Ancient Grains provide an alternative to wheat and rice, the most commonly consumed grains in the Western diet. Ancient grains, also called “heritage grains” or “super grains” are quickly becoming more common. Some ancient grains include varieties of wheat such as farro, spelt, Kamut, freekeh or sorghum. Others are technically seeds, like quinoa or chis, or even weeds, like amaranth.
Ancient grains are worth trying based on their nutrient density and the ability to add variety to your diet. These grains are good sources of protein and fiber, which jointly help contribute to satiety – the feeling of being full. And being full longer helps you to eat less throughout the day. Ancient grains also are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc.
Artichokes are low in calories and rich in fiber. They also contain powerful antioxidants that are shown to help lower the risk of certain cancers. One medium artichoke is also a good source of vitamin C, Folate and Potassium. It is fat free and only 25 calories.
The artichoke we eat is the plant’s flower bud. Artichokes thrive in temperate climate—so they reign as king Castroville, located in the Central Coast/Monterey area of California. Most artichokes are prepared by steaming or boiling the bud. The leaves are removed one at a time and the fleshly base is scraped out of the leaf and eaten. The heart of the artichoke is the prize—this soft stem/heart is often enjoyed marinated, baked, roasted or stuffed. Some studies have found that the artichoke leaf extract may relieve symptoms of indigestion. Watch the condiments used on the artichoke leaves—these high fat additions can undo the good of this wonderful treat! Instead, grill or add the tender young artichokes to pasta using lemon, a little olive oil and seasonings.
A half of cup of Asparagus has only 20 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Asparagus is a good source of dietary fiber, folic acid, and vitamins C, E, B6. One more benefit of asparagus: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, and increased urination not only releases fluid but helps rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases.
Keep in mind these cooking tips to preserve antioxidants and keep your preparation healthy:
- Roast, grill or stir-fry your asparagus. These quick-cooking, waterless methods will preserve the fabulous nutritional content and antioxidant power of asparagus.
- Enjoy your asparagus without salt, butter or sauces to get the most out of its diuretic properties, as salt can cause water retention in some people.
Chia seeds are all the buzz these days, and for good reason! Chia seeds are actually part of the mint family, and are commonly grown in desert conditions. They are a plant source containing omega-3s, which are increasingly being found to help combat various chronic diseases including heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
Chia seeds also are packed with antioxidants, fiber, protein and minerals. Recent research has found that chia seeds may also help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Chia seeds are great added to oatmeal, smoothies, or mixed with milk or coconut milk and eaten simply as “chia pudding.” Try some today!
Coconut and its products have become a hot trend for good reason. A cup of coconut provides 5 grams of fiber and sizable amounts of iron, zinc, manganese, potassium and copper. One cup of coconut meat provides 10% of the RDA of iron for women and 22 % for men. This important mineral is required for proper transport of oxygen throughout the body. There are many ways to incorporate coconut into your diet including coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut milk and coconut water. Coconut water provides ten percent of the RDA for potassium which helps maintain cardiac health. Coconut flour is higher in fiber than all-purpose flour, which drops the glycemic index and makes it a better choice for diabetics.
Coconut meat contains a large amount of saturated fats. While increased intake of highly saturated fats, like coconut, are not recommended for daily use, these saturated fats are medium-chain triglycerides that are metabolized differently and have health benefits. Medium chain triglycerides go straight to the liver to be turned into quick energy. This digestive process makes coconut oil the best choice for those with digestive disorders like Chron’s and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Remember, however, that fat is still fat and eating too much is not recommended. One of the fats in coconut is lauric acid which has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral agents.
Sara Ipatenco for SFgate
Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy are all part of the cruciferous vegetable family. These veggies contain many health benefits including cancer-fighting properties. In fact, recent research suggests that intake of cruciferous vegetables may have the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells.
They are also packed full of phytochemicals, fiber, and various vitamins, including vitamin A. Get one to two cups of these cancer fighters as often as you can. With so many types to choose from, you can easily find a cruciferous vegetable to eat every day!
Can you think of a more perfect early winter evening than a roaring fire and a pot of hot curry on the stove? Did you know curry paste is actually packed full of great nutrients? Research suggests that curry may contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties stemming from the bioactive compounds in the spices and herbs.
Add your favorite curry paste or powder to creamy coconut milk, paired with fresh veggies and chicken, and serve over brown rice for a simple one-pot, nutrient-packed winter dinner. For a meat-free option, add extra veggies, mushrooms or tofu.
Eggs are an extremely nutrient-rich food that isn’t meant just for breakfast. Eggs are a great source of protein, to help you last from one meal to the next, and also contain cholesterol, which is actually good for you in limited amounts.
Eggs contain the highest biological value for protein, along with milk – which means it’s the best makeup of protein. Eggs also contain iron, vitamins & carotenoids. Research has also found eggs to have disease-fighting properties and to be essential for eye and brain health. Don’t forget about them – an egg sandwich for a quick breakfast, quiche or egg salad for lunch, even a hard-boiled egg for a great protein packed snack! Remember to store your eggs in the refrigerator and cook them fully for safety.
Garlic is an herb. It has best been known as a flavoring for food. But it has also been used as medicine for over a 1000 years. There are over 300 varieties of garlic worldwide. California grows 90% of garlic that is sold in the US. Garlic cloves are best stored in cool dark place and not refrigerated. However, the convenient jars of chopped garlic must be refrigerated when opened and used quickly to protect the garlics benefits.
Garlic is a rich phytochemical and delivers potential cholesterol and cancer fighting characteristics. Evidence also suggests that garlic may slightly lower blood pressure. A little garlic goes a long way; it adds flavor and only 13 calories for 3 cloves.
Thick and creamy Greek yogurt is packed full of protein, up to twice as much as regular yogurt. This helps contribute to satiety – or the feeling of being full. When you eat protein and bulk containing foods, you are full longer, leaving less room for unhealthy and processed snacks to sneak into your day.
Greek yogurt is also a good sourced of calcium, which boosts bone health helping to prevent osteoporosis. Greek yogurt contains potassium, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12, in addition to healthy probiotics for gut health and immunity. Remember to watch the labels for excessive sugar. Or simply choose plain Greek yogurt, and add your own dash of honey, agave, or berries to flavor it your way!