digestive tract and helping transport the nutrients (by 200-400%!!!)
Mini Avocado

{this little guy dropped from our garden’s avocado tree}

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie (yields 2, 8oz servings)

16 oz of fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 peeled and pitted *ripe* avocado (add more for added creaminess, nutrients & thickness)

That’s it!  Blend & Enjoy!

Micronutrients: Vitamins/per serving
Vitamin A: 10%
Vitamin C: 209%
Vitamin E: 2%
Vitamin K: 5%
Thiamin (vitamin B1): 16%
Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 6%
Niacin: 7%
Vitamin B6: 7%
Folate: 22%
Pantothenic Acid: 7%

Micronutrients: Minerals/per serving
Calcium: 3%
Iron: 3%
Magnesium: 8%
Phosphorus: 5%
Potassium: 17%
Zinc: 2%
Copper: 7%
Manganese: 3%
Selenium: 0%

Macronutrients/per serving
Calories: 140
Fat: 3.1 g
Carbs: 27.3 g
Fiber: 1.7 g
Sugar: 20.9 g
Protein: 2.1 g

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