Grow Your Diet: Week 4

Since this is the last week in my series on growing our diets and there is more than just one more food I wanted to mention, I will give this last post a list of other foods that we should add to our diets. I looked at serval websites to see what the "authorities" were listing as the top healthy foods. There were a few that they each had in common.


1. Broccoli - and other cruciferous vegies like kale, cauliflower and cabbage have vitamins and cancer fighting properties. Broccoli specifically has components that help protect against colon and lung cancer. Cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called sulforaphane. This compound, which gives these vegies their bitter taste, also seems to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. For more info see the short article here


2. Salmon and other oily fish. I know not everyone loves fish and I am not especially fond of trout and some of the other more oily fish, but salmon is delicious especially grilled or baked with seasonings. My husband and I also like canned salmon and sardines. While these have a much higher sodium they still have the same health benefits. Some people suggest using fresh salmon for grilling or baking and canned for making sandwich fillings or salads. Read more on fresh versus canned here.

leafy greens

3. Dark leafy greens. I haven't tried all of the dark leafy greens, but spinach is one I am most familiar with. I like my spinach fresh rather than cooked, but I don't mind cooked spinach in things such as soups, quiche or paninis. Fresh spinach is great on a sandwich or in a salad. Spinach is loaded with vitamins A, C and folate. For more info on leafy greens see this article on Web MD.


4. Avocado. These are a great food that can be sliced and added to sandwich's, salads and even omelettes. Or they can be smashed, sprinkled with green onion, salt and pepper and made into guacamole. I only use those ingredients. Some people add lemon juice, tomatoes and other seasonings. Avocados are loaded with vitamins, potassium (more than bananas), healthy fats and fiber. Check out this article for more specifics.


5. Potatoes. Not too many of us would have to be convinced to eat a potato. I come from potato loving stock. Baked, mashed, fried, you name it, we loved it and ate it. My dad was a fabulous potato masher and I inherited his gene for mashing. Now that he is gone, my mom still asks me to mash potatoes at family gatherings. It has taken me a while, but since I got married I've been introduced to sweet potatoes and have acquired a love for sweet potato fries! Okay, they are not the healthiest version of the spud, but at least it's a change from regular Idaho's. Potatoes are rich in B vitamins and blood pressure lowering components. Of course if they are fried or baked with mounds of butter and sour cream, they are not as healthy. See more info here. 

There are many more foods that are high in nutrients and disease fighting compounds and are delicious to eat. I hope you will explore more of these and grow your diet and your health.

Grow Your Diet: Week 3

What did you have for breakfast this morning? A bowl of Reese's Puffs, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Two of my faves. And don't forget Lucky Charms and Fruit Loops! Or maybe you had a granola bar, or a piece of fruit. Maybe the only thing you had was a cup of coffee. Breakfast, as we have been told is an important meal. It is breaking the fast from the night's sleep and getting us started for the day. When my hubby and I are home and don't have to rush to work in the morning we like to cook Quaker Old Fashioned Oats. Oats are a healthy choice to begin a busy day.


When I eat oatmeal I add brown sugar, skim milk, walnuts and if I have them fresh blueberries. Oatmeal has a mild flavor, so adding things like cinnamon, apples and various nuts can make your breakfast a meal you look forward to. 

Oatmeal contains a substance called beta glucan, a soluble fiber. This fiber is what helps to lower our "bad" or LDL cholesterol levels. See WebMD's short article here. A few years ago I was diagnosed with borderline high cholesterol. My doctor suggested oatmeal along with diet, exercise and fish oil supplements to help bring it down. My husband and I started eating oatmeal about two to three times a week when we were able to fit it in. Six months later when I had my cholesterol rechecked it had gone from a 213 overall to a 204 overall and my HDL or "good" cholesterol had gone up and the "bad" or LDL had gone down. I'm sure oatmeal had something to do with the change along with the exercise and fish oil. If you have high cholesterol, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any sort of diet or exercise changes.

Oatmeal is also a versatile add in for many recipes. Add it to muffins for an extra heart healthy boost. Put some in with your meatloaf instead of bread or breadcrumbs. And of course oatmeal is absolutely delicious in cookies. Again, we can't just make cookies and eat them and think that we are eating healthy....wish we could! But we can make small adjustments in the things that we cook to make them healthier.

I hope you will think about adding oats to your diet. You will enjoy the change and your heart will love you for it. 


Grow Your Diet: Week 2

I'm feeling particularly nutty right now, so I thought it might be good to discuss adding nuts to our diet. Nuts are a great source of protein as well as being full of all sorts of heart healthy substances like Omega 3's, vitamin E and fiber. Mayo clinic put out a short sweet article that gives a good overview of different nuts along with their calorie and fat contents (amounts found in 1 ounce of nuts). Note they do say in the article you can diminish the amount of good you are doing for your heart if the nuts are covered in sugar, chocolate or sprinkled on a mound of ice cream, hot fudge and whipped topping. That last was my own addition. 


Technically, peanuts are not a nut, but a legume, but I love peanuts. Peanuts, while not as popular as a heart healthy choice do have plenty of disease fighting benefits of their own and even contain the same age fighting molecule found in grapes and red wine, resveratrol. Here's another good article about the peanut. Peanuts are easy to get, are inexpensive and great to have at parties or when kids are around. They are a much better choice than chips or pretzels as they actually are a source of good nutrients. 


Another wonderful nut is the walnut. Walnuts are a source of Omega 3's. Omega 3 helps your heart function at a healthier level. In addition walnuts add their nutty flavor to everything from oatmeal and salads, to desserts (but not too much). I actually like walnuts plain. Just pull a few out of the bag and start munching. The walnut is so popular it even has it's own website, California Walnuts.


Pistachios are another good choice for just eating. While you can use them in desserts or muffins, my family loves pistachios right out of the shell. If we are going on a trip, we often take a bag of pistachios to munch on in the car. We get the ones still in the shell as they are a little bit cheaper than the ones that are already shelled. Again, the nutritional benefits are similar to peanuts and walnuts. Check out the American Pistachio Growers site for more info on health benefits and ways to use this yummy little nuts.

There are many other nuts with similar nutritional assets. Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and more. Nuts are a nutrient rich food, especially for children who are picky eaters. Just be sure they aren't allergic. Nuts are also portable. They are a good snack for hikers, bike riders and other sports participants as they don't need refrigeration and don't take up much room. For women who are calorie conscious, nuts are still a good snack or garnish choice for salads or cereal, just be careful to measure the amount of nuts you are using as the calories can add up fast.

Remember, we are trying to grow our diets, so adding flax seed from my article last week and nuts are two healthy ways to make our diets more nutritionally beneficial. This week figure out which nut you like the best and let me know in the comments section below. I'd love to hear your opinions.