Pumpkin Seeds: The Hidden Panacea

By: Erin Jordan

pumpkins

It’s beginning to look a lot like fall! As the chilly weather begins to take over the valley, the healthy food options seem to dwindle. One healthy food that thrives during the fall is the underrated pumpkin seed. So when Halloween pumpkin carving rolls around this season, instead of tossing those pumpkin seeds in the trash, roast them and give your body a healthy boost!

Pumpkin seeds have a multitude of amazing health benefits. They are high in magnesium and antioxidants, which both play a huge role in heart health. They are also full of zinc, which gives your immune system a boost. They can help regulated sleep and mood because they are a good source of tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to serotonin and then melatonin, often referred to as the “sleep hormone,” in the body. Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to improved insulin regulation and helping reduce oxidative stress, which is a very natural way to help with diabetes.

Pumpkin seeds, along with most other raw seeds and nuts, contain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Cochrane Collaboration, more and more scientific studies have proven that there is a definite link between consumption of omega-3 dietary fats, particularly DHA, and improved cognitive function. These fats are believed to be involved in preserving nerve cells in the brain in better condition for longer periods of time, therefore helping prevent the cognitive decline that is seen in dementia.

Not only are pumpkin seeds great for you, they are tasty and easy to prepare! Roasting them in the oven is a simple and delicious way to prepare them. Or if you are really feeling stressed and busy, most grocery stores sell them already prepared to eat. They are the perfect snack to take on the go to class or work because they are small and mess-free but full of essential nutrients. So for you busy health nuts looking for your fall health fix, keep these nutrient-dense seeds in mind!

Sources

http://www.cochrane.org/features/omega-3-fatty-acid-prevention-cognitive-decline-and-dementia

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/09/30/pumpkin-seed-benefits.aspx

http://huskypress.com/category/eats/

The Beet Goes On

 

 beet

By Morgaine Gallagher

Underneath a beets rugged exterior, lies a sweet flavor with a health boost. Beets can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from food coloring to medicine and from table sugar to animal feed.

There are numerous health benefits of eating a beet. Recent lab studies on human tumor cells prove the purple pigment in beets, betanin, to assist in decreasing tumorous cell growth. The oxalic acid in beet juice reverses chronic diseases, such as arthritis, kidney stones, and heart disease. Beets also contain an outstanding amount of folic acid, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and calcium! All these nutrients are essential in maintaining optimal health.

To reap all the benefits in this “super” vegetable, simply peel a raw beet and grate over a salad. Beets may also be boiled for a softer texture or juiced. Remember, heating beets will denature some of its nutrients.

With their delicious and unique taste, high concentration of nutrients, and multitude of uses, beets are an obvious choice for a nutrition-seeking individual.

 

Sources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/25/beets-health-benefits.aspx

http://www.fullcircle.com/goodfoodlife/2012/05/10/6-health-benefits-of-eating-beets/

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/tell-fresh-beets-done-cooking-34669.html

 

Power Yourself Through Class With A Healthy Breakfast!

by Simona Lourekas

 

An empty stomach, or just some coffee are no way to start the day, especially when you are busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and scaling the hills of the JMU campus. A healthy breakfast will give you the energy to make it through the day, and has been shown to help students pay better attention in classes and score higher on tests.

You’ve probably heard that they should eat breakfast, but did you know that it helps control your appetite throughout the day? Keeping you from over-snacking later on. Therefore helping to maintain weight and make healthy food choices throughout the day!

However not all breakfast’s are created equal, some things will make you crash before you’re through your first class, and well before lunch. These foods are high in sugar and low in nutrients such as a donut, breakfast pastry, or Starbucks Frappuccino.

donut 

Here are some power breakfast ideas that combine protein, fat, and carbohydrates:

  • If you’re in a hurry, a slice of whole grain or whole wheat toast with a nut butter such as peanut butter will fill you up because the nut butter provides healthy fats and protein, and the toast provides fiber.

Adding sliced banana on top or taking a piece of fruit with you on the go will increase the nutrient content of your breakfast, by adding more fiber and vitamins.

  • Oatmeal is filled with fiber to keep you full. To make it even healthier and tastier you can add any fruit you like, such as blueberries or sliced apple; whatever is in your fridge or available at the dining hall! Dried fruits such as raisins and cranberries work as well.

For more protein you can add in nut butters such as peanut butter or almond butter, or whole nuts such as walnuts or almonds.

Get creative!

oatmeal 

  • Another sure breakfast bet are eggs! Whatever way you prepare them the egg white will be filled with protein and nutrients, such as folate, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The egg yolk contains essential fatty acids and vitamins.

For a more well-rounded breakfast eat the egg on a slice of whole grain or whole-wheat toast. I like to add avocado on as well!

If you have the time, make an omelet with a little cheese, spinach, broccoli, tomato, and other vegetables. The darker green the color of the vegetable, the more mineral and vitamin rich it is.

If you start by adding just a glass of milk, a piece of fruit, or a serving of nuts for breakfast, you may notice that you pay better attention in those morning classes, and make healthier choices for the rest of the day!

 

Sources

http://www.ahealthiermichigan.org/food/

http://breakfastfirst.org/benefits-of-breakfast-health-and-academics/

http://old.mobilecrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/NoDo-300×295.jpg

 

 

Asparagus

by Erin McCleary

 If you haven’t tried asparagus yet, now is the time to do it! You will start to see this nutrient-packed veggie popping up in grocery stores and farmer’s markets more often because it’s a spring vegetable. Asparagus is my favorite vegetable by a long shot, and I can’t wait for the great taste it offers in-season!

 You may be thinking, all I know is that Asparagus makes your pee smell bad! Well I’m here to tell you that it is easily one of the best vegetables for you out there, and if cooked right, Asparagus can be the best tasting too. With all the positive benefits of this superfood, you’ll forget about the weird-smelling pee in no time!

 1. Nutrient Dense

Asparagus is a good source of fiber, folate, Vitamins A, C, E, and K. So not only does it give you a ton of important nutrients to help you live a healthy life, it helps you feel fuller longer because of its high fiber content.

 2. Antioxidant Power

Asparagus has the power to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals, which may help slow the aging process and prevent cancer among several other health benefits.

 3. A Healthy Brain

The folate asparagus offers can work with Vitamin B-12 to fight cognitive decline as we age, preserving memories, keeping you sharp, and enabling you to interact with family and friends for as long as possible.

 4. It’s a Natural Diuretic

The high levels of the amino acid asparagine serves as a natural diuretic in the body, which increases urination. But what is so great about that? Increased urination helps excrete excess salts in the body, which helps decrease bloat and other medical conditions such as edema. It can also help decrease the blood pressure of those who suffer from hypertension and other heart-related diseases.

 To cook Asparagus, I suggest tossing in olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper. Lay flat across on an aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.

 http://paleoperiodical.com/2011/06/26/quick-link-asparagus-ideas/

http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/health_blog/5_powerful_health_benefits_of_asparagus_you_probably_didn_t_know

Getting the Most Out of Your Salad!

By Simona Lourekas

Everybody sees salads as the healthy option at the dining hall or on a restaurant menu. But not all salads are created equal! Some provide more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and keep you fuller for longer! While others start to lose their value by being drenched in cheese, croutons, and high fat dressings. It all depends what you put in that salad!

 Image

1) Starting with the most important base ingredient, the type of leafy green vegetable. Darker greens like spinach and romaine provide more health benefits then lighter greens like romaine lettuce. Spinach and collard greens contain beta-carotene that is converted into Vitamin A, and helps repair skin tissues. Kale and collard greens contain lots of calcium and potassium. And all the leafy greens have antioxidants like vitamin C that keep your skin and hair healthy. A spring mix, or a combination of lighter and darker lettuces can be a good compromise.

2) To get those daily servings of vegetables, load on the carrots, pees, tomato, corn, broccoli, sliced cucumber, onionImages, sliced pepper, and anything else you can think of. Pick produce from a variety of colors for the greatest health benefits.

3) Add protein to turn the salad into a meal that keeps you fuller for longer! Some healthy proteins include non-fried skinless chicken or turkey breast, and fish such as salmon. Choose leaner options. Some healthy vegetarian proteins are cubed tofu, legumes, and beans, such as black beans, chick peas, and kidney beans. Beans and legumes are low in the bad type of fat, saturated fat, and high in fiber.

Image

4) Add on healthy fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado. Chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats and with their high fiber content they will keep you full. Many nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E, making them good for your heart! And avocados also contain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, and have been shown to lower “bad” cholesterol levels, and risk for heart disease.

5) Be careful with your extra toppings, picking options like dried cranberries and raisins, instead of blue cheese and bacon. Sliced apple, sliced pear, and blueberries and strawberries make great toppings, while helping you get more servings of fruit in your day!

Easy salad recipe:

-1 (10) ounce package of spring mix salad greens

-1/4 cup chopped carrots and cucumbers

-1/4 cup chopped walnuts

-1/2 cup fresh blueberries

-A handful of dried cranberries

6) The dressing is where many salads start to go downhill, with options like caeser and ranch adding over 70 calories per tablespoon. Go for low and non-fat options; make sure to also check for other culprits in store bought dressings like high levels of sodium and sugar. Try using healthier oils like olive oil and canola oil, and buy oil-based vinaigrettes with a short list of recognizable ingredients. You can even use hummus or avocado as a dressing with their creamy texture.

Easy dressing recipe:

-Whisk together (with either a whisk or a fork) a little bit of vinegar and mustard.

-Then add any type of oil, like olive oil, use double the amount of oil as you used vinegar. So it you used one tablespoon of vinegar, use two tablespoons of olive oil.

-You can also add lemon, pepper, or herbs like thyme or basil. And pour on to your salad!

 References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-daily-meal/the-healthiest-and-unheal_b_3517759.html

http://www.joybauer.com/photo-gallery/tips-for-building-a-healthier-salad/dont-forget-the-protein.aspx

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/blueberry-walnut-salad/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635?pg=2

Pistachios: Ever Wonder Why You Should Get Crackin’?

By Kirsten Boestfleish

     If you have ever seen a commercial produced by Wonderful Pistachios, which have featured Stephen Colbert, Miss Piggy, The Harlem Globetrotters, and many others, you may have wondered why you should follow their slogan and get crackin’. Pistachios have definitely risen in popularity and here’s why:

Just 1 ounce of pistachios (about 49 nuts) contains…

· 160 calories

· 6 grams of protein

· 7 grams of monounsaturated and 4 grams of polyunsaturated fats

· Less than 2 grams of saturated fat

· 3 grams of fiber

· No trans fat

· No cholesterol

· Vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Thiamin,                           Phosphorus, and Manganese

· 342 grams of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that support eye health

· Pistachios are considered to be a very heart healthy food due to their mono- and                 polyunsaturated fat content as well as their low amounts of saturated fats and                     zero trans fat.

· Pistachios may support the maintenance of healthy blood glucose levels in                         people with already healthy levels.

· Pistachios are an easy snack to take along with you when you’re on the go!

Things to keep in mind:

· Pistachios are tree nuts so people with nut allergies should still avoid them.

· The best pistachios are the ones with shells that are already cracked open!                         Pistachios with closed shells have not fully matured yet and could taste bitter.

· Store pistachios in an airtight container to make sure they maintain their crunch.

· Pistachios come seasoned in many different flavors, but remember you can                       always add your own seasoning or eat them plain! Just remember to not load                     them up with salt, as many will come salted already.

References:

http://americanpistachios.org

http://www.eatright.org

Chia Seeds

by Amanda Sperry 

Image

 

 

Chia seeds have been growing in popularity for some time now. Edible chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, which is a member of the mint family. The plant is native to Mexico and Guatemala and history shows that the seeds were more than likely an important crop for the Aztecs. There has been evidence of chia seed’s positive health effects including a boost in energy, stabilization of blood sugar, digestion aid, and cholesterol lowering effects. Like most foods, to get the most out of chia seeds, they need to be consumed in their whole, natural state. Supplements or oils may not contain all of the natural, beneficial nutrients. Chia seeds can be easily added to any kind of food. They can be sprinkled raw into cereals, salads, soups, added into bread and muffin recipes, and even mixed in with water to make a thick gel. It is recommended that 15 grams or one tablespoon of chia seeds be eaten every day. Since chia seeds are so high in fiber, it is equally important to consume lots of water when eating them.

 

5 simple reasons to make chia seeds a part of your diet:

1. Chia seeds are gluten free.

2. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, is also found in chia seeds. Tryptophan helps regulate appetite, sleep and improve mood.

3. They contain 20% Omega-3 fatty acids, making them a superb food for the brain and heart. (More than Salmon!)

4. They have a positive impact in balancing blood glucose levels and improving blood pressure (making it awesome for diabetics).

5.  Chia seeds make a great egg replacement. Just combine with water to form a gel, and add it to recipes that call for egg.

 

Easy Recipe: Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 Tbls chia seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 Tbls butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup Greek vanilla yogurt (non fat)

For glaze:

  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 – 2 Tbls fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 12 cup muffin tin with non stock spray or liners.
  2. In a small bowl combine flour, chia seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well each addition. Mix in lemon zest and vanilla. Using a spatula mix in the flour and yogurt until just combined. Fill muffin tins about ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for a few minutes, before removing to a wire rack.
  3. While the muffins are cooling prepare the glaze. Whisk together the lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle a little over the top of each muffin. Allow glaze to set before serving.

 

Adapted from Nutmeg Nanny

 

References:

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472548

http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/2012/08/13-awesome-reasons-to-eat-chia-seeds-every-day/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/03/chia-seed-benefits-_n_3379831.html