The Nuts & Bolts of Healthy Eating

N
N is for Nuts

Nasty rumors are floating around about the fat in nuts.  Instead of being afraid of the little nuts you should embrace them for the nutritious, healthy snack they  provide. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, or pistachios, any whole nut makes a healthy high-protein snack. And these nuts are high in fiber.

You mix protein with fiber and you will fill full longer.  Even though they are loaded with the good fats, it’s still important to measure out portions. 

A hand full can lower cholesterol, make for a healthy heart, help weight control and even lower cancer risk and that is just the tip of the iceberg for these tiny little nuts.

nuts 1
Another reason to love My H.E.B – I can buy in bulk and keep it local. They have so many choices.

Unfortunately, too few Americans eat nuts regularly: They account for less than eight percent of daily antioxidant intake.  Let me remind you that just a small handful can add protein, fiber, good fats  and important vitamins and minerals to you diet.

Here are my favorites.

Pistachios: They slow down your eating

Pistachios are my travel companions. This nut has the fewest calories, less than four calories each. If you eat them shelled, then you are working for your food and you’ll eat less but it takes longer. I love eating them in traffic on my long trip home.

Pistachios are rich in the antioxidant gamma-tocopherol, a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E. Pistachios are also packed with potassium, which we need for healthy nervous system and muscles. Vitamin B6, is another gift that comes in this tiny package. It helps  lift your mood and build up your immune system.

About 50 nuts make up a serving.

Almonds: They keep things moving.

Of all the nuts, almonds have the most fiber. If nothing else I hope you have learned how important fiber and a healthy digestive system is to your overall health.

nuts 3
I like a touch of chocolate or dried fruit thrown in the mix.

They are also rich in vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Some research shows that almonds are good for someone trying to keep their blood sugar levels healthy. In one study: Those who ate about 20 percent of their calories from almonds for four months saw their bad LDL cholesterol drop and their insulin resistance decrease compared to a control group who didn’t eat them. They may also help if you are on a healthy weight loss journey. In one International Journal of Obesity study, when two groups of obese adults followed low-calorie diets for six months, those who included almonds in their weight loss plans lost more weight than those who ate more complex carbohydrates.  Almonds may even keep your gut healthy: A test-tube study (funded by the Almond Board of California) found that Almonds brought more good bacteria to the body’s immune system.

Unsweetened almond milk and unsweetened Almond/coconut milk are two of the milks I use in my smoothies.

About 23 nuts make a serving.

Pecans: The Heart of Texas. This is a native and our state tree.

Pecans are famous for those tasty pies. But what they should be know for is the health benefits to your heart.  They may help prevent plaque formation in your arteries. In fact, a Journal of Nutrition study (funded partly by the National Pecan Shellers Association) found that consuming pecans can help lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 33 percent. Pecans may also buffer your brain health, according to an animal study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The vitamin E found in the nuts could delay progression of degenerative neurological diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Serving size is only about 18 halves.

Cashews: Good for your brain

nuts and coco granola chia clusters
Some cashews mixes with coco/chia granola.

 

Cashews deliver the magnesium. Which may help improve memory and protect against age-related memory loss, according to a study in the journal Neuron. They also are heavy in iron and zinc. Our body uses iron to carry oxygen to our cells, and zinc helps with immune health and healthy vision.  Unsweetened cashew milk is the other liquid I like using in my smoothies. It has less calories than skim milk (25 compared to 80) but has more calcium (45% compared to 30%). It is also creamier.

About 1/4 cup is a serving.

Walnuts: A happy nut.

A handful of walnuts may level out any mood swings you might be having because of hormones. Manganese has been given credit for happy mental health and nerve health. It also has the most antioxidants of all nuts. This is the stuff that helps protect your body from the cellular damage that can lead to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. If you would rather avoid fish, walnuts have the highest counts in omega-3 fatty acids. They  fight inflammation. I like to drop a small hand full to a smoothie every now and then.

A serving is  14 walnut halves.

A couple of my favorite smoothies:

(Right) Walnuts, fresh blackberries, kale, frozen blueberries and a cup of unsweetened cashew milk. (left) Unsalted almonds, frozen blueberries & strawberries, fresh bananas & spinach along with unsweetened almond milk. I throw them in my Ninja for about 40 seconds and enjoy!

 

There are more nuts to explore and this is a good site to find information :

http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition/0406/why-you-should-go-nuts-for-nuts.aspx#03

 

 

 

Layered smoothie. Top: coconut, cucumbers, green grapes, avocado, fresh lemon juice and unsweetened almond milk, Bottom: Frozen strawberries, blueberries, half of a shredded beet, triple zero yogurt, chia and unsweetened almond/coconut milk

Coconut, Carrots and Chia

C for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.
C for the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Good Monday morning to you! It is April 4 and the third day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge and we have the letter C. Today I’m exploring some classics and some new-to-me foods.

 

Coconut comes in the dry form or the fresh brown shell. I’ve never been able to eat the crispy white flakes that come in a bag. If you want to stop me from eating a cookie or cake, sprinkle some of that…stuff on it and (shudder) I won’t touch it. Now the fresh coconut is a whole other story. Don’t let the hard shell stop you from buying one of these babies at the store. They are easy to open and use.

After draining the water, place the coconut in the oven at 350 for about 12 minutes. Then wrap it in a bag smash it with a hammer or throw it hard against a concrete floor. The harder the better.
After draining the water, place the coconut in the oven at 350 for about 12 minutes. Then wrap it in a bag smash it with a hammer or throw it hard against a concrete floor. The harder the better.

Using a Philips screw-driver with a hammer or a wine bottle opener make holes in the three “eyes” of the coconut. Use a cup or bowl and drain out all the water. Some have mistakenly called this liquid coconut milk – but that is a different product that is make with the coconut flesh. Once all the water is out place the coconut in the per-heated oven (350) for 10 to 12 minutes. This helps pop the flesh right off the shell after you smash it. Smashing it can be fun. Either hit it with a hammer a bunch of times or throw it down hard against a concrete floor. It should break easily into several pieces. It will be good for about a week in your refrigerator.

The water doesn’t have the same nutritional value as the fruit, but it is a great way to add flavor to anything from a smoothie to rice. The Coconut itself contains a healthy portion of potassium that may help reduce stroke risk according to some research. It is high in fat and amino acids, which is good for muscle formation. If you’re losing weight you want to take care not to lose muscle. When you add it to your smoothie or sprinkle it over a salad the small amount of fat makes the nutrients of the other fruits and veggies more bio-available.

Carrots are a “mom” veggie. One of the vegetables she told you to eat along with broccoli and spinach. Well, once again she was right. They are nutritional rock stars and now you can find them in reds, purples and yellow along with the tried and true orange.

Carrots roasted with zucchini in a little Olive oil and garlic and herb mix from Mrs. Dash
Carrots roasted with zucchini in a little Olive oil and garlic and herb mix from Mrs. Dash

Even though they taste sweet, carrots are low in sugar and have almost no fat. So they get a high score when you need something to chew on but don’t want a great deal of calories.

Slice them up and they can sweeten your smoothie.

Coconut/Carrot Smoothie: Perfect for a warm summer day.

  • One carrotcarrots cocount orange beets banana
  • Fresh coconut
  • orange beet (if you can’t stand the beet add pineapple or mango.  If your goal is to bring down blood sugar level be careful of the pineapple)
  • One medium banana
  • One tb of organic Chia
  • Cup of unsweetened Almond/coconut milk
  • 2 Tb of Oikos Triple Zero Greek yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon.
  • I toss it in my Ninja for 35 seconds and I might even put it in the freezer for 30 min to get a really ice cold treat.

 

Something that is very new to me is chia seed. I had heard of chia tea, but didn’t really know what it was other than a new trending “health” kick. I have learned that despite their tiny size, this gift from mother nature packs an incredible amount of good-for-you nutrition. With just two tablespoons it will deliver 11 grams of fiber, four grams of protein, five grams of plant based omega-3 fatty acid and just about 20% of your daily calcium needs. So throw them into you smoothie or mix them with your oatmeal and yogurt.cashews organic cocoa chia gronola That little crunch will add up to a lot of nutrient.

At my H.E.B I have found organic cocoa chia granola. For a snack on my drive home I’ll mix it with cashews or almonds. Maybe a little dried fruit. (again if you have blood sugar concerns be careful of dried fruit)

I have also discovered Mamma Chia granola mixes. They come in a variety of flavors. Two of my favorites are Vanilla Almond Clusters and Cinnamon Pecan Clusters. (noticed how I slipped in other C names? hehe).

cucumber

This is the green layer for the smoothie on top of the post. I did add chia to the one in the picture, this one has flax seed. Top: Cucumbers, Green grapes, avocado, spinach, kiwi, fresh lemon, you could also add a bit of fresh coconut. I added unsweetened almond milk and blended for 30 to 40 seconds.

The bottom layer (purple): Frozen strawberries, blueberries, shredded beets (to taste or take them out), chia, Triple Zero Oikos Greek Yogurt and unsweetened almond milk.

There are so many C foods – do you have a favorite I left off or a smoothie using any of these foods. I’m always looking for a new smoothie to try.  Have a great week.

 

Banana, Berries & Bacon…oh, I mean Beets

B in the A to Z Blogging Challange. Bananas, Berries & Beets....or Bacon
B in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Bananas, Berries & Beets….or Bacon

Welcome to day two of the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Today we are exploring healthy foods in the B column. The reason I put bacon in the title was not to tease you, but to bring out the point that living healthy is not about denial. It’s about making daily choices that benefit your body and mind. you can still enjoy the things that you love. Moderation is good.

I’m in this for the long haul so I want to able to maintain not destroy. I still cook real bacon to a crunchy crisp and eat a slice with my eggs every once in a while and I’ll add the bacon dripping to my potato salad…we don’t eat it that often so might as well make it right.

As I eat better and fill my body with rich foods of the earth I found I don’t really crave sweets or fatty foods as much. That might just be me. Check in with me next year and we’ll see how I’m doing.

Now back to the food of the day: Bananas, Berries & Beets.

Bananas are a happy fruit - your brain likes them.
Bananas are a happy fruit – your brain likes them. (and your gut and your bones)

You can’t go wrong with Bananas. They’re one of the most consumed fruit on the planet. They provide potassium and fiber and help the body absorb calcium, so they are perfect with that skim milk or almond milk smoothie. They also add a creamy texture, like the avocado.

They’re also a feel good fruit. Banana’s increase the level of dopamine, serotonin & nor-epinephrine…you know, the stuff that makes your brain happy. Yes, bananas can ward off depression. So instead of the gallon of ice cream eat a banana. At least cut one or two up and add to the ice cream. (and it will absorb the calcium)

If you’re looking for something with high benefits, but low calories pick up some berries! Blueberries are my favorite. They help maintain healthy levels of blood sugar even lowering it,(perfect fruit if your diabetic or just trying to lose weight)  protects vision and improves memory. It is another brain food that helps keep your cognitive skills sharp. Along with all that, they provide vitamins C and K and manganese. The compounds that give them their beautiful vibrant color is linked with helping  inflammation and building up your immune system. Blackberries also have much of these healthy characteristics and are high in fiber. (we love our fiber, but *side note* remember you need to drink plenty of water to help the body processes easier.)

The thing that gives blueberries and beets their color is the thing that will help you be healthier.
The thing that gives blueberries and beets their color is the thing that will help you be healthier.

BEETS!!! Beets? Yuck. Yes!! Beets are awesome in so many ways.

The betalain that gives the deep, rich red color of the beet is an antioxidant that could help ward off cancer and other diseases. It pretty much has a whole alphabet of vitamins, along with potassium boosting your immune system. The greens of the beets are good too. They carry a whopping 44 milligrams of calcium, so pair it with a banana (in a smoothie) and your bones will thank you.

With all that, we’re still not done with the beet. It has compounds that can lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. It helps your hard working muscles and joint relax. (anti-inflammatory) Yes, beets are worth the time. So find a way to eat them. They are jammed full of hard to get nutrients. If you don’t like smoothies, try roasting your beets or cut them very thin and add them to your salad with some bacon & walnuts.

Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, triple zero Greek yogurt, Flax seeds and unsweetened almond/coconut milk thrown into my Ninja for 35

 

To get this rich color you can’t add green to this smoothie.

  • 1/2 Peeled and sliced beet
  • 1 cup  frozen organic organic blueberries
  • 1 cup  frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 organic banana
  • 1 Tb flax seed
  • 1 cup Oikos Triple Zero Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut milk

 

 

For the smoothie abovebeets-blueberries-blackberries-bananas-spinach

  • 1 cup of organic spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 organic banana
  • 1 cup of organic blueberries
  • 1 hand full of organic blackberries
  • 1/2 beet peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tb  Oikos Triple Zero Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Vanilla)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

 

 

 

 

For a note on color:

*Warning* When you mix colors opposite on the color they neutralize each other – you know, green & red, purple & yellow, orange & blue turn into browns, greys, & swamp water green. All those colors that look  vibrant next to each other turn dirt colors when the blades mangle them together. That is way you see so many of my smoothies before the blend. 🙂

So do you have a favorite healthy B food I left out? Broccoli, beans, Brussels sprouts…