Eggplant to Leeks

 

EGGPLANT — or aubergine as it is called in France, is a vegetable long prized for its beauty as well as its unique taste and texture.

Eggplant

In addition to featuring a host of vitamins and minerals, eggplant also contains important phytonutrients, many of which have antioxidant activity. Phytonutrients contained in eggplant include phenolic compounds, such as caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin.

Research on eggplant has focused on the anthocyanin phytonutrient found in eggplant skin called nasunin. Nasunin is a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that has been shown to protect cell membranes from damage, particularly the cells of the brain.

The predominant phenolic compound found in all varieties tested is chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include anti-cancer, antimicrobial, antiviral and cholesterol lowering activities.

When laboratory animals with high cholesterol were given eggplant juice, their blood cholesterol was significantly reduced, while the walls of their blood vessels relaxed, improving blood flow.

Although available year-round, they are most abundant Now, July to October. My favorite way to cook eggplant is to either grill or roast it. Slice it into 1/2 inch thick slices, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle S&P, and grill or roast. Add it to sandwiches, salads, or pasta.

GINGER

Not your typical vegetable, ginger generally considered an herb has long been regarded as having many therapeutic benefits. Modern scientific research has revealed that ginger possesses numerous therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects and direct anti-inflammatory effects.

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  • Gastrointestinal Relief. Historically, ginger has a long tradition of being very effective in alleviating symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, ranging from intestinal gas to nausea to colon cancer. Ginger is very effective in preventing the symptoms of motion sickness, especially seasickness as well as very useful in reducing the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.
  • Gingerols, the main active components in ginger and the ones responsible for its distinctive flavor, may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells, suggests research presented at the Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research. 
  • Ginger has profound anti-inflammatory effects. Gingerols are very potent anti-inflammatory compounds. These substances are believed to explain why so many people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis experience reductions in their pain levels and improvements in their mobility when they consume ginger regularly.

Ginger is so concentrated with active substances, you don’t have to use very much to receive its beneficial effects. For nausea, ginger tea made by steeping one or two 1/2-inch slices of fresh ginger in a cup of hot water will likely be all you need to settle your stomach. For arthritis, some people have found relief consuming as little as a 1/4-inch slice of fresh ginger cooked in food, although in the studies noted above, patients who consumed more ginger reported quicker and better relief.

Whenever possible, choose fresh ginger over the dried form. Fresh ginger can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks if it is left unpeeled. Stored unpeeled in the freezer, it will keep for up to six months.The taste that ginger imparts to a dish depends upon when it is added during the cooking process. Added at the beginning, it will lend a subtler flavor while added near the end, it will deliver a more potent kick.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Add extra inspiration to your rice side dishes by sprinkling grated ginger.
  • Combine ginger, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic to make a wonderful salad dressing.
  • Add ginger and orange juice to puréed sweet potatoes.
  • Spice up your healthy sautéed vegetables by adding freshly minced ginger.

LEEKS

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This member of the onion family is loaded with flavonols, compounds that work to keep your blood vessels flexible and prevent blood clots that can lead to a heart attack.  (Other good sources of flavonols are yellow onion, kale, brocolli and tomato.)  One flavonol in particular, kaempferol, may be especially heart friendly. Leeks are also rich in the B vitamin, folate, which is also reported to be cardioprotective.

Before using leeks, it is important to clean them well. Finely chopped leeks are ideal for recipes where you want a subtle onion flavor (tarts, gratins, soups, sauces) – use the white and light green portions.

 

Cool As a Cucumber

Continuing our exploration of delicious, healthy fruit and vegetables…

CUCUMBERS cucumber-slices

Cucumbers are known to be one of the best foods for your body’s overall health, often referred to as a Superfood.  Here are just some of the many benefits of cucumbers, but please remember to buy organic as cucumbers are so often sprayed with pesticides.

  1. Quick pick me-up due to the rich source of B vitamins. Cucumbers, in fact, contain almost all your daily vitamin requirements, but keep the skin on for the most Vitamin C.
  2. Cucumbers are 95% water, keeping the body hydrated while helping the body eliminate toxins.
  3. Cucumbers contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolaricesinol-three lignans believed to be associated with reduced risk of several cancer types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and prostate cancer.
  4. Skin & Hair.  If you don’t like the skin, it can be used for skin irritations and sunburns as aloe would be used. Place a slice over puffy eyes and its anti-inflammatory properties help reduce puffiness. It has been suggested that the silicon and sulfur in cucumbers help to stimulate hair growth.
  5. Relieves bad breath
  6. To avoid a morning hangover, eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish many essential nutrients, reducing the intensity of both hangover and headache.
  7. Due to its low calorie and high water content, cucumbers are a good food for people looking to lose weight.
  8. Cucumber is an excellent source of silica, which is known to help promote joint health. When mixed with carrot juice, they can relieve gout by lowering the uric acid levels.

 

CHARD shot of rainbow chard

Chard is a beautiful, green leafy vegetable, rich in Vitamin K, A, C, potassium, iron and fiber. Recent research has shown that chard leaves contain at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants, including kaempferol, the cardioprotective flavonoid that’s also found in broccoli, kale, strawberries, and other foods. But alongside of kaempferol, one of the primary flavonoids found in the leaves of chard is a flavonoid called syringic acid. Syringic acid has received special attention in recent research due to its blood sugar regulating properties.  Syringic acid blocks the breakdown of starch into sugars, helping regulate blood sugar levels. Delivering nearly 4 grams of fiber per cooped cup, chard slows the rate at which carbohydrates enter your blood stream, preventing blood sugar dips and spikes.  This plant is also a top source of magnesium (one cooked cup gives more than a third of your daily needs), a mineral that helps your body use the glucose-regulating hormone insulin more effectively. Given that most of us get only half the fiber and less than two-thirds of the magnesium that we need, chard is a good source of these blood sugar balancing nutrients.

Enjoy it braised, sautéed, juiced, or in a smoothie.  Both leaves and stalks are edible.  Cook the leaves like spinach and the stalks like asparagus.

 

DANDELION GREENS p1030644

Dandelion greens are one of the healthiest greens you can buy or cultivate yourself. They are loaded with calcium, iron, and antioxidants. They’re high in vitamin A, a nutrient that keeps the linings of our airways healthy, the first line of defense against bacteria and pathogens that cause the common cold and other respiratory illness.  Just one cup of raw dandelions boasts 110% of your daily vitamin A dose of 5000 IU – that’s more than twice the amount you’d get from the same serving of spinach and 10 times more than from broccoli.  Plus, dandelion greens are high in vitamin C, which wont prevent you from catching a cold but can help cut the symptoms short. Add two to three cups of dandelion to a smoothie with calcium-rich fruits like orange, kiwi, fig or papaya and you’ll have a green smoothie that has more calcium than any dairy product!

 

BEAUTIFUL Fruit and Vegetables

BERRIES  berries-for-heart-400x400  So beautiful, colorful, and delicious, they may be small but are powerful in their health benefits. The antioxidants in berries can help your body fight oxidative stress caused by free radicals that can lead to various diseases. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help improve your health, protect your skin and hair, and prevent certain diseases. All fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, but nutrient-rich berries are some of the absolute best sources.

There are several powerful antioxidants that appear in berries, including anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C. Anthocyanins give berries their vibrant color, reduce inflammation, and may help prevent and manage arthritis. Anthocyanins work together with quercetin to help slow age-related memory-loss. Quercetin can also decrease the inflammatory effects of chemicals in the synovial fluid of the joints for people with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Vitamin C is another strong antioxidant found in berries. It is largely responsible for the health of collagen, which helps maintain cartilage stores and aids in joint flexibility. Eating vitamin C–rich berries will contribute to radiant skin and healthy hair, and may reduce the risk of arthritis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Berries are high in water content and fiber, making them a great choice for weight management, leaving you feeling full with a low calorie treat.  According to the American Diabetic Association, berries are a diabetic superfood! Berries also contain folate which may protect against cardiovascular disease and age-related memory loss, and since folate contributes to the production of serotonin, it may also help ward off depression and improve your mood.

IBS sufferers take note: Some people with IBS experience discomfort after eating berries.

Enjoy: Eat berries in a smootihie, parfait, with cereal, oatmeal, salads, dressings or just pop them in your mouth.

Remember, if you can’t find fresh berries, frozen (unsweetened) berries are a good substitute during the off-season months — and just as nutritious!

BEETS are a colorful root vegetable with incredible anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. While beets are a very good source of commonly known antioxidants like vitamin C and manganese, it is their lesser-known antioxidants which give them their true value.

Beet_Salad_plated-e1304082453731

The blood-red color of beets comes from a powerful group of antioxidants called betalains. There are hundreds of studies on the positive health benefits of betalains, including their role in the areas of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and inflammation.

Lower blood pressure naturally. Drinking just one glass of beet juice can lower blood pressure by 2%.

Beets are high in natural nitrates, improving your workouts and boosting energy.  And Beets, like Arugula, are often considered  nature’s Viagra. Once again, the ancient Romans (horny as they were), discovered the aphrodisiac effect (likely due to the vasodilating effects of the nitrates and their Boron content) of these delicious, sexy vegetables.

Enjoy: Roast beets in the oven for no more than 60 minutes.  Then, enjoy them in a salad with spinach, quinoa, feta cheese or enjoy them raw in a smoothie.

BOK CHOY, or leafy Chinese cabbage is one of the popular mainland crops in China, Philippines, Vietnam and other Asian regions and is now gaining popularity in the West for its sweet,succulent nutritious stalks. Bok choy is a leafy vegetable very low in calories, rich in many vital phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

In addition, bok choy  is packed with bone-friendly nutrients including calcium – which is especially well-absorbed for a vegetable source of the mineral.  That’s because bok choy is low in oxalates, compounds present in many leafy greens that can bind to calcium and make it harder for your body to absorb.   Two cups of this crunchy, low-calorie veggie deliver as much calcium as half a glass of milk.  Plus, two cups of raw bok choy provide 80% of your daily dose of vitamin K, needed to bind calcium to bone.

baby-bok-choy-salad

Because vitamin K requires fat for absorption you’ll actually soak up more of this nutrient by coating your bok choy with a little healthy fat.  Saute it in a little bit of peanut, coconut or olive oil.  You could also try it grilled in an Asian-inspired salad with edamame, orange slices, scallions, and a soy-ginger vinaigrette.

 

 

 

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food” — Hippocrates

FRUITS & VEGETABLES – Beautiful, Delicious & Healthy. This month on my blog, will be about enjoying the flavors and benefits of nature, proven to help you stay strong, lean, and yes – disease free. I will review some (perhaps unknown) health benefits of various fruits and vegetables, from A to Z, and provide some tips on enjoying their magnificent flavors.

It is true that most chronic diseases, such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are preventable and yes, treatable through lifestyle choices, especially what we eat. I think you will be astonished, as I was, to to learn that Mother Nature provides abundantly for our health, offering many drug free options . We just need to open our eyes, our minds, and our mouths to these beautiful, delicious and healthy choices.

Most of us eat less than half the weekly recommendation of 1.5 to 2 cups of dark green vegetables. Most people don’t know why they are recommended.  They know they’re “healthy” but beyond that don’t understand the preventive and medicinal values they have. Moreover, many people, especially Americans, see vegetables as something they were forced to eat as a child, and carry forward this unjustified dislike. Little do they realize that beyond their health values, they are delicious!

Summertime is a perfect opportunity to embrace these wonderful, tasty gifts of nature. As my dad always used to say as I was growing up, (but now doesn’t always do himself so much), “Try it, you’ll like it.”

ARUGULA, also known as Salad Rocket, is a delicious, early summer vegetable.  For those of you who think that greens and salads are boring, you will be surprised with Arugula’s refreshing, peppery taste. Like other leafy greens, it is a hydrating food, helping to keep your body hydrated in the heat of summer. Arugula is rich in minerals and vitamins, including iron, copper, folic acid and Vitamins A, C and K, boosting eye, skin, bone and brain health. Arugula also contains certain phytochemicals that may have a role in the prevention and treatment of many health conditions including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

stawberry-arugula-salad

Eat Arugula to improve your workout! Ounce for ounce, arugula provides more nitrates than other top veggie sources, such as rhubarb, celery, and spinach.  Nitrates relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure, accelerating blood flow so energizing oxygen is delivered to cells throughout your body more efficiently. As a result, your workouts might feel a little easier: Nitrates reduce your muscles need for oxygen during exercise, so you don’t tire as quickly.  Cycling volunteers who ate vegetables rich in nitrates cut oxygen consumption by 5%, and increased muscle efficiency by 7%, according to a 2007 Swedish study.

Here’s a surprise – Arugula makes you sexy! Centuries ago, the Romans discovered that arugula is an aphrodisiac.

Whatever your reason, just try it.  Try it in a salad, sandwich, or toss it with hot pasta, olive oil and lemon zest.

ASPARAGUS, also rich in many anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, minerals and antioxidants also has the added benefit of aiding digestion. Asparagus stalks are rich in inulin, a unique kind of fiber that doesn’t break down in our digestive systems until it arrives at our large intestine.  Once there, inulin feeds the beneficial bacteria that keep your intestine healthy and may help your body absorb more nutrients. Asparagus is also rich in vitamin A, zeaxanthin, and lutein, all beneficial to eye health.

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This time of year, I love (who doesn’t) grilled asparagus. Other seasons, roasted asparagus is awesome. Add it to salads, frittatas, and pasta. Just be sure to eat it within 2 days of purchase as it can spoil quickly.

AVOCADO. Who doesn’t love avocado? Guacamole, anyone? Avocado is a fruit with considerable health benefits – anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, blood sugar regulating and heart healthy!  The anti-inflammatory properties of avocado are absolutely unquestionable in the world of health research. Avocado’s anti-inflammatory properties come from the Phytosterols, carotenoid antioxidants, non-carotenoid antioxidants, including the flavonoids epicatechin and epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate, vitamins C and E, and the minerals manganese, selenium, and zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PSA)s.

AvocadoPhoto

Consider adding avocado to salads, and not only on account of taste! Recent research has shown that absorption of two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene—increases significantly when fresh avocado (or avocado oil) is added to an otherwise avocado-free salad. My favorite way to eat avocado (thanks to my friend, Alan) is the vegetarian version of the BLT – Ezekiel toast, avocado, fresh lemon juice, tomato, s&p. Yum!