Dark Leafy Greens: Kale

Kale leaves

Kale is a green, leafy, cruciferous vegetable and a member of the mustard family, as are cabbage and Brussels sprouts.

There are many different types of kale, and the leaves can have either a smooth or curly shape.

Kale contains fiber, antioxidants, calcium, vitamins C and K, iron, and a wide range of other nutrients that can help prevent various health problems.

Reasons to Eat Kale

1. Packed with Nutrients

Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.  A single cup of raw kale contains:

  • 33 calories
  • 3 grams protein
  • 6 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 206% of DV vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene)
  • 684% of DV vitamin K
  • 134% of DV vitamin C
  • 26% of DV of manganese
  • 9% of DV of calcium

2. Loaded with Powerful Antioxidants

Kale is very high in antioxidants like vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as various flavonoids and polyphenols.  Antioxidants fight oxidative damage in the body.  Oxidative damage is believed to be  a leading driver of aging and many diseases.

Some substances that act as antioxidants have other important functions.  Kaempferol and quercetin, both found in large quantities in kale, are two such substances that have been found to have heart-protective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-cancer, and anti-depressant effects.

3. Boosts Immunity

Kale is extremely high in vitamin C.  A single cup of raw kale has more vitamin C than a whole orange.  Vitamin C plays a role in boosting our immune system.  It also necessary for the synthesis of collagen (the most abundant structural protein in the body).

4. Lowers Heart Disease Risk

Kale contains substances that lower cholesterol levels in the body.  This might reduce heart disease risk over time.  These substances are called bile acid sequestrants.

One study found that drinking kale juice everyday for 12 weeks increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 27% and lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol by 10%.

Kale also contains quite a bit of potassium.  Adequate potassium intake has been linked to reduced blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.

5. Lowers Cancer Risk

Kale is loaded with compounds that are believed to protect against cancer.  One of these is sulforaphane, a substance that has been shown to fight the formation of cancer at the molecular level.

Kale also contains indole-3-carbinol, another substance that is believed to help prevent cancer.

6. Boosts Eye Health

Two nutrients that prevent eyesight from getting worse as we age are lutein and zeaxanthin, and they are found in large amounts in Kale.

Ways to Enjoy Kale

  • Smoothies: Add a handful of kale to any favorite smoothie.  It will add nutrients without changing the flavor very much.
  • Salads: Use raw kale leaves as a main ingredient in a delicious vegetable salad.
  • Sandwiches: Add raw kale leaves to a sandwich, wrap, or flatbread.
  • Kale Chips: Remove the ribs from kale and toss with olive oil.  Bake at 275 degrees to desired crispness.

Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach

Spinach leaves

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the amaranth family.  It is related to beets and quinoa, and it is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants.

Eating spinach may benefit eye health, reduce oxidative stress, help prevent cancer, and reduce blood pressure levels.

You can buy it canned, frozen, or fresh and eat it cooked or raw.  It is delicious either on its own or in other dishes.

Reasons to Eat Spinach

1. Packed with Nutrients

Spinach is an extremely nutrient-rich vegetable.  It is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals like carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron, and calcium.

One cup of raw spinach contains:

  • 7 calories
  • 0.86 grams of protein
  • 30 milligrams of calcium
  • 0.81 grams of iron
  • 24 milligrams of magnesium
  • 167 milligrams of potassium
  • 2,813 International Units (IU) of vitamin A
  • 58 micrograms of folate

Spinach also contains many plant compounds that can improve health such as lutein, kaempferol, nitrates, quercetin, and zeaxanthin.

2. Improves Digestive Health

Spinach is high in insoluble fiber which may help digestion and help prevent constipation.

3. Lowers Cancer Risk

Several human studies link spinach consumption to a reduce risk of prostate cancer.  Spinach has also been linked to lower breast cancer risk.

4. Reduces Oxidative Stress

Spinach contains antioxidants which fight oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals, which are byproducts of metabolism.  Oxidative stress triggers accelerated aging and increases your risk of cancer and diabetes.

5. Reduces Blood Pressure

Spinach contains high amounts of nitrates, which have been shown to help moderate blood pressure levels and lower the risk of heart disease.

6. Boosts Eye Health

Spinach is rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, which are carotenoids responsible for color in some vegetables.  Human eyes also contain high amounts of these pigments, which protect your eyes from damage caused by sunlight.

Ways to Enjoy Spinach

  • Smoothies: Throw a handful of fresh spinach leaves into a smoothie.
  • Salads: Use raw spinach leaves as a main ingredient in a delicious vegetable salad.
  • Pasta: Fold raw spinach leaves into freshly cooked pasta to make a healthy pasta salad.
  • Eggs: Add a handful of fresh spinach leaves to an omelet, frittata or scramble.
  • Dips: Make a dip with spinach, such as spinach and artichoke dip or spinach and goat cheese dip.
  • Sandwiches: Add raw spinach leaves to a sandwich, wrap, or flatbread.
  • Soups: Add spinach leaves to soup during the last few minutes of cooking till they wilt.
  • Pesto: Use spinach instead of basil in your traditional pesto recipe.
  • Hummus: Add a handful to your homemade recipe for a healthier hummus.

Mango – The King of Fruits

Mangoes
Mangoes

Luscious and sweet, mango is known as the “king of fruits.”  Biting into this tropical fruit can feel like pure bliss, so much so that you may wonder if something so delicious and decadent can actually be good for you.  The answer is a resounding “yes.”  Mangoes offer some pretty impressive perks.

In fact, studies link mango and its nutrients to health benefits, such as improved immunity, digestive health and eyesight.

Reasons to Eat Mango

1. Packed with Nutrients

Mango is full of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.  One cup of mango contains:

  • 100 calories
  • 25 grams of carbohydrates
  • 3 grams of dietary fiber
  • 24 grams of natural sugar
  • 257 milligrams of potassium
  • 25% of daily value of vitamin A
  • 46 milligrams of vitamin C

2. High in Antioxidants

Mango is packed with polyphenols – plant compounds that function as antioxidants.  It has over a dozen different types including mangiferin, catechins, anthocyanins, quercetin, kaempferol and many others.

Antioxidants are important as they protect your cells against free radical damage.  Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that can bind to and damage your cells.  Scientific research has linked free radical damage to signs of aging and chronic diseases.

3. Improves Digestive Health

Mango has digestive enzymes, water, dietary fiber and other compounds that aid different aspects of digestive health.  Digestive enzymes break down large food molecules so that they can be easily absorbed.  The digestive enzymes in mango are called amylases.  Amylases break down complex carbohydrates into sugars, like glucose and maltose.  These enzymes are more active in ripe mangoes, which is why they are sweeter than unripe ones.

4. Boosts Immunity

Mango is a good source of folate, several B vitamins, as well as vitamins, A, C, K and E – all of which help boost immunity.

One cup of mango contains 25% of your daily Vitamin A needs.  Vitamin A helps fight infections.

The same amount of mango also provides 70% of your daily vitamin C needs.  Vitamin C helps your body produce more disease-fighting white blood cells and helps these cells work more effectively.

5. Supports Heart Health

Mango contains magnesium, potassium, and the antioxidant mangiferin, which all support healthy heart function.

Magnesium and potassium help maintain a healthy pulse and relax blood vessels, promoting lower blood pressure levels.

Mangiferin helps protect heart cells against inflammation and oxidative stress.  It may also help lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

6. Supports Eye Health

Mango contains lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin A – which support eye health.  Lutein and zeaxanthin accumulate in the retina of the eye – the part that converts light into brain signals so your brain can interpret what you are seeing.  Inside the retina, lutein and zeaxanthin act as a natural sunblock, absorbing excess light.

A lack of dietary vitamin A has been linked to dry eyes and nighttime blindness.  More severe deficiencies can cause more serious issues, like corneal scarring.

7. Improves Skin Health

Mango contains vitamin C, which helps maintain healthy skin.  This vitamin is essential for making collagen – a protein that gives skin its bounce and combats sagging and wrinkles.

Mango is also a good source of vitamin A, which migrates to your skin and protects it from the sun.

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Mango

  • Smoothies: Whip mango chunks into a smoothie.
  • Whole grains: Add diced mango to any whole grain like quinoa or wild rice.
  • Salads:  Toss fresh mango chunks into a summer salad.
  • Fish: Serve mango over cooked fish.
  • Yogurt: Add fresh mango chunks as a natural sweetener to plain yogurt for a healthy snack or dessert.
  • Cereals: Thaw frozen mango chunks in your hot cereal or add fresh chunks to a cold cereal for a healthy breakfast.

The Power of Pineapple

Pineapple

Pineapple is an incredibly delicious and healthy tropical fruit.  This popular fruit is packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds, such as enzymes that can fight inflammation and disease.  Pineapple and its compounds have been linked to many health benefits including aiding digestion, boosting immunity, and building strong bones.

Here are 8 impressive health benefits of pineapple.

Reasons to Eat Pineapple

1. Loaded With Nutrients

Pineapple is rich in vitamin C, manganese, copper and folate.  The other nutrition stats are impressive too.  One cup of pineapple contains:

  • 83 calories
  • 22 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 16 grams of natural sugar
  • 79 mg vitamin C

2. Provides Disease-Fighting Antioxidants

Not only are pineapples rich in nutrients, they are also loaded with healthy antioxidants.  Antioxidants are molecules that help combat oxidative stress, which has been linked to a weakened immune system and many harmful diseases.  Pineapples are especially rich in antioxidants known as flavonoids and phenolic acids.  Many of these antioxidants are bound, so that they may have longer lasting effects.

3. Promotes Healthy Digestion

Pineapples contain a group of digestive enzymes known as bromelain.  They break down protein molecules into their building blocks.  Once protein molecules are broken down, they are more easily absorbed across the small intestine.

4. Boosts Immunity

Pineapples are rich in vitamin C which supports the immune system and provides antioxidant benefits.  Vitamin C is important because it encourages growth and healing around the entire body and plays a role in everything from wound repair to iron absorption.

5. Builds Strong Bones

Along with calcium, the trace mineral manganese is essential for maintaining strong bones.  Pineapple is one of the top food sources of the mineral.  A single cup of pineapple contains 76 percent of the recommended daily value of manganese.  Manganese helps fight osteoporosis and improves overall bone and mineral density.

6. Fights Inflammation

In scientific studies, bromelain in pineapple has been shown to fight inflammation.  Too much inflammation can lead to many diseases including coronary artery disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

7. Lowers Cancer Risk

Scientific studies have shown that bromelain in pineapples have a direct effect on cancer cells and their environment.  Bromelain exhibits ant-cancer effects on colon cancer cells, and foods containing bromelain are considered good candidates for reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.

8. Promotes Healthy Skin

Pineapples are rich in manganese and vitamin C.  Both are required for building collagen – a structural component of skin that prevents sagging and wrinkles.  Manganese also functions as an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage against UV light.

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Pineapple

  • Smoothies: Add sliced pineapple to your morning smoothie.
  • Salads: Add pineapple chunks to your evening salad.
  • Pizza: Add pineapple chunks to your homemade pizza.
  • Coleslaw: Add pineapple chunks to shredded cabbage to make a healthy coleslaw.
  • Yogurt: Add fresh pineapple chunks as a natural sweetener to plain yogurt for a healthy snack or dessert.
  • Cereals: Thaw frozen pineapple chunks in your hot cereal or add fresh chunks to your cold cereal for a healthy breakfast.

6 Amazing Health Benefits of Tahini

Tahini and black sesame seeds
Tahini and black sesame seeds

If you like nut butters, then you will love tahini.  A staple of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, tahini is a thick paste made of finely ground sesame seeds.  Tahini offers a richer, more savory flavor profile than your standard peanut butter.  You may have had tahini before, if you’ve had hummus.  Besides chickpeas, tahini is one of the main ingredients of hummus.  However, you can also use tahini on its own.

Tahini provides exceptional nutritional value.  It is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, and calcium.  One tablespoon of tahini gives you 85 calories, 3 grams of protein, and 1 gram of dietary fiber.  Most of the fat in tahini is polyunsaturated fat, which is healthy, and roughly 60 percent of the fat is made up of two  beneficial compounds: sesamin and sesamolin.

Reasons to Eat Tahini

1. Helps Boost Brain Health

Tahini is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may improve your brain health and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Manganese enhances brain function as well.

2. Promotes Heart Health

Tahini contains phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol.  The omega-3 fatty acids in tahini may also reduce harmful cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Provides Cancer-Fighting Antioxidants

Tahini is a great source of antioxidants, especially lignans, which may help reduce the risk of some cancers.

4. Helps Support Normal Immune Function

Tahini contains copper, iron, selenium, and zinc, all of which may help support a healthy immune system, as they are vital in the production of white blood cells and the function of several enzymes.

5. Helps Strengthen Your Bones

Tahini has high levels of magnesium and phosphorous, which may help improve your bone density and lower your risk of developing osteoporosis.

6. Improves Skin Health

All the good fats in tahini boost the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin E, both of which are important in preventing visible signs of aging.  Tahini also contains zinc, which is a building block of collagen.  Collagen is what keeps our skin elastic and supple.

Ways to Enjoy Tahini

  • Salads: Many people enjoy adding tahini to their salads, rather than oily dressings.
  • Sandwiches: It is a wonderful spread for both sandwiches and toast.
  • Soups: You can add a dollop to your soups.
  • Dip: Add it as a dip for meat dishes, crudites, or chips.
  • Dessert: You can even mix it in as a topping for desserts.

Why You Should Eat Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds
Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are tiny, brown or golden-colored seeds, which are also known as linseed.  The health benefits of these seeds have made them a part of traditional cuisines of Asia, Africa, and America.  They can be eaten in their whole form, however they are most beneficial when ground into a tasty meal.  The body can absorb the nutrients from flaxseeds more easily when they are ground.

Flaxseeds are a great source of dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids,  and plant-based protein.  They are also a rich source of lignans, which are phytochemicals with antioxidant qualities.

One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseeds contains 2 grams of fiber, 1.6 grams of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids, and 37 calories.  They are also rich sources of vitamin C and B6, potassium, and iron.

Flaxseeds contain 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods.  Flaxseeds contain 7 times more lignans than the second best source, sesame seeds.

Reasons to Eat Flaxseeds

1. Lower Cholesterol

Flaxseeds are used to help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  This is due to the soluble fiber, lignans, and omega-3 fatty acids (ALA).

2. Lower Blood Pressure

Flaxseeds are used to lower blood pressure in people suffering from high blood pressure.  Hypertensive participants in a scientific study lowered their systolic blood pressure by 15 points and their diastolic pressure, the lower number, by 7 points when taking a quarter cup of ground flaxseeds daily for six months.

3. Help Weight Loss

Since flaxseeds contain healthy fats and fiber, they help keep you satisfied longer.  This means you may wind up eating fewer calories overall.

4. Support Digestive Health

The ALA in flaxseeds help can help reduce inflammation and protect the lining of the GI tract.  Flaxseeds contain both soluble and insoluble fiber which help maintain bowel movements.

5. Protect Against Cancer

Lignans in flaxseeds have been shown to block tumors and protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Tips to Enjoy Flaxseeds

  • Eat freshly ground flaxseeds: Buy whole flaxseeds and grind them at home using a coffee grinder or food processor.
  • Add flaxseeds to foods you habitually eat:  Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to your hot or cold breakfast cereal and to yogurt.
  • Use it in baking: Bake ground flaxseeds into cookies, breads, muffins and other baked goods.
  • Recommended Daily Amount: Cleveland Clinic recommends no more than 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily.  Start with smaller amounts to avoid abdominal cramping.

Almonds and Health

Almonds
Almonds

The Almond is a tree nut native to the Mediterranean region.  Historically, almond trees grew there wild and were later cultivated as early as 3000 BC.  The edible part of the almond is actually a seed from a drupe.

Almonds are rich in vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, fiber, biotin, minerals (calcium, phosphorous, magnesium), and phytonutrients (flavonoids, plant sterols, phenolic acids).

One serving of almonds equals one ounce (28 grams), about 23 almonds or 1/4 cup.  It is a calorie-dense food but also nutrient-dense with the majority of its fat being monounsaturated fat.  One ounce provides about 165 calories, 6 grams protein, 14 grams fat (80% monounsaturated, 15% polyunsaturated, 5% saturated), 6 grams carbohydrate, and 3 grams fiber.

Reasons to Eat Almonds

1. Almonds lower LDL (bad) cholesterol

Plant sterols as found in almonds may interfere with the absorption of cholesterol.  The high amount of unsaturated fat in almonds favors an improved lipid profile, especially when almonds replace other foods high in saturated fat and refined carbohydrate.

2. Almonds are rich in fiber

Almonds contain the highest amount of fiber of all the tree nuts.  One ounce provides 3 grams of fiber.  Fiber helps improve digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Fiber also helps control appetite by keeping you full for a longer period of time.

3. Almonds lower blood pressure

Almonds contain potassium.  An ounce of almonds contains over 200 mg of potassium.  Almonds also contain arginine.  Both potassium and arginine relax arteries causing them to open up, which lowers blood pressure.

4. Almonds lower cardiovascular disease risk

Almonds have been suggested to lower cardiovascular disease risk by lowering total and LDL cholesterol, and exerting anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.  A large study found that eating tree nuts, including almonds, two or more times weekly was associated with a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Ways to Enjoy Almonds

  • Almond Milk: This dairy-free plant milk is free of cholesterol and lactose.  It is made by finely grinding almonds with water, which is then strained to remove the almond pulp.  The remaining liquid may then be fortified with nutrients like calcium and vitamins A and D.  The best choice is unsweetened almond milk.
  • Almond Butter: Almond butter has a similar consistency to peanut butter.  Jarred almond butter is typically more expensive than peanut butter, ranging in price from $5 to $15.  Almond butter can be spread on whole grain toast or sliced apples.  it can also be stirred into freshly cooked oats for a richer tasting oatmeal.
  • Almond Flour or Almond Meal: Made of finely ground almonds, this flour alternative is gluten-free and low in carbohydrate.  The almonds are usually blanched with the skins removed to create a finer texture.  It is more nutrient-dense than wheat flour but also higher in calories and fat.  Almond flour can be used as a breading for fish.
  • Topping: Whole, chopped, or slivered unsalted almonds are an easy topping for salads, hot or cold cereals, and baked goods.
  • Snacking: Try crunchy and nutritious almonds in place of less healthy snacks like pretzels and chips.

Chia Seeds and Health

Chia Seeds
Chia Seeds

Chia seeds come from the plant Salvia hispanica L., and were at one time a major food crop in Mexico and Guatemala.  The chia seed market is projected to reach more than  2 billion USD in sales by 2022.  Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 fatty acids), fiber, protein, calcium, phosphorous, and zinc.

Two tablespoons of chia seeds (1 ounce or 28 grams) contain about 140 calories, 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, and 7 grams of unsaturated fat.  They are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Reasons to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia seeds contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may prevent the development of various chronic diseases.

1. Digestive Health

Chia seeds are high in fiber, providing 11 grams of fiber per ounce.  Being high in fiber, chia seeds benefit bowel regularity.  These fibers may also lower LDL cholesterol and slow down digestion, which can prevent blood sugar spikes after eating a meal and promote a feeling of fullness.

2. Heart Health

Chia seeds are a very good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids.  Just one tablespoon of chia seeds contains 2.5 grams of ALA.  Omega-3 fatty acids protect the heart by lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation.  Inflammation can put strain on blood vessels and cause heart disease.

Ways to Enjoy Chia seeds

  • Chia Gel: Chia seeds absorb water quickly.  Place 1/4 cup seeds in 1 cup liquid, stir well and cover.  Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes until the texture becomes a soft gelatin.  Add to smoothies and soups for a thicker consistency and added nutrition.
  • Chia Pudding: Mix 1/4 cup seeds with 1 cup liquid such as milk (almond, soy, or dairy) or 100% fruit juice.  Allow to sit refrigerated for 15 minutes.  Add nuts, chopped fresh fruit, or cinnamon if desired.
  • Egg Replacer: Can be used to replace whole eggs in baking.  For 1 whole egg, mix 1 tablespoon whole chia seeds or 2 teaspoons ground chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water.  Let sit for at least 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens to the consistency of a raw scrambled egg.
  • Cereal Topping: Sprinkle a few teaspoons into breakfast cereals (hot or cold).
  • Baking: Stir into cake/muffin/bread batter.
  • Stews and Soups: Stir into stews or soups.
  • Sauces and Marinades: Stir into salad dressings, sauces, and marinades.

Oats and Health

Oats
Oats

Oats is a type of cereal grain from the Poaceae grass family of plants.  The grain refers specifically to the edible seeds of oat grass, which is what ends up in our breakfast bowls.  Oats are most prized for their nutritional value and health benefits.  In fact the Food and Drug Administration allows the use of a health claim on food labels associating reduced risk of coronary heart disease with the consumption of beta-glucan soluble fiber from whole grain oats.  Oatmeal is also a desired asset to those trying to lose weight and control hunger levels due to its high water and soluble fiber content.

Types of oats

Oats are available in a variety of forms based on how they are processed.  The following list shows the types of oats in order of least to most processed.  Keep in mind that although the nutritional content of all the types are relatively similar, their effect on blood sugar is not.  The least processed oats, like groats or steel-cut, take longer to digest and therefore have a lower glycemic index than rolled or instant oats.

  • Oat Groats: The whole oat kernels that have been cleaned with only the inedible hulls removed.  Groats contain the intact germ, endosperm, and bran.
  • Steel-cut or Irish: Oat groats that have been cut into two or three smaller pieces using a steel blade.  The larger the pieces, the longer they will take to cook.
  • Scottish Oats: Oat groats that have been stone-ground into a meal creating a porridge-like texture when cooked.
  • Rolled or Old fashioned: Oat groats that have been steamed, rolled and flattened into flakes, and then dried to remove moisture so they are shelf-stable.
  • Quick or Instant: Oat groats that are steamed for a longer period and rolled into thinner pieces so that they can absorb water easily and cook very quickly.  Be aware that many brands of instant oats come sweetened or flavored, so be sure to check the ingredients for no added sugar.

Reasons to Eat Oats

1. Heart Disease

Beta-glucan, the primary soluble fiber in oats, has been shown to slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite.  Beta-glucan can bind with cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestine and transport them through the digestive tract and eventually out of the body.  A scientific study found that eating 3 grams of beta-glucan soluble fiber daily from whole oats decreased blood cholesterol levels by 12 points.  Whole grain oats also contain antioxidants that help reduce chronic inflammation that are associated with cardiovascular disease.

2. Diabetes

Beta-glucan fiber can help prevent sharp rise in blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal, and may benefit gut health as the fiber is broken down and fermented by intestinal bacteria.  Though a carbohydrate-rich food, minimally processed whole grain oats can be incorporated in a diabetic diet.  The glycemic load of less processed oats like steel-cut is low to medium, while highly processed instant oats have a high glycemic load.

3. Digestive Health

Fiber contributes to regularity and the prevention of constipation.  Cereal fibers, as found in wheat bran and oat bran, are considered more effective than fiber from fruits and vegetables.  The breakdown and fermentation of beta-glucan oat fiber has also been reported to increase the diversity of gut microbiota.  This may improve certain digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation.

Ways to Enjoy Oats

  • Oatmeal: A breakfast favorite.  Cooked oats pair well with fruit, nuts, and seeds.  Generally, less-processed oats such as steel-cut oats take 25 -30 minutes to cook, whereas instant oats take 1-2 minutes.
  • Oat Flour: These are oats that have been ground to a flour-like consistency.  Oat flour lacks gluten, and gluten adds structure, moisture, and volume to a baked product.  Without gluten, cookies would crumble and breads would become dense and lack volume.  However, oat flour can add chewiness to cookies and a boost of nutrients to breads.  Substitute 25-30% of flour in a recipe with oat flour for best results.
  • Oat Risotto: Oats are also delicious in savory dishes.  An example is replacing rice in risotto with whole oat groats or steel-cut oats.  Typically, the oats are first toasted in hot oil with aromatics like shallots or diced onion.  Then stock and/or water are added, 1 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition, until the oats are cooked (about 25 minutes).
  • Oat Bran: Oat bran, which contains the most fiber in a groat, is also removed and eaten as a cereal or added to recipes to boost fiber content.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of oat bran to any hot or cold cereal.

Chickpeas and Health

Chickpeas
Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, come in two varieties.  The Kabuli-type is large, round and light-colored;  The Desi-type is small, dark, and irregularly shaped.  Chickpeas have high nutritional value and are rich in carbohydrate, protein, fiber, B vitamins, and some minerals (phosphorus, iron).  They are a nutritional staple of many diets.

 

Reasons to Eat Chickpeas

Chickpeas, and all pulses contain several components that, when eaten as part of a balanced plant-rich diet, may help prevent the development of various chronic diseases.

1. Diabetes

Both dried and canned chickpeas have a low glycemic index and low glycemic load.  They also contain amylose, a resistant starch that digests slowly.  These factors help to prevent sudden surges in blood sugar and insulin levels, which can improve overall blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.

2. Gut Flora

Chickpeas contain a soluble fiber called raffinose that is fermented in the colon by beneficial bacteria.  As bacteria break down this fiber, butyrate is produced.  Butyrate plays a role in reducing inflammation in the cell wall of the colon, promoting regularity in the intestines, and possibly preventing colorectal cancer.

3. Heart Disease

Chickpeas contain a plant sterol called sitosterol that is structurally similar to cholesterol in the body.  It interferes with the body’s absorption of cholesterol and thereby can help lower blood cholesterol levels.  The fiber and unsaturated fats in chickpeas may also favorably affect blood lipid levels.

4. Obesity

High fiber foods can help to promote a feeling of fullness and satiety by delaying digestion and adding bulk to meals.  The satiating effect of the fiber along with the protein content of chickpeas may help in weight management.

Ways to Enjoy Chickpeas

  • Salads: Top green salads with chickpeas to add protein and texture.  Also use in bean salads.
  • Pasta: Add chickpeas to your signature pasta dishes.
  • Soups and stews:  Add chickpeas to stews and soups.
  • Roast:  Season and roast chickpeas for a tasty snack.
  • Hummus: Blend chickpeas with tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a hummus spread.
  • Bake:  Mash chickpeas and use in baking as a replacement for flour.