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How to eat healthy and be healthy – even through the holidays

Stay more resilient over the holidays by starting healthy habits now. Temptations and sickness will be running rampant, so learn how to eat healthy and be healthy now, without turning your world upside down!

I recently read a blog by Clare Smith about a “second new year“. It’s so true for me. Every fall, especially since having kids in school, I get excited to re-up my efforts in the next year. Only I want to start now — before the busy holidays.

Why? I guess because it makes me more disciplined during the holidays and less likely to get sick. And then there’s my resistance to being mainstream with resolutions, admittedly! Plus I just don’t love myself if I use the holidays as an excuse to abandon the things that truly make me feel healthy. I do aim to loosen the reins a bit. Don’t get me wrong. But not so much that my body reacts, because I know it won’t be a positive or short-lived one. Know what I mean?

Be healthy through the holidays and year round

Some people have asked what my daily routine looks like. And what does “healthy” mean to me?

Photo from sportcourtpa.com

Well, to me, being healthy means feeling positive, being productive, having fun and feeling physically well.

To be there, it means keeping a close look on sinus and digestive symptoms, as well as any petty garbage taking grip in my mind. It also means remembering to turn the mom switch off — at least briefly — each day.

That sounds like a full-time job, doesn’t it? Sometimes it feels like it, too, but it’s so worth it — for the results I get and the examples my kids see.

Healthy daily habits

We all have different “junk” to deal with — inside and outside. If you identify your own biggest triggers, you can find ways to recalibrate.

Here’s what I’ve latched onto over the years to be healthy, aside from the usual hygiene.

  • 7-8 hours of sleep (if less, I feel it in my mood and sinuses!)
  • Wake, drink tea, read Bible, pray
  • Exercise 20-60 minutes most days (various types, wiffleball counts!)
  • Neilmed nasal rinse twice daily (when brushing teeth)
  • Enzymes with meals, supplements and homeopathic remedies instead of over-the-counter stuff, as needed
  • Acknowledge blessings throughout the day and make sure I love on my family each day, even if it’s just a few minutes
  • Eat few grains, 95% organic, gluten free and dairy free with an occasional drink (usually GF vodka and flavored water), drink lots of water throughout the day, eat organic dark chocolate as my go-to treat
  • Play with kids most times they ask!
  • Limit screen time
  • Use a budget and spend wisely/responsibly
  • Read with kids and pray before bed

Your list will look different from mine and will change over time. But having your own framework for health will keep you focused and more accountable.

What to eat and how to eat healthy

Much like your framework for better health, your diet will differ from mine. You’ve got to figure out what works for YOU.

That said, here are some ways to eat healthier that do apply to anyone and don’t require a total overhaul.

  1. Choose water as your beverage 95% of the time.
  2. Don’t add salt or sugar to anything, unless it’s a necessary ingredient in a recipe! Even then, you might be able to cut the amount.
  3. Eat at least one meal per day without grainy carbs (protein with veggies at dinner, perhaps).
  4. Never eat a meal with only carbs. Always balance with a protein. (Somebody please tell the school food service systems!)
  5. Choose noodles from carrot, zucchini or squash instead of grain pasta.
  6. If you eat meat, make 1-2 dinners per week that are meatless. (This can save money, too!)
  7. Eat pizza only 1-2 times per month instead of per week!
  8. Make fruit your snack (instead of crackers or chips) and then sub veggies instead of fruit in your meals. Fruits are digested better when eaten alone anyhow.
  9. Half your meals should consist of vegetables! Replace fruit, grainy carbs or excess protein (guilty!) with veggies. This applies to the lunches you pack, too!
  10. Don’t buy the chips, cookies, crackers and other sweets that get you into trouble. Out of sight, out of mind. And you will surely meet your sweet something again soon, outside of your home, where it can be your treat instead of your go-to.

For more specific tips on celebrating with healthier holidays, read “Tackle the notion of a healthy Thanksgiving dinner“.

These are just a few ways how you can eat healthier. Even if you only pick 1 or 2 things to do now, you could be feeling better and more resilient over the holidays. And if like me, that will translate to greater peace of mind, more joy and happier times for you!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Are so-called cancer-causing foods a real source of our casualties?

cancer-causing foods blogWhich cancer-causing foods still lurk in your fridge or pantry? Cancer of all types seems to be taking over. In just 10 seconds, I can name 5 people I know who’ve had cancer. If I put effort and a few more minutes into it, I’m sure I could name 20 or more. While ultimately our fates are in God’s hands, we have the power to – and responsibility of – influencing our fates.

You see, our bodies were created as temples, right? So if we keep treating them like garbage disposals or some other mechanical but nonliving device, they will become exactly that. It may seem like you’re getting by and healthy enough for now, but it could be just a matter of time before your device begins to break down.

Is cancer potentially a matter of choices?

The following information comes from an article on thetruthaboutcancer.com.

According to the article:

  • In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported more than 14 million new cases of cancer, which resulted in more than 8.2 million deaths worldwide.
  • WHO expects these numbers to skyrocket over the next twenty years by 70% globally.
  • Experts estimate that more than half of cancer cases are preventable with lifestyle changes.

That means the 8.2 million deaths in 2012 could have been 1.2 million instead, given some changes in lifestyles.

When asked what causes cancer in cells, Bob Wright from the American Anti-Cancer Institute replied, “Cancer is caused by chemicals and radiation. You can explode that out to many different types of chemicals whether it’s what you put in your body, what you breath, what you eat, radiation from all sources − women from mammograms, from CT scans, from your cell phones, your cell towers, your Wi-Fi. Cancer is caused by chemicals and radiation, period.”

What we can take away from this is yes, cancer could be a matter of our lifestyle choices, and we should consider the following lifestyle changes:

  • getting more access to cleaner air.
  • eating cleaner food while avoiding cancer-causing foods.
  • less exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and radiation through less use of cell phones, Wi-Fi devices, x-rays and CT scans.

It’s also critical to our health to get ample sleep – good, restorative sleep – because that’s when our bodies do the most healing.

Granted, making the healthier lifestyle choices will not guarantee you won’t get cancer. But if we keep layering on the toxins through less healthy choices, we are surely setting our bodies up to fail.

Call it quits with these cancer-causing foods

Doctors and experts who work closely with cancer patients advise us to avoid certain foods in an attempt to prevent the onset (or assumedly) return of cancer.

Rankings of these cancer-causing foods may vary slightly from one list to another. But these ingredients top many lists:

  1. genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – living things that have had their DNA altered using genetic engineering
  2. soda, because of the corn syrup, which is usually a GMO, and aspartame, which is equated to rat poison, as well as other artificial sweeteners
  3. artificial sweeteners – aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste Blue), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (ACE K, Sunette, Equal Spoonful), Sweet One, Sweet ‘n Safe, saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin), galactose, sorbitol, xylitol
  4. trans fats, which often come from hydrogenated oils
  5. microwave popcorn, due to the GMOs, chemicals in the bag linings and toxic fumes emitted when the artificial butter flavoring is heated

In addition, we should also avoid these cancer-causing foods:

  • artificial food dyes – Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, FD&C Lakes, Citrus Red 2
  • grilled red meat, because the longer it’s cooked, the more it releases a carcinogen
  • refined sugar, with high fructose corn syrup being the worst for you (I say regular corn syrup too, because it is also typically a GMO)
  • farmed fish (particularly salmon) due to the antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals used
  • hydrogenated oils because chemicals are used for both extraction and treatment of them, and they are a main source of trans fats
  • canned goods that contain BPA in the lining
  • white flour because cancer cells thrive off of simple sugars
  • processed meats – which are of course highly processed, but also often contain nitrates and other additives
  • Too much alcohol

*For more information including other names for some of these ingredients, read my blog “How to recognize the 5 worst ingredients in food and avoid them”.

This list may not be that surprising, as we are all getting more health-conscious. What may be surprising though, is how much you don’t miss these foods when you’ve avoided them for a while. We have so many other, more nurturing and delicious options.

A world of whole, organically grown food choices surround us. We can grill red meat for less time or cook it another way. We can opt for fresh, wild-caught fish. We can choose healthier versions of sodas, drink less alcohol and pop our organic popcorn in an air popper.

We have the solutions. We have the products and produce. We just need to embrace and pass along the right attitudes! Let’s control the one thing we are meant to control – the food we put in our bodies – in hopes of building them up as temples and not running them ragged like rusting machines.

So what are you waiting for?! My book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, will help get you on the right path in no time!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Pig to plate: The lowdown on pork, including do healthy hot dogs or bacon exist?

unhealthy hot dogsWith barbecue season in full force and organics cropping up everywhere, one question remains to be answered: is there really such thing as healthy hot dogs or bacon? In the U.S., many of us eat pork more than other red meat. We eat a lot of it – bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ham, chops, pork steaks, ribs, roasts and more. But should we really be putting all this pig on our plates?

If you’re a vegetarian, vegan or animal activist, the answer is clear. But if you’re a meat eater, the answer may not be so black and white.

Pigs 101

Despite the advertising campaign, pork is actually a red meat. Due to its light color after cooking, some consider it a white meat. But because pork contains more myoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) than chicken or fish, is a livestock product and has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and cancer, it is actually classified as a red meat.

Now that we’ve cleared that mystery up, let’s look at the benefits of eating pork.

Well, pork tastes delicious – so, not a benefit. It does give us some healthy fat and protein, if it’s not overpowered with additives, sugar and other junk.

But consider what we know about pigs. They eat just about anything, including their own feces, their own young and other dead animals.

Besides not sweating much, pigs digest their tantalizing menu of goodies more quickly than other livestock animals, resulting in less removal of toxins. Those toxins then get stored in the pig’s fatty tissues until we consume them. Still sound delicious?

What worse? According to onegreenplanet.org, more than 80% of factory-farmed pigs have pneumonia when they go to the slaughterhouse. If you aren’t exposing yourself to the pneumonia when eating the pork, you sure are taking in some of the antibiotics it was given.

Though sometimes warranted, antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts. Without the healthy (good) bacteria, poor gut health can lead to many other health issues.

Plus, if you follow Old Testament scripture in the Bible, God considered the pig an unclean animal (See Leviticus 11).

So even with all this information, I have to admit that I still love the taste of pork. And you might, too.

So can processing the pork take away some of the health risks. And finally, is there a healthy hot dog out there?

Pigs to plate: does processing the pork make it healthier?

Processing pork is meant to kill harmful bacteria or parasites in the meat. But due to the pig’s makeup and lifestyle, eating processed pork can increase our risk for swine flu, trichinosis, other viruses or parasites and cancer.

Plus, whether uncured or cured, sausage, bacon and hot dogs will contain nitrites and nitrates. At least with uncured versions, the nitrates and nitrites come from more natural sources such as celery powder, instead of added, man-made sources. Nitrates and nitrites are thought to be cancer causing, so we should consume only natural sources of them, in moderation.

Finally, what’s worse is that the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) concluded that no amount of processed meat is safe, so they recommend avoiding all of it, all the time (mercola.com).

So, we can conclude that processingthis already unhealthy meat does not make it healthier. Sad, I know. I love my bacon, too.

Roping in the processed meats prognosis

What does the WCRF’s recommendation mean to us meat lovers?

Most processed meats are pork-based, but any deli meat or packaged meat and even meat from a local farm may be processed. Processedmeans that the meat has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking it, or by adding chemical preservatives to it.

Processed meats include many of our go-tos: ham, salami, pastrami, pepperoni, hot dogs and bacon, as well as some sausages and hamburgers.

So the prognosis is that we should all stop eating processed meats!

That said, I’m a realist and a meat lover. So what other choices do we have? We can:

  1. choose to eat the unhealthier, conventional processed meats, but much less often.
  2. healthy hot dogresearch and find a trustworthy local source of the cleanest, most organic meat possible.
  3. learn to make our own paleo bacon.
  4. purchase more organic versions of pork products from brands such as The Piggery, Pederson’s Natural Farmsand Wellshire Farms.
  5. find store brands that offer uncured, organic versions made from beef instead of pork, such as Applegate 100% organic, grass-fed beef hot dogs (not their “natural” version). Note that they are still processed, but more organically and they are made from beef instead of pork.

As a society, we love bacon, ham and pork and many of us eat it daily. But to sum up the answer to ‘do healthy hot dogs or bacon truly exist’, I am sad to say, no.

However, we can choose healthierversions of them. If we eat those much less often and enjoy fresher, unprocessed meats or plant-based foods (even better) instead, our bodies will become healthier, too.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

Eating an acidic vs alkaline diet: why it matters and what you should do

From hlbenefits.com

People have become more aware of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet as we are making efforts to improve our health. “The alkaline diet” has actually become a thing. So what exactly does acid and alkaline foods do to our bodies and how you should really eat?

Benefits of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet

Just like water, your body’s tissues and fluids have a pH level. Zero is completely acidic, 14 is completely alkaline and 7 is neutral.

At its best, the pH level of your blood will be 7.35 – 7.45, or slightly alkaline. Your kidney normally controls the pH level of your blood.

However, when your body is too acidic (acidosis) – 3.5 or below – you may experience symptoms, such as:

  • acne
  • brittle hair and nails
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • mood swings
  • poor digestion
  • poor sleep
  • sensitive gums
  • shallow breathing

Why? With mild acidosis, the amount of free radicals in your body can increase, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viral infections. So eating an acidic diet does not offer any known health benefits and can actually wreak havoc on your body.

On the other hand, eating an alkaline diet offers several health benefits. It can help:

  • decrease blood pressure and cholesterol
  • decrease risk for kidney stones
  • improve bone density
  • improve hormone levels
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce acid reflux
  • reduce chronic pain (and inflammation)

An alkaline environment may also make certain chemotherapy drugs more effective and less toxic, though this has not yet been validated by research.

However, as always, moderation is best. If your stomach environment is too alkaline (alkalosis), you might experience confusion, nausea or muscles twitches.

Your best option is to limit acidic foods and eat plenty of alkaline foods.

Understanding and balancing alkaline vs acidic foods

Fruits and vegetables have a negative Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL) score, which means, in simple terms, that they may not produce the effect you would expect. When foods reach the kidney, they produce more ammonium (acid) or bicarbonate (alkaline), and this result is called the PRAL score.

For example, a lemon is acidic outside your body, but when eaten, it has an alkalinizing effect. Contrary to this, milk is alkaline outside your body, but is acidic when eaten.

For optimal health, aim for that slightly alkaline pH level of 7.35-7.45 by limiting your intake of these acidic foods:

acidic vs alkaline diet 1

 

*Regardless of your pH, these foods should be limited or avoided when seeking better health.

Next, eat plenty of these alkaline foods (fresh, organic are best):

acidic vs alkaline diet 2

 

Note that these lists of foods are not exhaustive but will get you started in the right direction. And do not necessarily eliminate eggs or walnuts from your diet, as they offer many other health benefits, but just be aware that they are more acidic foods.

More regimented than just being mindful of eating an acidic vs alkaline diet, some people actually choose to follow the alkaline diet, also known as the alkaline ash diet, alkaline acid diet, acid alkaline diet, acid ash diet or pH diet. This diet’s protocol allows fruits, vegetables, soybeans and tofu (organic, without the isolates), some nuts, seeds and legumes. But you need to avoid dairy, meat, eggs, most grains, walnuts, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. The alkaline diet works for both vegans and vegetarians.

Summarizing acidic vs alkaline diet considerations

Too much acid does no good whatsoever.

Keep in mind that calcium is the most important mineral your body uses to neutralize acid, which in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis. If you choose to follow the alkaline diet, be sure you get plenty of calcium through leafy greens, sea vegetables, nuts (except walnuts) and sesame seeds.

Adding more alkaline foods will likely benefit your health, as many of those foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, which we can’t seem to get enough of. But if you have other health conditions or think you may already be too alkaline, consider testing your own pH level using a special litmus paper before making any drastic changes to your diet.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Demystifying capers – those pea-looking nuggets full of nutrition

Capers make appearances in many dishes. My first sighting of them happened many years ago in an Italian dish – tortellini perhaps. I thought they were peas and picked them all out. I’ve since grown to like fresh or frozen peas, and have learned a bit more about capers.

What are those pea-mimicking things they call capers?

capers
From theheritagecook.com

Known for their Mediterranean flair, capers are the flower buds of a plant. They are typically dark green, pea-sized or slightly smaller (non-pareil, surfines) and pack a sharp, salty and sometimes lemony taste. Larger capers (capucines, capotes or grusas) are less popular. Though a caper looks like a pea, it tastes more like an olive.

Caperberries, on the other hand, are the fruit of the bush, and should not be confused with capers.

How nutritious are capers, if at all?

Instead of picking these little nuggets out of your food like I did, give them several tries. Capers provide protein, vitamins C, A and K, iron, calcium, fiber, sodium, rutin (good for circulation) and quercetin (an antioxidant, anti-bacterial, analgesic and anti-inflammatory).

Capers have helped treat hemorrhoids and varicose veins, lower LDL cholesterol in obese individuals, lessen stomachaches and flatulence and relieve arthritic pain. Because capers contain a high amount of sodium and tend to thin your blood, avoid or limit consumption of them if you are pregnant, undergoing surgery soon or have high blood pressure.

How do you cook with capers?

You’ll often find capers as a garnish or ingredient in tomato sauce or on a salad, meat or fish entrée. But you can also use capers to add a salty, pungent flavor to:

  • sauces or dressings
  • breadcrumbs
  • tuna salad
  • pasta salad
  • eggs, especially deviled
  • stews or soups

Most capers are pickled (and found near the olives in a store), so look for versions without added sugars, especially if you are following a Whole30 or Paleo protocol. Rinse capers before eating them to reduce your sodium intake and add them toward the end of your cooking process to maintain their firm texture and punchy flavor. Lastly, eat capers in moderation so you’re not taking in too much sodium.

If sodium is not your enemy, dabble with capers in your next Italian or fish dish. Look for the small, non-pareil capers without sugar and add them in your final minutes of meal prep. They may be the tastiest and most nutrient-packed gems you’ve ever eaten!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Vegetarian vs vegan: what you need to know before doing a plant-based diet

Vegetarian vs vegan eaters face challenges you should consider before converting to one of these diets – whether following the trend or for other reasons.

Up to 5 percent of American adults consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a July 2012 Gallup poll, and 2% consider themselves vegan (livestrong.com). This percentage of vegetarians isn’t drastically different from other European countries, surprisingly. But, a 2006 survey found that 40% of India’s population, or 399 million people, are vegetarians (raw-food-health.net). This represents more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined.

Meanwhile, according to a report by research firm GlobalData, 1% of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan in 2014, with this percentage rising to 6% in 2017. The numbers of vegans in United Kingdom and Australia are also growing rapidly (foodrevolution.org).

Before changing from a meat eating to a plant-based diet, be sure you consider the facts, because done improperly, the change can be devastating to your health.

Defining vegetarian vs vegan diets

Both vegetarians and vegans eat plenty of vegetables (surprise!), fruits, grains, nuts and legumes. Both typically avoid eating meat, poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.) However, some people modify a straight vegetarian diet to:

  • pesco-vegetarian, also eating fish and seafood.
  • ovo-vegetarian, eating eggs but not dairy.
  • lacto-vegetarian, eating dairy but not eggs.

Even more rigid than those diets, vegans do not eat eggs, dairy products or any other animal products, including gelatin.

Why consider vegetarian vs vegan anyhow?

As I reference in my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways, we should all ideally choose vegetables for 40-50% of what we eat. Our standard American diet does not come close to achieving this!

The most obvious reason for choosing any plant-based diet is for better health. Vegetables give us more nutrients and minerals than other food groups while being easier to digest.

vegetarian vs vegan pizza

One study found that people who eat a pro-vegetarian diet (70 percent of food intake is derived from plants) were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (medicaldaily.com). Plant-based diets tend to reduce risk for many diseases and health conditions, from allergies to cancer.

When comparing vegetarian vs vegans specifically, vegans tend to have lower serum cholesterol and blood pressure, reducing their risk for heart disease. However, vegans also run the risk of not getting enough essential nutrition without supplementation.

Besides for better health, people choose to eat vegetarian or vegan diets due to:

  • environmental concerns (less water is needed to yield vegetables vs beef, beef emits more carbon dioxide, etc.).
  • religious beliefs.
  • animal welfare concerns (these people also typically choose cruelty-free cosmetics and other goods NOT made from animal by-products such as wool or leather).
  • cost.

Critical considerations for vegetarian and vegans

When not done carefully, vegetarian and vegan diets can leave you lacking several nutrients that are critical to your health. Let’s look at a list of those nutrients, along with the foods rich in them. Bolded items pertain only to vegetarians, whereas unbolded foods below are typically eaten by both vegetarians and vegans.

Calcium: broccoli, beans, leafy greens, sea vegetables, dairy, soy (fortified tofu), rice milks, almonds, sesame seeds

Vitamin D: eggs or dairy products, other products fortified with vitamin D

Protein: dairy, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, quinoa, oatmeal

Iron: dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.), beans, peas, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy nuts, tofu, peanut butter, cereals or breads fortified with iron

Omega-3 fatty acids: eggs (mostly in yolks), winter squash, pumpkin, nuts, seeds, soy

Vitamin B-12: eggs, dairy, cereals, orange juice or soy drinks fortified with vitamin B-12

Zinc: spinach, mushrooms, cashews, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cocoa powder, yogurt, kefir

Vitamin B-12 remains the biggest concern when eating vegan, in particular, because eggs and dairy are our greatest food source for it. B-12 plays a significant role in the health of our bones, brain, heart and energy – so crucial without doubt!

For more information about getting protein from other foods sources, read High-protein diets: are they just a trend or truly healthy?

Also, whether eating vegetarian or vegan, it’s best to choose organic grain and soy products, since they are commonly genetically modified (GMOs) and sprayed with pesticides.

When contemplating vegetarian vs vegan:

  • consider your why, so you can better stick to it.
  • be sure you’re getting enough of all the essential nutrients.
  • only encourage kids to eat vegan under the care of a healthcare professional, because many of the essential ingredients will impact their growth and development.
  • if you do eat vegan, seriously consider taking supplements to ensure proper nutrition.

Even if don’t choose to go plant-based, at least choose to eat more plant-based – aiming for the 40-50% in vegetables each day!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Banana vs plantain: how they stack up in nutrition and in the kitchen

When looking at nutritional value and how versatile they are, how does banana vs plantain pan out?

Banana vs plantain in a snapshot

From healthtips.tips

Americans eat bananas by the boatloads. In the United States alone, each person eats more than 11 pounds of bananas per year, according to insteading.com. India, China and the Philippines are the largest producers of bananas.

Plantains – sadly still strangers to many Americans – rank 10th in staple foods that are feeding the world today, according to this article. If you’re not familiar with them, you should get to know them!

Like bananas, plantains grow in tropical climates, making them available year-round. A plantain tree’s flowers develop into a bunch of 5 to 10 fruits. African countries including Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria are the largest producers of this fruit.

Nutritional value of a banana vs. plantain

Both bananas and plantains contain vitamin C and A, as well as potassium and magnesium. These nutrients help to regulate digestion and blood pressure, boost your immune system, reduce free radicals and prevent osteoporosis.

Bananas have higher sugar and fiber content, but fewer carbohydrates than plantains. Plantains are starchier while containing less sugar. Both bananas and plantains can raise your blood sugar, which is critical to know if you’re diabetic.

So banana vs plantain, which should we really eat by the boatload?

Well, plantains provide slightly higher levels of vitamins C and A, potassium and magnesium. But really, we should make room for both in our diets because each can be used each very differently.

Getting creative with banana vs plantains

We typically treat bananas as the fruit they are, adding them to smoothies, cereal and baked goods – when not eating them as a whole fruit. Plantains, however, are usually treated like a vegetable. Their denser texture makes them more versatile, but also typically eaten cooked rather than raw.

  • Plantains can be:
  • mashed, steamed, baked, roasted or boiled as a side dish.
  • a substitute for rice or potatoes (think: chopped in soup).
  • used to make grain-free breads that are not as sweet as banana bread.

When shopping for plantains, note that they change in color with ripeness like bananas do, though not as quickly.

  • green (less ripe) = chips
  • yellow (ripe) = fried, cooked, boiled or grilled
  • black (sweet and soft) = baked or as dessert

You can store plantains with other fruits or vegetables without it affecting their ripening process. During prep, cut the tips off the plantain and slice the thick skin along the creases without penetrating the fruit.

Bananas, on the other hand, should be stored away from other fruits or vegetables to prevent them from ripening too quickly. You can also wrap the stems in plastic to slow the ripening.

Both bananas and plantains are members of the Musa family. So if you have an allergy or intolerance to bananas, you may also have one to plantains.

So the next time you go shopping, grab some bananas and plantains and try out some of these recipes!

For more ways to incorporate another nutritious food into your diet through creative recipes, read Reap the health benefits of pumpkin year-round!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Your leafy greens listed by rank and how to blend them into your St. Patrick’s Day festivities

Celebrate this St. Patrick’s Day with superstars of the leafy greens list. So…it’s not your traditional green beer, green eggs and ham feast, but it’s more nutritious and you can still have some fun. Check out which leafy greens rank highest and how to weave them into your St. Patty’s Day ways.

Raw leafy greens list ranked by nutrition

Just like other lists, a ranking can be deceiving. For leafy greens, it depends on which nutrients you wanting most and how you’re preparing them. So we’ll look at a couple of different rankings and lists.

First, this leafy greens list, formulated by the Huffington Post using CDC data, ranks raw salad greens based on nutrient density scores.

From brownboxsoil.com

My kids prefer the crunchier romaine lettuce and don’t eat a lot of dairy, so based on this information, I should mix some watercress with the romaine to supplement calcium.

You, too, can use this leafy greens list to toss together a salad that’s perfect for your needs. Or if you’re buying a pre-mixed box of salad, take a closer look at the greens it offers and make sure you’re getting good nutrition for your money!

Leafy greens list for the non-salad eaters

Not everyone loves salad and there is debate about whether eating raw foods is good for your digestion or not. So as with many food issues, do what seems to work best for you. Here’s a list of leafy greens (not ranked) along with their highest nutrient offerings.

 

Some of the stars on this leafy greens list can also be eaten raw, but are more often cooked. Though cooking vegetables will affect the nutritional value, your body may digest them better cooked than raw. If this is the case, steaming greens and vegetables makes a great compromise since it begins the digestion process for you but doesn’t cook away the precious nutrients! For specific nutrition data on any leafy green or food, befriend and bookmark Self Nutrition Data.

Find lots of different ways to cook your favorite leafy greens by searching online. If you don’t like collard greens one way, try them another! That’s why I rely on other sources for recipes instead of trying to figure them out myself – I can find a way to like the foods before I give up on them! If you need help getting your kids on board, read 10 ways to get your kids to eat vegetables now.

Lastly, as with all foods, mix and match from your leafy greens list so you get a healthy mix of nutrients. Rotating your foods (eating a variety of grains, fruits, veggies, etc. instead of one grain, fruit, veggie, etc. all the time) is key to good health and a strong immune system.

Leafy greens and leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day

Now for the fun stuff! If the leprechaun in you wants to indulge in St. Patrick’s Day doin’s, add a bit of good luck to your celebration with these suggestions.

This St. Patrick’s Day, show your spirit by eating more leafy greens naturally, whether by incorporating them into traditional Irish dishes or creating your own new ones!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

 

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How to recognize the 5 worst ingredients in food and avoid them

Are the 5 worst ingredients in food running rampant in your diet? Or maybe they’re lurking in unknown places, under names you’re not familiar with. Whether you are generally healthy and fit or trying to get a start in that direction, be sure you can detect and avoid these 5 ingredients.

Identifying the 5 worst ingredients in foods and why we should avoid them

We can all think of plenty of ingredients we should avoid. Sugar and sodium might top the list. But in moderation, those don’t scare me as much as these other ingredients.

5 worst ingredients in foods gross
From freshagenda.com

Genetically modified organisms are created by forcing genes of one species into an unrelated species. How can we keep putting these lab-created ingredients and foods into our bodies and expect them to function for life? It’s like putting juice in your gas tank and wondering why the car peters out early. GMOs are unnatural substances we’re asking our bodies to process, and they could be contributing to inflammation and diseases including cancer.

Conventional crops (soy, corn, cottonseed oil, canola oil, gluten/wheat) tend to contain genetically modified organisms and also to be sprayed with chemical-containing pesticides during growth. Double whammy here – the GMOs plus non-organic pesticides containing chemicals thought to cause health issues including cancer. This article from 2017 discusses how more than 35 countries have banned the use of GMO crops. It’s possible to do life without the GMOs, so why wouldn’t we?

Most articles about corn syrup focus on high-fructose corn syrup and how we should avoid that. But why not avoid corn syrup all together – low-fructose and high-fructose? They are both processed and made from conventional, typically GMO-containing corn, and found in foods and drinks that we should avoid anyhow.

5 worst ingredients in foods artificial food dyesArtificial food dyes have been linked to aggressive behavior and hyperactivity in kids especially. Research indicates they could be cancer causing. Yet they are in so many foods and even shampoos and soaps to make them colorful and appealing. I’ve even found them in soaps that are clear, too – why, I’ll never know. Artificial food dyes are banned in other countries. We have more natural ways to make our food pretty. Or here’s a thought – we could just teach our kids (and selves) to eat what’s healthy because it’s wise. After all, we all get just 1 body to last a lifetime.

Many artificial sweeteners have proven to cause cancer after long-term exposure or in higher doses. This was the number 1 thing on a list of things to avoid for a relative diagnosed with cancer. There’s a reason for that.

Think of our world without GMOs and artificial ingredients. We grownups will survive the upfront inconvenience and changes of stubborn, unhealthy habits. Our kids will learn to eat what’s good based on wisdom instead of selfishness or desire. We will use other options for food colors, such as turmeric and beet juice, which actually provide health benefits instead of harm. We will be healthier and more full of life and joy.

So how do you avoid the 5 worst ingredients in foods?

Let’s break it down in a chart, keeping in mind this is by no means all inclusive of nicknames.

 

If you’re still not convinced that avoiding these 5 worst ingredients in food is worth the time and effort, read my blog “10 reasons to eat healthier that may surprise you!

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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Foods and headaches: eating for, and proactively against, the headache pain

Start managing that nagging, or sometimes debilitating, pain now by combining your knowledge about foods and headaches. What better time to be more mindful than during the holidays – when you are more likely to sleep less, drink more alcohol and coffee and less water and eat less healthy – together a recipe for headaches or worse?

The worst foods – the ones that welcome headaches

foods and headaches1 Not surprising, alcohol is one of the biggest headache-causing culprit. Alcohol dehydrates our bodies and inhibits our reactions. But it also contains various headache triggers:

  • Wine contains sulfites, tannins and histamines.
  • Beer contains grains and sulfites.
  • Spirits contain grains.

Many alcoholic beverages may also contain preservatives or added artificial colors, which could be a trigger for you. Stick to beverages and quantities that do not induce symptoms for you.

2 The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, particularly aspartame, are known to trigger migraines, too.

3 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause headaches. MSG lurks in many food places – chips, dressings, sauces and other proceeds foods, including cured deli meats.

4 The nitrates found in deli meats, bacon, ham and sausage can cause headaches.

5 Foods with an amine called tyramine can trigger headaches. You may be tyramine-intolerant if bananas, avocados, fermented foods, aged cheeses or cured or smoked meats trigger headaches.

Foods and headaches combined – pain relief naturally

Once a headache starts to take over, enlist foods, instead of medicines, for pain relief because many prescription and over-the-counter medicines can damage your body over the long term.

You won’t always know what’s triggering your headache, but if you look for patterns and experiment with these foods, you may find a common thread leading to your culprit – as well as its counterpart.

 

For headaches from lack of: try eating:
hydration spinach*, lettuce, watermelon, cucumber
tryptophan turkey, almonds*
B2 (riboflavin) spinach*, mushrooms, broccoli, eggs
B3 (niacin) beef liver, beets, salmon, sunflower seeds
magnesium Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bananas*, almonds*
omega-3s salmon, olive oils, avocado*
gut stability (you have nausea) fresh ginger
endurance (time of day pattern) cherries, beetroot

*Only eat these foods if you are not sensitive to them as they can be headache triggers, too, due to the amines.

If your headaches seem hormone-related, incorporating enough magnesium in your diet may help prevent headaches.

Headaches present another great reason to make leafy greens a major part of your diet. Greens help hydrate while providing magnesium and other minerals and vitamins that are essential to your health. So, during the holidays, when temptations are, well, tempting you, add healthy, headache-preventing foods to help balance out your spontaneous, not-so-healthy eating.

For a deeper look at foods and headaches, read “Migraine detail – how to manage those unbearable headaches and find true migraine relief”.

 

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice.