Clementines and Satsumas….mandarin of many names

mandarins

It’s hard to get excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables in winter when the selection is limited. Fortunately, there is one fruit that takes over the grocery store at this time that is not only delicious but is also healthy, nutritious and fun to eat!

What are all those tiny oranges? I see them labeled as mandarins, clementines, cuties, sweeties, satsumas and mikans. All of these are varieties of the mandarin. Cuties and sweeties are just another name for clementines, and mikans are the same thing as satsumas. While mandarins themselves have seeds, the remaining varieties do not. All but the clementine have loose skins that make them easy to peel and eat. They all have a milder flavor than the standard orange and are lower in acid, so if you have acid reflux it will be a better orange choice for. It’s also a great snack for children. Tangerines are similar to mandarins but larger, more acidic and have an orange-red color.

Mandarin oranges came from Cochin-China and it’s believed they were named from the yellow robes that the civil servants wore. Satsumas are a mandarin variety that originated in Japan.  Both were considered medicinal with a focus on gastrointestinal health. The Japanese even extracted the essential oil for pharmaceutical purposes. Clementines were named when they began to be grown in America. As a matter of fact, most of the Satsumas eaten in America are actually grown in California.

Mandarins are high in antioxidants and flavonoids, fiber, vitamin C and A. They are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. They contain good amounts of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and other trace minerals.

The health benefits of mandarins are abundant. Studies show a reduction in cancer risk, especially liver cancer due to the high amount of antioxidants and flavonoids. They are important for bone health due to their ability to increase calcium absorption. Mandarins also improve eye health, the immune system, reduce cholesterol, and assist in weight loss.

What a tasty, healthy and nutritious option in the winter when a variety of fruit is hard to find!

Best answer for weight loss

Gym

Most people know there are multiple elements to losing weight, but which one is most important?

  • Eating well balanced meals
  • Eating less calories
  • Eating less fat
  • Portion control
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Keeping  up the metabolism
  • Keeping up the activity level
  • Controlling stress

 

ALL of these are important to both lose weight and maintain health. If you feel you are already doing all this and still not losing weight, I’m going to challenge you. Weight loss is based mostly on a mathematical equation. Energy in minus energy out.  If you are taking in more calories than you are burning, you are not going to lose weight.  Theoretically, as long as you eat properly and maintain a good level of activity, you should be able to maintain a good weight.

The only exception is if your body is holding on to those calories due to a physical issue. Disease, stress and not eating enough calories are common reasons for calorie holding. That’s right; I said “not enough calories”. The body does the most amazing things to survive.  It needs a certain amount of calories to basically function.  If you fall short of giving it enough calories, it thinks you are starving and will adapt by setting a new lower level calorie requirement for your body. It’s going into survival mode and lowering your metabolism. This is the problem with crash diets.  If you eat less than 1000 calories a day, lose weight and then increase your calorie intake back to what should be enough to just maintain, you will actually gain more than where you started.  Your body is still hoarding for survival. Some diseases and stress can also cause the body to go into survival mode.

The answer you are seeking to your weight loss is simple. Do the math.

Eat at least 3 meals a day and if you feel weak and shaky, eat something. Find that calorie level where you aren’t hungry, have energy and are not gaining weight. That should be your baseline. Reduce that calorie level by 100-200 calories a day and you will eventually lose your weight. If you are a woman and your baseline seems to be less than 1200 calories or 1800 if you are a man, you probably need to work on your metabolism. You can do this by increasing your activity. As you increase your activity your body will require more calories. When you eat more calories, the body will burn more and eventually increase your body requirement again. The body takes a while to make this adjustment so to be successful, you should only lose an average of 2 pounds a week. Forcing a faster weight loss will confuse the body causing large fluctuations rather than maintaining your weight loss. That’s called yo-yo dieting.

In my opinion, starting a fitness program is the best solution to fix most weight loss problems. It hits all the pain points:

  • Increasing the burning of calories
  • Increasing the metabolism
  • Reducing stress  (stress causes survival mode)
  • Creating muscles (more muscles burn more calories)

Activity level seems to have the most impact and immediate return on in a weight loss program. The example I like to use is the old time family farmer. They would start off their day with a large breakfast of heavy bread, meat, eggs, bacon and things like butter.  Then they worked outside all day and efficiently burn off all those calories. They were thin and lived long lives.  With the invention of farm equipment, you suddenly started to see obesity and heart disease in the farming community. They still ate the same food but decreased their activity level.

If you are sedentary, start slow. Even just walking is a good calorie burner.  You will soon find yourself not only losing weight, but also gaining more energy and generally feeling better.

It’s not too late to change your New Year’s resolution from “lose weight” to “start a fitness program”.  If you increase your activity, you’ll get both in the end!

Best Recipes to Eat Your Dark Leafy Greens

greens

You and I both hear a lot about how good dark leafy greens are for you, but how often do you eat them? I’ve never been a fan of these greens and usually find them bitter and tough. I tried steaming kale, growing Swiss chard, and cooking up bok choy in a thai recipe. None really impressed me.

The reality is leafy greens are low in fat and calories, high in fiber and loaded with more vitamins and minerals than almost any other food. That is why it’s important to find the best way to prepare them so you can actually enjoy them.  Here are my favorite types of milder fresh greens and the best way I found to eat them:

Beet Greens – These taste fantastic mixed with lettuce in a salad. They are sweet, and if you get them young, like the ones pictured, they are very tender too. You can also cook them using the techniques below. They have little to no bitter taste.

Spinach – Lightly steam, stopping before the color of the leaves turn a darker green. Sprinkle with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. Keep in mind it takes a LOT of fresh spinach to make a small side dish.

Collards – I met a person down south who gave me tips on how to get a great taste from your collards. First, they are best to harvest an eat in the winter or early spring when it’s still cold outside. Chop up collard leaves into 1-2 inch squares. Simmer them in a deep frying pan with chopped up pork or ham and a small amount of water until they are tender. Down south they use fatty pieces of pork which add more flavor, but I find ham plenty tasty. Lightly salt if needed.

Dinosaur Kale – I found this at a farmers market and the fresher it is, the sweeter it is. This variety is tender and not as stringy as the most commonly purchased version. Chop into bite size pieces. While it’s lightly steaming, in a large pan saute garlic and onion in olive oil. Add the kale to the pan and finish cooking. Add salt to taste.

The last recommendation is to make a green juice by combining any of these mild greens with an apple, orange and pear. Add the greens last until the desired flavor is achieved.

I hope at least one of these recipes work for you!

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season for Tasty Dates

Dates

Trying to get your sweet tooth back under control after the holiday? Try the incredible date!

I usually eat fruit to ease myself off candy, cookies and other sweets, but in the winter there is a lack of good produce. Luckily there is a fruit called a date that dries so well it lasts a long time.  Winter is the season when you can readily find dates in your local grocery store.

Dates grow on palm trees found in the Middle East. They eventually made their way through Africa, Spain and Italy, eventually landing in Mexico and California. The Egyptians called them the “tree of life” and modelled large columns in their architecture after them. Dates are so high in natural sugar they were used as sweeteners like we use sugar today.  They ground them up into flour, used them in cakes and also made wine out of them. They are still so popular in their native land that 80% of the world’s dates grown are actually eaten right where the tree is. Only 20% make it to our tables.

Why am I willing to eat a fruit high in natural sugar? I look at it as a stepping stone with benefits. It’s difficult to go cold turkey after you eat so many sweets, you may need something to gradually work to other fruits. I found a great looking box at my local store and immediately started rationing one or two a day. Once I’m done with my box of dates, I’ll move on to another less sugary fruit, and then back to my normal routine.

Here are the benefits of eating dates over candy or baked goods:

  • High Fiber
  • Very low in fat
  • No Cholesterol
  • Low sodium

And good amounts of

  • Protein
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6
  • Iron
  • Other minerals

Dates are considered a healthy snack that improves your digestive system and is good for your heart.  How’s that for a stepping stone to eliminating processed sugar?!

You can have a simple healthy life

Beach Sunrise

Happy New Year’s Day! It’s time for not only reflecting on the past year, but also planning your future. Regardless of what’s happened over the last year, you can still have a simple, healthy life. Whether you are 15 or 95, everyone has daily challenges or obstacles that need to be dealt with in order to survive and move forward.

If you are 15, you may not be working to pay bills or cooking your meals, but you do have a lot of life decisions to start making.  After high school, do you want to go to college, get a job, get married? That should lead you to the next question, which is what type of people do you want to surround yourself with? Pick people who will support you in the life you want. If you want to go to college but your friends want to stay home working at a local business, it won’t be easy. If you are tired of being overweight but eating fast food lunches, vending machine snacks and sitting in front of the computer or TV most of the time, how are you going to have a healthy life? It’s simple to make small changes now to make your future easier. Do some of your friends also want to go to college? Focus on them. You can help each other make it happen. Together you can look at colleges, find financial aid and study for exams.  Does a friend or someone in your family exercise regularly? You might have found a workout buddy. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a walk before sitting in front of the computer. Pick the healthier version of lunch or snack. These small changes now will make your life simple and less of a struggle in the future.

If you are older and have a job and/or children, life can get stressful. You are now constrained by time and money. Most people at this point in their lives only wish for health and happiness. If you have money, great! That is a resource that can get you the best variety of nutritional food and a hired hand to manage daily tasks that are tying up your time. If not, you need to analyze your time, spending and food choices to come up with a way to simplify your life.

Most people who complain about lack of time to exercise really have it; it’s just how they use it. A classic example is the average Americans spends 3-4 hours a day watching television. What could you do with that time? You could work out while watching. Use a cardio machine, lift weights, jump on a mini trampoline, walk up and down on a step, dance or just jog in place. Another complaint is the time needed for the children. Rather than just spending time watching your children, engage them in your work out or go for a walk with them. Not only are you burning off the calories and spending quality time with your children, you are teaching them a great life habit and reducing your own stress level. Don’t use the “I’m tired” excuse either. Being physically active releases endorphins resulting in a positive mood and usually an increase in energy. A good walk will also help you and your children sleep better.

Make healthier food choices one little step at a time. There are resources in this blog and others online to get you started. Good food choices don’t have to be expensive. You don’t have to buy wild caught salmon to get your Omega 3 fatty acids. Canned sardines are actually a great source without the cost. Even canned tuna has enough Omega 3 fatty acids to make it a viable option. Beans and legumes are a source of protein that is much cheaper than meat, lower in fat and cholesterol and loaded with fiber. Of course fruits and vegetable should be the focus of every meal. It doesn’t matter if it’s fresh, frozen or canned. If you are on a food budget, pick the one you can afford. Are you buying prepackaged, processed foods? That is where your dollars are going. Buy a head of lettuce, clean and cut it yourself. That will also reduce the potential of bacterial contamination that’s recently resulted in product recalls. Cooking from scratch is much healthier than buying processed foods. You can choose your ingredients and know what’s actually in your meal.

If you are close to retirement or actually retired, the best thing you can do for yourself is simplify everything. As we age, all the complexities in our life become more difficult to maintain. It can get overwhelming. Downsize, get rid of excess and be frugal with your money. Anything you can do to make your life easier …do it! The biggest expense as you get older is medical bills. At this time you need to focus on being healthy.  Be social and be active.  It’s been proven that in old age the more you interact with people and the more you physically move, the longer you live. Push yourself. Spend more time with your family. Join a senior community center.

Eat well! One of the biggest risks in old age in malnutrition. The body doesn’t work the same way it did when you were younger and sometimes food doesn’t taste as good. With the extra time you have, focus on cooking as a hobby. Make sure you get in 3 nutritious meals every day.  I’ve met three people now in their 60s or later that complained of lack of energy and being tired, but they just weren’t eating enough. Although you need less calories in your old age, you still need to get the same, if not more nutrition to stay healthy!

Did I help you come up with a New Year’s resolution yet?

You are probably saying to yourself…okay, I’ve learned how to improve my health, but how do I become happy? Well……if you can simplify, be social, physically active and eat properly, happiness will easily follow!