Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Veggies Tales

In addition to the leafy greens and fruits already mentioned in previous posts, vegetables—especially starchy vegatables——can help contribute to your daily water consumption. These low-calorie, high-fiber foods—such as lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes—not only often consist of as much as 95% water weight, but also are good sources of other essential nutrients—such as potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate.
The best vegetables to incorporate to your daily diet if you want to eat your daily water, instead of drinking it are…

Baby Carrots…water content: 90.4%…My first question when I saw that baby carrots were high on water content was, “Gee, why not just say that carrots are good, not baby carrots specifically…but baby carrots contain more water than regular carrots, which contain 88.3% water.

Cauliflower…water content: 92.1%…Not only does cauliflower contain this much water, but cauliflower is also packed with vitamins and phytonutrients that help lower cholesterol and fight cancer, including breast cancer.

Celery…water content: 95.4%…Celery not only contains this much water, but three stalks of celery can also help meet your daily needs for other vitamins and mineral deficiencies—including sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K…..while only providing eighteen calories.

Cucumber…water content: 96.7%…Cucumbers contain more water than absolutely any other solid food. Cucumbers also contain high levels of vitamin C, caffeic acid, sulfur and silicon..while having very little sodium and calories.

Green Peppers…Water content: 93.9%…All types of bell peppers—red, yellow, green—have a high water content, but green peppers actually contain more than the other two. Green peppers also contain just as many antioxidants as the brighter colored varieties. In addition, green peppers provide numerous vitamins and minerals—including vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and folic acid.
Radishes…water content: 95.3%…I totally and completely LOVE radishes, but so often radishes are simply overlooked as we go through the produce aisle…yet, don’t be in such a hurry to choose everything else when shopping for fruits and veggies beca

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Getting Healthy

Date-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Now that we know that date sugar is a healthy sweetener alternative for diabetics than standard granulated sugar…where do we find it?…how do we make it ourselves?…how do we use it in a recipe?

What are the benefits of using date sugar instead of regular granulated sugar?

  • Antioxidants…Dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of any dried fruits.
  • Caloric Content…Date sugar contains 288 calories per half-cup, as opposed to regular white refined sugar which has 387 calories per half-cup.
  • Energy Boost…Dates contain 29 grams of natural sugars—such as glucose, sucrose and fructose—and are one of the best snacks that you could eat to help you have more energy.
  • Intestinal Health…Dates helps increase the amount of “good” bacteria found is in the intestines and as a result help to keep you “regular” and prevent constipation.
  • Nutritional Value…Date sugar is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium; where white sugar does not.
  • Potassium Content…Date sugar actually has more potassium per serving size than bananas do.
  • Weight Control…Date sugar is loaded with fiber, protein and carbs which make you feel full much longer. This can help to curb hunger and help prevent weight gain.

Where do we find it?

Commercial date sugar made from unsulfured, organically grown dates is typically hard to find in actual local grocery stores and even health food stores. Your best bet is to buy your date sugar online from such sources as Thrive Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Amazon.

How do we make it ourselves?

The problem with date sugar, however, especially organic types, is that they can be very expensive.

But it is possible to save money by making your own date sugar.

Making your own date sugar is actually quite simple. Simply buy inexpensive fresh or dried dates in bulk…It is not even important that the dates that you choose to make your date sugar are  the richest, sweetest, moist varieties. Just any old date will do.

Pit and slice them, and dry them using a food dehydrator or a very low-temperature oven. Once your date slices are fully dry, pulverize them in a food processor.

How do we use it in a recipe?!

Commercial or homemade date sugar can be substituted measure for measure for both granulated white sugar and brown sugar…but many people claim that this makes their baked goods taste too sweet, and reduce the amount of date sugar to only 2/3C date sugar for every cup of sugar called for in the original recipe.

Date sugar is particularly good when baking nut or fruit breads that will also contain whole pieces or chunks of another type of fruit or nut….such as banana-nut bread or an apple-walnut bread.

Date Sugar and Liquids…Remember that date sugar does not dissolve when stirred into water or liquids. Many chefs try dissolving the date sugar in boiling water before adding to the batter. This might work if water is already an ingredient in the given recipe. I personally hate changing ratios and proportions, and leave all this to the people who actually passed college algebra the first time that they took it.

Otherwise, just be aware that date sugar may show up as distinct, sweet flecks in cake, pancake or waffle batters.

Storing Your Date Sugar

Date sugar, just like brown sugar, tends to clump together…because they both are naturally “hygroscopic”…new word of the day, simply meaning “able to readily absorbs and retains moisture.”

So be sure to store your date sugar in an airtight jar or other container…probably in your pantry with perfectly-alphabetically-lined Mason jars containing brown sugar, coconut sugar, and now date sugar…

If you want to store your date sugar in a shaker, place a saltine cracker or two in the container to absorb any moisture.

Date-Sugar Cookies

Date Filling:

  • 2C chopped dates
    1C sugar
    1C water
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine chopped dates, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer ten minutes. Add lemon juice and salt. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dough

  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1C butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground cloves
    1Tbsp baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add to creamed mixture.

Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter.

Cut out and remove 1″ round hole from center of half of the cookies. Return dough centers to remaining dough for rerolling.

Place the whole cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon 1tsp cooled filling onto center of each whole cookie.

Top with dough ring. Press the edges of each filled cookie together with the tip of a fork to seal.

Bake for ten minutes. Let cool on pans two minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

Let cool. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fiber—The How?!

In order to get the fiber that each of us needs, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes delicious whole foods that are naturally rich in fiber—such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts.

 

But before we take a look at what foods provide you with the most fiber, here are two important things to keep in mind…

  1. When starting a high-fiber diet, it is important that increase to the recommended amount of fiber in your diet slowly and gradually in order to give your body time to adapt. If you increase your fiber intake too quickly, you may experience a bloated feeling and abdominal cramps.
  2. It is also important that you drink plenty of water and non-caffeinated beverages, especially if you’re taking fiber supplements instead of getting your fiber through real foods, because supplements contain none of the liquids found in high-fiber foods.

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Now, let’s talk about food…one of my favorite topics…using the Raw Foods Pyramid as a guide.

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Leafy Greens…The bottom…no, make that the next to the bottom tier, if you count water as a “food”…is leafy greens. A good rule of thumb is to always choose the darkest colored greens because the darker the color, the higher the fiber and overall nutritional content.

  • Broccoli...Not exactly sure if broccoli counts as a leafy green or a vegetable, but one cup of broccoli contains 5.1 grams of fiber….making broccoli one of the highest fiber sources from the vegetable, or leafy green, food group.

 

 

Fruits and Vegetables…The second-to-the-bottom tier is the fruits and vegetables tier. This group is important because most fruits and vegetables are high in fibe

Now let’s take a look at a few of the better sources of fiber from the produce section…

But first a few tips about adding fruits and vegetables to your diet…

  1. As soon as you come back from your farmer’s market, grocery store, or wherever you buy your produce, go ahead and wash and cut the fruits and vegetables that you could eat for snack foods—such as carrots and celery, Keep these available in your fridge so that you always have a healthy snack to nibble on when those midnight hunger attacks happen.
  2. Choose recipes that feature the high-fiber ingredients shown on this list.
  3. Eat a piece of fruit for dessert.
  4. Eating whole fruits and vegetables, as opposed to drinking fruit or vegetable juice, allows you to get more fiber and at the same time get fewer calories. For example, one medium fresh orange contains about 3g of fiber and only 60 calories…An 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains almost no fiber and about 110 calories, while
  5. Keep the peel on. Peeling fruits—such as apples and pears—reduces the amount of fiber, as well as many other nutrients.
  6. Show them off. Make sure to keep your fruits and vegetables at eye level, where you can easily see them and are more likely to reach for them when sweet cravings kick in.
  • Apples…One medium apple, with the peel lefton, contains 4.4 grams of fiber.
  • Asian Pears…One medium Asian pears contains 9.9 grams of fiber…as well as  Vitamin C, vitamin K, omega-6 fatty acids, and potassium.
  • Avocado…One medium avocado contains 10.1 grams fiber per cup…as well as Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, potassium. As we already saw in earlier posts, avocados are also packed with healthy fats that help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Remember that Florida avocados—the bright green, smooth-skinned variety—have significantly more insoluble fiber than California avocados–the smaller, darker and dimpled variety.
  • Banana…One banana has a little over 3 grams of fiber, as well as a high amount of potassium, an essential nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Blackberries…One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 grams of fiber—twice as much as other berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, as well as other important nutrients—such as Vitamin C, vitamin K, omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Coconut…One cup of coconut has 7.2 grams of fiber, four to six times the amount of fiber as oat bran—as well as other important nutrients such as manganese, omega-6 fatty acids, folate, and selenium.Coconut flour and coconut oil are two great ways to add healthy natural fiber to your diet. For most baking recipes, you can substitute up to 20 percent coconut flour for other flours.
  • Dried Figs…One-fourth of a cup of dried figs contains 3.7 grams of fiber. Each fig contains nearly one gram of fiber and about 20 calories.
  • Figs…One large fig contains 1.9 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6. Because  figs have a nearly perfect balance between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, they are associated with lower blood pressure and protection against macular degeneration, in addition to the benefits of the fiber.
  • Oranges…One medium orange contains 3.1 grams of fiber.
  • Pears…One medium unpeeled pear contains 5.5 grams of fiber.
  • Pomegranate Seeds…The seeds in one half of a pomegranate contain 5.6 grams of fiber.
  • Raspberries…One cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber, the highest amount of any fruit, as well as many other nutrients—such as  Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, and manganese.

Vegetables

  • Artichokes…One-half of a cup of artichoke hearts contains 4.8 grams of fiber. One medium artichoke contains 10.3 grams of fiber, which is nearly half of the recommend fiber intake for women and a third for men. Artichokes also contain other important nutrients—such as Vitamins A, C, E, B, K; potassium; calcium; magnesium; phosphorous.
  • Brussels Sprouts…One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 4 grams of fiber, as well as many other important nutrients—such as vitamins C, K, B1, B2, B6; folate, and manganese. As well as being one of the better high-fiber foods, Brussels sprouts also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy detox and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
  • Butternut Squash…One cup of baked butternut squash contains 6.6 grams of fiber.
  • Canned Pumpkin…One half of a cup of canned pumpkin contains 3.6 grams of fiber.
  • Carrots…One cup of carrots contains 3.6 grams of fiber.
  • Okra…One-half of a cup of okay contains 2 grams of fiber, as well as many other important nutrients—such as Vitamins A, C, K; riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, and protein.
  • Parsnips…One cup of parsnips, a close relative of the carrot family, contains 7 grams of fiber.
  • Russet Potato…One medium Russet potato that has been baked with the skin still intact contains 4 grams of fiber.
  • Sweet Potato…One medium sweet potato baked with the skin still intact contains 3.8 grams of fiber and only 160 calories.
  • Turnips…One cup of turnips contains 3.1 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Getting Healthy

Avocados—The Even More “How”

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GuacamoleGuacamole, that traditional Mexican and Central American dip that we are all so familiar with, and that I could eat by the gallons, is another way to incorporate avocado in your diet. Here’s a great recipe to try…Vegetarian Guacamole Recipe by Jamie Oliver

 

Meals…For my non-vegan readers, avocados can be great meal starters. Fill avocado with tuna, shrimp, or chicken. Add avocado slices to hamburgers, tortas, hot dogs, and carne asada. Combine avocado with eggs to make scrambled eggs, tortillas, or omelettes.

These Vegan Enchiladas with Cilantro Avocado Cream Sauce from Oh She Glows have just been added to this week’s menu plan. In addition to serving the sauce over the enchiladas, you can also serve sauces such as this with chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

Pasta with Avocado SauceCook 18oz pasta according to directions. Blend together 1 garlic clove, 1/4C minced basil leaves, 1Tbsp lemon juice, 1Tbsp olive oil, dash pepper, dash lemon zest, 1 ripe avocado, 1Tbsp water, dash salt. Drain pasta. Serve sauce over pasta.

 

 

Salad…Avocados are best eaten along with other fruits and vegetables because avocados enhance the nutrients that are present in whatever fruits and vegetables you serve them with—at least tripling how well your body absorbs carotenoid, an antioxidant which helps protect the body against free radical damage.

Avocado Salad Recipe…Mix chopped onion, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and any other vegetables or meat you desire or that you have on hand. Add salt, pepper, lime juice, and drizzle olive oil over the salad. You may add

 

Salsa…Toss together 3 diced tomatoes, 2 diced avocados, 1 diced red bell pepper, ½ dicerd red onion, 1½C corn, 1 small can sliced black olives, 3 minced cloves garlic, ¼ of a finely diced jalapeno pepper, ¼C chopped cilantro or parsley, juice of one lemon, 1Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper. Refrigerate. Serve with whole grain or bean chips, tacos, burritos, or fresh veggies.

 

Sandwiches/Toast/Wraps…Avocado is a great vegetarian substitute for meat in sandwiches, as well as a better for mayonnaise in any sandwiches.

Avocado “Grilled Cheese” Sandwich…One great sandwich to try would be the following recipe for a vegan grilled “cheese” sandwich…

Lightly toast 2 slices of vegan whole wheat bread. Prepare the sandwich with 2Tbsp vegan mayo, 1/2 of a ripe avocado, 6 very thin slices of green bell pepper, 6 very thin slices of red onion, and 2tsp extra virgin olive oil. Brush sandwich with olive oil. Grill as you would a regular grilled cheese sandwich.

 

Smoothies...Avocado smoothies are a great breakfast treat or post-workout snack.great breakfast treat or post-workout snack. For the simplest avocado smoothie, blend together 1 whole avocado, 1C milk, 1C ice, 1⁄2tsp vanilla, and 2Tbsp sugar….using any milk or sugar substitutes that you choose (more on this later)

 

Soup…Any easy way to incorporate avocado into any other soup would be to use it as a garnish. This will add both flavor and health benefits.

Another option would be to try an avocado soup…such as this hot soup from Healing Tomato, or this cold soup from All Recipes.

 

Sushi…Avocado are akey ingredient in California rolls and other makizushi (“maki”, or rolled sushi). I’ve only tried making sushi once, but I’m seriously thinking about getting my sushi mats back out and trying this recipe from Plant Based U.

So with all these recipes on hand and both my interest and taste buds awakened, I have now added avocados to our family’s permanent grocery list. Not only will these avocado recipes make a filling addition to our future meals and snacks, they will also provide ourfamily with nutritious heart-healthy fats, fiber, folate, vitamin A, potassium and more.

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