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Color Your Plate and Palate with Super Foods

August 2nd, 2011

 

Super foods—some grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, yogurt, and more—offer a great source of antioxidants and essential nutrients. And they’re low in calories, which make them an excellent choice for weight control and weight loss.

Did you know that the colors of fruits and vegetables also put them in their own group of super foods?

Green super foods, such as broccoli, parsley and spinach, contain large amounts of chlorophyll, which is what gives green vegetables their wonderful green coloring. When chlorophyll found in green vegetables is consumed, hemoglobin in blood is increased. Hemoglobin provides more oxygen-rich blood, and oxygen-rich blood helps cells thrive. Green super foods also contain large amounts of easily digestible nutrients, minerals, proteins and vitamins.

Orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes, oranges and pumpkins, are high in beta carotenes. Beta carotenes may help improve immune function and reduce the risk of heart disease. And beta carotenes help strengthen eyesight, the esophagus, the lungs, and the stomach and may help fight cancer in these areas.

Red fruits and vegetables, such as pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, tomatoes and watermelon, offer large amounts of lycopene. Lycopene, a bright red carotenoid pigment and phytochemical, helps protect cells against damaging free radicals. Studies have demonstrated that lycopene may help fight lung and prostate cancers.

In the moments when we’re enjoying a refreshing, tasty slice of watermelon or flavorful, crunchy carrot we don’t always think about the increased health benefits they offer, but they’re there—super benefits from super foods!

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The Power of Peppers

January 6th, 2011

 

The next time you plant peppers seeds in your garden ponder this as your peppers grow and thrive: in addition to adding vibrant colors and a wide range of flavors to you plate and palate, peppers—both mild and hot—offer an abundance of health benefits, including:

1. Vitamins A, C and K – Bell peppers are chockfull of these vitamins. Vitamins A and C, by way of carotenoids, help support immune function, as well as help to prevent cell damage and diseases related to aging. Vitamin K helps protect cells from oxidative damage, and it helps to strengthen bones.

2. Red bell peppers contain lycopene, a carotenoid which helps to prevent some forms of cancer, such as cancers of the cervix and prostate cancer.

3. Capsaicin, mostly found in the white membranes of hot peppers, is the star when it comes to the benefits of peppers. Capsaicin, considered a superfood, has been shown to: relieve cluster, migraine and sinus headaches; aid in arthritis relief; and act as an anti-inflammatory. It is also acknowledged for improving mood and raising endorphin levels.

These are just a few of the wonderful health benefits of peppers. Vegetables, as humble as they may seem, are natural wonders that everyone should eat more of for increased nutrition.

Here’s a tasty stuffed jalapeno recipe, perfect to serve as an appetizer.

Stuffed Jalapenos, Southwest-Style

8 large jalapenos, halved, lengthwise, seeds removed
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 package cream cheese, softened
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of salt
Hickory smoked bacon slices

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese, garlic powder and salt. Stuff peppers generously with cheese mixture. Wrap bacon slices around peppers then secure with toothpicks. Bake until bacon is crisped.

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Garden Vegetables: A Kaleidoscope of Health

November 20th, 2010

 

Fruits and vegetables come in all shades of vibrant colors—green, orange, red, yellow and more—that will make your plate and palette pop. But did you know that each color offers health benefits as well?

Plants contain phytochemicals which protect them from things like UV rays and garden villains. These same phytochemicals help boost our immune system when consumed and have been shown to act as free radical scavengers. Here is a short list of vegetables with some of their benefits.

– Tomatoes and red bell peppers: their bright red color comes from lycopene, a carotene and caratenoid pigment. Lycopene has been considered a potential agent for prevention of some types of cancer, such as prostate cancer.

– Carrots and winter squash: their vibrant orange color comes from beta carotene, which can be converted to active vitamin A. The phytochemicals found in orange and yellow vegetables may help lower the risk of some forms of cancer, as well as help vision and heart and immune systems.

– Broccoli: its green comes from indole-3 carbinol (I3C), a compound that occurs naturally in broccoli and other green vegetables such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and more. I3C has been shown to inhibit the development of cancers of the breast, colon, liver, lung and stomach in some animals.

– Eggplant: it’s chock-full of anthocyanins, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that belong to the parent class of molecules called flavonoids. These anthocyanins have been shown to protect cell membranes from damage.

So much potential in small packages! The next time you eat your favorite fruit or vegetable look at its color and think about the health benefits that may come from eating it. There’s so much to appreciate and more there than meets the eye!

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