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

 

 

 

Ice Ice Baby, Can Ice Help You Lose Weight?

I for Ice. Yes it is a healthy food.
I for Ice. Yes it is a healthy food.

I LOVE ice. Crushed ice is the best. When I’m sick or sad I want ice. Ice helps me wake up in the morning. I eat ice the way some people need coffee. At work I start my day getting a large cup of ice.

If I start feeling sluggish I refill my mug of ice.

 

 

 

Ice water can speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat. (a little bit anyway)
Ice water can speed up your metabolism and help you burn fat. (a little bit anyway)

My favorite ice is from Sonic. I’m thinking many other people like it too because they started bagging it for sell. If I have good ice I will drink twice a much water.

So when I saw that drinking cold ice water could help with fat loss – well, I printed that baby up and put it in my healthy food file.

The science behind this claim? When the body is exposed to cold tempertures it will go into over drive to keep the core temputure at a nice warm 98.6 degrees. Metabolism will rev up it’s internal  heater to get your body back to toasty happy  tempture.

For every 16 ounce of ice water you can burn and extra 17 to 18 calories. It doesn’t sound like much, but for not getting on the bike it is extra calories you wouldn’t have burned otherwise. So yes, drinking ice waters burns more calories than are in the water & ice (hint: there are no calories in water or ice which iswater in solid form. More ice is more water). So if you are changing your diet and moving more, drinking ice water can give you a little edge.  I love it when something I crave has good benifits.

Do you love ice, crushed ice? I couldn’t think of any other I foods once I saw ice was good for you.

Figs are full of vitamin A, C & K along with Fiber potassium and magnesium

Don’t Give a Fig About Flaxseeds?

FIf I hurry this post will be for April 7th, the day of F in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. For our healthy foods there is one that brings to mind sweet childhood memories and another that is all new to me.

When my parents moved us back to the Texas Hill Country the twenty-seven acre property they bought, included a fig and peach tree. I remember people coming to fill bags of fresh fruit. My mom would make preserves, but they still produced so  much fruit she was always giving it away. Along with their quarter acre garden and chickens we always had fresh food. Any heath issues I have now I can not blame on my childhood. Memories like these make me wish I could thank my parents for so many things I took for granted, but I digress.

Figs: These little fruits are high in vitamin A, K & C along with a gram of fiber in one fig. Just a few can  give you about 20% of the RDA. For their size, figs are one of the most nutritious fruits  you can eat. Not only are figs high in fiber, but they deliver potassium and magnesium also. Figs and fig leaves a have been shown to help prevent chronic diseases and help in weight management.  Be careful if you are on a low sugar or low carb diet.  To much of a good thing can be bad for you. You might need to limit their intake or you will lose the health benefits of eating figs. (Fig Newtons do not count as a health food. just FYI).

Figs are full of vitamin A, C & K along with Fiber potassium and magnesium
Figs are full of vitamin A, C & K along with Fiber potassium and magnesium

Oh, flaxseed. How did I not know about you? So so tiny yet so full of good stuff. The flaxseed has one of the largest nutrient payoff for it’s size. Did you know they have over 100 times more phytonutrients than oats, wheat bran, or buckwheat? What phytonutrients? ( I had to look it up).Low Carb Diets Expert, says, “Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals, are compounds found in plants (apart from vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients) that have a beneficial effect the body. There are over 30,000 of them, yet  only 100 have been analyzed and tested. Phytonutrients are what defend and protect our trillions of cells from disease. They have similar effects as an antioxidant, boosting the immune system, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and cellular repair. Along with flaxseed, highly colored vegetables and fruits tend to be highest in these chemicals, but tea, chocolate, nuts, and olive oil are also great sources of phytochemicals as well.”

So throw some in your smoothie! Make sure you blades chop them so they don’t wash straight through you. You can also grind them right before you eat them to make sure all the nutrients are easily available to your system.

While it’s not technically a grain, it hangs out well with them in the vitamin and mineral data, while the amount of fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids in flax well, doesn’t compare.

To make it even better, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who limit their intake of starches and sugars. All of this makes it a great food for weight loss and maintenance.

But wait there is more!  Flax Seed is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

I add a couple of tablespoon to almost all of my smoothies. Here is one I tried with figs! It was delicious, maybe even one of my favorites.

spinach, flaxseed, triple zero Greek yogurt and unsweetened almond milk
Figs are full of vitamin A, C & K along with Fiber potassium and magnesium
  • 1.5 cops of fresh Spinach
  • 1 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 2 figs
  • 2 tablespoons Triple Zero Greek Yogurt
  • one cup of unsweetened almond milk

 

 

Okay, so bring on the F foods I forgot and if you have a favorite flaxseed or fig smoothie share please!

Dragons, Dandelions, Dry Wine & Dark Chocolate

DThis sounds like the beginning of a great adventure. Day four in the A to Z Blogging Challenge brings us the letter D. At first all I could find were Dandelion Greens. (Yes, I’m making a face) If you like them, well… that’s good and you should keep eating those bitter green stems. I hear they’re good with eggs. (My mother taught me not to gag.) I would rather spend time talking about dragons, dry wine and dark chocolate.

I had seen dragon fruit in the store but it looks so exotic I had no idea what to do with it, so I waked right past. With the challenge I wanted to take pictures of it and  I went to on-line videos on-line.  What did I find? It is one incredible fruit that is easier to use than it looks. It also has a very mild flavor (between a kiwi and melon).

Before we get the knife and dig in, lets look at everything this gorgeous fruit can do for you.

 

  • Dragon fruit is rich in vitamin C and fibers that help provide an overall healthy body. Dragon fruit boosts immune system and promotes healing of wounds and cuts.
  •  Because of the richness in fibers, Dragon fruit aids in the digestion of food. We have learned how important this is to a healthy body and weight loss. Studies also suggest that Dragon fruit promotes the growth of pro-biotics.
  • Dragon fruit can help lower blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. Studies also suggest that the the glucose found in Dragon fruit aids in controlling the blood sugar level for diabetes patients.
  • Dragon fruit prevent formation of cancer causing free radicals.
  • Dragon fruit helps to control cholesterol level. Dragon fruit is also rich in flavonoids that are known to have favorable effects against cardio related disease.
  • Dragon fruit improves eye sight.
  • Dragon fruit improves memory.

Wow! So why have I waited do long to try it?Dragon fruit how to use it

With the mighty dragon flying into my kitchen you would think I’d be done with the Dd, but there is more! I am loving my smoothies, but enjoying a meal is still important. Remember I’m in this for the long haul so I need to be able to sustain this dry wine & dark chocoletenew lifestyle.

This evening when I got home the sun was just starting to set and the breeze was cool, so we grabbed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon along with some dark chocolate, strawberries and raspberries. Now set back and relax. Yes, wine (the dry kind has the most health benefits.) It does have to be a dry. Here’s a list:

Dry Reds
Pinot noir: 0.68g carbs per ounce
Cabernet franc: 0.71g
Merlot: 0.74g
Cabernet sauvignon: 0.75g
Shiraz/syrah: 0.76g
Zinfandel: 0.84g

Dry Whites
Pinot blanc: 0.57g carbs per ounce
Sauvignon blanc: 0.6g
Pinot grigio: 0.6g

In the Mediterranean diet, wine has also long been considered one of the key health-promoting components.Some population-based studies point to a relationship between wine intake and improvements in insulin sensitivity. When your body is more efficient at using carbs, you will have better health and easier fat loss.

It’s not about red or white, it has more to do with dry or sweet. Dry wines have a lower sugar count. Sorry to say for many of the fruity wine lovers that dry wines generally have less than 1 gram (g) of carbohydrates (sugars) per ounce while the carb content of sweet wines can be upwards of 1.5 to 2g per ounce. Yes, it seems the dry wine is the good guy.

Healthy living in not about starvation and denial – it’s about finding balance and moderation. Pour a glass of your favorite wine, and munch on some berries with the dark chocolate. The mix of flavors on your taste buds is divine.

So when it comes to Dds what did I miss? Any favorite treats or places that just make life better?

 

 

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.

 

A Recipe for Romance Authors of Love Inspired

A Recipe for Romance: Mexican Hot Chocolate

Recipes for Romance
Recipes for Romance

A fabulous group of authors invited me to add a short romance story and  recipe to their collection: A Recipe for Romance. I was honored. First thought? What would make a perfect recipe to write a sweet romantic story around. Well, it had to have chocolate. So I went with Mexican Hot Chocolate!

Yes, I drink hot chocolate year round.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

  • 4 CUPS of MILK
  • 4-6 Pieces of chocolate baking bar
  • 1/4 Cup Cornmeal
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1-2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • ¾ tsp Vanilla

Combine milk, sugar, chocolate baking bars and cinnamon sticks in pan over low heat until chocolate pieces melt completely. In a separate container, mix cornmeal and water and dissolve any lumps. Add cornmeal mixture to milk. Stir or whisk over very low heat for about 10-15 minutes. You will notice the milk will begin to thicken. Add pure vanilla extract after removing from heat. The more cornmeal thickens the milk, if you prefer it thicker add more cornmeal. Whisk it before serving to get a frothy topping. Grab a book and share a story while wrapped up in fuzzy socks, comfy blankets and a mug of the best hot chocolate ever.

A Recipe for Romance Authors of Love Inspired
A Recipe for Romance Authors of Love Inspired

Fresh Homemade products at the Farmer’s Market at the Cibolo Nature Park

Fresh Homemade products at the Farmer's Market at the Cibolo Nature Park

The entry gate to the Farmers Market at the Cibolo
The entry gate to the Farmers Market at the Cibolo

The Texas Hill Country is full for fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables. You can also find homemade products made from this produce here in Boerne Texas at the Farmer’s Market at the Cibolo Nature Park.

The best tasting vegetable are the ones straight from the farm
The best tasting vegetable are the ones straight from the farm

I think we get so removed from our food, hows it’s grown and with so many perspectives and chemicals we forget what real food taste like.

Join me for a walk through the booths. The textures and aromas are inspiring and I know one of my characters has to grow their own foods and sell at market.

If you don’t live in the San Antonio area I know you can find a local market close to you. If you visit your local Farmers Market you are supporting your local growers that provided fresh, local, and seasonal products that they themselves planted, raised, and harvested. You can’t beat the flavor.

Mouth-watering fresh Texas berries
Mouth-watering fresh Texas berries
The hardest part with Handcrafted Harvest Jam is picking just one or two.
The hardest part with Handcrafted Harvest Jam is picking just one or two.
Fresh berries and cream for dessert in a jar.
Fresh berries and cream for dessert in a jar.
Fresh Texas peaches make some of the best jams
Fresh Texas peaches make some of the best jams
Organic fresh baked bread
Organic fresh baked bread
Farm fresh eggs from free range chickens
Farm fresh eggs from free range chickens
Happy chickens give you the best eggs!
Happy chickens give you the best eggs!

I love buying the locally grown flowers from the market – I know they’re from my area and ready for the flowerbeds around my house.

Local grown flowers you can take home and plant in your own flowerbeds.
Local grown flowers you can take home and plant in your own flowerbeds.

flowers

My hero and helper loading the truck with our finds
My hero and helper loading the truck with our finds

Don’t forget to give your helper a treat!

Organic cookies made with fresh ingredients.
Organic cookies made with fresh ingredients.

You can find more than food – crafts and home products

Colorful bird houses made from gourds
Colorful bird houses made from gourds
Homemade creams made from farm fresh produce.
Homemade creams made from farm fresh produce.

The Farmers Market at the Cibolo in Boerne Texas
The Farmers Market at the Cibolo in Boerne Texas

Vegetable & fruits picked right from the garden, products handmade from organic produce, bread, jams and creams are just a few of the items you can find in the early morning of the Farmer’s Market. Boerne’s Cibolo Farmer’s Market is young, only in its second year, but it is a true treasure. If you are in the area they need your support. There is also games, music and a beautiful community garden.

Schedule and Location:
Every Saturday, 8:30a-12:30p
33 Herff Road, Boerne, TX 78006

Do you have a local market you visit? Do you have a favorite recipe using fresh produce from your market?