Blog Archives - Julie's Healthy Living
 
Orange/yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural plant pigments called "carotenoids." Beta-carotene found in this color group is converted to vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy mucous membranes. It is particularly helpful in warding off macular degeneration--an eye disorder common in older adults and seniors. Scientists have also reported that carotenoid-rich foods can help reduce risk of cancer, heart disease and can improve immune system function. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C and folate, a B vitamin that helps reduce risk of birth defects.

Some examples of the orange/yellow group include:

* Apricots--One of the best sources of beta-carotene. One fresh apricot provides almost the daily recommended dose of vitamin A. Additionally, canned apricots are three times higher in the vitamin because the process of heating them breaks down the cell walls thereby releasing more beta-carotene. When using any canned fruit always check your ingredients and aim for ones with no added sugars. Apricots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

* Butternut squash--A rich source of beta carotene, along with vitamins C, B3 and B6, folate, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. One of the easiest ways to bring out the flavor is to roast the squash. Simply cut into chunks, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper; place on foiled lined baking sheet on 425 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, turning them halfway through so they get crispy on all edges.

* Cantaloupe--Excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Good source of potassium and B vitamins, folate and fiber. While you can use cantaloupe in recipes and even freeze it into popsicles, my favorite way to have cantaloupe is cut in a bowl and served with a fork. Dig in. :)

* Carrots--High in beta-carotene. Roasted, raw, baked into dishes, puree them and add to homemade mac and cheese (the kids will never know). Touted for it's importance of eye health, the breakdown of carrots helps to improve your night vision.

* Grapefruit--Please see Red Foods under Pink Grapefruit for information. ALL grapefruit is a rich source of vitamin C.

* Lemons--A gem in the world of cooking. The juice of one lemon contains about one-third your daily need of vitamin C. Sprinkle a dash of lemon juice on apples, avocados or a bowl of fruit salad to prevent browning from oxidation while keeping your dishes pretty. Lemons can also be used as a household cleaner--just dip a cut lemon in salt for a gentle abrasive cleaner for your stainless steel pots and pans or sinks. Use lemon without salt on aluminum to brighten it up. Take used lemons to freshen up the garbage disposal.

* Mangoes--Beta-carotene (vitamin A when converted by the body) and vitamin C (starting to see a pattern in all the orange fruits/vegetables here). Mangoes are indigenous to India and found in subtropical and tropical regions. In some areas of the US they can be hard to come by at a fair price. However, when they are in season (spring is when they are at their peak) you can usually find them at a better price. They are great eaten alone, but I like to mix mine with avocado, tomato, jalapeno and some red peppers to serve with brown rice or quinoa.

* Nectarine/Peaches--I am grouping these together because nutritionally speaking they are virtually the same. The main difference here is the skin--nectarines are smooth while peaches are fuzzy. Excellent source of vitamin C. To ripen the fruit place in a paper bag (this also works for pears), loosely wrapped at room temperature. They will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. Again, most fruits can be used in cooking, but I prefer to use peaches and/or nectarines as a grab and go snack.

* Oranges--NOW we come to yours truly favorite fruit on the planet. I am a lover of most fruits and vegetables (some more than others), but HANDS DOWN, the beautiful round juicy taste of sunshine has a warm place in my heart. I would be lying if I didn't say that citrus was one of my reasons for moving to Florida. Sadly, since the 2004 Hurricane Season when the area was hit with four of them (two on the west coast/two here on the east coast) our oranges have not been up to snuff. In addition, canker disease and most recently the freeze in January/February have really hurt the citrus industry and our Florida growers. Even with that I still can't get enough of oranges and if I have to I buy California navels to get me through the season. They aren't the same, but they'll suffice. And with so many different varieties in the orange family to choose from you can never get bored:
Clementines: the clementine is a seedless mandarin.
Kumquats: the kumquat is like a citrus fruit and has an edible skin. It is the most well known of the sort fortunella which is closely related to Citrus.
Mandarins: type of small orange with loose skin. The mandarin got its name because it was exploited by high-ranking government officials in China (mandarins).
Minneolas: are a crossing between a tangerine and a grapefruit commonly referred to as the Honeybell. They are in season for only six weeks (mid-January to end of February). While they are available from south of the border regions other times of the year they really are best bought and enjoyed during their peak season. While true of all fruit--it is especially so with these.
Oranges: There are different types of oranges: navel oranges, Valencia oranges and blood oranges are the most cultivated races.
Tangelos: a tangelo is a crossing between a tangerine, a grapefruit and an orange. A specific kind of tangelo is the Ugli which is described further on this page.
Satsuma: a very special seedling from Japan. Its skin is a bit tighter than the clementine and it doesn't have seeds as well.
Tangerines: a tangerine is an orange-red mandarin with a particular citrus taste. Can be peeled manually.

* Papayas--Quite simply the papaya from a nutritional standpoint is tops in the fruit world. Lower in calories and 33% higher in vitamin C than oranges. Higher in potassium and vitamin C than apples. Papayas are also a valuable source of vitamin E. Papaya seeds are edible and can give a peppery flavor to sauces and salad dressings.

* Pear--Good source of fiber, vitamin K (essential for blood clotting), vitamin C and copper. Allow pears to ripen on the counter at room temperature. To quicken the ripening process place in a paper bag. Once ripened pears are only good for a few days. Many different varieties include the Bosc, D'anjou, Bartlett. They are great to use for sauces, in salads and you can caramelize them for a sweet dessert. :)

* Yellow peppers--Can be used in any recipe that calls for peppers to add color and flavor to the meal. A rich source of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin B6.

* Pineapple--Fresh or canned, raw or cooked, pineapple can be enjoyed so many ways. Fruit cocktail salad, diced on your pizza, used as a marinade, grilled on skewers with other fruit for a dessert treat. Pineapples are a great source of vitamin C.

* Pumpkin--One of the two vegetables I have tried time and time again and just can't get my taste buds to agree. I admit that I can't really share on how to use pumpkin in any form except for carving on Hallows Eve. Of course there is the ever popular pumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced chai lattes at Starbucks, but that is the vast extent of my knowledge on this bright orange gourd. What I can tell you is this: Pumpkin has more beta-carotene per half cup serving than any other orange food on this list.

* Rutabagas--Often overlooked in the Western world, the rutabaga is a delicious root vegetable often referred to as the cousin of the more popular turnip. Excellent source of vitamin A and potassium. Use rutabaga anytime a recipe calls for roasted root vegetables. Planted during the summer, they are best bought in late autumn for peak flavor.

* Yellow summer or winter squash--Another vegetable perfect for roasting or putting in a hearty fall stew. High in vitamin C and manganese they are also a good source of potassium, vitamin A, and folate.

* Sweet corn--Corn gets a bum rap for being a 'starchy' vegetable. While it is now available year round, to get the best tasting corn you want to get your pickings at the beginning of summer. Because heat will turn the corn to starch you want to store corn (preferably in their husks) in a cold place until ready to use. It is best to use corn the same day you buy. To test the freshness of corn, pull back the husk and puncture a kernel with a fingernail. If a milky white substance appears, the corn is fresh. Also attempt to buy corn still in their husk as it is fresher than the packaged, hulled corn. Recipe for perfect corn on the cob:
1. Fill a large stockpot halfway with unsalted water and bring to a rolling boil.
2. Add corn on the cob (husk and cornsilk removed) to the boiling water.
3. Let water return to a full boil.
4. Cover pot and immediately turn off heat.
5. Let covered pot sit undisturbed on the burner for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Remove corn and serve hot with your choice of butter, margarine, salt, and/or other seasoning.

* Sweet potatoes--This is number two. I have eaten sweet potatoes in just about every way they can be cooked and I just can't get my taste buds to agree. Mashed, baked, oven baked 'fries', deep fried fries, even mixed in with other ingredients in recipes and this many years later I still don't eat them. However, I do recognize that many people love them (including my husband). If you love them and regularly eat them you are getting high doses of vitamin A and beta-carotene. They are also a good source of potassium.

Stay tuned for Green Foods coming next week.
 
Part Two of my on-going Rainbow Series. Enjoy the bounty of fruits and vegetables from the red family.

Red fruits and vegetables are colored by natural plant pigments called "lycopene" or "anthocyanins." Lycopene in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, for example, may help reduce risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer.

Anthocyanins in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and other fruits and vegetables act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Antioxidants are linked with keeping our hearts healthy.

These are some examples of the red group:

* Red apples--We've all heard the phrase about apples so I won't bother repeating it here. What you may not know about apples is that they are a good source of vitamin C and contain up to 4 g of fiber depending on the size. One of my favorite recipes for red apples is to take a cut up apple and mix with plain low-fat yogurt, sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of vanilla extract.
* Beets--An excellent source of folate, magnesium and potassium. Beets can be roasted, pureed in soup (borscht), served cold as part of a salad.
* Red cabbage--Most commonly used in salads and coleslaw. Excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.
* Cherries--contain powerful anti-oxidants in addition to beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate. Cherries are great when eaten on their own, but pair beautifully in dishes. Visit http://www.choosecherries.com/ for more information and recipes using cherries.
* Cranberries--Cranberries have moderate levels of vitamin C, dietary fiber and the essential dietary mineral, manganese. Visit http://www.cranberries.org/ for more information and recipes using cranberries.
* Pink grapefruits--Good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber and the antioxident lycopene. Also known to help lower cholesterol. Caution must be exercised for people who are taking certain types of drugs for serious interactions. The list includes calcium channel blockers, specific antidepressants, and cholesterol lowering statins. Make sure to check with your doctor.
* Pomegranates--High in potassium and vitamin C. Visit http://www.pomegranates.org/home.shtml for instructions on how to cut, recipes and more information. I have only recently had enough nerve to conquer my fear of the pomegranate. The little amount of work that goes into extracting the seeds is worth the effort.
* Red grapes--The heart-healthy antioxidant, resveratrol, is found in the skins of the red grapes. Grape juice, red wine (in moderation--no more than 10 oz. a day for men, 5 oz. for women) or just eating ripe grapes will yield the health benefits. Raisins are also a good way to get resveratrol into the diet.
* Red peppers--There are red bell peppers which are richer in taste (and excellent when roasted) than their green counterparts; however, I'm going to discuss my favorite red pepper, the cayenne, also called the chili pepper. Abundant in capsicum creating spice, chili peppers are often dried and pulverized into the fine cayenne pepper. You can also buy them whole and add them for heat to soups, stews or even a spicy cornbread. Spicy foods have been shown to help weight loss for several reasons. Spicy foods help to rev up the metabolism. People also tend to eat slower when eating spicy foods giving the brain a chance to register food consumption. By slowing down how fast we eat, we keep from getting that over-stuffed feeling that comes at the end of some meals. They are also high in vitamin A.
* Red potatoes--The same benefits as their white counterparts, I enjoy using red potatoes in salads and roasted.
* Radishes--Radishes are rich in ascorbic acid, folic acid, and potassium. They are a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, and calcium. One cup is about 20 calories of good carbohydrates. Most commonly used in America in salads, this is a popular root vegetable used in many European dishes.
* Raspberries--Chockful of many vitamins and nutrients; Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 30 mg per serving of 1 cup, manganese and dietary fiber. Contents of B vitamins 1-3, folic acid, magnesium, copper and iron are also considerable in raspberries. Guy and I enjoy a berry mix on our oatmeal every morning. I also enjoying mixing berries in yogurt with walnuts as a dessert.
* Rhubarb--The crisp stalks of rhubarb plants are a rich source of dietary fiber and vitamin C. Rhubarb requires sweetness to counteract the tartness. It is commonly served as a sauce over ice cream and/or combined with strawberries in desserts, jams, jellies and beverages.
* Strawberries--A good source of vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. The possibilities for strawberries are endless. You can use fresh or frozen strawberries in smoothies, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles. Strawberries can be cooked into sauces, paired with meat dishes, added to salads, and of course, strawberry shortcake for dessert.
* Tomatoes--Whereas many fruits and vegetables diminish in nutritional quality and content the longer they are cooked, the processing of the tomatoes increases the concentration of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth. Lycopene is a fat soluble substance so serving tomato dishes rich in heart healthy oils is a good way to get a dose. Other ways are pasteurized tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce, tomato soup and even ketchup. Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin A and vitamin B.
* Watermelon--Watermelon is about 92% water by weight, can act as a mild diuretic, good source of vitamin C, and high levels of beta carotene. The easiest way to eat watermelon is to just slice and enjoy on a hot summer day. However, for a refreshing change try a Watermelon Granita:

Ingredients:
6 cups seedless watermelon chunks or balls (about a 4 lb with rind)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
1 Tbsp frest lime juice (1/2 lime)
1/2 cup ginger ale

Method:
1. Puree watermelon, lemon juice, and lime juice in blender. Slowly pour in ginger ale.
2. Freeze in 8" X 8" baking pan. During freezing, rake with fork or stir with whisk (be sure to scrape sides of pan) every 30 minutes for 2 1/2 hours or until nearly frozen but not completely solid. Rake with fork and serve. Makes four servings.

Nutritional Information per serving (about 1 1/4 cups): 82 calories, 1 g protein, 21 g carbs, 1 g fiber, .5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 mg sodium
 
This is the first article in a series called 'Rainbow Eating'. It's not my idea; however, I enjoy the simplicity of the premise. The products in all of these articles fall into the fruits and vegetables sections of The Food Pyramid. The more colorful the products, the higher the vitamin and nutrient content which in turn makes for a healthier meal. However, today I want to focus on the absence of color in our food choices.

White foods in general have gotten a bad rap because when people think white the first image is white flour, rice and pasta. However, not all white colored foods are created equal.

White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called "anthoxanthins." They may contain health-promoting chemicals such as allicin, which may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Some members of the white group, such as bananas and potatoes, are good sources of the mineral potassium, too.

Some examples of the white group include:
--Bananas contain considerable amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium. Because of the potassium, many athletes enjoy a post workout banana to replenish lost electrolytes.
--Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. Tastes great roasted with oil and red pepper flakes.
--Garlic: In test tube studies garlic has been found to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity. However, these actions are less clear in humans. Studies have claimed that garlic can lower cholesterol, high blood pressure and help the prostate in men. Personally, I just eat it because it tastes yummy. Roasted garlic is especially delicious. You can add garlic to virtually any meal.
--Ginger: A spice used in many meals. Also has medicinal qualities. It works as an anti-inflammatory and treats nausea created by motion sickness and morning sickness. It is contraindicated for people with gallstones and has a possible interaction with some medications, so check with your doctor before consuming.
--Jícama is high in carbohydrates in the form of dietary fiber. It is composed of 86-90% water; it contains only trace amounts of protein and lipids. It pairs well in cooking with chilli powder, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, oranges, red onion, salsa, sesame oil and soy sauce. Also grilled fish is a good food to combine with it.
--Mushrooms: Though mushrooms are commonly thought to have little nutritional value, many species are high in fiber and provide vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, biotin, cobalamins, ascorbic acid.
--Onions: They contain chemical compounds believed to have anti-inflammatory, anticholesterol, anticancer, and antioxidant properties such as quercetin.
--Parsnips: The parsnip is richer in vitamins and minerals than its close relative, the carrot. It is particularly rich in potassium with 600 mg per 100 g. The parsnip is also a good source of dietary fiber. A close relative of the carrot parsnips are tasty when drizzled with oil and maple syrup and roasted in the oven.
--Potatoes: Especially their skins are chockful of potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6. They are not the devil when eaten in moderation. While they are a starchy vegetable they are a nice treat when tossed with oil and seasons and roasted or baked until crispy. A medium size potato contains approximately 150 calories and is virtually fat free.
--Turnips: The turnip's root is high only in Vitamin C. The green leaves of the turnip top ("turnip greens") are a good source of Vitamin A, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and calcium. Turnip greens are are also high in lutein, which is good for eye health, particularly macular degeneration.

Two white foods that don't fall into the fruit or vegetable family, but deserve mention here:
--Cannellini Beans: Excellent source of fiber and protein. Add them to beans, stews or simply saute with olive oil and fresh rosemary for a side treat.
--Pine Nuts: High in manganese, a mineral important for your metabolism and bone health. Toast them and toss with salads, soups or pasta to add crunch with benefit.