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10 Ways to Make Your Vegetable Dishes More Nutritious

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Now that summer is here, I prefer to prepare meals with a lot of delicious vegetables. After looking up some new recipes and information on which vegetables have the most nutritional value, I discovered that the way I cook and store them can actually be making them less nutritious! Investigative journalist Jo Robinson recently published the book Eating on the Wild Side, featuring pages and pages of information on how to properly store and prepare vegetables. Here are 10 ways we are making our vegetables less nutritious and the simple solutions to fix the problems.

 

1. Buying fresh tomatoes instead of canned.

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Cooking tomatoes makes them more nutritious, and the longer you cook them, the better. Heat changes the lycopene into a form our bodies can more readily absorb and — surprise! — canned tomatoes are much higher in phytonutrients, thanks to the heat of the canning process. Tomato paste, being more concentrated, is even better.

 

2. Storing lettuce wrong.

You might think that damaging your vegetables before storing them is a mistake, but when it comes to lettuce, tearing the leaves triggers a protective blast of phytonutrients that you can take advantage of by eating the greens within a day or two. Lettuce that is torn before storing can have double the antioxidants of whole lettuce leaves.

 

3. Boiling spinach — or any vegetable, really.

You may have heard that boiling vegetables is a no-no because water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C leach out of the food and into the cooking water, but you might not know that boiling also reduces the antioxidant content. The difference in spinach is especially dramatic: after 10 minutes of boiling, three-quarters of its phytonutrient content is in the cooking water, not in the vegetable itself. (Of course, if you consume the cooking liquid, as you do when making soup, you consume all the nutrients in the water as well.) Steaming, microwaving, sautéing, and roasting — cooking methods that don’t put vegetables in direct contact with water — result in more nutritious vegetables on the plate.

 

4. Eating your salad with fat-free salad dressing.

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We’ve known for a few years that you absorb more of the nutrients in salad when you eat it with fat, but the type of fat can make a difference. Most commercial salad dressings use soybean oil, but extra-virgin olive oil is much more effective at making nutrients available for absorption. Unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil is even better, as it contains double the phytonutrients of filtered.

 

5. Cooking garlic right after chopping it.

If you mince a clove of garlic and quickly throw it in a hot pan, you consume almost no allicin, the beneficial compound that makes garlic such a health star. That’s because the enzyme that creates allicin is not activated until you rupture the cell walls of the garlic — and is quickly inactivated by heat. Just two minutes in a hot pan or 60 seconds in the microwave reduces the allicin in just-chopped garlic to almost nothing. Letting the chopped garlic sit for 10 minutes before exposing it to heat gives the enzyme time to do its work, so your finished dish contains the maximum amount of allicin. Using a garlic press is even better than mincing, as it releases more of the compounds that combine to create allicin.

 

6. Throwing away the most nutritious parts of the vegetable.

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Most American recipes call for only the white and light green parts of scallions, but the dark green parts have a higher concentration of phytonutrients. Instead of throwing out the nutritious tops, you can ignore the recipe instructions and toss in the green parts as well, or explore recipes from elsewhere in the world which utilize the entire green onion. And don’t forget vegetable peels, which often contain a higher concentration of antioxidants than the rest of the vegetable. You can try roasting them and eating them like chips!

 

7. Eating potatoes right after cooking them.

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Many people avoid white potatoes because they are a high-glycemic vegetable, spiking blood sugar after eating. But chilling potatoes for about 24 hours after cooking converts the starch in the potatoes to a type that is digested more slowly, making them a low-glycemic vegetable. So potato salad chilled overnight is a low-glycemic food, as is a cooked, chilled, and reheated baked potato.

 

8. Cutting carrots before you cook them.

Cooking carrots whole and cutting them up after they are cooked keeps more nutrients in the vegetable. And speaking of cooking, carrots are one vegetable that is better for you cooked than raw — cooking helps break down the cell walls, making the nutrients easier to absorb.

 

9. Buying broccoli florets, instead of a whole head.

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Broccoli looks like a hardy vegetable, but from an antioxidant standpoint, it is shockingly perishable, quickly exhausting its stores of powerful phytonutrients after harvest. “I call it one of the ‘eat me first’ vegetables,” says Robinson. One study found that after 10 days — the time it took to get the vegetable from field to supermarket produce section — broccoli lost 75 percent of its flavonoids (a type of antioxidant) and 80 percent of its glucosinolates, the compounds in cruciferous vegetables that are associated with numerous health benefits. Cutting the broccoli into florets doubles the rate of antioxidant loss, so in addition to buying the freshest broccoli you can find and cooking it right away, you should choose whole heads rather than the bags of pre-cut florets.

 

10. Cooking beans from scratch and discarding the cooking liquid.

Dried beans are some of the most phytonutrient-rich foods out there, but the big surprise is this: canned have more antioxidants! If you prefer from-scratch beans, let the beans sit in the cooking liquid for about an hour after cooking to reabsorb some of the nutrients that have moved into the liquid. And try using a pressure cooker to cook beans; one study found that beans cooked in the pressure cooker had more antioxidants than those cooked with other methods.

 

Enjoy your extra-nutritious meals!

 

The Organic Effect

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What would happen if you only ate organic food? To answer just that the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL conducted a study on the effects of eating only organics. Watch this short video, The Organic Effect, to see the results.

The decrease in the amounts of pesticides present in the body after eating only organics is astonishing. Buying organic when possible is a great way to have less exposure to chemicals and pesticides used in conventional items. “There were a whole number of chemical removed from my kids’ bodies and I don’t want them back.”

For more information on the study and the full report, click HERE.

26 Eco-Conscious Ideas for Earth Day

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With Earth Day fast approaching, now is the time to start incorporating some eco-friendly ideas into your everyday life. In my search for fun ideas I came across several great ways to not only celebrate Earth Day, but keep the eco-friendly ideas going throughout the year.

  1. Plant a tree
  2. Clean up a park, lake, trail, river, beach, or other natural site 
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  3. Go for a walk
  4. Plant a garden 12035372145_d495f33afc_z
  5. Start a compost pile
  6. Make an indoor herb garden
  7. Implement a recycling system, or ensure that your current system is the best it can be 6881231757_3cb80f7652_b
  8. Pay bills online
  9. Stop paper bills and bank statements
  10. Limit your water usage
  11. Reduce energy consumption
  12. Lower your water-heater temperature to save energy
  13. Visit a farmers’ market vegetables-353926_640
  14. When shopping, bring your own reusable bags
  15. Ditch the plastic water bottles and use a reusable bottle instead
  16. Bring your own coffee mug when visiting a coffee shop DSC_0741
  17. Check your home for water leaks
  18. Plan a vegetarian meal once a week pizza-442058_640
  19. Skip the baths and take a shower
  20. Take a shorter shower
  21. Adjust your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree lower in the winter to save energy
  22. Eliminate excess junk mail by removing yourself from unnecessary lists Pile_of_junk_mail
  23. Use rechargeable batteries
  24. Unplug appliances when not in use
  25. Wash laundry in cold or warm water
  26. Have a picnic

However you decide to spend Earth Day, be sure to try to lessen your impact on the planet by changing one thing you do. Be sure to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature!

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The Problem with the K-Cup

k-cupsIf you work in an office, have a busy schedule and drink coffee everyday… then there is a good chance that you used a share of the 9 billion Keurig K-Cups that were sold last year! And who could blame you? In our fast-paced society, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to have hundreds of beverages available at the touch of a button (and without all the hassle of cleaning out yesterday’s pot of coffee).

A few weeks ago I came across an article on The Atlantic website that confirmed the fear that had slowly begun to creep in as I brewed my coffee every morning: eventually these K-Cups are going to take over! I had already noticed the waste building up in our office, but James Hablin’s article, A Brewing Problem, really opened my eyes to just how big this issue is becoming. If we were to line up all of the K-Cups that were sold in the past year alone, they would circle the earth at least 10.5 times! Not only that, but the K-Cups are made using a type of plastic that is not recyclable in the US…which means that the only home for those 9 billion K-Cups is the landfill.

This knowledge is worsened by the fact that several competitors have successfully designed a recyclable or biodegradable version of the K-Cup…and instead of embracing it, Keurig has trumped the competition by launching a second-generation machine that only works with Keurig-brand cups. Last year, Keurig promised to come up with a fully-recyclable version of its K-Cup by 2020. However, that promise was not enough to stop Egg Studios from producing a theater-quality horror movie about the impending “K-Cup Apocalypse.” While it may be a little far-fetched, this video has certainly gotten people thinking and has lead to the #KillTheKCup movement on Twitter.

By the end of this article, you may find yourself considering giving up coffee entirely (I know I was), but wait — there’s still hope! Somewhere in the course of the past few weeks, a lovely little box (like the one below) showed up in our kitchen. Turns out, there is a way to recycle these things after all! Click here for more information about Keurig’s Grounds to Grow On program.

There may still be room for improvement, but I can honestly say that my Keurig-brewed coffee takes a little sweeter now that I know that the K-Cup can be converted into something useful!

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3 Myths and Interesting Facts About Sleep

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Jackie_Martinez_in_B&W_sleeping_with_a_bookSleep is a complex process, and there is a lot we don’t know or have wrong about it. The Huffington Post just published the article 3 Crazy Myths and Facts about Sleep that clears up several myths with some interesting truths about sleep.

Myth #1: Getting up at night for, say, 15 minutes just means I lose 15 minutes of sleep. Unfortunately, when life wakes you in the middle of the night, you lose way more than just those minutes out of bed. Waking to change your pajamas after a hot flash, answer the phone if you’re on call, or of course, comfort a crying baby is harder on us than we ever thought.

I’m surprised it took until 2014 to officially research this, but a first-of-a-kind study in the journal Sleep Medicine looked at the effects of sleep interruption over two nights. The first night, all the study participants slept for eight hours. Then researchers then measured their mood and ability to pay attention. Good so far.

A few nights later, the participants were split into two groups: half slept for only four hours, while the other half slept for eight hours but got woken up four times for 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch. So technically, they spent at least seven hours asleep — three hours longer than the four-hour group — just interspersed with awakenings. Then everyone’s mood and attention was measured again.

Anyone who’s ever had a newborn or been on call for work knows the results: the mood and attention of folks with interrupted sleep were just as bad as those who slept for only four hours. Both groups felt depressed, irritable, and had a hard time getting going. Plus, performance on the attention task got worse the longer they kept at it. Indeed, whoever coined the term “sleep like a baby” clearly never had one.

Myth #2: My brain holds my internal clock. Yes, the master clock, technically called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is in your brain. But almost all your organs, plus your fat and skeletal muscle, follow some sort of daily rhythm as well. Your gut, liver, and kidneys in particular have strong rhythms.

That’s why you feel so lousy when you have jet lag, and that’s why you often wake up groggy or feeling thrown off when you sleep in on the weekend: your whole body is affected.

And over the long term, throwing off your body clocks through overnight shift work, frequent jet lag, or just wacky sleep habits can put you at risk for some serious diseases, including breast cancer and colon cancer

Circadian disruption is also thought to be a final push that sends some of those merely at risk over the edge. For example, only 30 percent of alcoholics develop liver disease. Why? Well, a 2013 study found that circadian disorganization, common in shift workers, increases “permeability of the intestinal epithelial barrier,” or in other words, a leaky gut. In the context of what the researchers called “injurious agents,” i.e., booze, a leaky gut puts folks at higher risk for liver inflammation and disease. They concluded that while there are many factors that determine whether someone with alcohol addiction develops liver disease, circadian disruption may be a swizzle stick that breaks the camel’s back.

Myth #3: If I can’t sleep, I should just wait it out… sleep will come. On the contrary, if you know you’ll be staring at the ceiling for awhile, get up. Yes, your bed is cozy and warm, but here’s why. Much like you probably associate biting into a lemon with puckered lips and Pavlov’s dog associated the bell with food, thereby salivating, you want to associate your bed with one thing: sleep (well okay, two things: I’ll let you guess the other).

When you lie in bed for more than about 15 or 20 minutes without sleeping, you start to associate your bed with wakefulness. And when you watch TV or fool around on Pinterest in bed when you can’t sleep, those too become associations with bed.

With time, bed could mean sleep, or it could also mean CSI, preschool science project pinboards, or planning your day in your head. Yes, even thinking and worrying qualify as activities you don’t want to do in bed.

So what to do? You can still do all these things, just don’t do them in bed. Get them done before you head to bed, and if you can’t sleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something non-stimulating like reading (on paper, not a tablet!) until you feel sleepy. Then try again. If you still can’t sleep, rinse and repeat: get up again to avoid associating the bed with anything but sleep and sex.

This is what behavioral psychologists call stimulus control and it’s the most effective way to combat chronic insomnia. It may take a week or two, but it’s been shown to break the bad habits that maintain insomnia. Before you know it, you’ll be so good at sleeping you’ll do it with your eyes closed!

For the full article click HERE.

 

Warm Up with an Organic Soup

Bean and Barley Soup

Take the chill off this winter with a nice warm bowl of soup for dinner! Here is a great recipe for a healthy and organic soup that will please the whole family.

Bean and Barely Soup

Yield: 4 (serving size: 1¼ cups soup and 1½ teaspoons cheese)

Ingredients

1 cup organic pinto beans

1 tablespoon organic olive oil

2 cups finely chopped organic red onion

1 cup finely chopped fresh organic flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup finely chopped organic celery

1/2 cup finely chopped organic carrot

1/2 cup chopped fresh organic basil

9 cups water

2 cups organic vegetable broth

2 organic bay leaves

1/3 cup uncooked organic pearl barley

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce

2 tablespoons grated fresh organic Parmesan cheese

Directions

Sort and wash beans; place in a large saucepan. Cover with water to 2” above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans. Wipe pan dry with a paper towel.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, parsley, celery, carrot, and basil; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add beans, 9 cups water, vegetable broth, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves.

Place 3/4 cup beans and 3/4 cup cooking liquid in a blender; process until smooth. Return pureed bean mixture to pan. Stir in barley, salt, pepper, and hot sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until barley is done. Ladle soup into individual bowls; sprinkle with cheese.  

Enjoy! 

Easy Ways to Improve Your Sleep

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We have said it once and we will say it again, sleep is important! But many people are still not getting enough good sleep every night and are, in fact, sleep deprived. Here are some simple ways to improve your nights sleep.

Length of Sleep

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It can be easy to convince yourself that the length of time you sleep is not that important. However, it is essential to your health, performance, and recovery. It is important to get a full night of sleep each night to perform your best during the day.

Importance of the Sleep Phases

There are different phases of sleep, two of which are very important in determining the quality of your sleep: slow-wave sleep (deep sleep) and REM sleep. The human body is pretty amazing, as it will manage the length of time you stay in each cycle. The time you spend in each cycle will adjust automatically based on what your body needs and the total length of time you are sleeping.

Earlier Bedtime

A way to ensure you are getting enough zzz’s and enough time in those sleep phases is to go to bed at a decent time. Give yourself extra time to relax and fall asleep by making your bedtime a little earlier, if needed. Consistency is great too if you go to bed at the same time every night it’s easier for your body to develop good sleep habits.

Avoid Distractions

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Keep distractions out of the bedroom. Make your bed about sleeping, not watching TV or playing on your phone, tablet, or computer. Creating a restful environment will help your body relax and make falling asleep a little easier.

Take these tips and enjoy a restful night’s sleep.

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