52 Foods Challenge Archive

WEEK FIFTY-TWO:  Final Thoughts

 

For this final post for the 52 New Foods Challenge I am not going to suggest a seasonal ingredient; instead I want to summarize what I have learned over these past two years while leading this fun food challenge. 


Most of all, I loved learning all about the various health benefits of each seasonal food. It is truly amazing what nature provides for us in terms of healthy food sources.   


It was illuminating—and fun—to try new fruits in season, vegetables, whole grains, spices, herbs, etc. And, as tempting as it is to buy berries during the winter in California, for instance, I found that I enjoyed the sheer variety of local, seasonal produce. I also felt better knowing that I wasn’t purchasing produce that was being transported to California, at great environmental cost and with significant loss of nutrients along the long route.  


I learned that each color in a fruit and vegetable represents a different nutrient. For example, the red in tomatoes, watermelon and red bell peppers means that they all contain the antioxidant lycopene. So, for maximal health benefits, eat as much variety of richly colored fruits and vegetables as possible, daily. 


I learned how to remove the seeds from a pomegranate. Then, I realized just how much I love this amazingly crunchy and tart fruit. 


I enjoyed going to the farmers’ markets and checking out the variety of seasonal food. I became personally acquainted with some of the farmers, which was an added bonus. They happily shared their knowledge about growing different foods and allowed me to taste their wares. 


I found out how much I enjoyed sharing recipes with friends while using the unique foods I researched and presented in the newsletter. And, sharing this newsletter with you spurred on fun conversations about these foods. Often, those conversations took place in our local market, when someone told me they were shopping for the food challenge. I so enjoyed the dialogue revolving around what we were all going to cook with that week’s featured ingredient. 


One of my primary goals on this food journey was to engage my kids in the cooking process. This didn’t always happen. but when it did, it was awesome! Among my favorite memories of the past two years are of the many attempts my son and I made trying to recreate various recipes from local restaurants while using the seasonal ingredients. 


My hope is that you also had fun while on this food adventure. And that you learned a few things you hadn’t known before about seasonal foods. I hope you tried new foods and recipes and that you had the opportunity to engage your family in the cooking process. 


Happy cooking,  Jeanne 

 

WEEK FIFTY-ONE:  Oranges

Oranges originated thousands of years ago in Asia.  In the 16th century Spanish explorers are responsible for bringing oranges to Florida, while Spanish missionaries brought them to California in the 18th century.  This began the cultivation of this citrus fruit in the two states widely known for their oranges.  Currently, the countries that are some of the largest commercial producers of oranges include the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Spain.

 

Oranges are one of the most popular fruits around the world.  They are classified into two general categories, sweet and bitter, with the sweet ones being most commonly consumed.  Popular varieties of the sweet orange include Valencia, Navel, Jaffa and blood oranges.  Bitter oranges are often used to make jam or marmalade, and their zest serves as the flavoring for liqueurs such as Grand Marnier and Cointreau.

 

The recommendation is to eat an orange rather than to drink it as orange juice.  As a fruit, all of the beneficial nutrients and fiber are present.  The juice has the beneficial nutrients but it is lacking in the fiber.  As a result, the juice causes a more rapid spike in blood sugar levels which causes insulin to rise and can lead to inflammation long term in the body.  If you desire to drink orange juice, limit it to one 4oz. glass/day.

 

Nutrient Profile:

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C.  They are also a very good source of dietary fiber.  In addition, oranges are a good source of B vitamins including vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, and folate as well as vitamin A, calcium, copper, and potassium.  Oranges also contain an array of healing phytonutrients.

 

Health Benefits:

Vitamin C Benefits:  Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body, disarming free radicals and preventing damage both inside and outside cells.  Vitamin C helps prevent free radical damage to DNA (thus preventing cancer), cellular structures (which can lead to inflammation), and oxidation of cholesterol (reduces plaque formation in blood vessels).  It is also vital for proper function of the immune system.

 

Protection Against Cardiovascular Disease:  The protective cardiovascular effects are due to a combination of folate, potassium, vitamin C, carotenoids and flavonoids.

 

Very Good Source of Fiber:  Fiber helps reduce high cholesterol, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, helps with constipation or diarrhea and helps you feel fuller longer therefore is helpful with weight control.

 

Helps Prevent Stomach Ulcers and Reduces Risk for Stomach Cancer:  Vitamin C can help lower the incidence of infections with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) the bacterium responsible for causing peptic ulcers and in turn, an increased risk for stomach cancer.

 

Selection and Storage:

Oranges do not necessarily have to have a bright orange color to be good.  Avoid those that have soft spots or traces of mold.  Choose oranges that have smoothly textured skin and are firm and heavy for their size.  These will have a higher juice content than those that are either spongy or lighter in weight.  In general, oranges that are smaller with thinner skins will be juicier than those that are larger in size.

 

Oranges can either be stored at room temperature or in the refrigerator, depending upon your preference.  They will generally last the same amount of time, two weeks with either method, and will retain nearly the same level of their vitamin content.  The best way to store oranges is loose rather than wrapped in a plastic bag since  exposure to moisture can easily cause mold to develop.

 

Since oranges are among the top 20 foods in which pesticide residues are most frequently found, buy organic oranges whenever possible.  If using the orange zest for a recipe, make sure that you use organically grown oranges to avoid any pesticide residues that may be on the skin.  

 

WEEK FIFTY: ALMONDS

The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut.
 
Almonds are an ancient food that have been written about in historical texts, including the Bible.  Currently, almonds are grown in many of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, Italy, Portugal, as well as in California.  Almond trees were originally brought to California centuries ago when missions were created by the Spanish.
 
Almonds are the one of the most nutritionally dense nuts. To lower your risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, enjoy a handful of nuts or a tablespoon of nut butter at least 4 times a week.
 
 
Nutrient Profile: Almonds are a very good source of vitamin E, manganese, biotin, and copper. They are a good source of magnesium, molybdenum, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and phosphorus.  In addition, they contain a considerable amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
 
 
Health Benefits:
Reduce Heart Disease Risk- This risk reduction is due to their cholesterol-lowering effects (in particular LDL- the bad cholesterol)  due to the presence of monounsaturated fats.  It may also be partly due to the antioxidant action of the vitamin Efound in the almonds.  The presence of magnesium and potassium help to maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.
 
Protection against Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease-Almonds appear to decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar which helps protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  They also provide antioxidants which help reduce the cholesterol-damaging effects of free radicals.
 
Helps with Energy Production- Almonds are a very good source of manganese and copper, two trace minerals that help with different enzymes in the body to help keep energy flowing.  Riboflavin (vitamin B2) also plays important roles in the body’s energy production.
 
 
Selection and Storage:
Almonds that are still in their shells have the longest shelf life. If purchasing these, look for shells that are not split, moldy or stained.  If purchasing from the bulk bins, smell the almonds. They should smell sweet and nutty; if their odor is sharp or bitter, they are rancid.
 
Since almonds have a high fat content, it is important to store them properly in order to protect them from becoming rancid. To prolong their freshness, store shelled almonds in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place away from exposure to sunlight.  Refrigerated almonds will keep for several months, while those stored in the freezer can be kept for up to a year.
 
 
Individual Concerns:
Almonds and oxalates- Almonds are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating almonds.
 
Allergic Reactions to Tree Nuts (such as almonds)- Tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts) are among one of the 8 food types that are considered to be major food allergens in the U.S. and require identification on food labels.  Food allergy symptoms may sometimes be immediate and specific or more generalized and delayed. 


Recipe Suggestion:
This is a basic spiced nuts recipe.  You can use any combination of nuts you like.  I used pecans and almonds and it was delicious.
Spiced Nuts
1 Tb olive or canola oil
1 cup nuts- lightly chopped (½ pecans, ½ almonds)
1 tsp chili powder
dash cayenne pepper
dash cinnamon
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 generous tsp maple syrup
 
Mix all together.
Put mixture on a parchment sheet lined baking pan.
Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

 

WEEK FORTY NINE: KIWIFRUIT

 
Kiwifruit is native to China. They were brought to New Zealand by missionaries in the early 20th century.  Originally they were known as Yang Tao then Chinese Gooseberries and finally kiwifruit in honor of the native bird of New Zealand, the kiwi, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of this unique fruit. 
 
Currently, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of kiwifruit.
 
 
Nutrient Profile:
Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K as well as a very good source of copper and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of vitamin E, potassium, folate, and manganese.
 
 
Health Benefits:
Protection of DNA:  Researchers are not clear exactly which nutrients in kiwis provide the most DNA protection.  Whether it is vitamin C, beta-carotene, a variety of flavonoids and carotenoids or a combination of the above.
 
Antioxidant Protection:  Kiwi is an excellent source of vitamin Cwhich is the primary water-soluble antioxidant in the body. 
 
 
Selection and Storage:
When selecting kiwifruits, hold them between your thumb and forefinger and gently apply pressure, those that have the sweetest taste will yield gently to pressure. Avoid those that are very soft, shriveled or have bruised or damp spots. 
 
Kiwifruits can be left to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature, away from exposure to sunlight or heat. Placing the fruits in a paper bag with an apple, banana or pear will help to speed their ripening process. Ripe kiwifruits can be stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. For the most antioxidants, consume fully ripened kiwifruit.
 
You can also enjoy the skins which are very thin like a Bosc pear and are full of nutrients and fiber; the peachlike fuzz can be rubbed off before eating.
 
Kiwifruits should not be eaten too long after cutting since they contain enzymes that act as a food tenderizer which will make the fruit overly soft. Consequently, if you are adding kiwifruit to a fruit salad, you should do so at the last minute so as to prevent the other fruits from becoming too soggy. 
 
 
Individual concerns:
Kiwifruit and oxalates:  Kiwifruit are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings). When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating kiwifruit.
 
Increased risk of Latex allergy:  Kiwifruit (and avocados) contains substances that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome. There is strong evidence of the cross-reaction between latex and these foods.

 

WEEK FORTY EIGHT:  GRAPEFRUIT


Grapefruits were discovered in Barbados in the 18th century.  Many botanists think the grapefruit was actually the result of a natural cross breeding which occurred between the orange and the pomelo, a citrus fruit that was brought from Indonesia to Barbados in the 17th century.  The resulting fruit was given the name "grapefruit" in 1814 in Jamaica, a name which reflects the way it is arranged when it grows—hanging in clusters just like grapes.
 
Grapefruits are categorized as white, pink or ruby.  This terminology does not reflect their skin color, which is either yellow or pinkish-yellow, but rather describes the color of their flesh.
 
Although available throughout the year, grapefruits are in season and at their best from winter through early spring.  Florida is a major producer of grapefruits, as is California, Arizona and Texas.  Other countries that produce grapefruits commercially include Israel, South Africa and Brazil.
 
 
Nutrient Profile:
Grapefruit is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and vitamin C.  It is also a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, dietary fiber, potassium, biotin, and vitamin B1.  Grapefruit also contains phytochemicals including liminoids and lycopene.
 
 
Health Benefits:
Excellent source of vitamin C:  Vitamin C has been shown to support the immune system, reduce the severity of inflammatory conditions, and promote cardiovascular health.
 
Antioxidant Support:  Pink and red grapefruits (not present in white flesh grapefruits) contain lycopene, a carotenoid phytonutrient.  Lycopene has anti-tumor activity and can help fight oxygen forming free radicals which can damage cells and cellular DNA.  In addition, the juice of grapefruits contains many other different and beneficial compounds with antioxidant activity.
 
Cholesterol Lowering:  In a recent study, it appeared that both red and white grapefruits both positively influenced cholesterol levels, however red grapefruit was more than twice as effective, especially in lowering triglycerides.  
 
 
Selection and Storage:
A good grapefruit doesn't have to be perfect in color.  It can have discoloration and scratches.  Signs of decay which will translate into poor taste include an overly soft spot at the stem end of the fruit and areas that appear watersoaked.  The fruits should be heavy for their size which usually indicates a higher concentration of juicier flesh.  Grapefruits should be firm, yet slightly springy when gentle pressure is applied.  For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened grapefruit.
 
Since grapefruits are juicier when they're slightly warm rather than cool, store them at room temperature if you are planning on consuming them within a week of purchase.  If you will not be using them within this time period, store them in the refrigerator crisper where they will keep fresh for two to three weeks.
 
Grapefruits should be rinsed under cool water before consuming, even though you will probably not be eating the peel, since cutting into an unwashed fruit may transfer dirt or bacteria that may reside on the skin's surface to the edible flesh.
 
 
Individual Concerns:
Check with your healthcare practitioner about consuming grapefruit juice if you are taking pharmaceutical drugs.  Certain pharmaceutical drugs (statins, cyclosporine, calcium channel blocker drugs, terfenadine, estradiol, saquinavir) combined with grapefruit juice may become more potent.  There are compounds in grapefruits which interfere with an intestinal enzyme, which partially metabolizes and eliminates drugs as they are absorbed.  This inhibition results in less drug being eliminated and thus allows more of the drugs to enter into the bloodstream.

 

WEEK FORTY SEVEN:  FENNEL


Fennel dates back to early Greek mythological times where it was regarded as a gift from the gods.  It was revered for its medicinal and culinary properties.
 
Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which closely superimposed stalks are arranged. The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible.  Its texture is similar to that of crunchy celery.  Fennel's aromatic taste is unique, strikingly reminiscent of licorice and anise.
 
Fennel is closely related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.
 
Fennel has been grown throughout Europe, especially areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and the Near East since ancient times. Today, the United States, France and India are among the leading cultivators of fennel.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Fennel is an excellent source of vitamin C.  It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, potassium, molybdenum, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and folate.  In addition, fennel is a good source of calcium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, iron, and niacin.
 

Health Benefits:
Antioxidant Benefits:  Fennel contains its own unique combination of phytonutrients that give it strong antioxidant activity.  Another phytonutrient, anethole, is found as a primary component of fennel’s volatile oil.  In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.
 
Antioxidant Protection and Immune Support:  Fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C.  Vitamin C is the body's primary water-soluble antioxidant, able to neutralize free radicals in all aqueous environments of the body.  Vitamin C is also antimicrobial and is needed for proper functioning of the immune system.
 
Cardiovascular and Colon Health:  Due to the presence of fiber, folateand potassium there are substantial benefits to cardiovascular and colon health.  Fennel seeds can help relieve excess gas and indigestion.
 

Selection and Storage:
Fresh fennel should have a fragrant aroma, smelling subtly of licorice or anise.  The bulbs should be whitish or pale green in color and they should be clean, firm and solid, without signs of splitting or bruising.  The stalks should be relatively straight and closely superimposed around the bulb and should not splay out to the sides too much.  The stalks and leaves should be green in color.  There should be no signs of flowering buds as this indicates that the vegetable is past maturity. 
 
Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator crisper, where it should keep fresh for about four days. Yet, it is best to consume fennel soon after purchase since it quickly loses its flavor.  Dried fennel seeds should be stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry location where they will keep for about six months.

WEEK FORTY SIX:  Parsley

Parsley was used medicinally prior to being consumed as a food.  The ancient Greeks held parsley to be sacred, using it to adorn victors of athletic contests and for decorating the tombs of the deceased.
 
Parsley belongs to the Umbelliferae family of plants. The two most popular types are curly and Italian flat leaf parsley. The Italian variety has a more fragrant and less bitter taste than the curly variety.
 
Parsley is found year round in the supermarket.  The leaves, seeds, oil and root of the parsley plant are used for medicinal and culinary purposes. 
 
It is known to cleanse your palate and your breath at the end of a meal.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Parsley is an excellent source of vitamin K and vitamin C as well as a good source of vitamin A, folate, and iron.  Parsley also contains volatile oil components and flavonoids which are both health promoting.
 
 
Health Benefits:
Promotes Optimal Health:  The volatile oils in parsley provide tumor formation inhibition in animal studies.  In addition, they activate an enzyme that helps the molecule glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant.
 
A Rich Source of Anti-Oxidant Nutrients:  The combination of vitamin A, vitamin C, the volatile oils and flavonoids all act as antioxidants in the body.  They function by combining with highly reactive oxygen-containing molecules (free radicals) and therefore helps prevent oxygen-based damage.
 
Heart Health:  Parsley is a good source of folic acid (an important B vitamin) which helps the body convert homocysteine into benign molecules.  High levels of homocysteine are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in people with known heart disease.
 
 
Selection and Storage:
Whenever possible, choose fresh parsley over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor.  Choose fresh parsley that is deep green in color.  Avoid bunches that have leaves that are wilted or yellow as this indicates that they are either over mature or damaged.  If purchasing dried parsley be sure it is organically grown to assure that the herbs have not been irradiated. 
 
Fresh parsley should be kept in the refrigerator in a plastic bag.  If the parsley is slightly wilted, either sprinkle it lightly with some water or wash it without completely drying it before storing in the refrigerator.  Fresh parsley should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile.
 
Italian flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor than the curly variety and it holds up better to cooking.  Therefore it is usually the type preferred for hot dishes.  It should be added towards the end of the cooking process so that it can best retain its taste, color and nutritional value.
 

Individual Concerns:
Parsley and Oxalates- Parsley is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating parsley.
 

This is a delicious smoothie recipe that Jill Andrews created:
Pear and Parsley Smoothie
2 ripe pears
1 bunch of parsley
1 large handful of spinach
1 whole washed organic lemon
1 1/3c water
3/4c ice
 
Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix well.
 

 
 

WEEK FORTY FIVE:  Lentils

Lentils are legumes, along with beans, peas and peanuts.  They grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds.  While the most common types in the United States are either green or brown, lentils are also available in black, yellow, red and orange colors. These round, oval or heart-shaped disks are small in size.  They are sold whole or split into halves.  While the flavor differs slightly among the varieties, they generally feature a hearty dense somewhat nutty flavor.
 
Lentils are believed to have originated in central Asia, having been consumed since prehistoric times.  Lentils were mentioned in the Bible.  They are one of the first foods to have ever been cultivated. Currently, the leading commercial producers of lentils include India, Turkey, Canada and China.
 
Lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare.  They readily absorb a variety of wonderful flavors from other foods and seasonings.  They are high in nutritional value and are available throughout the year.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum and folate.  They are a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.  Additionally they are a good source of iron, protein, vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium, and vitamin B6.
 

Health Benefits:
Cholesterol Lowering:  Due to the presence of fiber.
 
Beneficial for GI disorders:  The fiber in lentils helps to increase stool bulk and prevent constipation.  It also helps prevent digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.
 
Reduces the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease:  A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as lentils, help prevent heart disease.  In addition, the presence of folate and magnesium aid in heart health too.
 
Stabilizes Blood Sugar levels:  The soluble fiber in lentils helps stabilize blood sugar levels and can have dramatic benefits to improve insulin resistance, hypoglycemia and diabetes.
 
Increase in Energy:  Lentils can increase your energy by replenishing your iron stores.  In addition they are a healthy protein source.
 

Selection and Storage:
Lentils are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins.  When purchasing lentils make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage and that they are whole and not cracked. 
 
Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place. Stored this way, they will keep for up to 12 months.  Cooked lentils will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.
 

Preparation:
Lentils do not need to be presoaked (like other legumes).  Before washing lentils, you should check for and remove small stones or debris.  After this process, place the lentils in a strainer, and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.
 

Here is a wonderful "not your everyday lentil soup" recipe from my good friend Reshma Shah.  Check out her website The Family Table.
http://www.thefamily-table.com/not-your-everday-lentil-soup/

 

Here is a really yummy soup: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/curried-lentil-tomato-and-coconut-soup

 

WEEK FORTY FOUR:  Carrots

The beta-carotene that is found in carrots was actually named for the carrot itself!  Even though U.S. consumers are most familiar with carrots as root vegetables bright orange in color, an amazing variety of colors are found worldwide for this vegetable.  These include purple, yellow, white and red carrots.

 

Carrots belong to the Umbelliferae family of plants, since their leafy greens form an umbrella-like cluster at the top of the root. 

 

In today's commercial marketplace, China currently produces about one-third of all carrots bought and sold worldwide.  Russia is the second largest carrot producer, with the U.S. following a close third.  Over 80% of all fresh market carrot production in the U.S. comes from California, with Michigan and Texas emerging as the next two largest fresh production states.

 

 

Nutrient Profile:

Carrots contain a fascinating combination of phytonutrients.  They are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids).  In addition, they are a very good source of biotin, vitamin K, dietary fiber, molybdenum, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.  They are a good source of manganese, niacin, vitamin B1, panthothenic acid, phosphorus, folate, copper, vitamin E, and vitamin B2.

 

 

Health Benefits:

Antioxidant Benefits:  All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients.  Included here are traditional antioxidants like vitamin C, as well as phytonutrient antioxidants like beta-carotene. There are beneficial antioxidants in all carrots and they differ based upon the different carrot’s color.  For example, red and purple carrots contain anthocyanins, orange carrots have a large amount of carotenoids.

 

Cardiovascular Benefits:  There are numerous research studies documenting the cardiovascular benefits of carrots which are due to their antioxidant richness. Our cardiovascular system, in particular our arteries, needs constant protection from antioxidant damage.  In a recent study from the Netherlands, they determined that deeper shades of orange/yellow foods, in particular carrots, significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

Vision Health:  Carrots have been shown to reduce the rate of glaucoma.

 

Anti-Cancer Benefits:  The anti-cancer benefits of carrots have been best researched in the area of colon cancer.

 

 

Selection, Storage and Cooking:

Carrot roots should be firm, smooth, relatively straight and bright in color. The deeper the orange-color, the more beta-carotene present in the carrot.  Avoid carrots that are excessively cracked or forked as well as those that are limp or rubbery.  If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery and not wilted.  Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots' core, generally those with larger diameters will be sweeter.

 

To preserve their freshness, make sure to store carrots in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form.  They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks.  Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.

 

If you purchase carrot roots with attached green tops, the tops should be cut off before storing in the refrigerator since they will cause the carrots to wilt prematurely as they pull moisture from the roots.

 

While heating can often damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in vegetables, the beta-carotene as found in carrots has been shown to be surprisingly heat-stable.

 

 

Individual Concerns:

Excessive consumption of carotene-rich foods may lead to a condition called carotoderma in which the palms or other skin develops a yellow or orange cast. This yellowing of the skin is presumably related to carotenemia, excessive levels of carotene in the blood.  The health impact of carotenemia is not well researched.  Excessive intake of carrots may over tax the body’s ability to convert these foods to vitamin A.  The body slowly converts carotene to vitamin A, and extra carotene is stored, usually in the palms, soles or behind the ears.  If the cause of the carotenemia is eating excessively high amounts of foods like carrots, the condition will usually disappear after reducing consumption.

WEEK FORTY THREE-  Radishes

Radishes have been cultivated for thousands of years.  The many different varieties of radishes all belong to the same family, Brassica.  There is tremendous diversity of size, shape and color which represents the vast area of Europe and Asia where they are native.
 
Radishes are available all year round in California.  Broadly speaking, they can be categorized into different groups based upon the seasons they are grown in and the variety of their shapes, lengths, colors and sizes.  The skin color ranges from white through pink, red, purple, yellow and green to black but the flesh is usually white.
 
Radishes can be planted in the early spring.  They mature in three to four weeks, one of the fastest sprouters in the garden when planted from seed.   Once mature they should be picked and eaten immediately.  If kept in the ground too long, they get woody and extremely spicy. 
 

Nutrient profile:
Radishes are an excellent source of vitamin C.  They are a good source of fiber, folic acid and potassium.  They also contain vitamin B6, riboflavin, magnesium, copper and calcium. 

 
Health Benefits:
Cancer prevention- Due to the presence of vitamin C and isothiocyanate antioxidants, radishes have been shown to be effective against prostate, colon, breast, ovarian and other cancers.
 
Diabetes, heart disease, diverticulitis prevention- This is due to the presence of fiber in radishes.
 
Helpful for bile flow- The radish root may stimulate digestive juices and bile flow which is helpful for jaundice.  It is also a good detoxifier.  
 

Selection and Storage:
When picking table radishes at the market, choose those with fresh, bright green tops.  The radishes should have a smooth skin and feel firm.  Avoid those that are spongy.  The thin roots at the bottom of the radishes should look healthy and not withered.
 
Before refrigerating radishes, wash them, remove greens from the top, and place in plastic baggies with a paper towel at the bottom. This optimizes moisture content and helps keep them fresh for about a week.
 
Prior to serving table radishes, soak them in cold water and then drain thoroughly.  They can be eaten raw, cooked or pickled. 
 
 
Individual Concerns:
People with thyroid dysfunction:
Radishes may be referred to as a “goitrogen”, certain plant-derived compounds (also found in cruciferous vegetables- cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabagas, turnips) which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland.  This may lead to the thyroid not being able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.  Consumption of these vegetables should be reduced but not eliminated in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.  If you have normal thyroid function and consume adequate amounts of iodine, these vegetables will have no effect on your thyroid and may be eaten liberally. 

 
 

WEEK FORTY TWO - CINNAMON

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known.  It was used in ancient Egypt not only as a beverage flavoring and medicine, but also as an embalming agent.  It was so highly treasured that it was considered more precious than gold.  Cinnamon's popularity continued throughout history.  Due to its demand, cinnamon became one of the first commodities traded regularly between the Near East and Europe.
 
All types of cinnamon belong to the same family of plants, called the Lauraceae family (other members of this family include avocados and bay leaves).  In fact, there are more cinnamon species in this plant family (an estimated 2,000-2,500 total) than any other plant species. 
 
There are two main categories of species of cinnamon, Ceylon and cassia.  Ceylon cinnamon is produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean, while cassia cinnamon is mainly produced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia.  Most of the cinnamon imported into the U.S. is cassia cinnamon.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and fiber and a very good source of calcium.
 

Health Benefits:
Cinnamon's unique healing abilities come from three basic types of components in the essential oils found in its bark. These oils contain active components plus a wide range of other volatile substances.
 
The Anti-clotting Actions:cinnaldehyde in cinnamon helps prevent unwanted clumping of blood platelets by inhibiting the release of an inflammatory fatty acid called arachidonic acid from platelet membranes.
 
Anti-microbial Activity: Cinnamon has been studied for its ability to help stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the commonly problematic yeast Candida.
 
Blood Sugar Control:  Cinnamon slows the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, thereby reducing the rise in blood sugar after eating.  It may also significantly help people with type 2 diabetes by improving their ability to respond to insulin.
 
Improves Colon Health and Protects against Heart Disease:  The presence of both calcium and fiber in cinnamon helps bind bile salts.  It is this bile salt binding that helps prevent damage to colon cells, thus reducing the risk of colon cancer.  In addition, when bile is removed by fiber, cholesterol levels decrease which can be helpful in preventing atherosclerosis and heart disease.
 
A Traditional Warming Medicine:  Cinnamon has also been valued in energy-based medical systems, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, for its warming qualities. It has been used to provide relief when faced with the onset of a cold or flu, especially when mixed in a tea with some fresh ginger.
 

Selection and Storage:
Cinnamon is available in either stick or powder form. While the sticks can be stored for longer, the ground powder has a stronger flavor.  Try to select organically grown cinnamon since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.  With irradiation, there may be a significant decrease in the vitamin C and carotenoid content. 
 
Cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.  Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about one year stored this way.  Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.  To check to see if it is still fresh, smell the cinnamon.  If it does not smell sweet, it is no longer fresh and should be discarded.

WEEK FORTY ONE - CRANBERRIES

 

American Indians enjoyed cranberries cooked and sweetened with honey or maple syrup.  Cranberries were also used by the Indians decoratively as a source of red dye, and medicinally as a poultice for wounds.  
 
The cranberry belongs to the same genus as the blueberry, Vaccinium.  Although several species of cranberries grow wild in Europe and Asia and have always been enjoyed in these parts of the world, the cranberry most cultivated as a commercial crop is an American native.  Fresh cranberries are at their peak from October through December.
 
You should include berries at least 3-4 times per week within your fruit servings.  To obtain the maximum health benefits from cranberries eat them in whole form rather than in purified cranberry extracts as a liquid or dried supplement.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Cranberries provide us with an astonishing array of phytonutrients. They are a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese, as well as a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, copper, and pantothenic acid.
 

Health Benefits: 
Protection against Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)- The presence of the phytonutrient, proanthocyanidin is responsible for combatting unwanted bacteria in the urinary tract by preventing their adherence to the urinary tract lining.  These benefits have been seen mostly in middle-aged women who have experienced recurrent UTIs.  There is greater than 1/3 reduction in UTIs in this age and gender group.
 
Anti-Inflammatory Benefits- The incredible variety of phytonutrients in cranberries is especially effective in lowering the risk of unwanted inflammation.  Dietary consumption of cranberry has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic, unwanted inflammation in the gums, stomach, large intestine (colon) and cardiovascular system (especially blood vessel linings).
 
Cardiovascular Benefits- The combined impact of cranberry antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients is responsible for cardiovascular benefits.  Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in blood vessel walls is reduced.  In addition, LDL-cholesterol (harmful) and total cholesterol are reduced and HDL-cholesterol (beneficial) is increased due to cranberry ingestion.
 
Antioxidant Protection- The phytonutrients and conventional antioxidant nutrients like manganese and vitamin C in cranberry provide maximal antioxidant benefits only when consumed in combination with each other.  When cranberry processing disrupts this antioxidant combination, health benefits from cranberries are decreased.
 
Anti-Cancer Benefits- The cancer-preventive benefits of cranberry are especially likely in the case of breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.  These benefits are due to the presence of the unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient composition of cranberries.
 
Digestive Tract Benefits- Cranberries help reduce the risk of periodontal disease, stomach ulcers and colon cancer.  Recent research has also shown that cranberries may be able to help optimize the balance of bacteria in our digestive tract.
 
 
Selection, Storage and Cooking:
Choose fresh, plump cranberries, deep red in color (indicator of more highly concentrated anthocyanins), and quite firm to the touch.  Firmness is a primary indicator of quality.  Fresh ripe cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 20 days.  Before storing, discard any soft, discolored, pitted or shriveled fruits.
 
Just prior to use, place cranberries in a strainer and briefly rinse under cool running water.  When using frozen berries in recipes that do not require cooking, thaw well and drain prior to using.  For cooked recipes, use unthawed berries since this will ensure maximum flavor. Extend the cooking time a few minutes to accommodate for the frozen berries.
 
Cranberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe.  This is because the various nutrients are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F) used in baking.
 

Individual Concerns:
Cranberries and Warfarin- Warfarin is a prescription anticoagulant medication that has widely been used to help prevent formation of blood clots in individuals with a strong tendency toward clotting. There have been a small number of published case studies reporting cranberry juice-related problems by individuals taking warfarin.  The various studies are somewhat confusing, and to err on the safe side, it is encouraged that all persons taking warfarin consult with their healthcare provider before incorporating cranberries or cranberry juice into the diet.

 

WEEK FORTY-  LEEKS

Leeks have a long and rich history.  They were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat.
 
Leeks, known scientifically as Allium porrum, are related to garlic, onions, shallots, and scallions.  They look like large scallions, having a very small bulb and a long white cylindrical stalk (usually 12 inches in length and 1-2 inches in diameter) of superimposed layers that flows into green, tightly wrapped, flat leaves.  The flavonoids in leeks are most concentrated in their lower leaf and bulb portion.
 
With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than shallots and onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present.  Although leeks are available throughout the year they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring when they are at their best. 
 
There is research evidence for including at least one serving of an alliumvegetable in your meal plan every day.  If you are choosing leeks, make your individual portion 1/2 cup or greater, and try to include at least one cup of chopped leeks in your recipes.
 
 
Nutrient Profile:
Leeks are less well researched than their fellow allium vegetables (garlic and onions) however they contain a similar amount of sulfur compounds as well as an impressive amount of polyphenols.  Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K.  They are a very good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, iron, folate, and vitamin C.  Leeks are also a good source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. 
 

Health Benefits:
Cardiovascular support:
-  Leeks contain important amounts of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has repeatedly been shown to help protect our blood vessel linings from damage, including damage by overly reactive oxygen molecules. 
 
-  Leeks contain the B vitamin folate in one of its bioactive forms (5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5MTHR).  Folate helps support the cardiovascular system by helping to keep our levels of homocysteine in proper balance.
 
-  Leeks also contain an impressive concentration of antioxidant polyphenols which helps protect our blood vessels and blood cells from oxidative damage. 
 
Other health benefits:  Leeks are likely to have similar health benefits as other allium (onions and garlic) vegetables yet there has not been as much research on leeks.   Likely they are helpful in reducing oxidative stress and low-level inflammation which can lead to a reduction in atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and several cancers. 
  
 
Selection and Storage:
Leeks should be firm and straight with dark green leaves and white necks.  Since overly large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture, only purchase those that have a diameter of 1-11/2 inches or less.  Fresh leeks should be stored unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator, where they will keep fresh for 1-2 weeks.  Wrapping them loosely in a plastic bag will help them to retain moisture.  Cooked leeks are highly perishable, and even when kept in the refrigerator, will only stay fresh for about two days.
 

Individual Concerns:
Oxalates:  Leeks are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating leeks.


Try to this tasty Spicy pumpkin leek soup from Once Upon A Chef:http://www.onceuponachef.com/2016/10/spicy-pumpkin-leek-soup.html

 

WEEK THIRTY NINE-  PEARS

Pears are a member of the rose family of plants (Rosaceae), which, in addition to roses includes apples, apricots, cherries, chokeberry, crabapples, loquats, peaches, plums, quinces, raspberries, strawberries and almonds. There are more than 3,000 varieties of pears that people enjoy worldwide. The many different varieties of pears commonly found in U.S. groceries all belong to the same category known as European Pear.
 
Pears are found in a variety of colors, including many different shades of green, red, yellow/gold, and brown. Many varieties fail to change color as they ripen, making it more difficult to determine ripeness.
 
Beginning in the 1500's, European colonists began to bring pears to North America, where they apparently were not native or enjoyed before that time.  Currently, China has become the world's largest grower of pears, and Europe, Argentina, Chile and the US produce the remaining.  Within the US, the state of Washington is by far the largest grower of pears and California and Oregon follow next. 
 

Nutrient Profile:
Pears are a concentrated source of phytonutrients (plant nutrients).  They are a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of copper, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
 

Health Benefits:
- Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory benefits- This is due to the vast array of phytonutrients present in pears.
 
- Decreased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes:  The presence of dietary fiber helps reduce the risk of Type 2 DM.  In addition, the phytonutrients in pears help improve insulin sensitivity.  The famous Nurses Health Study (Harvard School of Public Health) has shown that among all fruits and vegetables analyzed for their flavonoid content, the combination of apples/pears showed the most consistent ability to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
 
- Decreased Risk of Heart Disease:  The fiber in pears helps to reduce cholesterol production in the body. 
 
- Reduced Cancer Risk:  The fiber helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.  The phytonutrients in pears helps to lower the risk of stomach cancer.  Pears also help lower the risk of esophageal cancer.   
 
 
Selection and Storage:
Pears are very perishable once they are ripe.  The pears you find at the market will generally be unripe and will require a few days of maturing.  Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard.  They should have a smooth skin that is free of bruises, punctures, dark soft spots or mold. 
 
To determine whether a pear is ripe, gently press at the top of the pear, near its stem.  If that spot gives in to pressure, the pear is probably optimally ripe for eating.  To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag, turning them occasionally, and keep them at room temperature.  

If the flesh feels extremely soft, almost to the point of being squishy, the pear is overripe.  For food safety reasons, overripe pears should only be used in cooked recipes rather than eaten raw.
 
If you will not be consuming the pears immediately once they have ripened, you can place them in the refrigerator where they will remain fresh for a few days.   Pears should also be stored away from other strong smelling foods, whether on the countertop or in the refrigerator, as they tend to absorb smells.
 
Fresh pears are delicious when eaten raw after washing them under cool water.  Eat the skin of the pear because half of the pear’s daily fiber and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients are present in the skin.  Pears will start turning brown (oxidizing upon exposure to oxygen) as soon as they are cut. To prevent the browning, you can add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the pears.
 

Concerns:
Although pears are not included on the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 report of “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides” there was concern (between 2008-2011) about contamination with arsenic of certain brand-name pear juices.  The exact source of the contamination has not been determined.  Pear juices found to be contaminated were recalled by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and the FDA also set a Level of Concern for arsenic in fruit juices (including pear juice).  These events are one of the reasons it is recommended to select organic pears and organic pear juice.  Organic food regulations greatly lessen the chance of exposure to heavy metals like arsenic not only in pear juice and pears but in all other foods as well.

 

WEEK THIRTY EIGHT-  POMEGRANATES

The word pomegranate means “apple with many seeds”.  No other fruit has the architecture of a pomegranate with the numerous seeds all bunched together in a large random cluster separated by creamy white membranes.  Only the seeds are edible.  An average pomegranate contains about 600 juicy seeds.
 
Pomegranates most likely originated in southwestern Asia.  It’s juice has been consumed for nearly five thousand years.  Early Persians claimed that it had immortal properties and in China it was a symbol of longevity. 
 
Pomegranates are now grown in warmer subtropical regions where they require a very hot and dry climate to ripen fully.  In the US their production is concentrated in the Central Valley of California.
 

Nutrient profile:
Pomegranates are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C.  They are a very good source of folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, copper, manganese and phosphorus.
 

Health benefits:
They are a rich source of antioxidants that include polyphenols and isoflavones.  Their amount of antioxidants is greater than that found in blueberries and cranberries. 
 
Anti-inflammatory activity- The anti-inflammatory properties that may protect against cancer and other chronic diseases are due to the presence of polyphenols and vitamin C.
 
Anti-cancer activities- Laboratory studies have shown that extracts of pomegranate fruit slow the reproduction of cancer cells and may help reduce the blood supply to tumors thus causing them to shrink.
 
Heart disease benefits- Animal studies have found that pomegranate juice slowed the growth of plaque formation in mice with atherosclerosis and that it also may improve blood flow and prevent arteries from becoming thick and stiff.  This is preliminary and has not been confirmed in humans.


Selection and Storage:
Pomegranates do not ripen after they are picked.  In addition, they give no external clues to their ripeness so you have to trust the grower’s judgement.  Choose fruit that is heavy for its size, it will likely have more seeds and less membrane.  Don’t buy pomegranates with cuts or holes in the skin.  At room temperature they will keep for up to a week and in the refrigerator for several weeks. 
 

Extracting pomegranate seeds:
It is easiest to cut the fruit in half or in quarters with a sharp knife and then immerse the various pieces in a bowl of water.  One by one, break the pieces apart, bending the skin side of the pieces inside out, opening up the membranes and expelling the seeds into thebowl of water.  The white membranes and skin will float to the top of the water, discard these, the seeds will remain on the bottom.  Collect the seeds in a strainer.
 

Juicing pomegranates: 
There are several ways to juice a pomegranate but keep in mind that the white membrane is very tannic and bitter and you may want to minimize its contribution to the final product.  One way of juicing is to put all the seeds that were extracted (as above) in a blender, then strain the juice through a fine strainer.

Here is a video from Pamela Salzman showing how to extract pomegranate seeds:  https://pamelasalzman.com/seed-pomegranate-video/

WEEK THIRTY SIX-  SWISS CHARD

Swiss chard is not native to Switzerland. Its actual homeland lies further south, in the Mediterranean region.  Ancient Greeks, and later the Romans, honored chard for its medicinal properties.
 
Chard belongs to the chenopod family, the same family as beets, spinach ,and quinoa.  The recommendation is to include in your diet foods from the chenopod family 1-2 times per week with a serving size of at least 1/2 cup to one full cup.
 
Swiss chard has a crunchy stalk that comes in white, red or yellow (the different color stalks represent different phytonutrients) with wide fan-like green leaves and has a flavor that is bitter, pungent, and slightly salty.  Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens and collard greens are often referred to as "greens". 
 

Nutrient Profile:
Swiss chard is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, vitamin E, and iron.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, choline, vitamin B2, calcium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and protein.  Additionally, Swiss chard is a good source of pantothenic acid, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B3, folate, and selenium.
 

Health Benefits:
Blood Sugar benefits:  Multiple studies on animals have shown that chard has unique benefits for blood sugar regulation.  In addition, chard may provide special benefits in the diets of individuals diagnosed with diabetes.  These benefits may be due to one of the flavonoids, the fiber and/or the protein in chard.
 
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory benefits:  It is beneficial to prevent oxidative stress and diseases related to chronic, unwanted inflammation. Chronic low level inflammation (especially when coupled with excessive oxidative stress) has repeatedly been shown to increase our risk of obesity, atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several forms of arthritis.  Chard’s an excellent source of a variety of conventional antioxidants: vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and the mineral manganese, and a good source of the mineral zinc.  In addition, chard's phytonutrient antioxidants (can be seen with its colorful stems, stalks, and leaf veins) are unique in combating inflammation and oxidative stress.
 
Support of Bone Health:  With its very good supply of calcium and its excellent supply of magnesium and vitamin K, chard provides standout bone support.
 

Selection and Storage:
Choose chard that is held in a chilled display as this will help to ensure that it has a crunchier texture and sweeter taste.  Look for leaves that are vivid green in color.  Store unwashed chard in a plastic bag wrapped tightly squeezing out as much air from the bag as possible.  It will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
 
Swiss chard can be eaten fresh, steamed, braised, juiced, sautéed, frozen and dried.  Generally, any flavor that works well with spinach will partner with chard, including butter, lemon, cream, garlic, shallots and vinaigrette.
 

Concerns:
Oxalates: Swiss chard is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating Swiss chard.

Recipe suggestion:  From Lia Huber's Nourish Evolution:  Sautéed Swiss Chard with Grated Garlic:
http://cook.nourishevolution.com/2011/03/swiss-chard-with-grated-garlic/

 

WEEK THIRTY SEVEN-  PUMPKIN SEEDS

Pumpkins, and their seeds, are native to the Americas.  Pumpkin seeds were a celebrated food among many Native American tribes, who treasured them both for their dietary and medicinal properties.  Today, China produces more pumpkins and pumpkin seeds than any other country.  In the U.S., Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins, followed by California, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
 
Like cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumber, and squash, pumpkins and pumpkin seeds belong to the gourd or Cucurbitaceae family.  Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are flat, dark green seeds.  Some are encased in a yellow-white husk (often called the "shell"), although some varieties of pumpkins produce seeds without shells.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including phenolic acids and lignans.  They also contain health-supportive phytosterols.  Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper.  They are also a good source of other minerals including zinc and iron.  In addition, pumpkin seeds are a good source of protein.
 
Health Benefits:
Antioxidant support:  Pumpkin seeds contain a diverse mixture of antioxidants.  There are conventional antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E, zinc and manganese, as well as phenolic antioxidants and lignans.
 
Mineral support:  Pumpkin seeds are a very good source of theminerals phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and copper and a good source of the minerals zinc and iron.
 
Antimicrobial benefits:  The role of proteins and lignans in pumpkin seeds provide many antimicrobial benefits which include anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
 
Mood and sleep benefits:  Pumpkin seeds are rich in the calming amino acid tryptophan, which is important in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that enhances mood and promotes well-being.  Serotonin in turn is converted to melatonin, the “sleep hormone.”
 
Selection and Storage:
Whether purchasing raw pumpkin seeds in bulk or in a packaged container make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage.  If it is possible to smell the pumpkin seeds, do so in order to ensure that they are not rancid or musty.  It is recommended to purchase certified organic raw pumpkin seeds to assure no exposure to potential contaminants.  By purchasing raw, you will be able to control the roasting time and temperature, and avoid unnecessary damage to helpful fats present in the seeds.
 
Preparation of seeds:
To roast pumpkin seeds, place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet, toss with olive oil and season with salt.  For a spicier alternative, sprinkle cayenne pepper, paprika and cumin.  Light roast them in a 160-170°F oven for 15-20 minutes.  This 20-minute roasting limit is important.  In a recent study, 20 minutes emerged as a threshold time for changes in pumpkin seed (unsaturated) fats.  When roasted for longer than 20 minutes, a number of unwanted changes in fat structure occurred in the seeds.  You can store them in an airtight container and use them throughout the week.

 
 

WEEK THIRTY FIVE-  CELERY

Celery was cultivated in parts of Europe and the Mediterranean as early as 1000 BC, and we have evidence of celery being used as a medicinal plant in ancient Egypt.  There's also evidence that ancient Greek athletes were awarded celery leaves to commemorate their winning.
 
Regardless of which celery variety you choose to buy or grow, there are nutrient benefits to be found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stalks, roots, and seeds.  "Celery hearts" usually refers to the innermost stalks of celery, which are typically the most tender.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Celery is a rich source of phenolic phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  Celery is an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum.  It is a very good source of folate, potassium, dietary fiber, manganese, and pantothenic acid.  Celery is also a good source of vitamin B2, copper, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids).  It also contains approximately 35 milligrams of sodium per stalk.
  

Health Benefits:
Celery is an important food source of conventional antioxidants- vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese.  It also contains phytonutrients (phenolic antioxidants) which act as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
 
Digestive Tract support:  Through the antioxidant and anti-inflammatorynutrients in celery the digestive tract is protected.  In addition, the pectin-based polysaccharides also provide the stomach with special healthful benefits.
 
Cardiovascular Support:  These benefits are due to the many conventionalantioxidants and phytonutrients in celery.  Oxidative stress (unwanted oxygen damage to our cells, blood vessels, and organ systems) and inflammation in the bloodstream are critical problems in the development of many cardiovascular diseases, especially atherosclerosis.
 
Potential Cancer Prevention:  Because chronic oxidative stress and excessive inflammation are key risk factors for the development of many cancer types, celery’santioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients may help in cancer prevention. However, there have not been any actual human research studies in this area.
  

Selection and Storage:
Choose celery that looks crisp and snaps easily when pulled apart.  It should be relatively tight and compact.  The leaves should be pale to bright green in color and free from yellow or brown patches. 
 
Celery can be stored in a plastic produce bag with the air removed for up to 5-7 days, any longer duration may reduce the nutrient content.  It is also recommended to wait to chop the celery just before using it, as this will help to preserve its maximum nutrient potential.
 
Celery should not be kept at room temperature for more than several hours.  Warm temperatures will encourage its high water content to evaporate, causing the celery to have a tendency to wilt quickly.  If you have celery that has wilted, sprinkle it with a little water and place it in the refrigerator for several hours to help it regain some of its crispness.
 

Concerns:
Celery and Pesticide residues:  According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce," (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php) conventionally grown celery is among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of celery unless it is grown organically.
 
Allergies:  Celery can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to certain other plants and spices including wild carrot, mugwort, birch, and dandelion.  This has been called the “celery-carrot-mugwort-spice syndrome.”

 

WEEK THIRTY FOUR-  ONIONS

Onions are native to Asia and the Middle East and have been cultivated for over five thousand years. The Egyptians highly regarded onions and used them as currency to pay the workers who built the pyramids.  They also placed onions in the tombs of kings so that they could carry these gifts bestowed with spiritual significance with them to the afterlife. 
 
Onions have been revered throughout time not only for their culinary use, but also for their therapeutic properties.  As early as the 6th century, onions were used as a medicine in India.
 
The word onion comes from the Latin word unio, which means "single," or "one” which refers to the onion plant producing a single bulb. 
 
Onions, like garlic, are members of the allium family, and both are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for their pungent odors and for many of their health-promoting effects.  To truly receive the health benefits of onions it is recommended to consume them on a daily basis.
 

Nutrient Profile:
Onions contain a rich concentration of polyphenols (flavonoids, quercitin).  In general, red onions are higher in total flavonoids than white and yellow onions.  They are a very good source of biotin.  They are also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, and vitamin B1.
 

Health Benefits:
Cardiovascular benefits- Research specifically focused on onions has mostly been conducted on animals rather than humans.  In animal studies, there is evidence that onion's sulfur compounds may work in an anti-clotting capacity thereby helping to prevent unwanted clumping of platelet cells.  There is also evidence showing that sulfur compounds in onion can lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, and also improve cell membrane function in red blood cells.
 
Support for bone and connective tissue- Human studies have shown that onions can help increase our bone density and may be of special benefit to women of menopausal age who are experiencing loss of bone density. 
 
Anti-inflammatory benefits- Onion's antioxidants (mainly quercetin) provide anti-inflammatory benefits by preventing the oxidation of fatty acids in our body. When we have lower levels of oxidized fatty acids, our body produces fewer pro-inflammatory messaging molecules, and our level of inflammation is kept in check.
 
Cancer protection- Onions have repeatedly been shown to lower the risk of several cancers (colorectal, laryngeal and ovarian), even when consumed in moderate amounts (1-2 times per week).
 

Selection and Storage:
Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, and feature crisp, dry outer skins while avoiding those that are sprouting or have signs of mold.  In addition, onions of inferior quality often have soft spots and dark patches which may all be indications of decay.  Onions should be stored in a well ventilated space at room temperature, away from heat and bright light.  With the exception of green onions, do not refrigerate onions.
 
The length of storage varies with the type of onion. Those that are more pungent in flavor (yellow onions), should keep for about a month if stored properly.  They will keep longer than those with a sweeter taste, since the compounds that confer their sharp taste help to preserve them.  Scallions should be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where they will keep for about one week.  Store cut onions in a sealed container and use them within a day or two since they tend to oxidize and lose their nutrient content rather quickly.
 

To maximize onion’s nutrients:
The flavonoids in onions tend to be more concentrated in the outer layers of the flesh.  To maximize their health benefits, peel off as little of the fleshy, edible portion as possible when removing the onion's outermost paper layer.  Even a small amount of "overpeeling" can result in unwanted loss of flavonoids.
 
When onions are simmered to make soup, their quercetin (a flavonoid) does not get degraded but rather it gets transferred into the water part of the soup.  By using a low-heat method for preparing onion soup, you can preserve the health benefits of onion that are associated with this key flavonoid.
 

Eye irritation:
Use a very sharp knife and always cut the onions while standing which assures that your eyes will be as far away as possible.  Consider cutting onions by an open window or by a blowing fan.  Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water.  Refrigerating the onions before use reduces the enzyme reaction rate and thus lessens the potential for irritation.  If cutting onions really makes you cry, consider wearing glasses or goggles.

 

WEEK THIRTY THREE-  APPLES

In the northern hemisphere, apple season begins at the end of summer and lasts until early winter.  Apples available at other times have been in cold storage or are imported from the southern hemisphere.  

The apple is a member of the Rose family, which may seem strange until we remember that roses make rose hips, which are fruits similar to the apple.

Whole apples are a much better nutritional choice than apple sauce and apple juice. There is an important loss of nutrients and dietary fiber that occurs when apples are processed.

When an apple is sliced through, its cells become physically damaged.  The polyphenols in the apple begins to oxidize and as a result you see browning of the damaged apple portion.  It is important to handle apples delicately in order to protect their health-supportive polyphenols.


Nutrient Profile:  
Apple polyphenols are standout nutrients in this widely loved fruit.  Apples are a good source of fiber, including both soluble and insoluble pectins, and they are also a good source of vitamin C.  Apple nutrients are disproportionately present in the skin, which is a particularly valuable part of the fruit with respect to its nutrient content.
 

Health benefits:
Antioxidant benefits:  Most of the polyphenols in apples function as antioxidants.  They help decrease oxidation of cell membrane fats (lipid peroxidation).  This is most beneficial in our cardiovascular system where the cells that line our blood vessels are a primary risk factor for clogging of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and other cardiovascular problems. 

Cardiovascular benefits:  These benefits are due to apple’s water-soluble fiber (pectin) content, and their unusual mix of polyphenols.  Total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) are both decreased through regular intake of apples (1/day).   In addition, the polyphenol benefit of decreasing lipid peroxidation may lower many chronic heart problems.   The quercetin content of apples also provides our cardiovascular system with anti-inflammatory benefits.

Blood Sugar regulation:  At many different levels, the polyphenols in apples are influencing our digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, and the overall impact of these changes is to improve regulation of our blood sugar.

Anti-Cancer benefits:  Primarily through antioxidant andanti-inflammatory actions studies have shown lung cancer risk reduction.

Anti-Asthma benefits:  Associated with apple’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.
 

Selection and Storage:
Apples have a moderately sweet, refreshing flavor and a tartness that is present to a greater or lesser degree depending on the variety.  Tart apples, which best retain their texture during cooking, are often preferred for cooked desserts like apple pie, while sweeter varieties like Braeburn and Fuji apples are usually eaten raw.

Apples can be stored for relatively long (3-4 months) periods of time.  Cold storage at low refrigerator temperatures (35-40F/2-4C) is able to help minimize loss of nutrients.

"One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch."  When an apple has been bruised from being dropped (or has been damaged in some other way) it will start to release unusual amounts of ethylene gas.  This gas can pose a risk to other apples that have not been damaged resulting in a decrease to their shelf life.  For this reason, it is important to handle apples with tender loving care, and also to remove any damaged apples from groups of apples stored in bulk.

The skin of the apple is unusually rich in nutrients.   Choose organic apples to avoid problems related to pesticide residues and other contaminants on the skins.

To prevent browning when slicing apples for a recipe, simply put the slices in a bowl of cold water to which a spoonful of lemon juice has been added.
 

Concerns:
Pesticides:  According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) conventionally grown apples are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of apples unless they are grown organically.

Waxes: If you do purchase non-organic apples, there may be a wax applied to the apple which is used to protect the apple’s surface during storage and shipping. Carnauba wax, beeswax, and shellac are preferable to petroleum-based waxes, which contain solvent residues or wood resins.
 
Recipe suggestion:  This recipe for Apple-Cranberry Galette is easy to make and very tasty.  Enjoy!
http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/apple-cranberry-galette/159869

WEEK THIRTY TWO-  DARK CHOCOLATE

The cocoa bean, also cacao bean or simply cocoa is the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter (the fatty component of the bean) are extracted.  They are the basis of chocolate.  There are several types of chocolate according to the proportion of cocoa used in the particular formulation.  
 
Chocolate is extracted from the cacao plant.  Pods are taken from the tree, which contains cocoa beans.  These are crushed and the mash is then extracted and fermented for around seven days.

Dark chocolate has a much higher percentage of cacao included in it.  It also has a lower amount of fat, however there is no cause for concern about the fat in dark chocolate because it is stearic acid, a type of saturated fat that does not raise cholesterol levels.  This style of chocolate appears much darker than milk chocolate because it is more pure and often has less sugar than milk chocolate.  An easy way to get the health benefits chocolate has to offer is by enjoying an ounce or two of dark chocolate that is 70 percent cocoa several times a week.

The cacao tree is native to Central America, where today, examples of wild cacao can still be found.


Nutrient Profile:
Raw cocoa beans contain flavanols mostly catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidin. 
 

Health Benefits:
The many antioxidants in dark chocolate infer these health benefits.
 
Coronary heart disease risk is lowered:
Decrease in Systolic BP
Decrease in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol)
Increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
Improved blood vessel health
May reduce the stickiness of platelets
 
Diabetes health benefits:
Decrease in fasting insulin levels
Improvement in insulin resistance
Borderline improvement in fasting glucose
 
Stroke risk is decreased.
 
Cancer risk is decreased.
  

This is a wonderfully tasty recipe from Rebecca Katz’s The Healthy Mind Cookbook.
http://www.rebeccakatz.com/recipe-box/lolas-favorite-almond-chocolate-chip-cookies?rq=dark%20chocolate

 

WEEK THIRTY ONE- ARTICHOKES

Artichokes were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans for their medicinal and health benefiting qualities. Today, globe artichoke cultivation is concentrated in the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin, where more than 60% of the total world production occurs.  In the United States, California provides nearly 100% of the U.S. crop.

Botanically, artichokes belong within the thistle family.  The edible parts of the artichoke are the tender inner leaves (bracts) and the receptacle commonly known as the “heart.”


Nutrient Profile:
Artichokes are low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. T hey are a good source of vitamin K, folate and fiber.  In addition they contain niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, vitamin C, and manganese.


Health Benefits:

 

  • Helps lower cholesterol levels through the dietary fiber. Additional compounds within the artichokes also lower cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and increasing cholesterol excretion in the bile.

  • May help prevent neural tube defects in newborn babies due to the presence of folic acid (if taken in the diet during pre-conception period and during early pregnancy).

  • Acts as a prebiotic (a fermentable food for the bacteria in the colon) due to the presence of inulin.

  • Helps promote bone formation due to the presence of vitamin K.

  • Helps scavenge free radicals (through antioxidant flavonoids and vitamin C) which helps protect against oxidative damage to biological molecules, such as proteins, lipids and DNA.

  • Demonstrates significant liver protecting and regenerating effects through the active ingredient cynarin. They also have a choleretic effect (decongesting the liver), which decreases the risk of liver damage.  Choleretics are very useful in the treatment of hepatitis and other liver diseases.


Selection and Storage:
In the store, choose fresh artichokes that feel heavy for their size and without any cuts or bruises.  The leaves should be compact, dense and tight.  This is a sign that they have been recently harvested.

Artichokes are best used while they are fresh. However, they can keep well if stored inside the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag for up to a week.


Great video by Pamela Salzman on How To Cook Whole Artichokes.
http://pamelasalzman.com/cook-whole-artichokes-video/

 
 

WEEK THIRTY- RASBERRIES

Raspberries belong to the rose (Rosaceae) family of plants, which also includes apples, apricots, blackberries, cherries, loquats, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries and almonds.  There are over 200 species of raspberries.  They are an aggregate fruit, meaning that smaller sections with seeds and fruit create a larger whole.
 
Raspberries have considerable antioxidant activity, 50% more than strawberries.  You will get significantly more antioxidant support by purchasing raspberries that are fully ripe.
 
Scientists aren't entirely sure about the origins of raspberries.  Today, raspberries rank high on the list of the world's most popular berries.  In the United States, the West Coast is most active in raspberry production.


Nutrient Profile:
Raspberries are an outstanding source of phytonutrients.  They are an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber.  They are a very good source of copper and a good source of vitamin K, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids and potassium.
 

Health Benefits:
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Benefits:  The diversity of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in raspberries is truly remarkable.  These nutrients help protect against the dangers of oxidative stress and excessive inflammation.  These phytonutrients may help lower our risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and atherosclerosis.

Obesity and Blood Sugar Benefits:  In the case of obesity, two compounds in raspberries have received special focus: raspberry ketone (also called rheosmin) and a type of flavonoid calledtiliroside.  Rheosmin can increase metabolism in our fat cells and therefore less likely to deposit fat in our fat cells.  Tiliroside
(a type of flavonoid) activates the hormone adiponectin which can help improve insulin balance, blood sugar balance, and blood fat balance in obese persons with type 2 diabetes.

Anti-Cancer Benefits:  Due to the rich supply of antioxidants,raspberries are able to reduce chronic excessive oxidative stress and chronic excessive inflammation which can combine to trigger the development of cancer cells in a variety of human tissue. 
 

Selection and Storage:
As raspberries are highly perishable, they should only be purchased one or two days prior to use.  The goal when purchasing this fruit is to choose berries that are fully ripe without being overly so.  Choose berries that are firm, plump, and deep in color, while avoiding those that are soft, mushy, or moldy.
 
Raspberries will keep fresh in the refrigerator for one or two days.  To help prevent spoilage, when taking your raspberries out of the refrigerator for consumption, try not to leave them at room temperature any longer than two hours and also try to avoid placing them directly in strong sunlight.  

 

WEEK TWENTY-NINE - GREEN BEANS

Green beans are commonly referred to as string beans, the string that once was their trademark (running lengthwise down the seam of the pod) can seldom be found in modern varieties.  You may also see them referred to as "haricot vert"—this term simply means "green bean" in French and is the common French term for this vegetable.
 
Green beans belong to the same family as pinto, black, and kidney beans.  However, since green beans are usually picked while still immature and while the inner beans are just beginning to form in the pod, they are typically eaten in fresh form, pod and all (versus eaten dried which is done with pinto, black and kidney beans).
 
Nutrient Profile:
Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K.  They are a very good source of manganese, vitamin C, dietary fiber, folate, and vitamin B2.  In addition, they are a good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, choline, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), niacin, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin E.  
 
Health Benefits:
Antioxidant support- Green beans contain a wide variety of carotenoids and flavonoids, as well as, conventional antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese which have all been shown to have health-supportive antioxidant properties.
 
Cardiovascular benefits- Improvement in levels of blood fats and better protection of these fats from oxygen damage has been seen in animal studies (on rats and mice).  Interestingly, the green bean pod (the portion of the green beans that provide the covering) appears to be more closely related to these cardiovascular benefits than the young, immature beans that are found inside.
 
Selection and Storage:
If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer's market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality.  Purchase beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color.  They should have a firm texture and "snap" when broken.

Store unwashed fresh beans in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper.  Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
 
Individual concerns:
Green beans are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating green beans.

WEEK TWENTY-EIGHT - BEETS

 

The ancient Romans were one of the first civilizations to cultivate beets and use their roots as food.  Prior to this time, people exclusively ate the beet greens rather than the roots.  The value of beets grew in the 19th century when it was discovered that they were a concentrated source of sugar.
 
Both beets and Swiss chard are different varieties within the same plant family and their edible leaves share a resemblance in both taste and texture.  Attached to the beet's green leaves is a round or oblong root.  Beets come in a variety of colors- reddish-purple, white, golden/yellow or even rainbow color roots.  No matter what their color, beet roots aren't as hardy as they look and can be easily damaged.
 
Beets' sweet taste reflects their high sugar content, which makes them an important source for the production of refined sugar.  The greens attached to the beet roots are incredibly rich in nutrients, concentrated in vitamins and minerals as well as carotenoids.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Beets contain a rich array of unique phytonutrients.  They are also an excellent source of folate and a very good source of manganese, potassium, and copper.  They are also a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin C, iron, and vitamin B6.  
 
Health Benefits:
Antioxidant benefits: The combination of betalin, manganeseand vitamin C allow beets to provide antioxidant support in a different way than other antioxidant-rich vegetables.
 
Anti-inflammatory benefits: Many of the unique phytonutrientspresent in beets have been shown to function as anti-inflammatory compounds.  These anti-inflammatory molecules may eventually be shown to provide cardiovascular benefits in large-scale human studies, as well as anti-inflammatory benefits for other body systems.
 
Support of Detoxification: The betalain pigments present in beets have repeatedly been shown to support activity in our body's detoxification process.  This helps in aiding in the elimination of toxins that require glutathione for excretion.
 
Selection and Storage:
Choose small or medium-sized beets whose roots are firm, smooth-skinned and deep in color.  Avoid beets that have spots, bruises or soft, wet areas, all of which indicate spoilage.
 
Do not wash beets before storing.  Place them in a plastic bag and wrap the bag tightly around the beets, squeezing out as much of the air from the bag as possible, and place in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 weeks.  Store the unwashed greens in a separate plastic bag squeezing out as much of the air as possible.  Place in the refrigerator where they will keep fresh for about four days.
 
Tips for preparing beets:
Rinse gently under cold running water, taking care not to tear the skin, which helps keep the health-promoting pigments inside. Since beet juice can stain your skin, wearing kitchen gloves is a good idea when handling beets.  If your hands become stained during the cleaning and cooking process, simply rub some lemon juice on them to remove the stain.
 
Unlike some other food pigments, betalains undergo very steady loss from food as the length of cooking time is increased.  To achieve the maximum betalain benefits keep beet steaming times to 15 minutes or less, and roasting times under an hour.
 
Individual concerns:
Beeturia:  Consumption of beets can cause urine to become red or pink in color.  This “beeturia" is not considered harmful.   Persons with iron deficiency, iron excess, or known problems with the metabolism of iron are more likely to experience beeturia. 
 
It is possible for beet consumption to bring a red color into your bowel movements as well.  The production of a reddish color in the stool due to beets is not considered harmful; however, it is important to be confident that the reddening of the stool is caused by the pigments found in beets and not by the presence of fresh or dried blood.
 
Oxalates:  Beets (notably beet greens) are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating beet greens.
 
This is a wonderful roasted beets recipe from Andrew Weil’s True Food Kitchen.  CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

WEEK TWENTY-SEVEN - BELL PEPPERS

 

Bell peppers belong to the nightshade family of plants, along with chili pepper, cayenne pepper, eggplant, tomatoes and potatoes. Bell peppers come in a wide variety of colors, including green, yellow, orange, red, purple, brown and black.  The green bell peppers may actually be immature, non-ripe versions of these other color varieties; however, not all bell peppers start off green, nor do green bell peppers always mature into the other basic colors.
 
Bell peppers are available throughout the year but are usually in greater abundance during the summer and early fall months.   They can be grown in a variety of climates and are popular in cuisines throughout the world.  In terms of commercial production, China is by far the largest producer followed by Mexico and the US.  Within the U.S., California and Florida are the largest bell pepper producing states.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Bell peppers are an outstanding source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.  They are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, and vitamin B6.  They are a very good source of folate, molybdenum, vitamin E, dietary fiber, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, niacin, and potassium.  Additionally, they are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin B1, phosphorus, and magnesium.
 
Health Benefits:
Antioxidant benefits- These benefits are due to the presence of the phytonutrient (mainly carotenoids) antioxidants as well as to vitamin C, vitamin E and manganese.  Despite this rich array of antioxidants it has yet to be translated into research on risk reduction for disease.  We expect to see antioxidant benefits in a wide variety of human health studies on prevention of cardiovascular disease, prevention of type 2 diabetes and in the area of eye health.
 
Anti-cancer benefits- The rich supply of phytonutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in bell peppers would be expected to help lower our risk of cancer development. Unfortunately, large-scale human research studies have not tried to isolate the impact of bell peppers on cancer risk.  At best they have usually grouped bell peppers among other vegetables and analyzed the anti-cancer benefits of vegetables as a group. Based on preliminary studies on animals and in the lab, cancers of the digestive tract (stomach and esophageal cancers) may be areas in which bell peppers end up showing a special potential for support.
 
 
Selection and Storage:
Choose peppers that have deep vivid colors, taut skin, and that are free of soft spots, blemishes and darkened areas. Peppers should be heavy for their size and firm enough so that they will only yield slightly to a small amount of pressure. 
 
Bell peppers can be eaten at any stage of development, however, recent research has shown that the vitamin C and carotenoidcontent tends to increase while the pepper is reaching its optimal ripeness.  If not optimally ripe at the time of purchase, the vitamin C and carotenoids in bell peppers will actually increase with refrigerator storage over the next 10 days.  Bell peppers are also typically more flavorful when optimally ripe.  A good rule of thumb to assess for ripeness is to judge not by the color itself but by the color quality and overall texture and feel.
 
Unwashed sweet peppers stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator will keep for approximately 7-10 days.  Bell peppers need to stay well hydrated and are very sensitive to moisture loss so it is recommended to include a damp cloth or paper towel in the vegetable compartment to help the peppers retain their moisture.  Do not cut out the bell pepper stem prior to storage in the refrigerator.  Before coring and/or cutting the pepper, wash it under cold running water.  If the pepper has been waxed, you should also scrub it gently and thoroughly with a natural bristle brush.
 
Higher heat cooking can damage some of the delicate phytonutrients in bell peppers.  It is therefore recommended to use cooking methods where lower heat is used for a very short period of time.
 
Concerns:
Bell peppers and pesticides- According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides,"(https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php)conventionally grown bell peppers are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of bell peppers unless they are grown organically.  

WEEK TWENTY-SIX - CUCUMBERS

 

In a technical sense, cucumbers are actually fruits, not vegetables (because they contain seeds).  All cucumbers belong to the botanical plant family called Curcubitaceae which also includes melons and squashes.  Cucumbers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and textures.
 
Cucumber plants naturally thrive in both temperate and tropical environments and for this reason they are native to many regions of the world.  Today, the states of Florida and California are able to provide U.S. consumers with fresh cucumbers for most of the year (from March through November).  Worldwide, China is by far the largest producer of cucumbers and provides about two-thirds of the global supply.
 
All cucumbers can be divided into two basic types: slicing and pickling.  Slicing cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated for consumption in fresh form.  These varieties tend to be fairly large in size (easier for slicing) and thick-skinned (easier to transport in their whole form without damage).  Pickling cucumbers include all varieties that are cultivated not for consumption in fresh form, but for processing into pickles.  While pickling cucumbers can always be eaten fresh, their smaller size and generally thinner skins make them easier to ferment and preserve.  

 
Nutrient Profile:
Cucumbers provide us with a variety of health-supportive phytonutrients.  They are an excellent source of vitamin K and molybdenum.  They are also a very good source of pantothenic acid. Cucumbers are a good source of copper, potassium, manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus, magnesium, biotin, and vitamin B1.

 
Health Benefits:
Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Benefits:  These are due to the phytonutrients in cucumbers as well as the conventional antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese.  The specific antioxidant benefits include increased scavenging of free radicals and increased overall antioxidant capacity.  Fresh cucumber extracts have also been shown to reduce unwanted inflammation in animal studies. 

Anti-cancer benefits:  Research on the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers is still in its preliminary stage and has been restricted thus far to lab and animal studies. 

 
Selection and Storage:
Since cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, choose those that are displayed in refrigerated cases in the market.  They should be firm, rounded at their edges, and their color should be a bright medium to dark green.  Thin-skinned cucumbers will generally have fewer seeds than those that are thick-skinned.

Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days.  They should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.

The skins and seeds of cucumbers are both rich in nutrients.  Both conventionally grown and organically grown cucumbers may have been waxed (waxing protects them from bruising during shipping).  Conventionally grown cucumbers may be waxed with synthetic waxes that contain unwanted chemical contaminants.  It is therefore recommended to remove the waxed skin from conventional cucumbers.  The only waxes that can be used on organically grown cucumbers are non-synthetic waxes, which must be free of all chemical contaminants that are prohibited under organic regulations.  Therefore, organically grown cucumbers skin can remain intact regardless of whether the cucumber has been waxed.


Concerns:
Cucumbers and pesticides -
According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce"   
(https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php), conventionally grown cucumbers are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of cucumbers unless they are grown organically.
 

 

WEEK TWENTY-FIVE - EGGPLANT

Eggplant, or aubergine as it is called in France, is a vegetable long prized for its beauty as well as its unique taste and texture.  Eggplants belong to the plant family of nightshades, and are kin to the tomato, bell pepper and potato.  They grow similarly to tomatoes, hanging from the vines of a plant that grows several feet in height. 
 
One of the most popular varieties of eggplant in North America looks like a pear-shaped egg, a characteristic from which its name is derived.  The skin is glossy and deep purple in color, while the flesh is cream colored and spongy in consistency.  Contained within the flesh are seeds arranged in a conical pattern.  While the different varieties do vary slightly in taste and texture, one can generally describe the eggplant as having a pleasantly bitter taste and spongy texture.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1, and copper.  It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate, and vitamin K.  Eggplant also contains phytonutrients such asnasunin and chlorogenic acid.
 
Health Benefits:
Brain Food:  Research on eggplant has focused on the anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called nasunin.  Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes (in particular in the brain) from damage. 
 
Rich in Phenolic Antioxidant Compounds:  The predominant phenolic compound found in all varieties of eggplant tested is chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues.  Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities.
 
Cardiovascular Health and Free Radical Protection: The phytonutrient nasunin is a potent free-radical scavenger and also an iron chelator (binds iron and helps the body get rid of it).  Excess iron increases free radical production and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.  By chelating iron, nasunin lessens free radical formation with numerous beneficial results, including protecting blood cholesterol from peroxidation (oxygen damage to fats in cell membranes or in the bloodstream), preventing cellular damage that can promote cancer, and lessening free radical damage in joints.
 
Selection and Storage:
Choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. Their skin should be smooth and shiny, with vivid color. They should be free of discoloration, scars, and bruises, which usually indicate that the flesh beneath has become damaged and possibly decayed.  As you would with other fruits and vegetables, avoid purchasing eggplant that has been waxed.
 
To test for the ripeness of an eggplant, gently press the skin with the pad of your thumb. If it springs back, the eggplant is ripe, while if an indentation remains, it is not.
 
Eggplants are sensitive to both heat and cold and should ideally be stored at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).  Do not cut eggplant before you store it as it perishes quickly.  Place uncut and unwashed eggplant in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator crisper where it will keep for a few days.
 
Tips for Preparing and Cooking:
Most eggplants can be eaten either with or without their skin. To tenderize the flesh's texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by “salting it”.  After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes. This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking.
 
Individual Concerns:
Oxalates:  Eggplant is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating eggplant.  Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.

 

WEEK TWENTY FOUR - WATERMELON

Watermelons are believed to have originated in Africa several thousand years ago and to have traveled over time from Africa to Asia to Europe and finally to North America.  On a global basis, China is by far the largest watermelon-producing country and accounts for over half of all world production.  

Watermelon has an extremely high water content, approximately 92%, giving its flesh a juicy texture while still also subtly crunchy.  As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash, pumpkin, and cucumber.

There are between 600–1,200 different varieties of watermelon that exist worldwide.  While we often associate a deep red/pink color with watermelons, there are many varieties that feature orange, yellow, or white flesh.  These varieties are typically lower in the carotenoid lycopene (see below for health benefits) than red/pink varieties.


Nutrient Profile:
Watermelon is an unusual fruit source of the carotenoid lycopene and a rich source of phenolic antioxidants.  It contains large amounts of the amino acid citrulline.  Watermelon is a very good source of vitamin C.  It is also a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, biotin, potassium, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and magnesium.


Health Benefits: 
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant support- Lycopene (a carotenoid phytonutrient) is an inhibitor of many inflammatory processes and is a well-known antioxidant with the ability to neutralize free radical molecules.  In order to receive the most lycopene benefits from watermelon, be sure that the melon is optimally ripe (red in color).  Lycopene is important for cardiovascular and bone health. Watermelon also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene (pre form of vitamin A).

Potential cardiovascular benefits- One of the more unusual aspects of watermelon is its rich supply of the amino acid,citrulline.  Citrulline is commonly converted by our kidneys and other organ systems  into arginine (another amino acid).  Enzymes in the body can convert arginine into a very small molecule of gas called nitric oxide (NO), which is a smooth muscle relaxant.  The nitric oxide can relax the muscles in our blood vessels and thus lead to lowering of blood pressure.  However, the amount of watermelon that would need to be ingested is inordinately high for a lowering of blood pressure to occur. At present, however, the best we can conclude about watermelon and its unusual citrulline content is that it's likely to provide us with some cardiovascular benefits.  


Selection and Storage:
When purchasing a whole watermelon, choose one that is heavy in weight which indicates that it is fully ripened. 

With uncut, whole watermelon, avoid contact with high ethylene-producing foods like bananas, passion fruit, apples, peaches, pears, and papaya.  Watermelons are ethylene sensitive fruits that may become overly ripe quickly under these circumstances.

Once cut, watermelons should be refrigerated in order to best preserve their freshness, taste, and juiciness.  Store your cut watermelon in a sealed, hard plastic or glass container with a lid.

While many people are accustomed to eating the juicy flesh of the watermelon, both the seeds and the rind are also edible and nutrient-rich.  If you choose to eat the rind, purchase certified organic watermelon in order to prevent exposure of unwanted pesticide residues.

 

WEEK TWENTY THREE - CORN

Throughout much of the world corn is referred to as "maize."  Corn is classified as a grain.  It comes in many different colors including white, yellow, pink, red, blue, purple, and black.  Each different color contains its own unique health-supportive combination of antioxidant phytonutrients.  

U.S. farmers grow about 40% of all corn produced worldwide.  Forty percent of all processed, pre-packaged foods sold in U.S. groceries currently contain some processed component of corn most often in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).  An increasing trend in U.S. production of corn has been cultivation for non-food purposes (ethanol into gasoline and biofuel production).  


Nutrient Profile: 
Antioxidant phytonutrients are provided by all varieties of corn.  The exact phytonutrient combination depends on the variety itself (each color has a different phytonutrient composition).  Corn is a good source of pantothenic acid, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, manganese, and vitamin B6.  


Health Benefits: 
Antioxidant benefits- Corn is a good source of the mineralmanganese as well as different combinations of antioxidant phytonutrients.

Digestive benefits- The fiber in corn contributes to supporting the growth of friendly bacteria in the large intestine.  These bacteria can transform the corn fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which can supply energy to our intestinal cells and thereby help lower our risk of colon cancer.

Blood Sugar benefits- Better blood sugar control occurs due to the presence of many complex B vitamins, protein, and fiber in corn.


Selection and Storage: While purchasing corn in a grocery store, choose from a refrigerated produce bin or from a location out of the direct sun because corn is highly susceptible to microbial contamination upon exposure to heat.  

Look for corn whose husks are fresh and green and not dried out. They should envelop the ear and not fit too loosely around it.  To examine the kernels, gently pull back on part of the husk.  The kernels should be plump and tightly arranged in rows.  

Store corn in an airtight container or tightly wrapped plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Do not remove its husk since this will protect its flavor. Corn will keep for approximately 3 days.


Recipe suggestion:
Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad  (from Food52, Kendra Vaculin)
Makes 4 servings
- 3 ears of corn, kernels sliced off the cobs
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, minced into pieces 
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 11/2-2 Tablespoons Sriracha
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley or cilantro
- 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
- 1/2 lime, for squeezing
- salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saute' pan on med-high heat, heat the olive oil.  Place the corn kernels in and move them around until the corn is popping and turning slightly brown, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the peppers and cook for about 2-3 more minutes.  Pour Sriracha and toss to coat. Remove from heat.
Add herbs and cheese, squeeze lime over everything, mix and combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  
Can be served warm or at room temperature.​

WEEK TWENTY TWO - TOMATOES

 

Although tomatoes are fruits in a botanical sense, they don't have the dessert quality sweetness of other fruits.  Cooking tempers the acid and bitter qualities in tomatoes and brings out their warm, rich sweetness.  Tomatoes are often closely associated with Italian cuisine, yet they are actually originally native to the western side of South America. 

There are few food sensations that better mark the summer and early fall months than the sweet juiciness of a vine-ripened tomato. Tomatoes come in over a thousand different varieties that vary in shape, size, and color.  They are one of the vegetables in the nightshade family, which includes eggplant, bell peppers, and potatoes (although not sweet potatoes and yams).


Nutritional Profile:
Tomatoes provide a unique variety of phytonutrients (carotenoids, flavonoids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives).  They are also an excellent source of vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. Tomatoes are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus.  Additionally, they are a good source of chromium, pantothenic acid, protein, choline, zinc, and iron.


Health Benefits:
Cardiovascular Support- There are two basic lines of research that have repeatedly linked tomatoes to heart health.  The first line of research involves antioxidant support, and the second line of research involves regulation of fats in the bloodstream.

Vitamin E and vitamin C provide critical antioxidant support in the cardiovascular system.  Lycopene (the carotenoid antioxidant) has the ability to help lower the risk of lipid peroxidation (oxygen damage to fats in cell membranes or in the bloodstream) which is extremely beneficial for heart health.

They also have been shown to regulate fats in the blood resulting in decreased total cholesterol, decreased LDL cholesterol, and decreased triglyceride levels.

Tomatoes help prevent excessive clumping of platelets in the bloodstream which helps in preventing problems in terms of blockage and unwanted clotting in the blood that can lead to atherosclerosis.

Supports Bone Health- The connection of tomato intake to bone health involves tomato's rich supply of antioxidants (lycopene).

Anti-Cancer Benefits- Tomatoes are a cancer-protective food due to the presence of antioxidants which help in reducing chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation.  Tomatoes can help lower the risk of prostate cancer in men, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer.


Selection and Storage:
Choose tomatoes that have rich colors.  Tomatoes of all colors provide outstanding nutrient benefits.  They should be well shaped and smooth-skinned with no wrinkles, cracks, bruises, or soft spots. Ripe tomatoes will yield to slight pressure and will have a noticeably sweet fragrance.

Due to their sensitivity to cold, store tomatoes at room temperature and out of direct exposure to sunlight.  They will keep for up to a week, depending on how ripe they are when purchased.  To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the tomato's maturation.  Whole tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and tomato sauce freeze well for future use.


Tip to increase lycopene in your diet:
The best source of lycopene (the carotenoid antioxidant) is in tomatoes.  Lycopene is best available to the body when tomatoes are cooked and combined with a small amount of fat.


Concerns:
Canned tomatoes- There is a concern due to the presence of BPA (bisphenol A) which is often added to the vinyl inner lining of numerous canned foods.  This is even more problematic with tomatoes due to their acidity, which increases the rate at which BPA enters food.  From a health perspective, BPA is known to be an endocrine disruptor (can negatively affect estrogen metabolism). For optimal safety, look for cans that say BPA free or purchase tomato based products in a glass jar.

Pesticides- According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce"  https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php conventionally grown tomatoes are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of tomatoes unless they are grown organically.​

 

WEEK TWENTY ONE- APRICOTS

Apricots were originally from China and arrived in Europe via Armenia.  Their appearance in the Spanish missions in California around 1792 marked the fruit’s arrival into the US. Apricots are grown primarily in the US in California due to the suitable sunny climate.
 
Apricots are relatives to peaches however they are a bit smaller and not as juicy. They are enjoyed as a fresh fruit but are also enjoyed dried, cooked into pastry, and eaten as jam. The fruits are also distilled

into brandy and liqueur.  Essential oil from the pits is sold commercially as bitter almond oil.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Apricots are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of pro-vitamin A carotenoids), and a good source of vitamin C, copper, dietary fiber, and potassium.  Apricots contain phytochemicals called carotenoids (lycopene), compounds that give red, orange and yellow colors to fruits and vegetables.
 
Health Benefits:

Protection against free radical damage:  Apricots contain a number of potent antioxidants such as conventional antioxidants in vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C and various polyphenols.  Antioxidants help to scavenge free radicals (compounds that your body acquires through exposure to pollutants, food and the environment) to reduce the effects of aging and deter chronic diseases.

Eyesight protection:  Apricots are rich in carotenoids and xanthophylls, nutrients that researchers believe may help protect eyesight from age-related damage.
Protection against inflammation:  Apricots are a strong dietary source of catechins, a broad family of flavonoid phytonutrients with potent anti-inflammatory properties.

Digestive support:  This is one of the many health benefits of fiber which is abundantly present in apricots.
 
Selection and Storage:
Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale and yellow.  They are fully ripe (and therefore have the richest amount of antioxidants) when they are soft to the touch.  Ripened apricots are delicate and should be handled with care.
 
Individual Concerns:
Dried apricots and sulfites:  Commercially grown dried apricots may be treated with sulfites to extend their shelf life.  Sulfur-containing compounds are often added to dried foods like apricots as preservatives to help prevent oxidation and bleaching of colors.  The sulfites used to help preserve dried apricots can cause adverse reactions in an estimated one out of every 100 people, who turn out to be sulfite sensitive.

 

 

WEEK TWENTY - SUMMER SQUASH

Summer squashes belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants and are relatives of winter squashes (including pumpkins), melons (including watermelon), and even cucumbers.  Summer squashes are typically much more delicate than their fellow Cucurbitaceae and are more often eaten fresh and shortly after harvest.  All parts of summer squash are edible, including the flesh, seeds and skin.  Some varieties of squash also produce edible flowers.
 

Nutritional Profile:
Summer squash contains very little overall fat yet the fat it contains is composed of omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats and medium chain fats.  Summer squash is an excellent source of copper and manganese.  It is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K.  Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B1, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, vitamin B2, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, choline, and protein.
 

Health Benefits:

Antioxidants- As an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of vitamin C, summer squash provides us with a great combination of conventional antioxidant nutrients.  It also contains an unusual amount of other antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin which are especially helpful in antioxidant protection of the eye, including protection against age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.  To obtain full antioxidant benefits from summer squash, we need to eat not only the flesh, but also the skin and the seeds.
 
Blood sugar benefits- Metabolism of sugar in the body requires ample presence of many B-complex vitamins and fiber.  These are found in valuable amounts in summer squash. 
 
Anti-inflammatory benefits- The presence of omega-3 fats in the seeds of summer squash, the presence of anti-inflammatory carotenoids and the presence of anti-inflammatory polysaccharides make this vegetable a natural choice for protection against unwanted inflammation.
 

Selection and Storage:
When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds.  Choose summer squash that are of average size since those that are overly large may be fibrous, while those that are overly small may be inferior in flavor.
 
Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to decay.  It should be stored unwashed in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about a week.
 
Since the skin of this food is particularly antioxidant-rich, it's worth leaving the skin intact and purchasing organic summer squash to help avoid potential unwanted contaminants.
 

Health Concerns:
Summer squash is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating summer squash.  Laboratory studies have also shown that oxalates may interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.   

 

WEEK NINETEEN - PEACHES

Peaches are one of the most delicious and popular fruits of summer. They were native to China, from where they spread to the rest of the world via the ancient silk route.
 
The peach plant is described as a small, deciduous tree that grows up to 25 to 30 feet tall. In general, each peach tree bears numerous, almost uniform sized fruits between May and September months.   Depending upon the variety, its flesh is white to creamy-yellow with a centrally placed single seed (which is inedible) enclosed inside the hard shell.
 
Nutrient Profile:

Peaches are a great source of vitamin A (in the source of beta-carotene) and vitamin C.  They are a good source of vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid.  Peaches also provide a large amount of potassium.  They also provide some fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, iron, and calcium as well.
 
Health Benefits:

Antioxidants:  One of the major antioxidants in peaches, chlorogenic acid, helps scavenge free radicals  (compounds that your body acquires through exposure to pollutants, food, and the environment) to reduce the effects of aging and deter chronic diseases. This antioxidant may also help ward off cancer and reduce body inflammation.  In addition, peaches contain vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin C and lutein which also serve as antioxidants. 

Selection and Storage:  

Look for fresh peaches featuring rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom" on their surface indicating freshness.  Avoid ones with excessive softness, or with surface cuts and bruises.  The aroma of a peach is the best indicator of ripeness.  A ripe peach will feel firm, just beginning to yield to gentle pressure.  Slightly hard but mature fruits can be kept at room temperature until they ripen. To hasten the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with a banana or apple since the ethylene gas that these fruits emit will help speed up the maturation process.  Any ripe peaches can be refrigerated for a few days.
 
Preparation and serving tips:  

As in apples, sliced peach fruit sections turn brown on exposure to air.  If you have to serve them sliced, rinse slices in water added with a few drops of fresh lemon.

Concerns: 

Pesticides: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guideto Pesticides"(https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php)conventionally grown peaches are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of spinach unless it is grown organically.

 

WEEK EIGHTEEN - BASIL

Basil is a highly fragrant plant whose leaves are used as a seasoning herb for many different types of foods.  The round, often pointed leaves of the basil plant look a lot like peppermint to which it is related.
 
There are more than 60 varieties of basil, all of which differ somewhat in appearance and taste.  Basil now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to India, Asia and Africa.  It is prominently featured in a variety of cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), and vitamin C; and a good source of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
 
Health Benefits:

  • DNA protection- Basil’s unique array of flavonoids helps protect cell structures, as well as, chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. 

  • Anti-Bacterial properties- It makes good sense to include basil in more of your recipes, particularly for foods that are not cooked such as salads, which will help ensure that the fresh produce you consume is safe to eat. 

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects- A component in basil’s volatile oils can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase (COX).  Many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), including aspirin and ibuprofen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme.

  • Cardiovascular health- Basil is a very good source of beta-carotene which is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells that line our blood vessels from free radical damage.  It also helps prevent free radicals from oxidizing cholesterol in the blood stream. Once cholesterol has been oxidized, plaque build up in blood vessel walls occurs which initiates the development of atherosclerosis, whose end result can be a heart attack or stroke. Basil is also a good source of magnesium which promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms, spasms of the heart muscle or blood vessels.

 
Selection and Storage:
Whenever possible, choose fresh basil over the dried form of the herb since it is superior in flavor.  The leaves of fresh basil should look vibrant, deep green in color and should be free from darks spots or yellowing.  Fresh basil should be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel.
 
If you choose to use dried basil, try to select organically grown basil since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (which may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C and carotenoid content).
 
Tips for preparing and cooking:
Since the oils in basil are highly volatile, it is best to add the herb near the end of the cooking process so it will retain its maximum essence and flavor.

 

WEEK SEVENTEEN - STRAWBERRIES

The strawberry has become the most popular berry fruit in the world and should be eaten at least 3-4 times per week to achieve maximum health benefits.  They are at their peak from April through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant.
 
Strawberries are considered to have the highest in health-promoting antioxidants among all fruits.  They retain their maximum amount of nutrients and taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe.  The vitamins and antioxidants of the strawberry are unable to withstand the temperature (350°F/175°C) used in baking. 
 
Nutrient Profile:
Strawberries provide an outstanding variety of phytonutrients.  They are an excellent source of antioxidant-promoting vitamin C and manganese.  They are also a very good source of dietary fiber, iodine, and folate.  Strawberries are a good source of copper, potassium, biotin, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, and omega-3 fatty acids.
 
Health benefits:

  • Cardiovascular benefits: Our heart and blood vessels need everyday protection from oxidative and inflammatory damage.  The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient content of strawberries is simply outstanding due to the presence of vitamin C (strawberries are the best fruit source of vitamin C) and a diverse array of phytonutrients.

  • Blood Sugar benefits: Several recent studies have found regular intake of strawberries (at least 2-3 strawberry servings/week) to be associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. 

  • Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits: Due to the presence of phytonutrients in strawberries there are anti-cancer benefits best documented in the case of breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer.  Recent research has shown that several blood markers for chronic inflammation can be improved by regular intake of strawberries.

Selection and storage:
As strawberries are very perishable, they should only be purchased a few days prior to use.  Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold and which have a shiny, deep red color with attached green caps.  Since strawberries, once picked, do not ripen further, avoid those that are dull in color or have green or yellow patches since they are likely to be sour and of inferior quality.  Full ripe berries will not only have the peak flavor and texture, but they will have more nutrients (optimal vitamin C and phytonutrient content).  On average, studies show 2 days as the maximal time for strawberry storage without major loss of vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidants. 
 
Before storing in the refrigerator, remove any strawberries that are molded or damaged so that they will not contaminate others.  Place the unwashed and unhulled berries in a sealed container to prevent unnecessary loss of humidity.  Make sure not to leave strawberries at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long, as this will cause them to spoil.  Since they are very perishable, strawberries should not be washed until right before eating or using in a recipe.
 
Individual concerns:

  • Pesticide residues: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php) conventionally grown strawberries are at the topof the 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of strawberries unless they are grown organically. 

  • Oxalates: Strawberries are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating strawberries.  Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body.

Recipe:
This is a wonderful and easy salad to throw together.  My close friend and amazing cook/chef Kristi shared this recipe with me.
 
Greens with strawberries:
Dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons champagne vinegar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp.  Dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 tsp. poppy seeds
 
Mixed greens
2 cups quartered strawberries
½ cup toasted sliced almonds
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

WEEK SIXTEEN - GARBANZO BEANS

 

Garbanzo beans are a member of the legume family.  Many public health organizations—including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society—recommend legumes as a key food group for preventing disease and optimizing health.  The recommendation is 3 cups of legumes per week.  For optimal health benefits, greater consumption is encouraged.

Nutrient profile:

Along with their unusual combination of protein and fiber, garbanzo beans also stand out as a food that is moderate in terms of calories. They are a wonderful source of phytonutrients, molybdenum, manganese, folate, copper, phosphorus, iron and zinc.

Health benefits:

  • Digestive support: The insoluble fiber helps the large intestine (colon) cells stay optimally active and healthy. Healthier colon cell function means lower risk of colon problems, including lower risk of colon cancer. 

  • Antioxidant support: There is a unique composition of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, manganese and phytonutrients. These antioxidants help our body systems against oxidative stress and damage from reactive oxygen molecules. 

  • Decreased cardiovascular risk: Garbanzo beans have been shown to lower LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides. These benefits are due to the presence of soluble fiber and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) the body’s omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. 

  • Better regulation of blood sugar levels: This is due to the fiber and protein in garbanzo beans.  


Canned beans vs home cooked beans: Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value between canned garbanzo beans and those you cook yourself.  However there may be some concern over the BPA content of canned products as well as those with added salt and additives. If using canned beans, once they are removed from the can, place them in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly for one minute. 

For dried beans- The recommendation is to soak the beans in water for at least 4 hours- this will reduce the cooking time by approximately 25%. Before cooking, skim off any skins that floated to the surface, drain the soaking liquid, and then rinse them with clean water. 

Health concerns: 

Garbanzo beans and purines: Garbanzo beans contain naturally-occurring substances called purines (commonly found in plants, animals and humans).  Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid.  In some individuals (those with gout and kidney stones from uric acid), excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems.

Recipe:
This is a really tasty and easy treat to make.  You can eat them fresh from the oven or put them on top of a salad.

MAPLE ROASTED CHICKPEAS
1 cup cooked chickpeas, patted dry
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Toss chickpeas with olive oil and salt.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 25-35 minutes until lightly browned on all sides.
Toss chickpeas every 10-15 minutes keeping a close eye to make sure they do not burn.  Once they begin to brown, remove them from the oven.  Drizzle with maple syrup, toss until well combined and then place back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy.  Enjoy

WEEK FIFTEEN - SPINACH

 

Spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia (Iran).  Today, the United States and the Netherlands are among the largest commercial producers of spinach.  It grows well in temperate climates.
 
Spinach belongs to the same family as Swiss chard and beets.  It shares a similar taste profile with these two vegetables, having the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of Swiss chard.

 

Nutrient Profile:

Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, protein, and choline.  Additionally, spinach is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, niacin, pantothenic acid, and selenium.
 

Health Benefits: 

  • Anti-inflammatory and Anti-Cancer Protection: Spinach has a rich supply of flavonoids and carotenoids.  Spinach provides significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

  • Cardiovascular benefits: The antioxidants in spinach help lower the risk of numerous health problems related to oxidative stress.  Our blood vessels, for example, are especially susceptible to damage from oxidative stress, and intake of spinach has been associated with decreased risk of several blood vessel-related problems, including atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

  • Bone health: Spinach is extremely rich in vitamin K which is important for maintaining bone health.  

 

Selection and Storage:

Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves (not wilted or bruised) and stems with no signs of yellowing.   Avoid those that have a slimy coat as this is an indication of decay.  Do not wash spinach before storing, as the exposure to water encourages spoilage.  Place spinach in a tight plastic storage bag and squeeze out as much air as possible.  Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days. 

 

Concerns:

  • Pesticides: According to the Environmental Working Group's 2016 report "Shopper's Guide to Pesticides," (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php) conventionally grown spinach is among the top 12 fruits and vegetables on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found.  Therefore, individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of spinach unless it is grown organically. 

  • Oxalates: Spinach is among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating spinach.

  • Purines: Spinach contains naturally occurring substances called purines.  Purines (commonly found in plants, animals, and humans) can be broken down to form uric acid.  Excess accumulation of uric acid can lead to gout and kidney stone formation in susceptible individuals.

 

WEEK FOURTEEN - QUINOA

The history of quinoa is clearly rooted inSouth America, in the Andes region.  Along with maize, quinoa was one of the two mainstay foods for the Inca Empire.  Quinoa was a food that could survive in a wide variety of growing conditions.  Most quinoa consumed in the United States still comes from South America, mainly Peru.
 
Quinoa does not belong to the plant family

containing the cereal grasses of wheat, oats,

barley, and rye.  Quinoa is a member of the same food family that contains spinach, Swiss chard, and beets. Many researchers refer to quinoa as a "pseudocereal." This term is typically used to describe foods that are not grasses but can still be easily ground into flour.
 
Quinoa can be eaten as a grain however it provides many nutrients that are largely absent from most grains.  These include: more protein (it is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids), health supportive fats (oleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) and significant amounts of tocopherols (vitamin E family members).
 
Nutrient Profile:
In addition to quinoa’s high protein quality, fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polysaccharides, it is also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, folate and zinc.
 
Health benefits: 
Most of the studies on quinoa have been done on animals; however these health benefits are highly likely to be helpful for humans.  Large scale human studies have not been done.

  • Anti-inflammatory benefits: Due to the vast array of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients and omega 3 fatty acids. 

  •  Antioxidants:  Likely will be helpful for cancer risk reduction.

  •  Diabetes type-2 risk reduction: Due to the fiber and proteincontent.

  • Decreased risk of allergy:  it is a non-gluten containing grain and also has low-allergy potential.

 
Selection and Storage:
The most common type of quinoa you will find in the store has an off-white color but red and black varieties are becoming more available.  The red and black varieties have additional antioxidants in the form of anthocyanins.  Store quinoa in an airtight container.  It will keep for a longer period of time, approximately three to six months, if stored in the refrigerator.
 
Cooking Quinoa:
To cook the quinoa, add one part of the grain to two parts liquid in a saucepan.  After the mixture is brought to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover for approximately 15-20 minutes.  When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent.

 

WEEK THIRTEEN - CILANTRO

WEEK TWELVE - BROCCOLI

 

The coriander plant produces both cilantro and coriander. Cilantro (herb) is the green leaves of the plant and coriander (spice) is made from its seeds.  Fresh coriander, or cilantro, is part of the parsley family.  It can be traced back to 5,000 BC making it one of the world’s oldest spices.  It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years.  It was used as a spice in both Greek and Roman cultures, the latter using it to preserve meats and flavor breads. The early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties.

 

It has been speculated that a genetic variation makes some people despise cilantro - rather than sharp and tangy, cilantro tastes like soap or aluminum foil to them.

 

Nutrient Profile:

Cilantro is an excellent source of vitamin K.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber and a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C.  It has trace amounts of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper and manganese.

 

Health Benefits:

Many of the healing properties of coriander can be attributed to its exceptionalphytonutrient content.  Although most research studies have been done on animals some health benefits are:

Control of Blood Sugar:  It may help stimulate the secretion of insulin and thereby lower blood sugar.

 

  • Cholesterol Lowering:  Coriander lowered levels of total and LDL (bad cholesterol) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) cholesterol.

  • Reduction of Free Radical Production:  Coriander reduced the amount of damaged fats in cell membranes.

  • Antibacterial:  There is a compound in coriander, dodecenal, which is a potent antibiotic that can be a natural means of fighting Salmonella. 

 

Selection and Storage:

Fresh cilantro leaves should look vibrant with a deep green color, there should not be any yellow or brown spots.  It should be firm with a crisp feel. 

 

Cilantro should always be stored in the refrigerator because it is highly perishable. If possible, it should be stored with its roots still attached.  Place the roots in a glass of water and cover the leaves with a loosely fitting plastic bag.  If the roots have been removed, wrap the leaves in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in a plastic bag.  Whole cilantro will last up to one week, while the leaves alone will last about three days.  Fresh cilantro should be washed right before using since it is highly fragile.

 

If purchasing dried coriander, buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly.  Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried coriander since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.  Ground coriander will last up to 6 months, and whole seeds will stay fresh for about a year.

 

 

Broccoli was originally from Italy where it developed from wild cabbage.  Broccoli was introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants in colonial times.
 
Include broccoli as one of the cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive fantastic health benefits.  At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups.
 
Nutrient Profile:
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium, folate, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), choline, potassium, copper, magnesium, iron, calcium.  It is a good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and protein.  Broccoli is also concentrated in phytonutrients- key in cancer prevention.
 
Health Benefits:

  • Cancer Prevention:  The unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components in broccoli make it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention. In the case of broccoli, the research is strongest in showing decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and ovarian cancer.

  • Anti-inflammatory benefits: Through the presence of isothiocyanates (also found in other cruciferous vegetables), omega-3 fats, and the phytonutrient kaempferol.

  • Antioxidant benefits: Amongst all of the commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables, broccoli stands out as the most concentrated source of the premiere antioxidant nutrient—vitamin C.

  • Enhances the body's detoxification system through glucosinolate phytonutrients

  • Cardiovascular Support:

    • Cholesterol-lowering benefits- due to the fiber related components in broccoli.

    • Prevents some of the damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems.

    • Lowers the formation of homocysteine which raises the risk of atherosclerosis, stroke and heart attack.

  • Important role in eye health

  • Skin support and support of sun-damaged skin

Storage:
Place broccoli in a plastic bag, removing as much air as possible.  Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 10 days.  Do not wash broccoli before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage.  Partial heads of broccoli should be placed in a well-sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerated.  Since the vitamin C content starts to quickly degrade once broccoli has been cut, it is best to use it within a couple of days.
 
Health Concerns:
People with Thyroid Dysfunction: Broccoli may contain substances (especially found in cruciferous vegetables) which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter).  This may lead to the thyroid not being able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.  Consumption of these vegetables should be altered but not eliminated in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.  For example, steam, cook or ferment these cruciferous vegetables as the heat alters the molecular structure within the vegetables and thus eliminates the goitrogenic effect.  If you have normal thyroid function and consume adequate amounts of iodine, these vegetables will have no effect on your thyroid and may be eaten liberally.

 

WEEK ELEVEN - AVOCADOS

Avocados are the fruit (due to the presence of the middle pit or seed) from Persea americana, a tall evergreen tree.  They vary in weight from 8 ounces to 3 pounds depending upon the variety.  95% of all avocados grown in the US are produced in California.

 

Don't be fooled by avocado's bad rap as a high-fat food (between 71 to 88% of their total calories—about 20 times the average for other fruits).  Avocados can provide us with unique health benefits precisely because of its unusual fat composition.  Due to the presence of the fat in avocados, the absorption of the fat soluble carotenoids (lycopene and beta-carotene) which are found in sweet potatoes, carrots and leafy greens is increased significantly.

 

Nutrient Profile:

Avocados contain an amazing array of phytonutrients. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA- an omega-3 fatty acid) and oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) are key fats provided by avocado.  Avocados are a good source of pantothenic acid, dietary fiber, vitamin K, copper, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin E, and vitamin C.

 

Health Benefits:

Anti-inflammatory benefits- Due to the amazing carotenoid diversity, other antioxidants and the fat composition (omega-3 fatty acids).

 

Supports Cardiovascular Health- Research on avocado and heart disease is in the preliminary stage yet it appears that blood fat levels, inflammatory risk in the cardiovascular system and risk of metabolic syndrome is reduced.

 

Anti-cancer benefits- Due to a mix of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients.

 

Selection and Storage:

A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks.  A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a few days.  As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe.  Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week.  If you are refrigerating a whole avocado, it is best to keep it whole and not slice it in order to avoid browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to air.

 

Health Concerns:

Avocados and Latex Allergy- Like bananas, kiwifruit and chestnuts, avocados contain enzymes that are associated with the latex-fruit allergy syndrome.

 

The Clean Fifteen- The Environmental Working Group (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php) provides a list of produce least likely to hold pesticide residues on them.  Avocados were the cleanest with only 1% of avocado samples showing any detectable pesticides.

 

Recipe suggestion:

This recipe is in Jennifer Tyler Lee’s book.  It is absolutely delicious.

Enjoy-

Chocolate Rocket (recipe + images): http://www.52newfoods.com/chocolate-avocado-pudding/

 

WEEK TEN - GARLIC

Garlic is a member of the lily or Allium family, which also includes onions and leeks.  With their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, allium vegetables belong in your diet on a regular basis.
 
Nutrient profile:
Garlic is an excellent source of sulfur, manganese

and vitamin B6.  It is also a very good source of

vitamin C and copper.  In addition, garlic is a good

source of selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, and calcium.
 
Health Benefits:
1.  Cardiovascular Benefits

  • Moderate reduction in blood triglycerides.

  • Moderate reduction in total cholesterol.

  • The sulfur compounds in garlic provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  These functions prevent oxidative damage which can prevent unwanted inflammation in our blood cells and blood vessels.

  • Lowers blood pressure.

  • Lowers levels of homocysteine (homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls).

Anti-clotting benefits. 


2.  Anti-inflammatory Benefits
 
3.  Antibacterial and Antiviral Benefits
 
4.  Anti-cancer properties

 

Selection, Storage and Cooking:
For maximum flavor and nutritional benefits, always purchase fresh garlic.  Whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh for about a month if stored properly.  Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.  Garlic in flake, powder, or paste form may be more convenient however you will derive less culinary and health benefits from these forms.
 
To increase the health benefits you receive from garlic, let it sit for at least 5 minutes after you have chopped or crushed it.  This allows the allinase enzymes in garlic an opportunity to work and formallicin on behalf of your health.
 
It is best to add garlic towards the end of the cooking process to retain the maximum amount of flavor and nutrition.  Expose garlic to heat for as little time as possible (5-15 minutes) in order to assure the activity of the health-promoting sulfur compounds.  Too much heat will also make garlic bitter.

 

WEEK NINE - KALE

Kale is a descendent of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia Minor and to have been brought to Europe around 600 B.C. by groups of Celtic wanderers.

 

Try to include kale as one of the cruciferous

vegetables you eat on a regular basis

(at least 2-3 times/week, and make a serving size

at least 11/2 cups) if you want to receive the

fantastic health benefits provided by the

cruciferous vegetable family.  There are several varieties of kale which include curly kale, ornamental kale, and dinosaur (or Lacinato or Tuscan) kale, all of which differ in taste, texture, and appearance. 

 

Nutrient Profile:

Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, and manganese.  It is a very good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, protein, folate, and niacin.

 

Health Benefits:

  • Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Benefits- In addition to conventional antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese, researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale.  Kale's flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in ways that give kale a leading dietary role with respect to avoidance of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Kale provides significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the basic building block for all omega-3 fats which have anti-inflammatory benefits.

  • Cancer-preventive benefits- through glucosinolate nutrients, and antioxidants namely carotenoids and flavonoids.  Kale has been shown in research to provide benefits to colon and breast cancer, as well as, bladder, prostate and ovarian cancers.

  • Cardiovascular Support- This is due to the rich source of fiber which helps lower cholesterol.

  • Detoxification System- Kale provides support to the body’s detox system through glucosinolates.

 

Selection and Storage:

Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves that look fresh, unwilted and free of any signs of browning and small holes.  Choose kale with smaller-sized leaves since these will be more tender and have a more mild flavor than those with larger leaves.  Kale should be displayed in a cool environment since warm temperatures will cause it to wilt and will negatively affect its flavor.

 

Store kale in the refrigerator where it will keep for 5 days.  Place kale in a plastic storage bag removing as much air from the bag as possible. Do not wash kale before storing because exposure to water will encourage spoilage.

 

Concerns about Kale:

  • Kale is on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty dozen plus list.  Individuals wanting to avoid pesticide-associated health risks may want to avoid consumption of kale unless it is grown organically. 

  • Kale contains oxalates, naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings.  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems particularly in individuals with already existing and untreated kidney and gallbladder problems.

  • People with thyroid dysfunction:  Kale may be referred to as a “goitrogen”, certain plant-derived compounds (also found in other cruciferous vegetables- cabbage broccoli, cauliflower, rutabagas, turnips) which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland.  This may lead to the thyroid not being able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.  Consumption of these vegetables should be reduced but not eliminated in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.  If you have normal thyroid function and consume adequate amounts of iodine, these vegetables will have no effect on your thyroid and may be eaten liberally. 

WEEK EIGHT - Turmeric

 

Turmeric is a flowering plant in the ginger family. It is native to Indonesia and southern India, where it has been harvested for more than 5,000 years.  The root (rhizome) of the Curcuma longa plant is ground into a yellow powder or paste that has many health benefits. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. 

 

Nutrient Profile:  Turmeric is an excellent source of both iron and manganese.  It is also a good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, and potassium.

 

Curcumin, the active agent in turmeric, is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric.  In numerous studies, curcumin's anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to hydrocortisone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.  Unlike these drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

 

Health Benefits of Curcumin:

·      It is a potent anti-inflammatory.

·      It has powerful antioxidant effects.

·      Cancer prevention and therapy- breast, lung, colorectal, prostate and skin cancers.

·      Provides cardiovascular protection through preventing oxidation of cholesterol in the body and by lowering cholesterol levels.

·      May protect against and/or slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis).

·      Helps enhance the conversion of alpha-linolenic acid

    (ALA- an essential omega-3 fatty acid) to DHA.

 

Selection and Storage:  Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown turmeric since this will give you more assurance that the herb has not been irradiated.  Be sure to use turmeric powder rather curry powder in order to get the most curcumin.  Turmeric powder should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark and dry place.  Fresh turmeric rhizome should be kept in the refrigerator.

 

Tips for preparing:

·      Be careful when using turmeric since its deep color can easily stain.

·      To enhance absorption of turmeric combine it with black pepper or piperine.

 

Recipe Suggestion:

Turmeric Herb Balls (From Lisa Putnam)

1 cup dates

1/2 cup coconut oil (soften a bit so you can blend it with the almond  

       butter and honey)

1/4 cup almond butter

1/4 cup honey

1/8 cup dried turmeric

fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon or so

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

 

Mix together, form into balls, roll in shredded coconut

Refrigerate

Enjoy

 

WEEK SEVEN - Asparagus

While approximately 300 varieties of asparagus have been noted, only 20 are edible.  Asparagus has an almost 2000 year history of medicinal properties, especially with use in Ayurvedic medicine in relationship to digestive problems.  Asparagus is often thought of as a luxury vegetable. 

 

Most commonly asparagus is green in color, however it also comes in white (the shoots are grown underground to inhibit its development of chlorophyll content, therefore creating its distinctive white coloring), and purple.

 

Nutrient content:

Asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, copper, selenium, vitamin B2, vitamin C, and vitamin E.  It is a very good source of dietary fiber, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, potassium, choline, vitamin A, zinc, iron, protein, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid.  Additionally, it is a good source of magnesium and calcium.  Asparagus also provides a vast array of phytonutrients.

 

 

Health Benefits:    

  • Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidant Benefits: due to the presence of saponins and vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the mineralszinc, manganese, and selenium.  In addition asparagus contains a large amount of glutathione, the master antioxidant.

  • Digestive Support:  The presence of inulin (acts as a “prebiotic”) is a food source for certain types of bacteria in the large intestine. The benefits include better nutrient absorption, lower risk of allergy, and lower risk of colon cancer. 

  • Heart Health:  The rich array of B vitamins in asparagus  may help prevent high levels of homocysteine in the blood, a strong risk factor for heart disease.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation:  The presence of B vitamins helps play a key role in the metabolism of sugars and starches which is thus critical for healthy blood sugar management.  Fiber also helps provide a steady blood sugar level.

 

Selection and Storage: 

Asparagus stalks should be rounded.  Look for firm, thin stems with deep green or purplish closed tips.  These cut ends should not be too woody.

 

Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel.  Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor and texture.

 

 

Health Concerns:

Asparagus and purines:  Asparagus contains naturally-occurring substances called purines (commonly found in plants, animals and humans). Since purines can be broken down to form uric acid, excess accumulation of purines in the body can lead to excess accumulation of uric acid. In some individuals (those with gout and kidney stones from uric acid), excessive intake of these substances can cause health problems.

 

WEEK SIX - Flaxseeds

The flaxseed plant is known as a food source, a source of linen, and also for the creation of sails on sailing ships, bowstrings, and body armor.  Flaxseed is known in many parts of the world as "linseed".   Non-food grade flaxseed/linseed oil is used in wood finishes, paints, coatings, and other industrial supplies.  Food grade flaxseed/linseed oil can be used in livestock feed, or as a culinary oil.
 
Consumption of certified organic animal foods in which flaxseed was added to the animals' feed can be an effective way of increasing your omega-3 intake.  Look for beef (grass fed), chicken and eggs (contained in the yolk) which are labeled with omega-3 fats.
 
Try to add 1-2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to cereals, soups, salads, smoothies each day.
 
Nutrient Profile:

Flaxseeds are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA- a precursor to the omega-3 fatty acids we need).  They are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper. They are a good source of magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.  In addition, they are a wonderful source of lignans- these are fiber-like compounds that also provide antioxidant protection and act as phytoestrogens.
 
Health Benefits:

  • Cardiovascular Benefits:  Flaxseeds contain the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and lignans which help protect blood vessels from inflammatory damage. They also decrease the ratio of LDL-to-HDL cholesterol.

  • Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Benefits:  Flaxseeds can decrease the risk of problems such as the development of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, asthma, obesity and metabolic syndrome by increasing our anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection.

  • Cancer Prevention: The presence of lignans in flaxseeds may provide risk reduction for breast, prostate and colon cancers.

  • Digestive Health: The fiber helps to delay gastric emptying and can improve intestinal absorption of nutrients. The fiber also helps to steady the passage of food through our intestines.

 
Selection and Storage:
 
In their raw form, flaxseeds usually range from amber/yellow/gold in color to tan/brown/reddish brown.  They can be purchased either whole or already ground.  Because flaxseeds are difficult to chew, grinding of the seeds prior to consumption usually increases their digestibility and their nutritional value.  Pre-ground flaxseeds are more convenient however they have a shorter shelf life (they are more prone to oxidation and spoilage) than whole flaxseeds.
 
The recommendation is to buy the flaxseeds whole, store them in the refrigerator (they can last for 1-2 years) and use a coffee grinder to grind them whenever desired.
 
Flaxseed oil is especially perishable and should always be purchased in opaque bottles and it should be kept refrigerated. It should have a sweet nutty flavor.  Never use flaxseed oil in cooking, since it is far too easily oxidized.  It is fine to add flaxseed oil to foods after they have been cooked.  Flaxseed oil is devoid of fiber and lignans.

Individual Concerns:

Dr. Andrew Weil recommends that men avoid flaxseed oil due to the potential increased risk of prostate cancer. However, men can use flaxseed oil that has had the lignans added back.
 
A FEW QUICK SERVING IDEAS   

  • Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto your hot or cold cereal.

  • Add flaxseeds to homemade muffins, cookies or bread recipes.

  • To pump up the nutritional volume of your breakfast smoothie, add ground flaxseeds or a tablespoon of flaxseed oil.

  • To give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavor, sprinkle some ground flaxseeds on top of them

     

WEEK FIVE - Brussels Sprouts

 

Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage and turnip greens.  They are thought to be native to Belgium, specifically to a region near its capital, Brussels, after which they are named.  In the U.S., almost all Brussels sprouts are grown in California.  They are available year round; however, they are at their best from autumn through early spring when they are at the peak of their growing season.
 
Brussels sprouts resemble miniature cabbages.  They are typically sold separately but can sometimes be found still attached to the stem. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. 
 
Nutrient Profile:  


They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K.  They are a very good source of folate, manganese, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, choline, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, and omega-3 fatty acids.  They are also a good source of iron, vitamin B2, protein, magnesium, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, niacin, calcium, and zinc.  In addition to these nutrients, Brussels sprouts contain numerous disease-fighting phytochemicals.
 
Health Benefits:

 

  • Detoxification Support:  The presence of activated glucosinolates and sulfur containing nutrients, as well as, vitamin C and manganese help provide detox support.

  • Antioxidant Support (cancer protection):  The risk of oxidative damage from overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules can result in cumulative damage and lead to the development of cancer. Brussels sprouts contain conventional antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and manganese and other antioxidant polyphenols which help to provide support.

  • Anti-inflammatory Support:  Chronic unwanted inflammation is a risk factor for many types of cancer.  Brussels sprouts provide anti-inflammatory support through glucosinolates, vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Cardiovascular Support:  Cardiovascular disease is now believed to be due in part to unwanted inflammation in our blood vessels. Brussels spouts help fight this inflammation through the presence of sulforphane.  They also help provide cardiovascular support by helping to lower cholesterol through their rich supply of fiber.

  • Digestive support:  The fiber content helps with digestive support.  Also the presence of sulforaphane helps protect the health of our stomach lining by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori (H pylori).

 

Selection and Storage:

Select Brussels sprouts that are firm, compact, and vividly green. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture.  Avoid those that have perforations in their leaves as this may indicate that they have aphids residing within.
 
Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days.
 
Individual Concerns:

People with Thyroid Dysfunction: Brussels sprouts may contain substances (especially found in cruciferous vegetables) which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter).  This may lead to the thyroid not being able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.  Consumption of these vegetables should be altered but not eliminated in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.  For example, steam, cook or ferment these cruciferous vegetables as the heat alters the molecular structure within the vegetables and thus eliminates the goitrogenic effect.  If you have normal thyroid function and consume adequate amounts of iodine, these vegetables will have no effect on your thyroid and may be eaten liberally.

WEEK FOUR - Winter Squash

 

Winter squash is a relative of the melon and the cucumber.  They come in many different shapes, colors, sizes and flavor.  However, they share some common characteristics such as hard shells, mildly sweet flavored flesh and seed-containing hollow inner cavities. 
 
Winter squash was important in the Native American diet.  They even buried the squash with their dead to provide them with nourishment on their final journey.  While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their seeds since earlier squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter and unpalatable.  As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed.
 
Common varieties of winter squash include:  butternut, acorn, hubbard, turban, pumpkin and kabocha.
 
Nutrient Profile:


Winter squash is an excellent source of alpha and beta- carotenes (previtamins of vitamin A).  It is also a very good source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, and copper, as well as, a good source of potassium, vitamin B2, folate, vitamin K, pantothenic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and niacin.  Winter squash has a rich array of phytonutrients too.
 
Health Benefits:

 

  • Antioxidant Support:  The conventional antioxidants vitamin C and manganese and an array of carotenoids provide outstanding antioxidant benefits.

  • Anti-inflammatory Benefits:  Provided by phytonutrients andomega-3 fatty acids in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).

  • Blood Sugar Regulation:  The presence of fiber and many B vitamins in winter squash helps protect against type 2 diabetes.

 

Though rich in carbohydrates, many of the winter squash’s carbohydrates come from pectins that appear to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-regulating properties.
 
Selection and Storage: 


Choose ones that are firm and heavy for their size.  They should have dull, hard rinds indicating more flavor.  Avoid those with any signs of decay, which manifest as areas that are water-soaked or moldy.
 
Winter squash has a much longer storage life than summer squash (due to the presence of their hard shells).  Depending upon the variety, it can be kept for between one week to six months.  It should be kept away from direct sunlight exposure and should not be subject to extreme temperatures.  Once winter squash is cut, cover the pieces in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for one to two days.
 
The seeds of winter squash can be roasted at a low temperature for a short period of time to minimize damage to their healthy oils.  Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.

 

WEEK THREE - Ginger

 

The spice ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow, white or red in color, depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be

thick (more mature) or thin, depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young.

 
It is native to southeastern Asia and has been around for millennia. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties.
 
Health Benefits:

 

  • Gastrointestinal Relief:  Ginger helps prevent motion sickness, cramping, nausea and vomiting (especially during pregnancy).

  • Anti-inflammatory Effects:  Ginger contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols.  Patients with arthritis have found less pain and improved range of motion with the addition of ginger in their diets.

  • Cancer Protection:  Gingerols may also help to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells and induce the death of ovarian cancer cells in humans. 

 

Selection and Storage:

Whenever possible choose fresh ginger over the dried form of the spice since it is not only superior in flavor but contains higher levels of gingerol as well as ginger's active protease (it's anti-inflammatory compound).  Fresh ginger should be firm, smooth and free of mold. The skin is often thick (due to its maturity) and requires peeling. Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled.
 
If purchasing dried ginger, try to select organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.  Ginger is also available in several other forms including crystallized, candied and pickled.
 
The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process.  Added at the beginning, it will have a milder taste, at the end it will be more pungent in flavor.

WEEK TWO - Cauliflower

 

 

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, is in the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collard greens.  Include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week and make the serving size at least 11/2 cups.
 
Cauliflower has a compact head (called a "curd"), surrounding the curd are coarse green leaves that protect it from sunlight which impedes the development of chlorophyll.  While this process contributes to the white coloring of most of the varieties, cauliflower can also be found in light green and purple colors.
 
Nutrient Profile:

Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.  It is a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin.  Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium.
 
Health Benefits:

 

  • Detoxification Support:  Cauliflower’s sulfur containing nutrients and phytonutrients help rid our bodies of toxins which can potentially damage our cells and increase the risk of cancer.

  • Antioxidant Benefits:  The presence of vitamin C, manganese, and many different phytonutrients helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells.

  • Anti-inflammatory Benefits:  The presence of vitamin K and the phytonutrient glucosinolate, helps prevent the initiation of inflammation which can lead to a reduction in cancer and other chronic diseases.

  • Cardiovascular Support:  Unwanted inflammation in blood vessels can lead to cardiovascular disease. The presence of vitamin K, omega 3 fats and the phytonutrient sulforaphane is helpful to prevent inflammation.

  • Digestive Support:  The fiber and sulforaphane help with digestive system support.

 

 
Selection and Storage:
 

When purchasing cauliflower, look for a clean, creamy white, compact curd in which the bud clusters are not separated.  Store uncooked cauliflower in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for up to a week. 
 
 
Individual Concerns:

People with Thyroid Dysfunction:  Cauliflower may contain substances (especially found in cruciferous vegetables) which may cause swelling of the thyroid gland (goiter).  This may lead to the thyroid not being able to produce as many of the hormones that are needed for regulating metabolism.  Consumption of these vegetables should be altered but not eliminated in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.  For example, steam, cook or ferment these cruciferous vegetables as the heat alters the molecular structure within the vegetables and thus eliminates the goitrogenic effect.  If you have normal thyroid function and consume adequate amounts of iodine, these vegetables will have no effect on your thyroid and may be eaten liberally.

WEEK ONE - Sweet Potato

 

Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and are considered one of the oldest root vegetables.  They vary in skin and flesh colors from almost white, cream, yellow, orange, pink or deep purple.  The skin and flesh of the sweet potatoe provide different concentrations of antioxidants. 
 
The intensity of the sweet potato's yellow or orange flesh color is directly correlated to its beta-carotene content.  Our bodies typically produce vitamin A from the beta-carotene in orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.  Since vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it is helpful to include some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals in order to receive the full beta-carotene benefit.. 
 
Often sweet potatoes and yams are lumped together as being the same, yet they are a completely different food and belong to different plant families.  In the US, sweet potatoes are more highly available. Yams are native to Africa and Asia and have the potential to grow to a very large size.
 
Nutrient Profile:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene).  They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.  Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus.  They are also rich in phytonutrients.
 
Health Benefits:

 

  • Antioxidant Activity:  The flesh and skin contain a variety of antioxidants.  In addition, there are storage proteins (calledsporamins) in sweet potatoes that also have antioxidant activity. These antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage to our cells.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients:  The anthocyanins and other color related pigments have been shown to play a key role in reducing the development of unwanted inflammation.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: The presence of fiber in sweet potatoes helps keep blood sugar steady and regulated.

 
Selection and Storage:

Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots.  Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures negatively alter their taste.
 
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days.  They should be kept out of the refrigerator. 
 
Individual Concerns:

Sweet potatoes and oxalates:  Sweet potatoes are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating sweet potatoes.
 
Recipe suggestion:
Baked Sweet Potato Fries-
1 large sweet potato (skin on) - sliced into narrow sticks
2 egg whites
½-1 tsp of cumin
½-1 tsp chili powder
½-1 tsp paprika
dash of sea salt or kosher salt
 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Lightly oil a baking sheet.
In a large bowl whisk the egg whites and all the seasonings together until well blended. Toss the sweet potato sticks in the mixture but drain off any excess egg white before placing them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes, then flip the pieces over and bake until golden brown, another 15 minutes.

 

SOUL FOOD SALON

seasonal . organic . unprocessed . local

www.soulfoodsalon.com

 

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