Super Food Series

Super Food Series: The Pumpkin Puzzle

The Pumpkin Puzzle – A Super Food Getting Its Just Desserts 

This is the time of year that we begin to see pumpkins at the grocery store and in the parking lots.  The bright orange color is a part of the palette that nature gives us.

Thinking of pumpkin as a nutritious super food can be a bit puzzling.  After all, isn’t the image that comes to mind sweet and smooth and covered in whipped cream?  But, according to nutritionists, we should be thinking of pumpkin more often than during the annual Charlie Brown cartoon or as a delicious way to top off a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner.

Pumpkin is a vegetable, regardless of those images. In fact, pumpkin is a nutrient-rich super food that has a great number of health benefits. Let’s take a look at why pumpkin should get its just desserts… beyond desserts.

A Well-Rounded Vegetable

 The list of nutrients in pumpkin is almost endless. Starting with the basic vitamins and minerals we all know, pumpkin has a healthy amount of vitamins C and E, and is a rich source of  potassium and magnesium. Pumpkin is also right up there with other super foods in the dietary fiber category.

Pumpkin also contains two lesser known elements called carotenoids, which are alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. These carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds that are specifically linked to decreasing the risk of a number of cancers, as well as lowering the risk for heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.

Beta carotene is an important antioxidant. Foods rich in beta carotene, like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots, have the potential to lower cholesterol and to slow the aging process of our vital organs. Antioxidant rich foods, like pumpkin, are key to fighting the free radicals which attack our healthy cells.

And, it’s not just the flesh, the insides, of the pumpkin that is healthy. The seeds from the pumpkin also earn their super food status. These seeds, or pepitas, are also nutrient-rich and beneficial, containing high concentrations of phosphorous, zinc, copper, selenium, and other nutrients. The seeds also have essential Omega 3 fatty acids and even the amino acid typtophan, known for its anti-depressant benefits. So, as you see, the pumpkin has a lot more to offer than you might think.

Thinking Outside the Pie Pan

 Of course, pumpkin is associated first with pie. Beyond pie, many folks know about making pumpkin muffins or cake. These are great and delicious, but trying to branch out into more pumpkin dishes takes a little more imagination.

But, first to clarify; no, pumpkin does not taste like pumpkin pie. That flavor comes from the spices used in the pie, like nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon. Because pumpkin basically has very little flavor of its own, it will taste like whatever you want it to taste like.

Pumpkin is truly versatile enough to go into soup, chowder, stews, casseroles, and other main dishes.  You can puree pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener and to add great fiber and nutrition. Try roasting pumpkin and mashing like you would any squash. Flavor with herbs, salt, and pepper for added taste. You can steam it, boil it, or puree it to use in a variety of other recipes, like pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. The seeds, of course, can be roasted in a number of ways, then added to cereal, trail mix, or salads. 

For a real different twist, and a very pretty presentation, scoop out the flesh from several small pumpkins, chop up and add to your choice of meat, vegetables, rice or bread cubes, and seasonings. Then stuff the pumpkin shells with the mixture and bake to make an entrée that your guests won’t soon forget.

Pumpkin has definitely earned its place among the top super foods for a healthy diet. Colorful, nutritious, delicious, and oh so versatile – all the things a super food should be!

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Ideas, Recipes, Super Food Series

Super Food Series: Quinoa Info and Simple Recipe

The Quinoa Quiz – A Super Food That Answers Your Nutrition Questions 

 What is quinoa? If you haven’t heard about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), you’re not alone. Many people have yet to learn the encouraging details on this super food. Although not a pantry staple in most kitchens yet, quinoa soon will be. This seed (no, it’s not a grain) has a rice-like appearance with a fun crunchy texture and slightly nutty flavor. If you know spinach, Swiss chard, and beets, you know some of quinoa’s relatives. Once called the Gold of the Incas, quinoa is well on its way to becoming revered all over the world. Let’s see why.

 Winner of 9 Essential Amino Acids

With just a quick run down of the nutrients in quinoa, it’s not hard to see why this food is considered one of the best super foods in the world. Quinoa is a good source of protein, but not just any protein. The protein quinoa supplies the body is complete protein, supplying all nine essential amino acids. This fact alone makes quinoa the perfect super food choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone concerned about getting a healthy dose of protein in their diet. Quinoa is especially rich in lysine, the amino acid that is essential for healthy tissue growth as well as repair.

What Can Quinoa Do For Me?

We can start with a few basics you will recognize right away. Besides being a complete protein, quinoa is loaded with dietary fiber, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Magnesium is abundant in quinoa. Known to be beneficial for relaxing blood vessels, magnesium, along with riboflavin, appears to benefit those who suffer from headaches, even migraines. Manganese joins with copper to form an enzyme which guards against cell damage caused by free radicals.

The health benefits gained from including quinoa in your diet include helping reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cataracts, and gallstones. For pregnant women, quinoa is a great way to increase iron intake naturally, which is important for baby’s healthy development.

Because quinoa is lower in carbohydrates than other grains, many people substitute quinoa for grains because it is a very filling food that releases its energy slowly throughout the body, to satisfy your appetite longer. This is a great way to stay on a weight loss program without starving.

If you are eating a gluten-free diet, this is a wonderful new food to discover. Because quinoa is gluten-free, and has many of the same characteristics of grains and rice, there are numerous ways to use quinoa in your recipes.

What Do I Do With This Stuff?

Raw quinoa is most often bought pre-rinsed, but if it isn’t, rinse it in a colander lined with cheesecloth. Then follow the directions on the box. Quinoa is cooked similar to rice; usually a 2 to 1, water to quinoa ratio. Cooked quinoa has a nice light texture and a mild, slightly crunchy and nutty flavor.

Once cooked, you can use quinoa in many pilaf dishes, adding vegetables, stocks, and seasonings to taste. Just try substituting quinoa into any of your recipes that call for rice and see how you like it. Quinoa also makes a nice fluffy side dish all by itself. Add herbs and seasonings if you like and spoon alongside chicken, fish, or meat for a tasty side dish with great crunchy texture.

Another favorite way to serve quinoa is cold in salads. Add sweet corn kernels, spring onions, kidney beans, green bell pepper, and celery into a bowl of cooked and cooled quinoa, toss, and you have a light salad that’s full of flavor. Mix in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing for even more pizzazz.

Quinoa can be served at any meal, and is available in several forms, even flour. For breakfast, you can serve quinoa with berries, nuts, and milk as a cereal. The flour can be used for baking along with whole grain wheat or as a substitute. Fitting quinoa into your healthy diet is not at all difficult with all these choices.

When I first started eating quinoa, I used it solely for breakfast as a hot cereal.  Now I use it to make a kind of pilaf dish.  Below you will find a simple recipe that I hope you will try, then come back here and comment about your experience.

Once you include quinoa in your diet, you’ll be looking for all sorts of ways to serve it. It won’t be hard to find! This is a very versatile super food that deserves a spot in your pantry.

 

Recipe:

Classic Quinoa Pilaf

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small sweet onion, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 garlic clove, minced or grated

1/4 tsp oregano

6 cups cooked quinoa

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup chopped almonds, dry roasted

Put olive oil in large skillet over medium heat; add onion, celery, carrot, green pepper, and red pepper, and cook, stirring until vegetables start to soften, but are still somewhat crisp.

Stir in garlic and oregano and heat for 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat and stir in the quinoa, mixing well.

salt and pepper to taste.

Toss in roasted almonds and serve hot either as a side dish or light main dish.

Note: To roast almonds, put in dry skillet over medium heat and toss until lightly browned.

 

Super Food Series

Benefits of Broccoli

Many people do not like the taste of Broccoli juice at all. Broccoli is a tasty vegetable to eat if cooked, but its juice does not sound too tempting. Even the green colored juices are not preferred by people. Instead, we gladly go for a red or blue colored drink which is not even as nutritious as green broccoli juice.
Broccoli comes from the Cruciferous family of vegetables which also includes kale, cabbages and Brussels sprouts. We all often hear about cabbage juice and its benefits, but we have never heard of kale juice or Brussels sprout juice. So many people wonder what is so special about the juice, is it the taste or the nourishment in it?
Broccoli and juice are also known to fight against cancer, although they are not a cure for cancer. While shopping for broccoli, look out for broccoli flowers which are purple on top. The stalk of broccoli is known to have a greater percentage of carotenoids which are beneficial for health. The anti-oxidants and cartenoids in the broccoli help fight cancer.
Among the vegetables, broccoli tops the name as one of the most nutritional ones, but unfortunately people do not like to eat it raw due to its taste. Usually, overcooked broccoli does not taste very delicious to eat.
A glass of broccoli juice is considered as a great way to start the day. As far as the taste goes it is not appetizing at all. With vegetables, there is a general principal which says that the green contents in any juice should not exceed one third of the quantity. If you want to include broccoli juice to your daily diet, you can do so by mixing it with other vegetables in the juice extractor such as carrots because they blend very well with different vegetables.
Adding carrots or any other vegetables will not change the taste completely, but the taste will only become a little different. Celery or a few leaves of Romaine lettuce can also be added in the juice extractor. There are many other tasty vegetables that can be added to make broccoli juice a good drink.
Many people enjoy carrot-apple juice, so it would be a good option to add a few slices of carrots and apples as well in the juice extractor along with broccoli. You can come up with different tastes of broccoli juice by trying different recipes every time.
Broccoli juice contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K, and copper calcium, potassium, iron and zinc. Always choose broccoli which is rich green in color without dried or yellow patches. In this way, we can use it with Pandora things.