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.
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Amazing Sweet Potatoes

Oven-roasted sweet potatoes
Oven-roasted sweet potatoes

Unlike a potato (edible tuber of the nightshade family), the sweet potato is a large edible root of the morning glory family.  Sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh.  However there are varieties grown worldwide that display colors such as white, cream, yellow, and purple.  The more common orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a top source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.

True to their name, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor, which is further enhanced through cooking methods like roasting.  They are versatile and can also be steamed, pureed, baked, or grilled.  They can be added to stews and soups, and roasted or grilled and placed on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad.

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

1. Rich in Phytochemicals

Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are rich in beta-carotene, while sweet potatoes with purple flesh are richer in anthocyanins.  Beta-carotene and anthocyanins are naturally occurring plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that give vegetables their bright colors.  These phytochemicals are researched for their potential role in human health and disease prevention.

2. Heart Healthy

Sweet potatoes are rich in both potassium and magnesium which are healthy for our blood vessels and heart.  They are also rich in vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies.  Homocysteine has been linked to heart attacks.

3. Reduce Stress

Sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium, which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral.

4. Provide Energy

Sweet potatoes are rich in iron, which helps give us energy.

5. Help in Weight Loss

Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, which helps keep our digestive system healthy and keep us lean.

Ways to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes

  • Roasted: Cut sweet potatoes into wedges.  Coat with olive and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with herbs or spices if desired.  Bake at 375 F for 25 – 35 minutes or until the insides are tender and the outsides are crisp.
  • In soups or salads: Add cooked, diced sweet potatoes to soups or salads.
  • Mashed: For mashed sweet potatoes, use a fork, masher, or blender to puree the sweet potatoes.  Add a liquid such as broth, milk, or water if a smoother consistency is desired.  Season with pepper, herbs, or spices as desired.
  • Smoothies and baked goods: Puree sweet potatoes and add them to baked goods and smoothies.

Cauliflower’s Remarkable Health benefits

Cauliflower
Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family – along with cabbage, kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.  Recent studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables are an excellent source of natural antioxidants due to their various phytochemicals.

Recent research also demonstrate that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower are highly correlated with preventing chronic diseases including  cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and various forms of cancer.

Top Benefits of Cauliflower

1. Reduces cancer risk

Numerous studies demonstrate that cauliflower is useful for preventing breast cancer as well as colon, liver, lung, and stomach cancers.  Cauliflower has been shown to have chemo-preventive agents that stall early phases of cancer development to help shut off tumor growth.

2. Fights inflammation

Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which lower oxidative stress and the presence of free-radicals in our body.  These compounds include vitamins, beta-carotene, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol.

Cauliflower also contains vitamin C (one cup serving contains 73% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C) which helps to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and keep the body free of harmful bacteria, infections, and common colds.

3. Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and brain disorders

High levels of inflammation are correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  Cauliflower’s anti-inflammatory abilities (found mainly in its supply of vitamin K, vitamin C, various antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids) help keep arteries and blood vessels free from plaque build-up.  This lessens the chances of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.

4. Provides high levels of vitamins and minerals

Cauliflower is a good source of vitamins C and K.  Vitamin C is important for immunity.  Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin responsible for  healthy skeletal structure, blood clotting, and fighting inflammation in the body.

5. Improves digestion

Cruciferous vegetables are beneficial for digestion because of their rich supply of sulphur-containing compounds called glucosinolates.  These compounds support proper nutrient absorption and toxin and waste removal.

6. Aids in weight loss

Cauliflower is extremely low in calories (only 29 calories per cup), and yet is high in volume and filling fiber.  This makes it an excellent choice for those looking to lose weight, since you can consume large amounts of cauliflower and fill up without over-consuming calories.

Cauliflower also helps to reduce constipation and to keep excess waste or water moving out of your body, which helps you feel immediately better.

7. Preserves eye health

The sulphoraphane found in cauliflower has been shown to protect the vulnerable tissues of the retinal area from oxidative stress that can result in blindness, cataracts, macular degeneration, and more.

Ways to enjoy Cauliflower

  • Roast it: Cauliflower is delicious when roasted because roasting draws out its natural sweetness and caramelizes the florets.
  • Salads and pilafs: Add roasted cauliflower to salads and grains like quinoa or rice dishes.
  • Puree into soup: Cauliflower adds a great creamy texture to soups.  Just chop, boil, puree, and stir into your favorite recipe.
  • Serve mashed: Steam florets until tender, then puree them with milk, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.

The Several Benefits of Avocados

An avocado
An Avocado

Avocado – that buttery green fruit that you can spread on a sandwich, dice into a salad, and mash into guacamole (America’s favorite dip).  Research has demonstrated that avocados offer some surprising and powerful health benefits.

One of the most nutrient-dense foods, avocados are high in fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin E, and magnesium.  No doubt, avocado nutrition makes it a powerful superfood.

Avocados have been cultivated for thousands of years.  A favorite of the Aztecs, they were originally native to Central America.  There are generally two types available in the USA today – the Hass avocado from California and the West Indian avocado from Florida.

Hass avocados are nutty, buttery and rich in monounsaturated oil (18 to 30 percent oil in each avocado).  The light green Florida avocado is larger and juicier than the Hass variety, but it is less buttery, considerably lower in oil (3 to 5 percent oil) and has roughly 25 to 50 percent less fat than the Hass variety.

The avocado’s monounsaturated fat content is its biggest health claim.  The only other fruit with a comparable amount of monounsaturated fat is the olive.  The monounsaturated fat in avocados is oleic acid, which helps lower cholesterol.  One study found that after seven days on a diet that included avocados, there were significant decreases in both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as an 11 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.

Reasons To Eat Avocados

1. Avocados are packed with carotenoids

Avocados are a great source of lutein, a carotenoid that works as an antioxidant and helps protect against eye disease.  They also contain related carotenoids zeaxanthin, alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, as well as vitamin E.

2. Avocados are rich in healthy fats

Since carotenoids are fat-soluble, they need to be eaten with fats at the same meal to be absorbed into the blood stream.  Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats that help the body absorb these carotenoids from the avocado and also from other foods.  An easy way to do this is to add sliced avocado to a mixed salad.

3. Avocados make you feel full

Half an avocado contains 3.4 grams of fiber, including soluble and insoluble, both of which your body needs to keep the digestive system running smoothly.  The soluble fiber also slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your body, helping you feel full longer.

Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that activates the part of your brain that makes you feel full.  Healthier unsaturated fats containing oleic acid have been shown to produce a greater feeling of satiety than less healthy saturated fats and trans fats found in processed foods.

4. Avocados are rich in folate

One cup of avocado contains almost a quarter of the recommended daily intake of folate, a vitamin which cuts the risk of birth defects.  So if you are pregnant, or planning to be, avocados will help protect your unborn baby.

A high folate intake is also associated with a lower risk of heart attacks and heart disease.  So avocados could help keep your heart healthy.

5. Avocados can help lower your cholesterol

In addition to making you feel full, the oleic acid in avocados can help lower cholesterol levels. In one study, an avocado-rich diet resulted in a significant reduction in total cholesterol levels and an 11 percent increase in HDL (good) cholesterol.

6. Avocados can regulate your blood pressure

Avocados are full of potassium and magnesium, two nutrients known to lower blood pressure.  A one-cup serving of avocado contains 15% of the RDI of potassium compare to 11% in bananas, which are a typical high-potassium food.  The avocado also contains 14% of the RDI of magnesium, more than several fruits including the banana, strawberry, and kiwi.

7. Avocados taste great

Avocados are a healthy way to boost the flavor and texture of your meals.  Toss chopped avocados on a salad or bowl of soup.  Serve guacamole as an appetizer or condiment.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Salads: Garnish vegetable, fruit, and whole grain salads with diced avocados, and then toss gently to mix.
  • Pasta salads: Add diced avocado, diced bell pepper, and sliced scallions to cooked pasta, and dress with a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar, and mustard for a tasty pasta salad.
  • Guacamole:  Mashed avocados are the main ingredient in this tasty dip.
  • Spreads: Mash half an avocado and spread it on whole grain bread or toast for a nourishing breakfast or snack.
  • Wraps: Put sliced avocado in wraps and sandwiches.
  • Omelets: Add diced avocado to eggs or omelets before cooking.
  • Crackers: Top whole grain crackers with thin slices of avocado and smoked salmon for a tasty appetizer or snack.
  • Butter: Top baked potatoes with avocado butter, made by mashing a ripe avocado with a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice, salt and pepper.