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Hot Health Tips!

Why Greens are Super Foods!

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Dark green leafy vegetables are among the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. There are many kinds of leafy greens, such as collard greens, beet greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, and spinach. They are high in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K. Their excellent mineral content includes manganese, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium. They are good sources of dietary fiber and amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein. Additionally, their deep, bright color represents their abundance of phytonutrient, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. They are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

While most dark green leafy vegetables can be eaten raw in salads or green smoothies, cooking them may have certain advantages. When you use healthy cooking techniques for very limited cooking times, oxalic acid, cellulose and hemicellulose fibers are softened and broken down. This helps digestibility and allows for the release of more nutrients and greater absorption by our bodies.

These nutrient powerhouses function in countless ways to keep us healthy. Here are just a few:

– Act as natural anti-inflammatories, reducing inflammation our bodies.

– Support the healthy functioning of all of our body’s systems.

– Help prevent cell damage from various toxins.

– Strengthen our immunity.

– Enhance energy metabolism in every cell of the body.

What are Phytonutrients?

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Foods contain a number of different nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats or fatty acids. Plant-based foods also contain biologically active, non-nutritive substances that can have a very beneficial impact on the health of the body. These substances are called phytonutrients. The Greek word for plant is “phyto;” thus these natural compounds are plant nutrients or phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants).

All plant foods contain thousands of phytonutrients. They are responsible for the plant’s color and flavor, and its ability to resist disease. While thousands of these protective and supportive nutrients have already been classified, scientists expect that many thousands more will be discovered over time.

While the terms phytochemical and phytonutrient are often used interchangeably, phytonutrients can be distinguished from the more general classification, phytochemical, because they are now considered necessary to sustain and promote life. The National Academy of Sciences has even determined some recommended dietary allowances for some phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are powerful disease-fighting and disease-preventing compounds that affect the human body in different ways. Some function as antioxidants, some stimulate enzyme systems and others activate hormone production. They can also function as basic raw materials for the body’s production of some anti-cancer substances. Other phytonutrients can act as cancer detoxifying substances by binding or diluting some carcinogens found in the environment or diet. Others work to deflect the activation of cancer-causing substances. Some can do both.

You can take advantage of these benefits every time you enjoy delicious fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. If, for any reason, your daily menu plan does not include an abundant array of brightly colored plant foods, then it is recommended that you supplement your diet with a high quality multivitamin and mineral that includes a good antioxidant formulation containing these highly beneficial phytonutrients.

Why Fruits and Vegetables?

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Do you know why healthcare professionals recommend including a wide variety of brightly colored fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet? It is because these foods contain phytonutrients, or plant nutrients, that provide antioxidant protection to every cell in our bodies. These include vitamins, such as A, C, and E, and also minerals, like selenium and zinc. However, there are many more types of phytonutrients, such as the flavonoids and the carotenoids. With the daily bombardment of toxins, chemicals, and processed foods, we need all the protection we can get to stay healthy!

Healthy Cooking Tip!

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One of the reasons we cook our foods is because we can! As a species, we have mastered the use of fire to warm the foods we eat, and most of us like the results. We enjoy the expanded palette of flavors, textures, and aromas. Unfortunately, many of us never learned how to cook healthfully, and precious nutrients are easily destroyed in prolonged cooking times, high temperatures, and immersing our fresh produce in boiling water. One healthy cooking tip is to invest in a steamer basket and a timer. Place enough water in the bottom of the pot just below the point where the steamer hits the water. Bring the water to a boil, and THEN add your freshly cut vegetables, like broccoli, summer squash, and green beans. Continue boiling the water for 5 minutes only. Be sure to set your timer so you don’t forget! Remove the vegetables from the pot. You will notice that they still retain their bright colors, and they taste great. Top with a Mediterranean-style dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of garlic or other seasoning, and enjoy a nutrient rich, beautiful, and delicious side dish. What a great way to get great taste and eat healthfully at the same time!

A Healthy Pantry!

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If you are serious about healthy living for yourself and your family, a well-stocked food pantry can be your best ally. Having readily available a variety of healthy food staples will encourage eating more meals at home that are more nutritious than dining out. These meals will typically be less expensive, contain fewer calories, and you will know exactly what you are eating – without the excess salt, sugar, and fat often added to restaurant fare. Some stocking favorites include whole grains and beans, soups and broths, pasta, canned tomatoes and tomato sauces, extra virgin olive oil and apple cider, rice, or balsamic vinegars for salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking. Choosing organic foods will ensure the purity and quality of your foods. And do not forget dark chocolate for desserts. Look for dark chocolate with at least 60% cacao that is chock-full of phytonutrients and antioxidants.

Keep your blood sugar levels stable with healthy snacking!

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Eating small, frequent meals throughout the day helps most of us maintain stable blood sugar levels, especially if we choose the right foods. Including some protein with each meal or snack is important for avoiding fatigue and mood swings. Here are just a few healthy, blood sugar balancing snack ideas to keep you energized and balanced throughout the day. Organic foods are always preferable! 1. A small handful of raw or roasted, unsalted or lightly salted nuts. Walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, or macadamia nuts are excellent choices. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are great alternatives. 2. A tablespoon or two of peanut butter, almond butter or tahini with raw vegetable sticks, such as celery, carrot, or cucumber – or try the nut butter with an apple or pear. 3. Instead of the nut butters, try some hummus (a chickpea with tahini dip) or guacamole with those vegetable sticks or on a cracker. 4. A piece of fruit or up to a cup of fresh berries with plain yogurt or kefir. 5. A slice of organic cheese (from cows or goats, if tolerated) is another good snack choice, either with vegetable sticks or whole grain crackers. You can also substitute a hard-boiled egg (from a cage free, organically fed chicken) or a tablespoon or two of either chicken or tuna salad for the cheese.

Enjoy a cup of green tea and lose fat!

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In 2005, a research article was published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition that reported the results of a study focusing on the effects of green tea catechins on human body fat levels. Catechins are a type of flavonoid, which is a group of biologically active compounds also known as phytochemicals. Previous studies on green tea catechins had uncovered their strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, but this study was the first to report the benefit of fat loss from green tea extracts. Participants in that study drank 690 mg of catechins daily in the form of green tea extract for three months. At the end of this 12-week double-blind study, the researchers came to the conclusion that catechins might be useful to prevent and improve lifestyle-related diseases and obesity. They discovered that by stimulating the calorie burning mechanism in the body, catechins may trigger weight and fat loss. If you have yet to try green tea, you may want to include it in your health program now. Designs For Health has a number of formulations containing green tea extract. SOURCE: Nagao, T. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2005; vol 81: 122-129.

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