nav-left cat-right
cat-right

Food Facts

Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

Posted by on Oct 26, 2013 in fruits and vegetables, in season | 0 comments

Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

In case you missed the chill in the air, the abundance of seasonal autumn produce – crisp apples, colorful squash, and pears should tell you that winter is just around the corner. Why pears? Why now? They are a truly versatile, luscious, flavorful and healthful fall fruit. Most North American pears are grown in Oregon and Washington. Though you can find some variety from August through May as some type is harvested year-round, true ‘pear season‘ begins in September/October. That is when they are most abundantly available, less expensive and flavorful. In case there is any doubt – just look at the range of skin colors among pear varieties. They match the gorgeous hues of the fall leaves: gold, russet, mauve, pale green, ginger, crimson and more. Pear Varieties Not a fan? Perhaps it’s because you’ve always eaten canned pears or rock hard, out-of-season green Anjou pears which are available almost year-round in supermarkets. It’s time to broaden your horizons and enjoy new varieties…as there are many. The first pear varieties to explode on the scene in September are Bosc (russet-colored and firm even when ripe), Bartlett (green and red, ultra juicy) and Comice (green with brown flecks, firm flesh). By October you can find Anjou (red and green), Concorde (pale green), Forelle (green skin spotted with red flecks) and Seckel (shiny skin, often mostly a muted green color with a patch of reddish-orange) appear…and that’s hardly a comprehensive list! Some varieties might be harder to find in your region than others but make it your goal to try at least one new variety this season. You’ll find in-season pears to offer a firm but juicy texture and flavors that range from very sweet to tart. Use this as a guideline, but keep in mind most pears, as with many fruits and vegetables, can be eaten raw or cooked (except Bartlett). Eating versus Cooking Best for eating raw: Bartlett (soft, lose their shape when cooked), Comice (also juicy, very sweet, may not cook well), French butter, Anjou and Asian (‘crisp’ flesh, like an apple, good for dicing and adding to salads or using in tarts or crisps) Best for cooking: Bosc, seckel (tiniest variety, very firm, slightly acidic) and forelle (sweet-tart, snacking or cooking) Pear Nutrition and Health Benefits The pear is a relatively low-calorie fruit. One medium-sized fruit, or about 175 grams, offers about 95 calories. Calories per fruit vary according to variety and size. They are fat, cholesterol and sodium-free but high in dietary fiber, providing roughly 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Pears (and apples) contain an appreciable amount of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels (slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream). Selecting and Storing Choose firm, blemish-free, stem-on pears with unbroken skin. They ripen quickly and bruise very easily so handle with care. Store them at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. Though you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to ‘hold’ them at a certain ripeness, pears are best, and juiciest, when eaten at room temperature. They are ripe when the flesh ‘gives’ gently when pressed at the neck of the...

read more

Greek Yogurt Information and Recommendations

Posted by on Sep 4, 2013 in dairy products and substitutes | 0 comments

Greek Yogurt Information and Recommendations

Do you love Greek yogurt (Greek-style yogurt)? It’s all the rage these days…pushing regular yogurt to the back of the shelf. In fact, it accounts for 1/3 of the yogurt in a typical grocery store. It’s thick and creamy, satisfying and, if you choose wisely, a very healthy snack choice or meal accompaniment. That said, don’t go crazy just yet – there is a huge difference among brands. Educate yourself before you buy. Greek yogurt brands are NOT all equal when it comes to taste, quality or nutritive value. Greek Yogurt: Traditional versus ‘Faux’ Greek yogurt is traditionally made by straining regular yogurt to remove some of the liquid whey, leaving behind the thick, concentrated solids. This process increases the protein content significantly (15 to 20 grams per 6-oz. serving) but slightly decreases the calcium content (15 to 20% of the Recommended Daily Value or 150 to 200 mg of calcium per serving). Strained Greek yogurt is very similar to Icelandic-style skyr. Faux Greek-style yogurt is made by adding thickeners to regular yogurt, such as inulin, cornstarch, gelatin and/or pectin. Manufacturers may add whey protein concentrate to bump the protein content up. If not, it will offer the same amount of protein as traditional yogurt, about 6 to 8 grams per 6-oz. serving. More protein per serving is one of the main benefits of choosing Greek yogurt! Unstrained yogurt with added thickeners also contains the same amount of calcium as regular yogurt (25 to 30% of the Recommended Daily Value or 250 to 300 mg per serving). Greek Yogurt: General Nutrition Information Greek yogurt can vary in calories, particularly depending upon whether or not you choose sugar-sweetened. Personally, I recommend steering clear of artificially sweetened Greek yogurt, which tastes a bit ‘too’ sweet. Most light varieties are usually made with a combination of artificial sweeteners. These days, folks are second-guessing whether loading up on artificial sweeteners is wise as new research emerges. You can stay conservative on calories, without limiting yourself to only light Greek yogurt varieties. Most Greek yogurt varieties range from ‘bite-sized’ 3.5-oz servings all the way to generous 8-oz servings. Therefore they range in calorie content, starting at 90 calories and going all the way up to 280 calories. Per serving, Greek yogurt also varies in saturated (bad) fat content, ranging from 0 to 12 grams; a protein content of 6 to 20 grams; a calcium content of 100 to 350 mg and a sugar content of 1 to 4 tsp (includes natural and added sugars). In general, Greek yogurt is lower in carbohydrate than regular yogurt (comparing plain, non-flavored varieties). Stay tuned for ‘Best Picks.’ Our ‘Best Picks’ piece will include a review of dairy-free, lactose-free Greek yogurt substitutes, made with cultured almond, rice or soy milk. Drawbacks? For those who do not like Greek yogurt and prefer traditional yogurt, particularly more exotic flavors as well as ready-to-eat puddings, etc., may be in a bind. Companies, such as Danone (makers of Oikos) and Stoneyfield Farm are being forced to limit production and eliminate less popular flavors of traditional yogurt to keep up with the Greek yogurt craze…to read more on this in an article published online (Wall Street...

read more

Zucchini Nutrition Facts

Posted by on Aug 11, 2013 in fruits and vegetables | 0 comments

Zucchini Nutrition Facts

There’s zucchini…and then, well, there’s ZUCCHINI (see photo). This popular variety of summer vegetable is light, refreshing, versatile and delicious. Zucchini is easy to grow in a home garden….and boy, does it grow. Summer squash is in peak season early in the summer but home gardeners may not harvest it until mid-summer or later. Eating produce in-season ensures fantastic flavor and lower prices. Late summer and early fall is not time to wind down your trips to the farmer’s markets, but to kick it into high-gear as August is a big harvest month. Summer squashes are relatives to winter squashes, such as pumpkins as well as melons and cucumbers. They belong to the Cucurbitaceae family of plants. Zucchini has a soft shell and creamy white flesh. In terms of selection, choose firm zucchini (free of blemishes) with a shiny, slightly prickly green skin. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. DO NOT wash until you are ready to use. This low-carbohydrate vegetable offers 20 calories per cup, sliced, 0 g fat, 4 g carbohydrate, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein, 1 g dietary fiber and 10 mg sodium. Zucchini is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of other essential micronutrients, such as molybdenum, vitamin B6 and manganese. Summer squash is one of the best food sources of various carotenoids (antioxidants found in dark green/orange veggies), such as alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Supporting healthy eyesight, offering anti-cancer benefits and supporting blood sugar metabolism are just three of the many health benefits of this nutrient-dense veggie. Eat raw (as a snack or on top of a salad) or slice and steam to retain the most nutrients (skin-on). Zucchini can be frozen, but doing so will soften the flesh…however, frozen summer squash actually retains its antioxidant content (potency) very well. You can find recipes for zucchini bread, cake, muffins, etc. What about something different and super-easy? Cut your zucchini length-wise in 1/4″ slices. Brush lightly with olive oil and grill seasoning (and/or seasonings you like). Grill (on a pre-heated grill) until tender, about 3-4 minutes per...

read more

Hot Dogs Nutrition Facts: Limit the Damage

Posted by on Jul 2, 2013 in food facts | 0 comments

Hot Dogs Nutrition Facts: Limit the Damage

Hot dogs, synonymous for many with ‘summertime’ food, will never be mistaken for a health food. But how bad are they? Can you do minimal diet damage and still enjoy an occasional hot dog as a treat? Why are they so unhealthy to begin with? First, the bad news: hot dogs are processed meat products, full of calories, sodium, cholesterol and fat. This processed ‘cured’ meat product contains sodium nitrite, a preservative that gives hot dogs a pinkish-red color and helps to prevent botulism food poisoning. Cooked over hot coals, nitrite can react with naturally occurring compounds in processed meat to form nitrosamines/ nitrosamides, connected with the development of certain types of cancers. Add to that the fact that consuming a diet rich in red meat alone is connected with an increased risk of developing colon cancer…for overall health, it is best to limit red meat consumption but be particularly cautious with processed meats (deli meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs…). Now for some good news: hot dogs can be a better choice than regular hamburgers (calorie and fat-wise) and don’t have to be ‘off-limits.’ Choose wisely when you can and balance less nutritious food items (like processed meats) with better choices (whole grains, fruits and vegetables). Here are some guidelines for limiting the damage in your favorite summertime treat: Choose small or regular-sized pork or beef hot dogs over ‘jumbo’ hot dogs. A smaller-sized hot dog (around 40 to 50 grams) typically offers less than 150 calories per wiener but a jumbo dog (close to twice the size) can provide, predictably, twice the amount of calories, and that’s before the hot dog bun and condiments. Look for brands of hot dogs that are low in saturated fat (providing no more than 3 grams per wiener, 2 grams is even better) and not too high in sodium (about 400 to 450 mg per wiener). Try a veggie or turkey dog instead. You may not save much on sodium, but you will on calories and fat, and consume no  saturated fat by choosing these dogs. A veggie dog offers, on average, 60 to 70 calories, less than 2g fat and less than 400 mg sodium. Veggie hot dogs are also sodium nitrite-free. Finally, choose a whole grain hot dog bun and be careful with high-calorie toppings. Try a squeeze of yellow mustard, onions and tomatoes. Keep in mind that most condiments are sodium-rich. Balance your plate with healthy choices, such as fresh watermelon and a three-bean...

read more

Nuts for Health: Including them in your diet

Posted by on Mar 7, 2013 in eat smart, food facts | 0 comments

Nuts for Health: Including them in your diet

In a word…YES! Nuts contain a lot of fat, scaring off many calorie-conscience dieters. Nuts are high in calories. Why? Gram for gram, fat provides the most calories (9 calories per gram versus 4 calories per gram for carbohydrate and protein). However, the fat in nuts is mostly unsaturated (heart-healthy kind of fats). So, while they may be higher in calories,  nuts are also packed with a lot of really good nutrients, such as protein, as well as vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, manganese, selenium, potassium, niacin (vitamin B3), copper and vitamin E (among other nutrients). What are some of the benefits of including nuts in your diet? Nuts are cholesterol-free   Nuts are a fantastic source of dietary fiber and antioxidants Those who consume one serving of nuts five times per week can reduce risk of heart disease by 50% and diabetes by 25% Eating nuts as a snack (part of a snack) stabilizes blood sugar, staves off hunger and may aid in weight loss/ management, despite a higher calorie content Because nuts are higher in fats, they can help keep you satisfied longer and tide you over when you are hungry (it takes longer for your body to breakdown fat). The recommendation: try eating a handful of unsalted nuts (15-20 each) daily … but make sure you substitute something out of your diet because a serving of nuts may provide up to 300 calories.  All nuts are healthy in moderation, but walnuts, pecans, almonds and pistachios are particularly nutritious choices and offer surprising health benefits. Here are a few ideas on how to include nuts into your diet: Use chopped or crushed nuts as a crispy coating (along with whole-grain cereal and herbs) for fish or poultry Toss coarsely chopped nuts into side dishes, such as brown rice, barley or quinoa Chop and stir into oatmeal or cold cereal Toast (on medium heat in a dry nonstick skillet) lightly for topping salads Grind them in a food processor and use as a substitute for bread crumbs  These are just a few suggestions – use your...

read more

Flaxseed Health Benefits

Posted by on Mar 3, 2013 in food facts | 0 comments

Flaxseed Health Benefits

Question: What is it? Answer: Linum usitatissimum, or plan old flax, is a blue-flowered crop that has been used as a food source since 3000 B.C. Flaxseed, a reddish-brown, chewy seed, is rich in protein, fat & dietary fiber. The quality of flaxseed protein is similar to that of a soybean & the quality of its fat is similar to that of canola oil. Question: What’s so great about it? Answer: Flaxseed is a rich source of several minerals and phytochemicals that have been shown to protect against the development of certain types of cancer & heart disease. The alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3 fat) in flaxseed is a type of essential fatty acid that promotes heart health, immunity and continues to be studied for its importance in the prevention of chronic inflammation. Question: I’ve heard the term ‘lignans’ in reference to flax. What are those? Answer: Flaxseed is an incredibly rich source of a group of compounds called lignans. Many plant foods contain lignans, but flaxseed provides a whopping 75 times more lignans than any other food! “(Flaxseed) lignans are important because they may have powerful antioxidant properties that can help block the damaging effects of harmful oxygen molecules called free radicals. These molecules are thought to cause changes in the body that can lead to cancer.” Lignans show promise for blocking the effects of estrogen, which helps to protect against breast cancer. Even when estrogen positive tumors grow, in the presence of lignans, their growth may slow or halt. Question: Any other benefits? Answer: Flaxseed is very high in fiber, 3 TBS of seeds provide 3 grams of fiber, or about 12% of the Recommended Daily Value. Fiber, among other functions, can help block the effects of harmful compounds in the body that, over time, can damage intestinal cells, leading to cancer. It also moves these compounds out of the body quicker. Question: I’ve seen the seeds and the meal, what’s the best way to eat flax/incorporate into my diet? Answer: It’s best to buy the seeds (Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand) and grind them yourself shortly before use. This releases the beneficial oils. Store the ground flaxseed in an airtight container in the fridge and sprinkle 1 TB or so in smoothies, on salads, in yogurt…even stir some in soup or spaghetti sauce (nobody will...

read more