Tag Archives: vegetables

8 Myths and Facts About Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits-and-VegetablesWe all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. However, you’ve probably heard some things about fruits and veggies that are touted as facts but aren’t necessarily entirely true. Many rumors were started when low-carb diets became the latest trend. The natural “sugar” in fruit and the starch in potatoes also got a bad rap.

Here are some of the common myths about fruits and vegetables, as well as the facts you should know:

Myth 1: Fresh is best
Many people believe that only fresh fruits and vegetables count toward your daily intake. In fact, all fresh, dried, and frozen fruits and veggies can be used to make up your daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. All forms are full of essential nutrients. The most important thing is that you eat them!

Myth 2: Juice is bad
Consuming 100% juice is nutritious for you and an easy way to add fruits and veggies to your healthy diet. However, drinking all your fruits and veggies doesn’t cut it. You should mix in other sources fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Myth 3: Organic is more nutritious
In fact, there is no proof that organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious for you than traditionally harvested fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned about consuming pesticides, the risk associated with consuming them is far less than the risk of not eating enough fruits and veggies.

Myth 4: Potatoes are fattening
When potatoes are dripping with butter, bacon and high-fat cheese or deep-fried, then they are full of calories, fat and cholesterol. A plain medium potato can actually help with weight loss. Potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, B6 and fiber. And, potatoes have more potassium  than bananas.

Myth 5: Colorful fruits and veggies are better
In general this is a good rule to follow, but white foods have appealing nutritional values, too. Cauliflower is full of antioxidants, vitamin C and folate. Mushrooms and cabbage also provide many vitamins and minerals.

Myth 6: Vegetarian diets are lacking
Research has shown that vegetarian diets and lifestyles can lead to maintaining optimal health and having a longer life expectancy. The key to a healthy diet is providing your body with a balanced amount of nutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Myth 7: Sugar in fruits is bad
Fruits do contain sugar, but this is different than the added sugar in many of our processed foods. Added sugar lacks the multiple health benefits of fruits, such as phenols, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Myth 8: Fruits and veggies are expensive
Even on a budget, you can include fruits and vegetables in your regular diet. You may even find that buying fruits and veggies is less expensive that some of the more processed foods that come in boxes and packages.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, what matters most is MORE. Americans overall are not eating enough fruits and veggies, and studies are showing they have an even greater role in human health than we once believed. Enjoy your fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow every day!

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

9 Ways to Get the Health Benefits of Fiber

bread-1426350-mThe average American is not eating enough fiber. In fact, most of us get less than half of the recommended allowance of approximately 25 to 35 grams of fiber we need every day.

What is fiber? Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and grain products. Your body cannot digest fiber, and it passes through your body largely intact.

Why are most of us lacking in fiber? We eat far too many highly processed foods. The refining process takes out the natural fiber found in plants. We also consume a large amount of animal products, which all contain zero fiber.

These foods make up a large part of our diets and are poor sources of fiber:

  • Refined grains – commonly in most bread, pizza dough, crackers, dry cereal and pasta
  • Sugars – found in soda, baked goods, candy and other processed goods
  • Animal products – includes meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese and butter
  • Oils – in the form of salad dressings and fried foods

Why do we need fiber? The numerous benefits of fiber include its ability to stabilize blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, decrease the risk of colon cancer, prevent constipation and support a healthy body weight. In addition, foods high in fiber are often high in mineral and vitamin content. Fiber may also prevent or control diabetes.

Here are 9 ways you can add more fiber to your daily diet:

Start your day with whole grains
Look for whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. You can also add fruit to your breakfast to get even more fiber.

Fresh fruit
Any type of fresh fruit is a healthy snack. But when it comes to getting in your daily fiber, not all fruit is created equal. For high fiber fruits, try pears, raspberries, blackberries, bananas and blueberries. Apples with the skin on also provide high fiber.

Dried fruit
Most dried fruits are loaded with fiber. Try having a handful of dried figs, prunes, dates, raisins or apricots as a snack. You can also chop them up and add to cereal or even as salad toppings.

Vegetables
Vegetables can be a great source of fiber, too. High-fiber veggies include spinach, corn, broccoli, potatoes and artichoke hearts. All vegetables have some fiber. Too boost your daily fiber, add vegetables to sandwiches, pastas, omelets and soups. You can also add vegetables to salads or other meals.

Nuts and seeds
You may be afraid to eat nuts and seeds because they can be high in calories and fat. Yet, nuts and seeds are a great source of fiber and other nutrients. Sunflowers seeds and almonds are especially high in fiber. You can add nuts and seeds to salads or a cup of yogurt. You can enjoy a handful of mixed nuts for an afternoon snack.

Beans
Beans are high in fiber, full of protein and low in fat. Try eating beans at least twice a week to boost your fiber. You can use beans in soups, stews, rice and pasta dishes, salads and casseroles.

Peas and legumes
Lentils and peas are related to beans and are high in dietary fiber and protein while also being low in fat. Lentils are great for soups and stews. Cooked chickpeas can be added to salads or made into hummus.

Whole-grain bread and crackers
Whole grains include the entire grain and give you all the nutrients of the grain. If you’re eating a sandwich, choose whole grain bread. Try dipping whole-grain crackers in a healthy spread or eating them with your favorite salad.

Drink water!
Water and fiber work as a team in your body. Water is absorbed by fiber and helps waste products move more freely through the digestive track.

Also be cautious about adding fiber too quickly. Introduce fiber to your diet gradually so your body can adjust to the increased intake over time. Exercise can also encourage the movement of fiber through your digestive system.

Eating a diet high in fiber combined with other healthy foods can help improve your overall health and well-being. So, add more fiber to your diet today!

12 healthy snacks on the go

Healthy snack dried fruit and nutsMy kids are out of school, softball and baseball games have started, and summer is on its way. I find myself running from one activity to another, and we need to find something to eat.

It can be hard to pick up healthy snacks to eat on the go. You may be tempted to grab chips, cookies, candy bars or soda. Prepackaged snacks are often loaded with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

With a little planning, you can pack nutritious, portable snacks for you or your kids to eat as you rush from place to place.

Here are 12 quick and healthy snacks you can take with you on the go:

Trail mix
You can make your own trail mix by combining nuts (peanuts, almonds, cashews) with no-sugar added dried fruit. I also add sunflower seeds when I make it. My kids like to have pretzels in their trail mix. You can also buy prepackaged trail mix, but try to avoid those with candy.

Pretzels
Speaking of pretzels, just take a bag of pretzels with you to snack on while you’re in the car. They have a low mess factor, and they’re easy to eat while you drive. You can also mix pretzels with dry whole-grain cereal to make your own snack mix.

Nuts
All nuts are about equal in terms of calories per ounce, and in moderation, are all healthy additions to any diet. Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber. They will help you feel full and suppress your appetite. Go with raw or dry roasted nuts for the most benefits. So, snack on some almonds, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans or Brazil nuts.

Apples and peanut butter
You can take apples with you on the go. I cut mine up in slices and put them in a baggie. If you are going to eat them within a few hours, they still stay fresh. You can buy single servings of peanut butter to easily carry with you. You can even switch it up and have celery or rice cakes with your peanut butter.

Popcorn
Pop a bag of popcorn (without butter or salt) and put it in a plastic baggie to take with you. You can even add other things in with it like pretzels or nuts.

Carrot sticks and Laughing Cow Cheese
If you’re going to eat it within 4 hours, you can take carrots and a wedge of Laughing Cow Cheese with you. You get some veggies and a little bit of dairy. If it will be longer than 4 hours, you may want to take an insulated cooler and ice pack.

Whole-grain cereal with sunflower seeds
Put 2 parts cereal and 1 part seeds in a baggie to take with you. You can also store it in your purse, desk drawer or vehicle for several weeks to snack on as needed.

Yogurt and fruit/granola
Grab a cup of Greek yogurt and some fresh fruit or granola to flavor it up a bit. If you aren’t going to eat it fairly quickly, you may want to pack the yogurt in a cooler with an ice pack.

Raw veggies
With a little planning, you can pre-cut vegetables to take with you. Carrots, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and celery all make great portable vegetables.

Whole fruit
You can easily take apples, oranges, pears, bananas and grapes with you. If you find some of the fruits are easier to eat when they are cut up, put them in a baggie or container to take along with you.

Wheat Thins and string cheese
Wheat Thins give you fiber and whole-grain carbs. String cheese is high in calcium and protein yet lower in fat than most other cheeses. Plus, it comes in a handy package that you can grab in a rush. You can also eat cheese with fruit and raw veggies.

Hard-boiled egg
You can make hard-boiled eggs ahead of time for an easy snack on the go. Hard-boiled eggs contain protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, lutein and other great nutrients.

By taking along a few healthy snacks when you’re on the go, you can stave off hunger and keep your metabolism and energy levels steady all day long. Do you have your own favorite healthy snacks?