Today’s Focus is Plums
Some of the best fruit on a hot summer day are good fat plums. Juicy and sweet, these little gems are enough to satisfy that craving for dessert.
And of course, there are always the health perks in eating in season fruit and veggies. Plums are full of vitamin C and because of this, they also help your body absorb iron. Antioxidant-rich plums help boost your immune system and help keep your skin pretty and hair and nails strong.
In their dried form, prunes can seriously help to manage constipation, but just a few is all that is necessary! And don’t forget to drink your water.
Here’s Your Tip
If you want to cook and skin your plums, the easiest way is to bring some water to a boil, let them sit in the water briefly, remove them from the water, let cool a bit and you’ll see it’s easy to remove the skin from the flesh of the fruit with little to no effort.
Here’s Your Trick
Eat them while they are at their ripest because not only will they be as sweet as can be they’ll also be at their max for antioxidants. Also, I would recommend refrigerating them once they’re ripe. The coolness will be refreshing in the heat, and they’re also juicier when cold.
And for Your Recipe
Plum Good Breakfast
Sprinkle muesli over yogurt, and add sliced plum. Enjoy!
Make your own muesli: mix oats, some Kashi fiber cereal, a little bit of cinnamon, honey, and splash of lemon juice – mix and use raw; can also be made gluten free, just replace gluten filled cereal with an appropriate cereal. Make your own proportions according to your tastes)
Per Serving (may vary depending on how much muesli you use, we used 1/4 cup): 239 Calories; 11g Fat; 15g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 149mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Fruit; 0 Fat. Points: 7
The summer in full-swing, it’s time to start stock piling these abundant summer veggies for the cooler days ahead.
If you live in a part of the world where fresh local veggies are a summer luxury, you want to take advantage of Mother Earth’s bounty at this time of year. Even if you live in a climate that’s warm and sunny year round, you want to stock pile items when they’re in season – at the peak of their freshness – so you can enjoy them when they are in shorter supply.
Here are some ways to get the most out of some common summer veggies that are known for taking over gardens!
These summer squashes are prolific. When you grow zucchini you better like it because those plants are pretty serious producers. Zucchini is an extremely versatile food (we will be featuring it in a post later this week so watch for that!) which can be enjoyed sliced into a stirfry, grated into a meatloaf or shredded and baked into a chocolate cake or a batch of muffins. I like to add zucchini to my stirfrys for as many meals as possible and I cook some into relishes and salsas, but I also grate my zucchini and freeze it in one cup portions to have for baking, soups and pasta sauce.
Besides the obvious suggestion of canning your tomatoes or making them into salsa, did you know you can also freeze them? Just toss your tomatoes in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Take them out as you need them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce or chili.
I like to freeze beans rather than canning them, mostly because that way they keep their nice green color. Wash your beans, snip the ends and cut them into 2-inch pieces or leave them whole. Blanch them by putting them in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then put them in an ice bath for 3 minutes before placing them in the container you’ll be freezing them in. I use plain old freezer bags.
I don’t like to waste a single leaf of this green miracle vegetable! Fresh spinach is fabulous in salads but salad from the garden can be frozen and used in smoothies, sauces and all kinds of other dishes all year long. Simply wash your spinach (a couple of times) to remove dirt and bugs. Spin it as dry as you can and then stuff it into freezer bags to take out as needed. You don’t need to thaw it before using it.
If you have more beets than you know what to do with but you can’t stand them pickled, did you know you can freeze them? Cook a big batch of beets then put them in an ice bath. When they’re nice and cold, peel off the skins and slice them. Put them in freezer bags and away you go!
Warning! Peppers lose their crunchiness after they’ve been frozen and thawed, but they keep their flavor. Frozen peppers are best suited for cooked dishes where the crunch isn’t important. To freeze peppers, simply slice them how you like and freeze in bags!
Today’s focus is on: Zucchini!
I am lucky enough to have some planted in my garden and it’s going crazy. I’ve had about 4 zucchini so far and YUM, delish! Here are some things you need to know about zucchini: 1) massively low in calories—one large zucchini is only 16 calories! 2) plenty of phyto nutrients including beta-carotene, B vitamins, a little vitamin C and plenty o’ potassium!
Here’s a TIP:
Small to medium sized zucchinis are most tasty. Look for a smooth, unblemished skin and nice dark green color. Tasty zucchs skin should feel soft, but the zucchini itself should be hard and not squishy (that means its past its prime, yuck!)
And a TRICK:
To change things up, I grate my zucchini, sautéing it in garlic and olive oil, topping it with a little freshly grated Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper. Nice side dish and almost rice-like or pasta-like in texture.
And your RECIPE:
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Prepare orzo according to package directions; drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again very thoroughly. Place in a large bowl.
Stir in the zucchini, olives, green onions, celery, tomato, and green bell pepper.
In a small bowl, beat together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, dill, salt and pepper.
Pour over the salad and toss to coat well.
Sprinkle on the feta cheese and toss again. Add the mayonnaise and toss gently.
Chill at least for 2 hours and bring to room temperature before serving.
Per Serving: 546 Calories; 30g Fat; 14g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 553mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 5 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 15
SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve with a simple caprese salad: sliced ripe tomatoes, layered with fresh basil leaves, sliced mozzarella and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Fresh ground pepper over the top finishes it beautifully.
According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S., averaging annually around 1 out of every 5 female deaths. That statistic applies to women of color as well as whites, American Indian, or Alaskan Native. Statistically, only Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women die from cancer more than heart disease.
Heart Disease Targets Women MORE Than Men
The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, and in the U.S. around 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have it.
That’s ONE in 16 women over the age of 20!!
However, whenever we hear about heart disease, heart attacks, and general death statistics related to the heart, it seems that most people generally think of men and not so much about women. As it turns out, heart disease actually kills more women than men every year.
Symptoms Of Heart Disease Or A Heart Attack Can Be Different For Women
One of the reasons may be that the symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are different for men and women, so women don’t seek out medical assistance as quickly. Some women have no symptoms while others have some of the more commonly known ones:
- Angina – dull and heavy or sharp chest pains or other discomfort
- Pain in the back or upper abdomen
- Pain in the throat, neck, or jaw
While these symptoms may occur during regular daily activities or while resting, there are other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, indigestion, upper body discomfort, and fatigue. Sounds like just another day for mothers and office workers, right?
In fact, since most women over 60 years old are not likely pregnant, these symptoms may be indications that you are having a heart attack.
If you have heart palpitations, a feeling of fluttering in your chest, your heart is beating irregularly and that is known as arrhythmia.
Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, neck veins, or abdomen? Do you feel unusual fatigue or shortness of breath? You may be experiencing actual heart failure.
If you have any of these symptoms and especially if you know that you are at risk, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
How Do You Know If You’re At Risk?
Pay attention to the most common risk factors for heart disease and be honest with yourself.
Some are medical conditions, based on heredity (family history of heart issues?) and many risk factors are personal lifestyle choices:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical exercise or activities
- Being obese or overweight
- High cholesterol
- Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy
- Pregnancy complications
- Mental stress and depression
- Family history of heart disease
Whether you have any of these risk factors or just want to reduce the chances of having heart disease, there are many things you can do:
- Quit Smoking – Easy to say and tough to do, but there are many remedies and tools on the market to assist you and if you don’t smoke now, don’t start.
- Annual Physicals – When you are visiting your doctor you can discuss getting a standard blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption – Try to limit yourself to no more than one a day. Everyone might like a glass of wine with dinner and during a game you might end up with more than one or two, but on a regular basis that will definitely raise your risk factors.
- Check Your Blood Pressure – There are no obvious symptoms for high blood pressure and if uncontrolled it can lead to heart disease, so check it regularly. Many pharmacies have stations for a quick check.
- Make Healthy Food Choices – If you look at a national map of heart disease in this country you will see the heaviest concentrations around the southern states, Midwest, and southwest, where diets high in unnatural fat are prevalent. Eating more fish, chicken, pork, or having a meatless meal once or twice a week will help, and reduce your fried food intake. Get familiar with olive or avocado oils for your salads and cooking, which are far better and healthier than corn or canola oils.
- Take Aspirin – Doctors often recommend that women over 65 years take a daily 81-milligram aspirin if their risk of digestive bleeding is low and their blood pressure is controlled. If you are at risk and under 65 it may also be helpful or stroke prevention, but discuss this with your doctor and don’t do it on your own.
- Take Fish Oil – But be careful. Many fish oil supplements are dirty, damaged oils and won’t give you the support you’re seeking for cardiovascular health. (Here’s a clean one.)
- Manage Stress Levels – There are a few ways to manage stress in natural and healthy ways, from meditation to yoga to Tai Chi and other exercises. Find your zen.
Keep in mind that you are not alone if you have been diagnosed with heart disease and it can be easily managed if you commit yourself to eating properly and living a healthy lifestyle.
Our bodies are filled with bacteria, and in a healthy body we can have around 40 million of those little critters floating around, mostly in our intestines.
However, we also may have a fair share of bad bacteria at any given moment and they can contribute to sickness and disease, so it is important to take steps in keeping a healthy balance by keeping the bad guys in check, and that primarily comes down to what you put into your body.
Diversify Your Diet
The bacterium in your gut includes hundreds of species, each with a different purpose.
That means they need different minerals and other nutrients to thrive and that comes down to a diverse diet, so eating a diverse range of foods is crucial. The more diverse your diet is the more diverse your microbiota will be, and that is a very good thing.
It is interesting to note that the people in rural regions of South America and Africa actually have more diversity in their gut microbiota that people in the US and Europe.
The western diet is far too dependent on fat and sugar, and it is estimated that around 75% of the food in the world is produced from only 5 animal species and 12 plants, so getting more adventurous and trying new whole foods will help expand your gut health.
Fruits, Veggies and Beans
Like mom and dad always told us–”Eat your vegetables!”
But don’t forget the legumes and beans–if you tolerate them.
The best sources of nutrients for a healthy microbiota are fruits and vegetables because they are high in a type of fiber that cannot be digested by your body. However, certain bacteria in your gut can digest fiber, so their growth is stimulated. And of course, legumes and beans are also high in fiber.
Some of those high-fiber foods that are good for your gut bacteria include:
Broccoli, whole grains, certain beans (white, kidney, pinto), lentils, green peas, raspberries, artichokes, and chickpeas.
There have also been studies done that indicate a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent the growth of bad bacteria that cause diseases.
Bifidobacteria are considered beneficial to the human body because they can enhance gut health and help prevent intestinal inflammation.
Bifidobacteria can be increased through the consumption of foods like almonds, pistachios, apples, artichokes, and blueberries.
Eat Fermented Foods
Fermentation is a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes. In biochemistry, it is narrowly defined as the extraction of energy from carbohydrates in the absence of oxygen. (Wikipedia definition)
Those carbohydrates that are converted are usually sugars, which are turned into organic acids or alcohol by yeasts, microbes, or bacteria.
Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, yogurt and kefir, tempeh, kimchi and kombucha.
While some of these dairy products may not be tolerated well for some, but they all add good bacteria and kefir may possibly improve tolerance to lactose. The casein however, remains in tact.
Yogurt is among the most common foods on the list and like many of them is rich in lactobacilli, a type of bacteria that can benefit gut health. While people who eat yogurt regularly appear to have more of this beneficial bacteria in their intestines, they similarly have a lower level of Enterobacteriaceae, a harmful bacteria associated with a number of chronic diseases and inflammation.
Not surprisingly, a lot of people avoid eating yogurt because they are lactose intolerant, yet a number of studies have shown that eating yogurt can actually improve lactose intolerance in both adults and infants.
Greek yogurt seems particularly helpful and kefir is similar in form and substance. However, many of the flavored, fruit yogurts also contain high levels of sugar, so the healthiest yogurts are generally the natural variety made with only milk and bacteria mixtures, referred to as “starter cultures”.
And again casein, a common protein found in dairy, is still an issue even after undergoing fermentation.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
One way to look at this topic is to begin with understanding that Mother Nature probably does it better than man, and artificial sweeteners are really just man-made replacements for sugar. Numerous studies have found that they can negatively affect the gut microbiota.
One study of aspartame, a controversial sweetener in diet sodas and the like, found that in rats it reduced weight gain (not lost weight, just reduced the gain), but it also impaired insulin response and increased blood sugar!
Those rats that were fed aspartame also had higher clostridium and enterobacteriaceae in their intestines. Those harmful bacteria, when present in high numbers, are associated with disease, and another study had similar findings for both mice and humans, showing negative effects on blood sugar levels.
Eat Prebiotic Foods
Prebiotics are essentially “food” that feed the probiotics.
They promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut.
They are generally fiber or complex carbs that can’t be digested by human cells, but certain bacterial species can break them down and use them for fuel.
While many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics, they can also be found on their own.
And then there is resistant starch.
Resistant starch is one source of prebiotics and is not absorbed in the small intestine (it resists digestion), so it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
Good examples of resistant starch include oatmeal, potatoes, rice and green bananas. It has been shown that cooked and cooled rice and potatoes have even more resistant starch.
These prebiotics have been found to promote healthy gut bacteria, including bifidobacteria, and have also been beneficial for people with certain diseases.
As an example, certain prebiotics can reduce insulin, triglycerides and cholesterol levels in people who are obese, so these results suggest that prebiotics may reduce the risk factors for many diseases associated with obesity, including diabetes and heart disease.
If you’re good with eating natural whole grains, beans and legumes, they’re wonder sources of a lot of fiber, however it is best to soak them well and fully cook them to remove lectins and anti-nutrients.
Raw potato starch and potatoes that are cooked and then cooled are other good sources, so load up on that potato salad instead of a hot baked potato to get the most resistant starch out of your taters.
Green bananas are better for resistant starch than ripened bananas because as they ripen they convert the starches into simple sugars like fructose, glucose, and sucrose, so eat them within a few days of purchase to maximize your intake.
Eat More Plants
No, you don’t need to become a vegetarian, but by reducing your meat intake and eating more fresh plant foods you can improve your gut bacteria and likely lose weight in the process.
Different types of intestinal bacteria are promoted by each food group and those who have a lot of veggies in their diet tend to have healthier gut flora, likely due to more fiber content.
Eat Foods Rich in Polyphenols
Polyphenols act as antioxidants and may protect against some common health problems and possibly certain effects of aging. They tend to protect cells and body chemicals against damage caused by free radicals, which are reactive atoms that contribute to tissue damage in the body.
Free radicals are like rust on a bike left out in the rain–they cause damage to your body.
Reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and oxidative stress are just some of the benefits from polyphenols. Like resistant starches, they resist digestion in the upper intestine and are therefore digested later by gut bacteria in the colon.
Some good sources of polyphenols are: Red wine (Yay!), dark chocolate and cocoa (double Yay!), broccoli, blueberries, onions, almonds, green tea, and grape skins (or red wine!).
The next time you are drinking your favorite red wine, think about all those beneficial changes in your microbiota that are associated with lower levels of triglycerides, heart disease, and inflammation.
Take a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics are live microorganisms, usually bacteria, which exert a specific health benefit when consumed, and may aid in fighting off inflammation and heart disease while aiding in the production of good gut bacteria.
Keep this in mind especially if you are on medications like anti-biotics that intentionally destroy all bacteria in general, so restoring your healthy gut as soon as possible is really important when it has been compromised like that.
For more about our two different, pharmaceutical grade probiotics, click here and here.