Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Eat Your Sprouts this Season

As a member of the cruciferous family, Brussels sprouts are a nutrient powerhouse. 1/2 cup provides half your daily needs of vitamin C, helping to keep your immune system strong during this cold weather. It also protects your cells from damage.

That same 1/2 cup provides nearly 100% of your daily needs of vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting and to strengthen your bones. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of folate which can decrease stroke and heart disease risk. It is also a great source of vitamin A and potassium.

A recent study showed improved DNA stability in white blood cells after daily consumption of 1.25 cups of Brussels sprouts. It appears the vegetable blocks the activity of certain unfavorable enzymes helping to give DNA protective benefits. 

Brussels sprouts contain many other phytonutrients such as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by eliminating potential carcinogens from your body. Isothiocyanates may also reduce your heart attack risk.
Steaming helps to retain the most nutrients, followed by roasting and sautéing. To reduce the bitter taste slice the sprouts in half to release some of the thiocyanates, a bitter compound.

Boiling greatly reduces the bitter flavor but decreases the nutritional value substantially so this is not the best option. Roasting can bring out the natural sweetness in the sprouts and pairing it with something acidic, such as vinegar can play off the flavor of the sprout nicely.

For a delicious side dish to any meal try our fall inspired recipe below.

Mustard Grilled Brussels Sprouts
Serves: 4

1lb Brussels Sprouts
2 tbs Olive oil
2 tbs Whole grain mustard
4 wooden or metal skewers

Directions: Rinse Brussels sprouts, trim the stems, and pull off any dark outer leaves. Place Brussels sprouts in a pot of boiling water and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 3-5 minutes until sprouts are tender.

Place sprouts in a bowl of ice water to cool down. Drain and toss sprouts with olive oil followed by the mustard until well coated.

Skewer sprouts evenly onto wooden or metal skewers. Place over medium-high heat grill and cook 4-5 minutes each side until slightly charred and warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall in Love with Pears

The many varieties of pears are native to coastal regions spanning from western Europe and northern Africa all the way to Asia. In the 1500’s Europeans began bringing pears to North America and today Washington state produces over half of the nations pears. California, Oregon, New York, and Pennsylvania are also well suited for growing pears and have significant commercial production.

Harvest of pears takes place in the summer and fall before they are fully ripe. Look for pears that are firm but not too hard. The skin should be smooth and free of bruises. The color may not be uniform and contain brown-specks which is normal.

Gently press the top of the pear near its stem, if it gives into pressure the pear is ripe and ready to be eaten. If the flesh feels extremely soft and squishy the pear is overripe. Overripe pears work best in cooking rather than eaten raw.

Pears are one of the highest fiber fruits, providing six grams in one medium pear. The skin of the pear contains about half the fiber as well as three to four times as many phytonutrients as the flesh, so it is best to eat it with the skin on.

Fiber is a well known substance helping to reduce risk of heart disease and type two diabetes. In addition to containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, pears also contain flavonoids which may improve insulin sensitivity. Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson varieties were found to have the highest amount to help reduce risk of type two diabetes. 

Fiber and phytonutrients in pears have also been associated with lower cancer risk, especially stomach, esophageal, and colorectal cancer.

One medium pear is also packed with 12% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, 10% of vitamin K, 6% of potassium, and also contains magnesium, calcium B-6, and folate.

The sweet, buttery taste of pears are a prefect addition to salads, used in a healthy recipe, or eaten on their own. For a healthy dessert try our Walnut and Honey Baked Pear Recipe below.

Walnut and Honey Baked Pears
Serves: 4 (1/2 pear each)
110 calories per serving
17g carbs
2 large ripe pears
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out the seeds.

Place pears, flesh side up, on a baking sheet. (Cut a sliver off the skin side of the pear to help it stay upright.) Sprinkle with cinnamon, top with walnuts, and drizzle 1/2 tsp honey over each pear.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until tender. Optional: Serve with 1 tbs vanilla Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November is American Diabetes Month

If you still have Halloween candy in the house it might be a good time to throw it away. November is American Diabetes Month, a good reminder of the ever-growing disease and importance of lifestyle habits to reduce your risk.

86 million people in the United States are at risk for developing diabetes and nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States already have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association predicts 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050 unless we take steps to stop the disease.

Diabetes is a problem where blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is higher than normal. Over time high blood sugar can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Having diabetes nearly doubles the risk of heart attack, is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, and is the leading cause of kidney failure.

Your risk for prediabetes and diabetes increases if you are over 45 years of age, are overweight, are physically inactive, have a family history of diabetes, are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander, have PCOS, have low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides, have high blood pressure, or had gestational diabetes.

Fortunately you can prevent or delay diabetes! You can also prevent diabetic complications if you already have the disease! One of the largest risk factors for type 2 diabetes is being overweight. The best possible way to reduce risk is by losing at least 7% of your weight and maintaining a healthy weight for your height. The second best way to reduce your risk is by exercising 150 minutes each week (30 minutes 5 days a week). People who cut calories and exercise regularly can reduce the progression of prediabetes to diabetes by 58%.

Diets high in saturated fat have been linked to diabetes. Work on reducing your saturated fat intake by limiting cheese, butter, red meat, processed meat, ice cream, baked goods, fried foods, etc.

Drinking sugary drinks can increase your diabetes risk. A study published in 2008 following 187,382 participants found those who ate whole fruit regularly had a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who consumed 4 ounces or more of fruit juice daily increased their risk of type 2 diabetes as much as 21%.
Skipping breakfast and fasting until noon can also have a major impact on your blood sugar and impair insulin response for the rest of the day. Eating regular healthy meals is important in managing blood sugar levels.

The type and amount of carbohydrates you eat can affect how quickly blood sugar rises. It is not recommended to avoid carbohydrates entirely, in fact people who consume 3 whole grain servings daily are one-third less likely to develop diabetes. Limit sweets to special occasions and eat them in         moderation. Replace refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and brown rice. Replace heavily processed foods such as pretzels, crackers, and French fries with minimally processed foods such as carrot sticks, almonds, and baked sweet potatoes.
Be proactive in reducing your diabetes risk. Talk to your doctor and registered dietitian about your eating habits and ways to reduce your risk this month.