Green tea is produced from the Camellia Sinesis plant. Research suggests that an antioxidant in green tea has been found to improve blood flow and lower cholesterol and the risk of stroke. A study in Japan found people who drank at least two to three cup of green tea had a 14% lower risk of stoke compared to those who rarely drank it. Green tea also seems to help keep blood sugar stable in people with diabetes. Other studies have revealed that people who drink green tea have been shown to have greater activity in the working memory area of the brain. This may help block the formation of plaque that is linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Green tea packs some power in a tasty and calorie-free packet!
Though leafy green kale has become mighty popular in recent years, it has actually been nourishing people for more than 2,000 years! It was even a regular food in the Roman Empire and in the Middle Ages. It arrived in the U.S. in the 17th century.
Kale is full of antioxidants, Vitamins A and K, and is a good source of beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant essential for eye and skin health. It is a member of the cabbage family, which also includes other vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collards. Research suggests that eating vegetables like kale may help lower risk of certain cancers.
There are various types of kale to choose from. There is green, purple, white, and even dinosaur kale. Make an effort to pick out a bunch to try next time you’re at the supermarket!
Yes, that’s right. Kiwis also contain a great source of vitamin C and both insoluble and soluble fiber. Kiwi also contains folic acid, a nutrient essential in women of childbearing age.
According to Rutger’s University, researchers found that kiwi fruit has the best nutrient density when compared to 21 commonly consumed fruits. The potassium in kiwi has been shown to help to lower blood pressure.
While kiwi fruit is indigenous to Southeast Asia, and we think of New Zealand as the Kiwi “capital of the world,” they grown quite well in sunny California! They are plentiful from October through May.
When shopping for kiwi, look for ones that are mostly dense to the touch. They will ripen within a day or two at home. An easy way to eat kiwi is to simply slice in half, and then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Enjoy!
Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils. A cheap and tasty source of protein, minerals, vitamin B1 and micronutrients, legumes are a great ally of both healthy eating and economic survival. These are all good for your heart! Typically legumes have no cholesterol, trans fat or saturated fat. Research has found they can help reduce blood cholesterol, the leading cause of heart disease. Legumes are low in calories and rich in protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and zinc. They are inexpensive and easy to prepare. There are so many varieties to choose from! Beans come in every color and size. Try red, white cannellini, black, kidney or a mixed-up bag! Lentils and peas are available in green, white, and yellow and are often selected for the type of menu item you will be making. There are many recipes to choose from such as heart-healthy humus or falafels made from garbanzo beans, or try a pureed lentil dip or use as a spread on crackers or tortillas. Add legumes to soups, stews, tacos, sandwiches or salads. One-third cup of cooked legumes have about 80 calories. Their high fiber content leads to a feeling of being full longer.
Did you know in colonial times, colonists would slice off pumpkin tops, remove their seeds, and fill the insides with milk, spices and honey? This was then baked in hot ashes and is the origin of the famous pumpkin pie! Besides pumpkin pie, how else can you enjoy pumpkin?
Pumpkin is great puréed in a soup with spices like sage and thyme. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, can be roasted and tossed into salads, on top of soups, or mixed in with granola.
The largest pumpkin ever grown was 1,140 pounds! And pumpkins are 90% water, a content similar to that of watermelon. Pumpkins are filled with potassium and Vitamin A. The orange pigment of the pumpkin contains beta carotene, an antioxidant great for skin integrity and vision.
Raspberries may be known as nature’s candy, but there are immense health benefits to consuming them. A cup of raspberries contains 64 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 54 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, and 41 percent of the RDA for manganese among many other nutrients. The “super power” of raspberries is their antioxidant content. Raspberries are full of multiple varieties of antioxidants that benefit the heart, brain, eyes, GI tract and decrease the risk for some cancers.
Studies have shown a correlation between flavonoid style antioxidants and memory improvement and delayed mental aging. Raspberries have been proven to reduce inflammation and prevent plaque buildup and lower blood pressure. The antioxidants found in raspberries have been shown to decrease free radical damage and inhibit tumor growth. These properties potentially prevent certain cancers such as endometrial, colon and prostate. The fiber content of raspberries prevents constipation and promotes a healthy GI tract, reducing risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Raspberries have two compounds that help protect the eyes: Vitamin C to protect the eye from UV ray damage and zeaxanthin which filters the harmful blue light rays; together they work to prevent macular degeneration.
Megan Ware, RDN, LD
Nothing says fall has begun like a nourishing dinner full of roasted root veggies. While potatoes might be the most popular root vegetable, there are many others to choose from including carrots, turnips, rutabagas, yucca, sweet potatoes and radishes. Originally, settlers and farmers “kept” these vegetables in their storehouses to survive the winter months. Root vegetables are great in stews, soups, and simply roasted with olive oil.
Consuming root vegetables means you are actually eating the energy-storage parts of the plant. Root veggies are full of complex carbs and sugars that feed the plant above ground. Root vegetables can be stored at room temperature, and they should be – as the starches taste better this way.
Nutritionally, root veggies contain antioxidants, starch, and fiber. The skin of root vegetables contains a significant source of fiber, and many vitamins and minerals. There is no reason to remove it when cooking!
Seaweed is a treasure hidden at the bottom of the sea. It is thought to include relief from cancer, obesity, diabetes, influenza and even radiation poisoning. Seaweed is the general name used for a number of algae and marine plants that breed in varied water bodies like rivers and oceans.
There are multiple varieties of seaweed including Nori, Kelp, Dulse, Arame, Wakame, and Khombu. Each type has its strength and is used in multiple applications. While seaweed cultivation and foods are commonly associated with China, Japan and Korea, it is also grown and consumed in Western countries, like Ireland.
Nori is used in sushi rolls and other Japanese foods for hundreds of years. Nori contains protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin C, A B-12 and taurine. Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Kelp, the brown seaweed commonly found on the shores of most beaches, is used for supplements as well as for baths.
Dulse is a red seaweed that can be purchased in whole or flake form and contains B vitamins, protein and iron. Dulse is commonly added as a seasoning to salads, vegetables and soups.
Arame is a black stringy seaweed that requires soak time before being added to stir fry, soups or curries. Arame contains calcium, iron, zinc, folate and iodine. Iodine is an important trace mineral that most people are missing from their diet. Arame is high in sodium so it should be consumed in moderation.
Wakame is a deep green seaweed that can be purchased in a dehydrated or fresh form. Wakame contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin K beta-carotene and folate. Wakame is commonly added to soups, stocks and stews.
Khombu has been used as a flavoring agent in Japan for many years. It contains iodine, calcium, and antioxidants but is high in sodium, so it should be consumed in moderation. If added to beans it will make them more digestible and reduce gas.
Nothing says summer like fresh, sweet corn. And corn is a nutritional powerhouse! Corn contains two antioxidants—lutein and zeaxanthin—that act like natural sunglasses, helping to form macular pigment that filters out some of the sun’s damaging rays. These same antioxidants may also help lower the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60.
The high fiber content in corn also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer. One cup of corn contains 18.4% of the daily recommended amount of fiber, set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA.) Whole grain fiber aids in alleviating digestive problems, such as constipation and hemorrhoids. Corn is very high in antioxidants that fight cancer-causing free radicals. In fact, unlike other foods, cooking actually increases the amount of usable antioxidants in sweet corn.
These summer beauties have been known to have health benefits since ancient times. Besides containing antioxidants that fight cancer-causing free radicals, tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins and minerals. A single tomato can provide about 40% of the daily-recommended vitamin C. They are also full of potassium, known to help reduce the risk of hypertension, Iron, the mineral critical in healthy blood and vitamin A, which fights against night blindness and macular degeneration.
And tomatoes can even help protect against the damage of the summer sun! Consuming more lycopene—the carotenoid that makes tomatoes red—may protect your skin from sunburn. In one study, participants who were exposed to UV light had almost 50% less skin reddening after they ate 2½ tablespoons of tomato paste (or drank about 1⅔ cups of carrot juice daily), in addition to their regular diet, for 10 to 12 weeks. Supplements, however, weren’t as effective: in the same study, those who received a lycopene supplement or synthetic lycopene weren’t significantly protected against sunburn. Enjoy tomatoes for all of their summer strengths!