November 15, 2013
As we finish trick-or-treating this autumn and move into the holiday season, many of us will become busier scheduling holiday get-togethers, coordinating travel plans to see friends and relatives, and digging out those favorite recipes for day-long cooking extravaganzas.
Did you plan sleep into your schedule?
Most adults – young adults and older adults – need 7–9 hours of quality sleep each night or about a third of your day. How does this compare to your current sleep habit? If you are like most American adults, you sleep less than 7 hours per night. And yes, that is not enough sleep.
Poor quality sleep or a sleep deficit puts us at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. It can also lower our immune response to colds or the flu. Not only does too little sleep make us moody and irritable, it increases the likelihood of developing depression.Enough quality sleep:
Bottom line: get enough quality sleep for your physical, emotional, and mental health!
Turkey and Sleep?
Now, about those turkey dinners at Thanksgiving celebrations: does the tryptophan really make you sleepy?
Research shows that your body makes hormones that help you sleep, such as serotonin and melatonin. Some tryptophan can be converted to serotonin, but this story has more to do with carbohydrates and proteins.
Most protein-rich meals or foods – such as that Thanksgiving turkey – contain large amino acids, such as tyrosine, and smaller amino acids, such as tryptophan. (See FOOD SCIENCE HIGHLIGHT for more about amino acids.) A high-protein meal helps tyrosine and other large amino acids in the turkey move into the brain which makes us more alert.
On the other hand, a carbohydrate-rich meal – such as that side of mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie – allows available tryptophan – such as from the turkey you ate – to be preferred over tyrosine and move into the brain, stimulate serotonin, and promote sleepiness.
So, you need carbohydrates and proteins in order for smaller amino acids to cross into the brain to promote relaxation.
Since diet and exercise affect sleep, think about what tips below might help you.
For lifestyle and environment tips to promote quality sleep, see WEB HIGHLIGHT 2.
If you still find sleep difficult, contact your doctor or an accredited sleep center.
A sleep-assisting snack before bed may be helpful if you feel awake or alert. Try a food combination from the Mix-and-Match Slumber list.
Remember, extra calories – regardless of what time of the day they are eaten – will lead to weight gain over time.
WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: How does your sleep knowledge stack up? Take this Interactive Sleep Quiz from the National Institutes of Health to see.
WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: For lifestyle and environment tips to promote quality sleep, see the National Institute of Health's "Your Guide to Healthy Sleep."
FOOD SCIENCE HIGHLIGHT: Amino acids: Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. An entire protein is made up of a strand of different amino acids. This is why protein-rich foods will contain different amounts of different amino acids.
October 14, 2013
It seems fitting for a 21st Century Popeye to be downing a can of kale rather than spinach. This is not an attempt to challenge spinach's nutritional value, but kale has gained Justin Beiber-like celebrity status in the vegetable world. Over the past two years, I am sure you, as consumers, have noticed an increasing abundance of kale products in supermarkets and menu items. At the least, you would've crossed paths with this vegetable via some sort of media outlet. So what is the buzz really about?
The nation is now more aware of the importance of nutrition than ever before. This effort to focus on disease prevention rather than treatment has become a major theme. From a nutritional standpoint, loading your plates up with fruits and vegetables is the way to go! According to WebMD Director of Nutrition and Registered Dietitian, Kathleen Zelman, including kale in our diets can provide health benefits, such as cancer protection and lowered cholesterol.
Kale is part of the Brassica family, which includes other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Children notoriously despise these plants, and it may largely be due to a natural compound that gives it a bitter taste. However, with a little help from proper seasoning and preparation, the bitterness can be masked. Now bring on the nutrients.
One cup of chopped kale contains only 33 calories, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and an impressive 684% of vitamin K. It is also a great source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus minerals.
Kale gets its reputation as a cancer fighter due to its high antioxidant capacity from the high concentration of vitamins A, C, and K. In addition, carotenoids and flavonoids are other types of antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged.
Lastly, we can't forget kale's high fiber content. The soluble fiber helps lower bad LDL cholesterol by binding to it so it can be passed through your digestive tract. The insoluble fiber also helps with constipation so your gut doesn't always feel bloated. Now is the season to eat more kale. Dark, leafy greens thrive in cooler weather. It's a very versatile vegetable, and the true dilemma is which cooking method to try first.
It can be prepared as a salad, sautéed, baked into a chip, juiced, added to smoothies, or soups. The possibilities are truly endless. Let's start with a quick and easy recipe that even the kids will enjoy.
Kale Chip Dip (Serves 6)2 Tbsp olive oil
1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and add olive oil, kale and garlic. Cook until kale is softened. Remove from stove and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, combine cottage cheese, yogurt, avocado, lemon juice, and salt, pepper, and herbs, if desired. Blend until smooth. Stir in kale mixture.
3. Try with a chip, and if salty enough, don't add additional salt. Scrape into a bowl and it's ready to eat!
Nutrition analysis per serving: 161 calories, 10g fat, 3mg cholesterol, 323mg sodium, 7g carbohydrate, 11g protein
September 11, 2013
Is your tomato crop crowding you out of house and home? After you are done canning tomato chunks, making salsa, and giving them away to your family, friends, co-workers, and strangers, get ready to talk more about tomatoes.
Just like June, September is a packed month to celebrate food: Fruits and Veggies - More Matters Month, Whole Grains Month, National Mushroom Month, and National Chicken Month. And yes, this month's recipe will celebrate all these months – plus tomatoes.
Like many of the foods mentioned throughout this blog, tomatoes are a versatile, nutritious, and budget-friendly vegetable (or fruit? – see DEBATE HIGHLIGHT below).
Tomatoes are available year-round in stores, so you are probably familiar with picking out your own, but read on to learn more about getting the best quality:
To peel tomatoes, cut a small X on the bottom with a paring knife. Drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds, or longer for firm tomatoes, and remove into a bowl of ice water until cool enough to handle. The skin will pull away easily if blanched long enough.
To seed tomatoes, cut tomato in half and spoon out the seeds. Or cut tomato into quarters and, with a knife, cut the stem end of each quarter and continue to slide the knife along the flesh and under the seeds.
Reference: University of Illinois Extension, Watch Your Garden Grow, Tomatoes
Make good use of September as the weather cools down to enjoy this hearty recipe that celebrates this month's many food holidays.
Chicken Ratatouille (serves 4)
A classic French dish, Ratatouille is a great way to use up leftover ingredients or add any vegetables you like. While it is served over noodles, try it over another whole grain, like brown rice.
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 zucchini, diced
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes (or 2 cups peeled and seeded fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 cups dry whole wheat egg noodles, cooked
Nutritional analysis per serving: 500 calories, 9g fat, 180mg sodium, 69g carbohydrate, 14g fiber, 40g protein
WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: To celebrate Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month, check out recipes to get more fruits and veggies in your diet at Fruits and Veggies – More Matters.
WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Need more ways to eat mushrooms? Or just trying to become interested in eating mushrooms? If so, check out the Mushroom Council recipe page.
DEBATE HIGHLIGHT: True, tomatoes are botanically classified as a fruit. However, in 1893, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the tomato a vegetable. Source: USDA ARS, Tomato Facts, 2/2013
August 14, 2013
In the midst of summer, are you feeling peachy? I hope so, because it is National Peach Month and the peaches are sweet, delicious, and ready to eat! And eat! And eat!
Like many of the foods mentioned throughout this blog, there is a lot to say that makes peaches unique.
Find sweet, juicy peaches on your plate for a tasty fruit good for your health. Peaches are a great typical fruit: a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber; low in calories; and not a source of sodium or fat. In a medium peach with skin, you eat 58 calories, 14g carbohydrate, and 2g fiber, along with 285mg potassium and 489 IU vitamin A. That vitamin A – in the form of carotenoids – promotes eye and skin health.
Peaches are readily available in Illinois during summer, particularly in Southern Illinois. Check your local stores, farmer's markets, roadside stands, and even orchards for peaches. Read below to pick and store your peaches for best quality:
Note: When available, choose freestone peaches that will separate easily from the pit. Clingstones will be much harder to cut nicely since the pit holds onto the flesh.
Note: Since each peach yields about 1 cup of cut fruit, a single whole peach meets half of daily fruit needs for most people.
Reference: Clemsom University Extension, Everything About Peaches, 2013
As much as I like a fresh peach, this Orange-Peach Smoothie is a great treat on a hot summer day that reminds me of an orange creamsicle.
Orange-Peach Smoothie (serves 4)
This recipe covers 2 food groups from MyPlate: fruit and dairy. Try it for breakfast with an egg-and-veggie omelet with whole grain toast for an entire MyPlate meal.
Keep the skins on the peaches for fun orange flecks in your smoothie, and you get extra fiber too!
2 fresh peaches (or 2 cups frozen peach slices, thawed)
6 oz. orange or orange crème yogurt
6 oz. vanilla yogurt
1. Combine peaches and both yogurts in a blender. Puree until blended and smooth. Divide among 4 glasses and serve cold.
Variation: If you want a frostier smoothie, use frozen peach slices or add several ice cubes to the blender.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 110 calories, 1g fat, 40mg sodium, 24g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 3g protein
WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: For Everything About Peaches, visit with Clemson University Extension.
WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Are those extra peaches crowding you out of your home? Learn more about preserving them at the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia. Try freezing them or making jam.
WORD HIGHLIGHT: Drupe: Peaches are a fruit called a drupe, in reference to their inside pit or seed. Other drupes include nectarines, apricots, plums, and cherries (see the Cheery, Cherry Summer entry for more on cherries).
July 10, 2013
Probably the quintessential summer food activity, get ready to fire up the grill for National Grilling Month in July! Before you break out those marinated steaks or grilled veggies on skewers, make sure you are keeping those foods safe on the grill. Check out "WEB HIGHLIGHT 1" below on outdoor grilling food safety.
Since most everyone who grills has their own style or preferred grilling method, I will not step on toes, so for all you grillers, keep on grilling (safely). Instead, this month, I want to talk about one of summer's great fruits: cherries!
Find sweet and sour varieties of cherries during the season that come in different hues from deep red/maroon to lighter red and yellow. Not only are cherries sweet and juicy, they are packed with nutrition. One half cup of raw sweet cherries contains 43 calories, no fat or sodium, and is a source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate. Some research shows cherries provide additional benefits to health beyond just their nutritional content. Although more research is needed to draw conclusions, you will certainly benefit from eating this summer fruit!
If you are a fan of cherries from cherry pie or ice-cream sundaes with maraschino cherries, but have never bought your own, read below for the basics on getting your own sweet and juicy cherries:
Note: Remember cherries have pits, so take caution with giving to children. They can be a choking hazard.
Reference: Utah State University Extension, Food Sense, Cherries, 2011
Now onto the delicious part: if you grill this July, try this Cherry Crisp Dessert with your meal.
Cherry Crisp Dessert (serves 6)
Cherries are in season in Illinois for summer, so enjoy them while they are available. The oats in the crumb topping add healthy fiber and the almonds add healthy fat.
Cherry Filling Recipe
3 cups (about 1 pound) sweet cherries, pitted (if frozen, thaw)
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Crumb Topping Recipe
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine cherries, sugar, cornstarch, and juice.
3. Spoon filling into an 8x8-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
4. Prepare Crumb Topping Recipe and sprinkle evenly over cherry mixture.
5. Bake 35 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is crisp. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Crumb Topping Recipe
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)
3 Tbsp cooking oil
1. Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and almonds, if desired, in a medium bowl.
2. Drizzle oil over flour mixture and toss until crumbly.
Nutritional analysis per serving (without almonds): 210 calories, 7g fat, 0mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 2g protein
Nutritional analysis per serving (with almonds): 250 calories, 11g fat, 0mg sodium, 38g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g protein
WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: Check out more information on outdoor grilling through the University of Illinois Extension. Grill it and grill it safe!
WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Did you get more cherries than you can eat? Learn more about preserving them at the National Center for Home Food Preservation through the University of Georgia.
FOOD SCIENCE HIGHLIGHT: Anthocyanin: Anthocyanin was the food science highlight last month for red cabbage, but this pigment is also found in cherries giving them their deep red color.