Autumn Super Foods
Summer, with its berries and veggie gardens, usually gets all the press when it comes to super foods, but autumn has its fair share of nutritional gems, too. And, with the stress of holidays and cold weather upon us, these foods might just be the ticket for helping you stay calm and healthy.
Super Food #1: Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potatoes
Even a small serving of deep-orange vegetables, such as pumpkin, supplies five times the Daily Value for beta carotene, an antioxidant that protects the brain from damage. The more richly-colored vegetables you eat, the more brain protection you get and it’s hard to get more colorful than pumpkin. Bright orange veggies also supply hefty amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, and more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread or a bowl of oatmeal. How much? 1+ servings a day.
Super Food #2: Greens: Kale, Chard, Collards
As a dietitian, it’s difficult to understand how anyone can be happy without dark green leafies in the daily diet. From spinach, chard, and collards to kale and broccoli, these are the very best sources of the B vitamin, folate. Your brain cells won’t turn on without it. It’s no wonder that poor intake of folate increases the risk for depression, fatigue, poor memory, and possibly even more serious mental problems like schizophrenia. People battling the blues who boost their intake of greens say they feel better and happier as a result. People who are clinically depressed only respond to antidepressant therapy if their blood levels of folate are high.
Packed with vitamins and minerals, one serving of dark greens supplies an entire day’s requirement for vitamin A, more than 3 milligrams of iron, almost a third of your daily need for folate, and hefty amounts of calcium and B vitamins, all for about 20 calories. A one-cup serving of cooked Swiss chard supplies more than half of a woman’s daily recommendation for magnesium, a mineral that helps her cope with stress, curbs symptoms of PMS, and aids in sleep. Phytonutrients, such as sulforaphane in broccoli and the carotenoids in kale, clear toxins from the body and strengthens your resistance to colds and infections. How much: 2 servings a day (1 serving is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked)
Super Food #3: Nuts
Many people are much more successful at weight loss when they add a few healthy fats, such as nuts and olive oil, to their diets than if they try to stick with very-low-fat diets. There are three reasons why nuts help you stay happy and skinny.
1. Nuts are fiber-rich, so even an ounce is enough to take the edge off hunger. (Their phytochemical and antioxidant scores are high, too.)
2. Nuts raise the metabolic rate by up to 11%, thus helping to burn more calories.
3. Nuts help regulate blood sugar. They have a low glycemic index (GI). Compared to potatoes or corn flakes, which rank in the 80s on the GI scale, peanuts and other nuts rank as low as 14, meaning they don’t raise blood sugar levels, so don’t stimulate appetite or fat storage. Peanuts also contain a compound called arginine, that helps regulate the hormone, insulin, which helps maintain normal blood sugar levels. When people keep their blood sugar steady, they typically consume fewer calories, because their energy level and mood are stable and they aren’t as hungry. The more you control blood sugar, the easier time you’ll have managing your weight, which explains why an ounce of nuts a day helps slim waistlines. A recent study from Purdue University found that adding an ounce of almonds to the diet helped with weight management, reduced hunger, and boosted nutritional status. How much? 1 ounce a few times a week.
Super Food #4: Legumes
We all know that beans are mind-boggling good for you. Whether they are lentils, chick peas, split peas, or black, kidney, navy, or pinto beans, legumes are packed with nutrients that improve mood, such as folate, calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc. The folate in beans protects against a memory-destroying compound called homocysteine. The antioxidant phytonutrients in legumes, such as saponins and phytosterols, lower cancer and heart disease risk.
Beans are the perfect diet food. They are almost fat-free, but high in protein, water, and fiber – the magic combo for feeling full and satisfied on few calories. One cup of cooked legumes has up to 16 grams of fiber! You would have to eat eight slices of whole wheat bread, five bananas, or four cups of corn to get that much fiber! Legumes are very low on the glycemic index, so help regulate blood sugar, as well as appetite. How much? 1 cup at least four times a week.
Super Food #5: Quinoa and Wheat Germ
Gluten-free and rich in vitamins, minerals (like iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium), fiber, and protein, while low in fat and cholesterol-free, there are few grains on the market that compare to quinoa. One cup of quinoa has the protein equivalent of a glass of milk.
You don’t get much better on the cal-a-nut ratio than with wheat germ. The heart of the wheat kernel is a gold mine of nutrition. Half a cup of toasted wheat germ supplies 100% of your daily need for folic acid and 50% of your magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E requirements. Vitamin E-rich diets help prevent and slow the progression and might even lower the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70%. Wheat germ also supplies decent amounts of trace minerals, such as iron and zinc. You also get a truckload of phytonutrients, including octacosanol, a compound that improves endurance and helps the body cope with stress. How much? 1 cup of quinoa several times a week and 1/4+ cup of wheat germ a day.
Super Food #6: Pomegranates
Pomegranates are rich in potassium, vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, and phytonutrients like polyphenols, anthocyanins, and procyanidins (A cup of pomegranate juice has more than ten times the polyphenols of apple juice, 639 versus 61 milligrams!) They have three times the antioxidants of green tea, and help lower the risk for inflammation, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, damage to the genetic code, risk for erectile dysfunction and male infertility, and high blood pressure; improve blood flow to all parts of the body including genitals; and even help regress atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart disease and erectile dysfunction. A phytonutrient, called punicalagin, speeds healing and builds collagen and elastin that plump and firm the skin. How much? Sprinkle a tablespoon or more into foods at least four times a week from Fall through Winter when these fruits are available, or use pure pomegranate juice throughout the year. Packaged seeds (POM Wonderful Arils) are available in the refrigerator section of select stores from October through January.
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Just Do This Today
1. Microwave and top sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans. Puree cooked pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener. Use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes in salads. Slice sweet potatoes into wedges, salt, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes for golden fries. Cook, mash, and use winter squash instead of noodles or rice as a base for any dish. Add roasted butternut squash cubes to canned soups. I roast butternut squash cubes and toss into salads. Or steam and use pumpkin or squash as a base for risotto.
2. Replace head lettuce in salads and sandwiches with leaf lettuce or spinach, layer greens into lasagna, use large spinach leaves instead of a tortilla to wrap around cheese, beans, and salsa. Lightly steam chopped collards and mix into mashed potatoes. Add greens to stir frys, soups and stews. Saute them in a little olive oil and garlic.
3. Eat nuts plain or toss them into salads, cereals, or yogurt. Add nuts to meatless stir frys or to pancake and muffin batters. Make homemade trail mix with equal parts nuts and dried fruit (such as dried cherries). Replace pine nuts with other nuts, such as pistachios, when making pesto sauce. Add nuts to salads or to desserts. Combine nuts with yogurt, apples, and celery to make a quick Waldorf salad. Dip baby carrots in peanut butter. Coat fish or chicken with a nutty flavor before cooking. Mix equal parts seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs and finely chopped or toasted mixed nuts. Top favorite casseroles or soups with finely chopped nuts. Add nuts to grain dishes.
4. Use beans in salads and burritos, or sprinkle with cilantro and serve hot on top or rice. Add extra canned beans to soups. Skip the ranch dip and dunk vegetables in hummus.
5. Use quinoa in place of rice or other grains in most recipes. Choose pasta products made with quinoa. Sprinkle wheat germ on oatmeal or yogurt, add to cookie and pancake batters, mix into muffin or meatloaf recipes, or blend with honey and peanut butter for a sandwich spread.
6. Sprinkle seeds into salads, desserts, and fruit, rice, and pasta dishes. Add juice to sauces, dressings, and marinades. To seed, put in a bowl of water, peel away the white and allow seeds to sink, which makes separating the pith from the fruit easier.
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. The E Ticket for Brain Health: Vitamin E might be just what the neurologist ordered, if the results of a study from the University of Technology Mara in Malaysia prove true. More than 120 volunteers between 35-years-old and older who had cardiovascular risk factors and MRI-confirmed lesions in the white matter of their brains were randomized to receive either 200 milligrams of mixed tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) or placebos twice daily for two years. Lesions were measured from MRI images taken at baseline, 1 year, and 2 years. Results showed that after 2 years, the average white matter lesion volume had decreased significantly in the supplemented group, but not in the placebo group. (White matter lesions are signs of cerebral small vessel disease and reflect degeneration of nerves and other tissue damage.) Gopalan Y, Shuaib I Magosso E, et al: Clinical investigation of the protective effects of palm vitamin E tocotrienols on brain white matter. Stroke 2014;45:1422-1428.
2. Watermelon & Carrots Against Cancer: The carotenoids, lycopene and beta carotene, halt cancer cell growth, state researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Human cancerous breast cells were treated with carotenoids for 48 and 96 hours, while cell activity and viability were monitored. Results showed a significant decrease in the number of viable cancer cells when treated with these carotenoids. Lycopene and beta carotene exposure also caused increased cancer cell death, called apoptosis. The researchers conclude that these carotenoids, “…inhibit cell proliferation, arrest the cell cycle in different phases, and increase apoptosis…[thus] are potential agents for biological interference with cancer.” The best dietary sources of lycopene are watermelon and tomatoes, while beta carotene is found in most orange or dark green fruits and vegetables. Gloria N, Soares N, Brand C, et al: Lycopene and beta-carotene induce cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in human breast cancer cell lines. Anticancer Research 2014;34:1377-1386.
3. Coffee for Your Ears: Drinking coffee might help lower your risk for tinnitus, which is a steady ringing or buzzing in the ears, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. More than 65,000 women between the ages of 35- and 44-years-old who did not have tinnitus at the start of the study were followed for 18 years. During that time, almost 5,300 cases of tinnitus were reported among the women. Results showed that women who consumed less than 150 milligrams a day of caffeine (the amount in one and a half 8-ounce cups of coffee) were 15% more likely to develop tinnitus compared to women who consumed 450 milligrams of caffeine a day. The researchers are unclear how caffeine affects tinnitus risk, but speculate that because caffeine stimulates the nervous system, it’s protective effect must come from a direct effect on nerve enervation to the inner ear. Glicksman J, Curhan S, Curhan G: A prospective study of caffeine intake and risk of incident tinnitus. American Journal of Medicine 2014;127:739-743.
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Food & Mood Tip –
Keep Your Lunch Light
Even if you eat a great breakfast and pack your briefcase, purse, or glove compartment with healthful snacks, you still need to refuel mid-day for both your mood and energy level. What you eat is as important as when. Make the right choices and you’re likely to glide through the afternoon in a good mood with lots of energy and ability to concentrate. A few wrong choices could set you up for a siesta rather than an action-packed afternoon, as well as an after-dinner binge.
You need to eat and you need to eat well at the mid-day meal, but that doesn’t mean lunch must take hours of preparation. Basically, you want lunch to be light in both calories and fat. A low-fat meal that supplies 500 to 600 calories helps you stay alert through the afternoon hours, boosts energy, and fills you up without filling you out. Heavy or calorie-packed meals this time of day will leave you feeling sluggish, both mentally and physically.
Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month–
Heart-Warming Winter Vegetable Soup (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
This hearty soup is quick to make and chocked-full of yummy vegetables. It’s a meal in itself served with warmed bread.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup turkey ham, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups total)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup celery, diced
2 bay leaves
2 cups winter squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (acorn, butternut, or hubbard squash)
1 cup carrot, peeled and sliced in thin rounds
2 yellow potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups total)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (28-ounce) canned stewed tomatoes, chopped
6 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 (15.5 ounces) canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
salt and pepper
1) Heat oil in a Dutch oven (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat. Add turkey ham, onion, garlic, and celery, and saute for 7 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add bay leaves, squash, carrot, and potatoes. Stir and continue to saute for another 7 minutes.
2) Add basil, cinnamon, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through, but not mushy.
3) Add beans, thyme, and spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes or until spinach is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Makes 12 servings.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 163 Calories; 9 percent fat (1.6 grams); < 0.5 gram saturated fat; 27 percent protein; 64 percent carbohydrate; 6.7 grams fiber.
Answers to “Do you know?” from last issue:
1. Does microwaving food destroy nutrients?
Microwave cooking is one of the best ways to retain nutrients. That’s because it uses little water and cooks quickly. If you use your microwave with a small amount of water to essentially steam food from the inside, you’ll retain the most nutrients compared to other cooking methods. For example, when you boil spinach on the stove you lose up to 70% of the folate, a B vitamin essential for preventing birth defects, heart disease, anemia, and more. Microwave that spinach with just a tablespoon of water and you retain almost all of the folate. Granted, whenever you cook any food, you’ll lose some vitamins, but the best cooking method for retaining nutrients is one that cooks quickly, exposes food to heat for the smallest amount of time, and uses a small amount of liquid. That is microwaving.
2. You crave certain foods because you are deficient in the nutrients those foods provide.
I wish! If that were the case, most people would crave kale, berries, salmon, and plain nonfat yogurt. Unfortunately, living in a culture where clever advertising and abundant, convenient junk food is everywhere, we are much more susceptible to subliminal suggestion and that typically is for foods that aren’t good for our health. Junk food also blocks our natural appetite to choose a varied diet, thus further encouraging us to crave more and more nutrient-poor, calorie-packed processed foods.
Do You Know?
1. No-calorie sweeteners increase our cravings for sweets and lead to weight gain.
2. Eating extra protein builds muscle.
Check next week for the answers….
Label Lingo– You Can’t Tell a Food by Its Cover
More and more companies are taking perfectly healthy foods, such as an apple or plain yogurt, coating it in caramel or topping it with candy and touting it as good for you. Keep your whits about you when shopping. Adding chocolate to yogurt turns it into a dessert, not a health food. Many of these foods have undergone so much processing they don’t even resemble their original healthful profile. Also, beware of a food’s name. “Veggie Chips” seldom contain more than a dusting of vegetables, but always contain the calories and sodium of a regular potato chip. Fruity snacks often contain no fruit. Here are a few examples:
1) Smartfood Kettle Corn: Air-popped popcorn is low in calories and high in fiber. But 2 ½ cups of this stuff has 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar (that’s more than 5 teaspoons!).
2) Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh Turkey Breast: Home-cooked turkey breast is a great, low-fat source of protein. But 2 ounces of this meat-like product has 21% of your daily limit for sodium.
3) Naked Banana-Chocolate Protein Smoothie: The label claims it has no added sugar and is high in protein. Check out the ingredient list. The first ingredient is concentrated grape juice, which is just sugar water. Drink the bottle and you’ve downed 500 calories and almost 7 teaspoons of sugar.
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. Florida’s Natural Citrus Smoothie – Orange, Pineapple, Mango or Orange, Strawberry, Banana: The calories are still high, so don’t overdo it, but this beverage is real fruit (no concentrated apple, pear, or white grape juice) and supplies 2 grams of fiber, 100% of your daily need for vitamin C, and 25% of your daily need for folate.
2. Natural Delights Medjool Dates: Two of these chewy hunks of sweetness supplies 3 grams of fiber and a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. I nibble on one when I have an uncontrolled craving for something sweet. It always soothes the craving. No added anything. Just dates.
1. Barbara’s Snackimals Cookies: You’ll find these cookies in the health food section of your grocery store, which gives them a health-halo before you’ve even picked up the bag. The label claims they are wholesome, but the first ingredient is white flour. The 120 calories of nothing and the zero fiber are a clue you should leave these cookies on the shelf.
2. Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar or Syrup: When asked which is better, sugar or organic cane sugar with no added chemicals, most people choose the latter. They are mistaken. Both are exactly the same. Both come from sugar cane. Both have no chemicals and are 100% sugar calories. Sugar is sugar and we are eating far too much of it. Don’t let this scam fool you into eating even more!
3. Dole 100% Juice – Orange, Strawberry, Banana: The first ingredient is concentrated apple juice, which is a red flag to a high-sugar beverage, which, by the way, contains no fiber.
The Daily Menu
Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.
1 whole-grain waffle, commercial frozen, toasted
Topped with:1 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream and 1 cup blueberries
1 cup orange juice
1 serving Heart-Warming Winter Vegetable Soup
1 slice sourdough bread
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup kidney beans, canned and drained
2 Tbsp. green onions, chopped
1 tomato, cut into 1/4″ wedges
2 Tbsp. vinaigrette salad dressing
1 cup nonfat milk
Mix 3 Tbsp. lime juice and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and coat 3 ounces of chicken. (cook extra chicken to use for meals throughout the week). Mix with 1/4 cup sliced red and green bell peppers and ½ sliced red onion. Spray pan with non-stick vegetable oil and stir-fry chicken-vegetable mixture until done. Fill a warmed 10″ flour tortilla and top with 4 tsp. salsa.
Fresh green beans, steamed, 1 cup
Orange, peeled and sectioned
1/2 banana, sliced,
1/2 apple, sliced
1 Tbsp. Orange juice concentrate
1 tsp. lemon peel
1 Tbsp. Candied ginger, crumbled
Sparkling water with lemon
Whole strawberries, washed and stemmed, 2 cups
Chocolate syrup, 2 Tbsp.
Nutritional information: 1,850 calories, 22% fat (45 grams), 60% carbohydrates (277 grams), 18% protein (83 grams).
What has Elizabeth been up to?
Follow her on Facebook, where she posted photos and comments of her food experiences in Italy (Elizabeth Somer, Nutritionist)
October 27th, AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon. Topic: How to Age-Proof Your Body at Any Age
October 31st, San Diego Living, CW Channel 6 in San Diego, California. Topic: Take the Nutrition Test: How Well are You Doing?