Given their popularity on salads, pastas and sauces today, it’s hard to believe that Americans didn’t began eating tomatoes until several hundred years ago – despite their long existence. Today, they are readily enjoyed for their flavor, simplicity and health benefits.
Tomatoes are part of a healthy grocery list for numerous reasons. They are best known for their extremely high content of antioxidant, due largely to lycopene, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Recently, researchers have found several links between lycopene – a carotenoid antioxidant – and cancer-preventing properties as well as bone health. Of all cancers, prostate cancer has been most researched in regards to tomato intake and health. A key nutrient in this red vegetable – alpha-tomatine – has been found to change metabolic activity in growing prostate cancer cells. Continued research on tomatoes and non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer has also pointed to improved health.
Tomatoes have also been linked to heart health, most notably that consumption has been related to decreased LDL cholesterol as well as decreased total cholesterol. Moreover, the antioxidant protection provided by tomatoes is essential for the cardiovascular system. Additionally, tomatoes are great sources of vitamins E and C, beta-carotene and fiber, and when it comes to phytonutrients, tomatoes may be one of the richest food sources. They contain everything from flavonols and flavonones to carotenoids and fatty acid derivatives, to name a few.
Wondering whether or not cooking changes the nutritional value of tomatoes?
The Tomato Variety Guide
There are hundreds of tomato varieties available, all depending on climate, growing conditions and growth habits. To simplify the never-ending list however, in terms of genetics there are two basic kinds of tomatoes: heirlooms and hybrids, according to Serious Eats. Common, conventional tomatoes that you can find at the grocery store include:
Heirloom, specialty, and farmer’s market tomatoes include Garden Peach, Cherokee Purple, San Marzano, Green Zebra, Yellow Pear, Sungold and Brandywine, according to the source. Less conventional than the aforementioned tomatoes, these ones are often more expensive and come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and hues.
If tomatoes are ripe, they’re best stored at room temperature, according to Chef Anthony. Storing them on your counter or windowsill requires mindfulness and care as cuts or gashes to the tomato will attract fruit flies. If they’re reaching their peak ripeness, it’s best to refrigerate. Regardless of how you store them, tomatoes are best consumed at room temperature.
How to Eat Tomatoes
Though technically it is the fruit of the tomato plant that is consumed, they are generally considered garden vegetables, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. One of the best things about this vegetable however is its versatility. There are so many ways to enjoy them, from sweet bite-sized cherry tomatoes that serve as a great snack or salad topping to large Beefsteak tomatoes that make perfect slices for sandwiches. “They are great with other foods as well,” explained Chef Anthony. “For example, tomato and orange, tomato and watermelon, tomato and pineapple, tomato and mushrooms … just to name a few.”
Tomatoes can be roasted, grilled, sautéed or enjoyed as is.
A multipurpose food, quinoa is a tasty and nutritional grain packed with protein and fiber that is versatile enough to be enjoyed in the form of a cereal in the morning, a soup during the day and a filling salad at lunchtime.
Within just the last few years, quinoa – pronounced KEEN-wah has made big strides in its identity and popularity in the Western world, according to the Whole Grains Council. The grain has origins that date back nearly 5,000 years to the Bolivians of Lake Titicaca. It is believed that quinoa was sacred to the Incas, who called the grain “chisaya mama”, meaning mother of all grains. Each year, according to oral history, the Incan emperor would sow the first quinoa seeds in an elaborate ceremony.
However, during the mid-1500s, a Spanish explorer nearly caused the quinoa crop to become extinct, noted the source. In an effort to ruin the culture, Francisco Pizarro destroyed the fields cultivating the crop and only a few areas of wild quinoa at high altitudes would survive. It re-emerged in the Western world in the 1970s, though it wasn’t until the past decade that it really took off as a popular health food trend. According to the WGC , in 2010 quinoa was named as the best side dish by the National Restaurant Association in its annual chef survey.
Most notable was the “International Year Of Quinoa” launched in 2013 by United Nations leaders and the Andean communities of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The celebration was an effort to increase awareness of the crop’s nutritional value as well as to pay tribute to the cultural merit of a grain that has been grown traditionally for thousands of years, carried from one generation to the next. Today, quinoa is enjoyed nearly across the globe.
Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that has all nine essential amino acids, making it quite the anomaly among its grain counterparts, according to Authority Nutrition. Gluten-free and packed with protein, it’s also high in numerous antioxidants that are beneficial for the body.
One cup of cooked quinoa generally has 39 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat and 222 calories. Quinoa has several omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in iron, potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin E and phosphorus, making it the perfect whole grain to add to your healthy eating plan.
Quinoa health benefits even go beyond vitamins and minerals: It also contains high amounts of trace nutrients including flavonoids, according to the source. Plant antioxidants found to have various beneficial effects on health, the two flavonoids in quinoa are quercetin and kaempferol, which are good for the heart, according to Chef Anthony.
Depending on the variety you purchase, quinoa may have to be pre-soaked prior to cooking. The coating around quinoa seeds – intended to keep birds at bay – is naturally bitter, according to Reader’s Digest. To remove the coating, soak 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water for 5 to 10 minutes, until its coating has dissolved. Then drain and rinse the quinoa so that it is ready for cooking. If it was bought packaged however, it’s likely that this step has already been done for you.
“For the best quality and flavor, toasting the quinoa before adding liquid is great,” said Chef Anthony. “It brings out that ‘nuttiness’ in it which makes it more enjoyable and satisfying.”
Then, to cook this protein-packed grain, pour it into a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Add any additional spices if desired. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, covering with a tight pot cover. Once finished, remove from heat and let it sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Before serving, fluff quinoa with a fork until it’s at the desired consistency.
One of the best things about this healthy grain is its versatility. With nutty, earthy and sometimes sweet flavors, it can be enjoyed as a side dish to accompany dinner, as part of breakfast or lunch and even as a tasty midday snack. It can serve as a healthier alternative to rice, used as a baking grain for more nutritious muffins and cookies or made into meatless stuffing and burgers. As part of your healthy eating plan quinoa can transform into a variety of tasty meals, protein bars and baked goods. When it comes to using quinoa in the kitchen, Chef Anthony has a few favorites.
“My favorite is adding it to my oatmeal, using it to stuff acorn squash or adding it in a white bean paella,” he said.
ARTICLE CREDIT: https://www.pritikin.com/quinoa-health-benefits-and-recipes
Avocados, the buttery-smooth, antioxidant-rich fruit, are the perfect complement to a variety of dishes. Natural oils give the nutty-flavored favorite its rich texture, while the high protein content makes it a satisfying meat substitute. Some studies even suggest that the ingredients found in avocados help to combat certain forms of cancer.
Not only are avocados tasty, but they are also packed with healthy benefits.
Naturally sweet and low in calorie density, pumpkins are a healthy and nutritious vegetable to add to your well-rounded healthy eating plan. Learn more about the health benefits of pumpkins and get new pumpkin recipes.
But did you know that there are also a number of health benefits to eating pumpkin? This season, don’t just use the bright orange, lush and round derivative of the squash family merely for decorative purposes, consider these delicious recipes and health benefits instead.
The health benefits of pumpkins are packed into very few calories. Pumpkins are a great source of vitamins A and D, and only have about 25 calories per cup.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
This festive gourd offers much more than just its appearance. Similar to all other member of the squash family, the pumpkin is filled with a number of nutritious health benefits, according to Pritikin’s Chef Anthony Stewart. “All yellow fruits and vegetables contain the sunshine vitamin, making them a great source of vitamins A and D,” Chef Anthony said. “They’re a good source of potassium and minerals as well, because these plants grows on the ground allowing them to absorb minerals from the earth.”
In fact, each part of the pumpkin from its golden-yellow flesh to its seeds has nutritional value. Pumpkin seeds – which can easily be roasted in the oven for snacking – are filled with protein, vitamins and minerals and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. The soft, naturally sweet inner flesh of the pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals as well. It also boasts antioxidants and dietary fiber, without containing any cholesterol or saturated fats, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The best pumpkins for cooking will be anywhere between three and six pounds, with their stem intact. While the larger, tougher pumpkins are great for Halloween carving, the smaller, softer ones will be best for cooking.
In North America, the pumpkin was one of the original crops grown specifically for eating. This was largely because of their long shelf life, which was due to the thick outer flesh that could last through bitterly cold winters. One of the very first recipes using pumpkin was written down around 1670. Similar to what would become the common dish of mashed potatoes, the pumpkin was diced and boiled down during the day. The popular pumpkin pie, however, didn’t come about until the early 1800s.
How to Buy Pumpkin
Perhaps you’ve never cooked with this seasonal staple before, saving your trip to the pumpkin patch for the once-a-year Halloween celebrations. However, it’s time to add pumpkin to your healthy eating plan on a regular basis.
“This is a vegetable that people can find readily, readily available,” explained Chef Anthony. “People see pumpkin every day but pass over it, only using it for Halloween.”
This bright and festive gourd is actually in season beginning in September and lasting through November, enjoying its peak in October. While the larger, tougher pumpkins are great for Halloween carving, the smaller, softer ones will be best for cooking. These pumpkins contain less moisture and are much denser and fleshier, according to U.S News & World Report. They can be found at farmers stands and farmers markets, as well as grocery stores.
Pumpkins best for cooking will be anywhere between three and six pounds, with their stem intact. However, be sure not to carry the gourd by its stem. The pumpkin should be uniform in color without any green spots. It’s also important to check for any soft spots on the outside, which could indicate mold.
How to Cook Pumpkin
Once you’ve picked out the perfect pumpkin, it’s time to get cooking. Contrary to popular belief, the pumpkin is good for much more than just the traditional confectionery pie. In fact, there are numerous creative and nutritious recipes that are low in calorie density and easy to prepare. First, there are a few basics to prepping the pumpkin for cooking, as explained by the Farmer’s Almanac:
Now you have cooked pumpkin to use with any of your favorite recipes!
ARTICLE CREDIT: Pritikin Longevity Center. www.Pritikin.com