Nutrition Notes: S is for Spring… and Strawberries!

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

Springtime offers a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Because they are one of the first fruits to ripen in the spring, May is the month of strawberries! Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. They are healthy, delicious and bite-sized, and make a great snack. These berries can also be used to make salads, sandwiches, smoothies, preserves, fruit skewers, or try them sliced and served with yogurt or ice cream. Did you know that strawberries are red because of anthocyanins which help fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes? Can you say super fruit?!

Choose bright red strawberries with bright green caps, making sure there is no mold on the berries. It is recommended that you eat strawberries as soon as possible or store them at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wash, remove the hulls and freeze strawberries in freezer bags to store them for longer periods.

There are some quick and easy recipes with strawberries on www.eatright.org – one of my favorites being a quick, delicious and creamy ice cream using strawberries, Greek yogurt and avocados.

Recipe: Quick Strawberry-Avocado Ice Cream

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Freezing time: 1 hour
Number of servings: 2

Ingredients:

½ a ripe avocado, peeled
½ cup strawberries, washed and hulled
½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
3-4 strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced

Directions:

1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer mixture to a freeze-friendly container and freeze for an hour or so.
3. Serve cold with sliced strawberries.
4. For a fun twist, the ice cream mixture may be poured into Popsicle molds.

Here’s wishing you a berry sweet and fruitful May!

References:

http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/the-season-for-strawberries
http://extension.illinois.edu/strawberries/index.cfm
http://www.pickyourown.org/strawberries_freezing.htm

Nutrition Notes: Protecting Our Bones

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

This month we are increasing awareness about preventing osteoporosis and maintaining good bone health. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile due to bone loss. The bone loss may be caused by several factors including sedentary lifestyles, deficiency of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, and hormonal changes. Bone health is important at any age, because bones support and protect our body. Childhood and adolescence are bone building years, and peak bone mass is attained between late teens and early twenties. Higher peak bone mass is associated with decreased risk of osteoporosis later in life.

Here are some ways to increase or protect your bone health, as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

1. Get sufficient vitamin D through sunlight, diet (fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon and fortified foods like milk, orange juice and cereals) and/or vitamin D supplements if recommended by your healthcare provider.

2. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise like weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, tennis, and dance.

3. Eat a well-balanced diet including:

– Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables and beans

– Lean protein like lean meat cuts, fish, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and dairy

– Vitamin C-rich foods including citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mango, broccoli and bell peppers

– Vitamin K-rich foods including kale, collards, turnip greens and beet greens

– Potassium-rich foods

– Magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, dates, nuts, seafood, spinach, potato, sweet potato,
chard, okra and pumpkin

– Omega 3 Fatty Acids-rich foods:

Plant based foods like flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola
oil, seaweed, purslane and edamame

Fatty fish including tuna, anchovies, sardines, halibut, oysters, salmon and
mackerel

4. Make healthy lifestyle choices by avoiding smoking and reducing alcohol consumption
Hope you have a healthful and happy Osteoporosis Prevention Month!

References:
1. www.nof.org
2. http://1.usa.gov/1B2exuJ

Nutrition Notes: Food Allergies Alert

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Food allergies are unpleasant and can trigger potentially dangerous reactions of the immune system to the allergy-causing foods or food allergens. Food allergies may develop in childhood or adulthood, and may persist or disappear; though their cause is unidentified. Symptoms include digestive trouble, rashes, hives, swollen airways and sometimes the potentially fatal stage of anaphylaxis*. The best way to avoid food allergies is to eliminate the problematic food or allergen from the food we eat. Food labeling laws require the most common food allergens be listed on foods. Some products that may contain food allergens in hidden form include cosmetics, certain medicines, pet food and toys – making it super important to read and understand ingredients in food labels. Although any food can cause an allergic reaction, the majority of food allergies are caused by eight common food allergens.

See image above for a food allergen substitute graph.

Finally, as a mother of a preschooler with a severe peanut allergy, I consider it especially important to educate children with food allergies as well as their parents, siblings, peers in school, teachers and extended family members about avoiding and managing food allergies to help prevent allergic reactions. Click here for some useful tips to stay safe and allergy-free! 

 *It’s important to know that anaphylaxis requires treatment with epinephrine and medical care involving monitoring vital signs.

References:

  1. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/page/recipes-diet.aspx
  2. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/food-substitutes-for-fish-and-shellfish
  3. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/lifestyle/holiday/8-tips-for-allergy-free-holidays

 

Put a little spice in National Herb Week by using chili peppers!

Nutrition Notes: National Herb Week

by Divya Denduluri (MS Nutritional Biology, CLEC), Nutrition Education Volunteer

The first week of May is National Herb Week, and the chili pepper is the herb of the year for 2016. Chili peppers are good sources of vitamin C, most of the B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and iron, and can range from sweet (like bell peppers) to spicy (like ghost peppers) in taste. They come in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes.

Stuffed peppers are a perfectly flavorful way to celebrate National Herb Week this year. To make stuffed peppers, a variety of peppers like bell peppers and poblano peppers may be used. And herbs like mint, oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary and fennel may be used fresh or dried to add zest.

Here are some tips to keep herbs fresh and flavorful for the longest possible time:

- Store fresh herbs unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

- Herbs whose leaves wilt or brown easily may be stored in a glass of water with the stems in water and a plastic bag loosely covering the leaves.

- Wash hands in soapy water and fresh herbs thoroughly in cold water before using them. This helps minimize bacterial contamination.

- Heat and light can destroy the flavor in dried herbs. Store dried herbs in airtight containers away from heat and light, in pantry shelves.

Here is the recipe of stuffed minty bell peppers.

Recipe: Stuffed Minty Bell Peppers

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

- 2 bell peppers, cored and halved
- ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup mint, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
- ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven at 400°F.
2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Add mint, cilantro, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook rice according to directions and blend with the sautéed mixture.
5. Take the pan off heat and stuff the rice mixture into the peppers.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until peppers are soft and browned on the edges.
7. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

References:
http://www.iherb.org/117-2/
http://www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/safety-tips/food/keep-herbs-fresh-and-safe