The history of salad and your healthy greens

Mustard Greens

You’ve heard how good greens are for your health, but do you know the whole story?

Spring is the best time to buy and eat your greens because they are mild, tender with a light sweet flavor to them. Greens are far less bitter this time of year and more palatable fresh in salads.

Salad was invented in the fifteenth century in Milan where interestingly enough it was more saucy and salty. Strong flavors were the focus during this time. It wasn’t until the romans created their own version of the salad that it resembled the dish we recognize today, hence the “Caesar salad”.

Louis XIV in France became a big advocate making the first health claims of its ability to hydrate, assist in digestion, reduce appetite and help you sleep.  The fiber content of greens was clearly understood. Today we know that greens prevent heart disease, diabetes and potentially cancer.

Greens grow on the surface of the soil quickly wicking up micronutrients and minerals that are important to the body, including iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamins A, C, E, K and sometimes B. In general, the darker the leaf the more nutrient dense the green is.

Unfortunately, the darker the green the heavier and potentially more bitter the taste.  In this case, steaming or sautéing your greens may reduce the bitterness. You can also juice your greens with a mix of fruit to tone down the taste.

Here are the top nutritious greens of choice:

Kale
Spinach
Collards
Mustard
Beet
Cabbage Arugala
Lettuce
Endive
Romaine
Radicchio
Cress
Mache
Chard
Escarole
Frisee
Mesclun
Bok Choy

Are Energy Supplements Worth it?

Energy Supplements

Do you use energy drinks or supplements to keep up your energy level?  It’s a multi-billion dollar industry that’s thriving, but are you getting your money’s worth? Better yet how does it affect your health?

I see so many energy supplements packaged so many ways. The most common ingredients used to boost your energy are caffeine, herbs, protein or sugars. First, let’s break these down and see how they affect the body.

Caffeine is probably the best know energy booster. The upside is its known and it’s generally safe in moderate doses.  The downside is it’s a short term boost, usually only lasting a couple hours. What happens after that? Your energy level drops to the floor! How do you fix that? Have more caffeine? When do you stop? Will you be able to sleep at night? You don’t want to miss out on your sleep. That’s one of the most restorative energy creating activity you can do! If you crank up your body chemically time and time again, your body will eventually crash and that will cause problems with your immune system.

What about herbs? There are many herbs that are claimed to be energy boosters but only some of them have been clinically proven to work. Others are even considered dangerous especially if doses aren’t carefully monitored. Some herbs have been known to cause problems with digestion, the heart and even the kidneys and liver. Read labels and search on the web for any herbs you are considering ingesting. You will find many sources that make claims of what the herbs can do, but watch for danger signs. Look for warnings from credible sources.

Your body will maintain a good level of energy if you take in a consistent amount of protein all day. Many people eat protein bars in an attempt to keep up their energy. Unfortunately most protein bars add a lot of sugar to their product. Many of them are more like candy bars than a good source of protein. What is the main source of protein in the bar? If you don’t physically see nuts, you are likely getting a form of protein that is considered “partial”. Protein is made up of a mix of amino acids. You need a certain combination of amino acids in order for the protein to be “complete” and do its job correctly.  If you aren’t ingesting the whole combination of those amino acids, you might as well consider it added calories. The good news is if all you were looking for was extra calories for a work out or as a stop gap between meals, it will work for that.

Now back to that sugar. Sugar will give you the rollercoaster experience of energy level. Sugar creates short bursts of energy which quickly disappear. Sugars can be hidden on the ingredient label so look for sugar, honey, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup ….and pretty much anything that says syrup. Also, sugar is now proven to be linked to obesity and heart disease. Not a good tradeoff for an energy boost.

You can also buy supplements that contain all these same ingredients. The only one I can recommend is if you have a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, that’s the one I would recommend. It’s a common supplement that is given by doctors for specific conditions.

So, is it worth it? I would say these options are a waste of your money in most cases. Many of the supplements are unnecessary if you eat a balanced diet. They will just pass through your body into your urine making for very expensive pee!

Now you’re asking….”well then what do I do to increase my energy?!”

Simple! Here are the natural ways to boost your energy that your body will love. Eat a well-balanced diet throughout the day including high protein snacks between meals such as nuts, non-fat plain yogurt, a little peanut butter eaten on apple slices, or a little low-fat cheese. Drink plenty of water, get lots of sleep and get a little exercise throughout the day, even if it’s a short walk in your neighborhood.  If you’ve never tried this before, you will be surprised at the results!

There is no better way to build energy than to treat your body to what it needs to sustain itself properly.

Purple Asparagus?

Asparagus

It’s asparagus season! Have you ever wondered about different colored asparagus? Why do they look different? Do they taste different? Are they nutritionally different?

Purple asparagus gets it’s color from anthocynanins. Green asparagus is green because it contains chlorophyll which is a result of a chemical reaction with the sun. White asparagus is white because it is grown covered receiving little sun exposure. Purple asparagus is sweeter and more tender than other asparagus and white has a very mild flavor. Most people prefer green.

All asparagus is low fat, high in fiber and a good source of vegetable protein. They contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and K, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Phosphorus, Potassium, Copper, Selenium and Manganese. The anthocynanins in purple asparagus are phytonutrients which add a slightly higher health benefit. Asparagus contains anti-oxidants and anti-flammatory nutrients which prevent many common diseases and the high fiber content improves digestion.

You can buy asparagus from the grocery store but colored varieties are most often found at farmers markets or health food stores. To have the most tender asparagus choose the thinnest spears. If they come from a quality dealer, they should be sitting in water to keep them alive, remaining as fresh as possible. When you bring your asparagus home, if the ends appear dry, cut them off and immediately put the spears in water just like you would with fresh flowers. Store them in your refrigerator in a cup with a small amount water refreshed daily until they are used.The best way to eat asparagus is steamed for 6-8 minutes, depending on the thickness, and sprinkled with a little sea salt.

Oral Allergy Syndrome….itchy or tingly mouth?

Melons

Have you ever had a strange incident in where your mouth started to itch or become tingly? I’ve had many people ask me what was going on. Unfortunately their symptoms seemed random and with all different types of foods, even with some they’ve eaten many times before. Well I’m here to tell you I FINALLY figured out what’s happening.

Many people have mild hay-fever or other similar allergies that aren’t allergic to any food. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that about 1/3 of these people develop what they call Oral Allergy Syndrome over time.

What the heck is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

Although plant pollen is different between plants, some pollens share the same proteins. If you have an allergy to grass, for instance, grass pollen has the same protein as banana pollen. Over time and accumulation, your immune system may consider this protein from the banana pollen to be the same as grass and begin attacking your mouth! This needs to be taken very seriously even if it seems mild, because there are cases where people have ended up in anaphylactic shock. This type of situation can also occur from a cross-reactivity between two items. For instance, if you have a latex allergy you may react to chestnuts. As you get older, the probability of something like this happening to you increases due to increased exposure to the same food and general aging of your immune system.

I’ve collected the biggest list I could find of potential reactive combinations for you. You can look up more information on The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website.

http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/types/food-allergies/types/pages/oral-allergy-syndrome.aspx

If you are allergic to:

Birch– you could react to apples, carrots, cherries, celery, kiwi, peaches, pears, plums, coriander, fennel, parsley, hazelnuts, and almonds.

Ragweed – you could react to bananas, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, sunflower seeds, dandelions, chamomile tea, and Echinacea.

Grass – you could react to peaches, celery, tomatoes, melons, and oranges.

Mugwort – you could react to apples, bell pepper, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, caraway seeds, parsley, coriander, anise seeds and fennel seeds.

Latex Rubber – you could react to bananas, avocados, kiwi, chestnut, and papaya.

If you think you may be have an issue with Oral Allergy Syndrome, stop eating anything that may have caused the reaction and seek medical attention immediately. Have a doctor determine what you are specifically allergic to and follow their instructions.

There is some good news. Many people who have this cross-reactivity can reduce the chances if they cook the food. Once cooked, there is a chemical change to the food and the body no longer recognizes the protein. Peeling the food or canning the food may also have the same effect. ALSO, I’ll repeat myself ….……EAT A VARIETY! Small amounts of many different kinds of produce will not only decrease the probability this will happen to you, but also increase your chances of getting all the nutrients you need for a simple healthy life!

I hope this helps all my friends who continue to suffer from random allergy scares after eating their fruits and veggies.