Probiotics found in many foods

Probiotics

We keep hearing about probiotics but what do they really do? Probiotics are live bacteria considered to be beneficial keeping your body’s bacteria naturally balanced and boosting overall health. This includes improving the immune system to allow the body to resist pathogens and potentially cancer. Children show fewer allergies with probiotics. Organs work better including the digestive and urinary tract, and the vagina.

You can purchase supplements but natural sources are always my preference. Most are fermented which results in the natural bacteria. Some processed foods are cooked or pasteurized killing off the good bacteria you are trying to get. Check packaging on prepared items like yogurt for claims of “live active cultures”. This is what you want.

Here is a list of good sources of probiotics:
Yogurt
Kefir
Buttermilk
Soymilk
Soft Cheese
Sauerkraut
Kimchi
Miso
Kombucha tea
Tempeh
Poi
Pickles
Olives
Dark Chocolate
Microalgae Blue-Green Algae, Spirulina and Chorella
Apples (acts as a prebiotic or feeds probiotics)

 

Kids Taco Salad recipe

Taco Salad

Do you have a hard time getting your kids to eat their vegetables? This recipe is for a salad I absolutely loved as a kid. Not all the ingredients are the healthiest, but it’s a great transition to salad eating for picky eaters. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it!

1 head of iceberg lettuce chopped into large pieces
1 onion diced
3-4 large tomatoes diced
2 avocados diced
8 oz sharp cheddar cheesed diced into small cubes
1 lb lean ground beef
8 oz thousand island dressing
1 bag taco seasoned corn tortilla chips
hot sauce (optional)

Crush taco chips slightly to avoid having large pieces. You will add these LAST.  Brown meat and mix with all the rest of the ingredients. Serve immediately.

This salad doesn’t hold firm well so eat it immediately. A couple ways I found you can extend the life is to use a  sturdier lettuce than iceberg, like romaine. Always add your chips last. If you do save it for a day, add NEW chips to it, pulling any that are soggy out.

Enjoy!

Low Fat Sweet & Sour Kabobs recipe

Kabobs

It’s summer! Good pineapple is still available and bell peppers are finally ripening! This means easy, delicious, home made Chinese sweet and sour!

To enjoy the outdoors and make an easy low fat meal, try this recipe.

3 thick boneless pork loin chops cut into large cubes (16 oz total)
1-2 large bell pepper cut into large pieces
1/2 onion cut into large pieces
small pineapple cut into large pieces (canned can be used)
rice
sweet & sour sauce

This makes enough for 4 small servings.

Start cooking rice. Put pork on it’s own skewers since they take longer to cook than the vegetables. Cook over medium-high heat, continuously turning for roughly 10 minutes until just cooked in the center. This will keep them tender. Alternate your onion, pepper and pineapple pieces on skewers. If you have a higher level rack on your grill you can start cooking your vegetable skewers at the same time. If not, add them to the grill after 4 minutes of cooking the pork. Cook the vegetables for 6 minutes, 3 minutes on each side. You don’t want them to cook until they are soft, but you do want them warm and tender.

Take what you want off the skewers, put on a bed of rice and pour sweet & sour sauce over it!

Tasty and healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arsenic in apple juice!

Apple juice

This is coming up again?! I can’t tell you how many times this issue has been brought up over the years. My senior paper in college was about contamination of apple juice so I find myself explaining the details to my friends over and over again.

However, this time there has been changes at the FDA!

As I mentioned in my earlier post on arsenic in rice, arsenic is found in nature, including in the soil which is how it ends up in your produce. It’s always been there at some level. There is organic arsenic that usually flows through the body with no ill effect, and then there is inorganic arsenic found in pesticides that can cause cancer and other health risks. Higher levels are found from produce grown overseas where growing practices are not as regulated.

The FDA had little concern with the levels of arsenic in produce because it was so low and there was no medical proof that is was an issue. The public, on the other hand, had great concern pushing the point that it’s usually the one juice given to babies. The belief is that levels of arsenic build up faster in children because of their size and the higher amount of juice they drink.

This debate has come up every 10 years and the last time the FDA addressed it was in 2008 by reducing the standards to 23 parts per billion. A couple years ago Dr. Oz brought it up again, and the FDA is now in the process of reducing the standard again to 10 parts per billion where the standard for bottled water is currently set. Just so you are aware, the amount of juice tested that came up over 10 parts per billion was only 5%. If you read as many papers as I have on contaminants in food, that’s a pretty low percentage. I don’t want to shock you but there are far more concerning contaminants in your food, you just don’t hear about it.

So….now that I may have scared you, let’s talk about what you can do to reduce your risk of food contamination…….

I can’t say it enough… buy your food closest to it’s natural source. When you buy processed food, you don’t know what the ingredients are or where they came from. Buy your food locally and buy organic so you know there are no pesticides used. Many apple juice companies buy juices from overseas where growing practices are not as regulated. And finally, eat and drink a variety of foods and beverages to avoid building up of one type of chemical. It’s easier for the body to eliminate small doses of multiple types of toxins. Even Dr. Oz when he brought up the apple juice issue said that you shouldn’t be feeding your baby a lot of apple juice. It contain too much sugar, even though it’s natural.

There is a great farmers market close by my house. They sell great freshly pressed organic apple juice. I think I’ll go buy some today with no fear of arsenic.

 

Lowfat, Gluten Free Chili Soup recipe

Chili Soup

This is a recipe for a soup we used to have all the time when we were kids. I’m not sure where it originated, but I put my own bend on it by using gluten free pasta. Everyone loves it, it’s quick and easy and it always tastes good!

1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion diced
3 stalks of celery diced
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 Tbls chili powder
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1 can drained kidney beans
1 cup of gluten free macaroni, spiral or other fun style pasta

In a large pot, brown beef, add onion and celery cooking for 5-10 minutes. Add tomato sauce, spices, and 3 cups of water. Cook at medium heat until the celery is tender. Add beans and pasta. Simmer until the noodles are just done. You may need to add more water after the initial cooking. You must have enough for the pasta to absorb. If you add too much, you just let it simmer longer until it’s the right consistency for you.

Enjoy!

 

 

Can coffee help depression?

Coffee

Are you a coffee lover? I am and I have good news! I just found an article about a study that preliminarily shows a 15% decrease in the development of depression in women who drink coffee!

Who knew!

The women in the study drank at least 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day, and if they drank 4 cups a day, there was a 20% decrease. They couldn’t get enough people who drank 6 or more cups to claim additional benefit.

Why did they pick women for the study? Women are two times more likely to get depression than men. Statistics show one in five women experience depression.  I’ve heard gossip that one in four women who work are actually on anti-depression medication!

This study was based on 10 years of follow up questionnaires. This long of a study increases the support for the findings. Unfortunately, this is one of the first studies of its kind so more studies need to be done before scientists can say it’s been proven.

If you want to see more on this study, look up Archives of Internal Medicine, September 26, 2011.

Enjoy your cup of java!

 

Health Benefits of Black, Green and White Tea

Tea

You hear more and more about how good tea is for you. But have you ever really heard the details?

Tea is made from the leaf of the Camellia Sinensis plant.  Black tea is made from leaves that are dried and fermented. Green tea is made from slightly steamed and unfermented leaves and white tea is made from young leaves. Herbal teas are not made from Camellia leaves, they are usually made from herbs, flowers and fruits, such as peppermint, chamomile, lemon grass, hibiscus and orange.

All teas made from Camellia have flavonoids with the highest found in the black version. Flavonoids are antioxidants so a cup of tea is like adding a fruit or vegetable to your diet. Just like other foods with high antioxidants, tea is full of health benefits.

Studies show that drinking tea improves digestion and may even act as a probiotic. Related to this, there are findings that drinking tea reduces cancers of the digestive system.

Tea has also shown to improve bone health by reducing bone density issues for women after menopause. Bone loss and breaking of fragile bones is a big problem for the elderly that can eventually result in death. Drinking tea can help prevent this.

Heart health is also improved with tea helping to reduce blood pressure.  Studies show that tea improve cell function in blood vessels.

With the improvement of blood flow there is an increase in brain activity. Other chemicals in tea also seem to repair injuries in the brain and potentially reduce chances of getting Alzheimer’s. There is caffeine in tea, but less than found in coffee. Caffeine will help you keep awake and alert and will speed up your metabolism. This may help in weight loss.

Don’t forget that tea has no fat and almost no calories! If you want to keep down the calorie, don’t add cream or sugar.

What’s the best way to get the most out of your tea? Always brew your tea, even if you drink it iced. That brings out the most flavonoids. Add lemon juice to your tea. That will keep the integrity of the flavonoids.

Whether it’s black, green or even white tea, it seems to have an overwhelming number of health benefits. If you don’t drink tea, you may want to consider starting!

 

Keeping and eating berries all year!

Berries

Ah berries! Not only are they tasty, most of them are considered part of the super fruits category, loaded with antioxidants!  If you are gardening right now you are probably overwhelmed with all of your berries ripening at the same time.  Maybe you’re one of those farmer’s market addicts that insists on buying flats of berries just knowing you are going to eat a lot of them! Of course you don’t want them to go to waste so what’s the best way to store them and use them all?

Berries are very tender fruits which can break open easily. They are also prone to molds. They need to be handled and stored delicately. If you bought them at a market, you already have a good container to store them in. The best is an open breathable paper type container to keep good airflow around the fruit. Grocery chains use plastic shells to keep the berries from crushing during transport. If you purchased from a grocery store in a plastic container, make sure it has enough holes to keep condensation from building inside. If you are harvesting your own berries, hopefully you saved these container types from your other grocery shopping trips. If not, cardboard boxes are your best option. You can use paper bags for tougher berries like blueberries or cherries, but raspberry style berries will most like break apart.

Do not wash your berries until right before you use them. Washing them ahead of time may damage them, but also increases the bacteria and mold growth. I tried washing ahead of time once and noticed they degraded faster and there was a taste difference as well. When you do wash your berries, put them in a colander and gently shower them with water until they are clean. A salad spinner works great.

Are you starting to figure out you can’t eat them all? It’s better to find out as early as possible how many you can truly eat now versus later. Not only do they lose their peak flavor, the nutrient content of your berries decrease after they have been harvested.

You can freeze berries easily. It’s better to freeze them as fresh as possible for best taste. On a cookie baking sheet pan, arrange the berries individually so they do not touch each other. Sit the pan in the freezer until at least the outside of the berries are frozen. Pour into gallon size freezer bags and store in the freezer. Rather than buy a freezer pack machine, you can easily get the air out of these bags yourself. Seal all but a corner of the bag and suck the air out like you are sucking on a straw. You’d be surprised at how much you can get out! There are differences of opinion on whether or not you should wash the berries before you freeze them. You can always wash them after you thaw them. If they are organic, I don’t wash them. I’d rather keep the integrity of the berry. If you do decide to wash ahead of time, make sure you completely dry them before you start the freezing process.

Ok, you’ve come to a point where you have berries that just aren’t good enough to eat fresh. What do you do? Some people make jams or jellies. I like to make cobblers, crisps and crumbles! They are easy to make. Search for my rhubarb crisp recipe and substitute berries. You can also make smoothies which I also have a recipe for on earlier months.

For year round berry goodness, make sure to get your berries while you can, and freeze some to enjoy in the winter too!

Blueberry Peach Popsicle recipe

Popsicle

One of the fun things I learned to do with my new juicer is how to make popsicles! If you don’t have a juicer, a blender will work. Strain the puree to have more liquid than pulp. You can buy plastic popsicle molds at your culinary or home centric department store. They come in all shapes and sizes. The best thing about popsicles from fresh juice is you get the health benefits of fruit, there are no artificial colors or flavor, and they have a great texture from the pulp.

Since molds come in all sizes, I’ll have to give you this recipe in portion break down. Blueberries have a subtle flavor, but taste fantastic when combined with peaches.

3 parts blueberries (frozen will be sweeter)
1 part peaches
1/2 orange
1/2 apple
Agave syrup to desired sweetness

Pour into molds and freeze!

The colder the food, the less you can taste it, and that includes sweetness. If you want a definite sweet taste to your popsicles, you will want to add extra syrup.

Great to have on a hot day!

 

Brain powered by the RIGHT food

Brain Food

Have you ever had a day where you just can’t remember things? Those types of days drive me crazy! Sometimes I even get concerned that brain is going!

There have been a lot of studies lately on what foods increase your brain power.

Fish has been known to reduce aging of cells in the body and that includes the brain. Many people recommend eating fish at least twice a week to reap the benefits. Fish is also a protein that keeps the blood sugar stable longer, giving your body consistent energy and brain activity.

B vitamins are high on the list. They unlock the energy you need to keep your brain awake and active. You find high amounts of vitamin B in leafy green vegetables, eggs, dairy products, beans, legumes and of course, fish.

Tea, especially green tea, is not only found to increase brain activity in the near term, it’s also found to slow aging of the brain. This includes repairing damage and improving memory. There is also a possible link to protection against Alzheimer’s.

Caffeine in small doses improve brain power in the short term. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea and dark chocolate.

Other specific foods that studies show are great for the brain include avocados, pomegranates, blueberries, nuts and seeds.

At the same time researchers are also finding foods that are bad for the brain.

Sugar is one of the worst, followed by a generally high carbohydrate diet. It’s even being linked to a higher instance of Alzheimer’s. If you focus more on fruits, vegetables and protein, you can reduce this risk. When you pick your carbs, pick complex carbohydrates over the simple white bread and pasta.

Watch the amount of alcohol you take in. It causes vitamin B deficiency and damages neurons which are essential for the brain to work properly. If you don’t want to give up drinking, have an occasional glass of red wine which is now known to have anti-aging properties.

Besides certain foods, a big boost to the brain is exercise. Getting the blood flowing is important for any organ and the brain is no different.

Next time you start to lose your memory, pick up a snack that will improve your brain power!