Almonds

History:
            The almond is thought to have originated in western Asia and North Africa.  Almonds were a prized ingredient in breads served to Egypt’s pharaohs.  Explorers ate almonds while traveling the Silk Road between Asia and the Mediterranean.  The almond has maintained religious, ethnic, and social significance throughout history.  The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm.  Today, guests at weddings are often given bags of sugared almonds, representing children, happiness, romance, good health, and fortune.
Nutritional Highlights:
            Almonds are packed full of nutrition.  They are an excellent source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils, protein, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin E.
Health Benefits:
            Like other nuts, almonds appear quite useful in fighting against heart disease, cholesterol and cancer.
Quick Serving Ideas:
  • Almonds provide a little crunch to plain yogurt.
  • Enhance your next vegetable stir-fry with ½ cup sliced almonds.
  • Add two tablespoons of almonds to your morning bowl of oatmeal.
  • Utilize a handful of almonds as a quick power snack.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich of almond butter and bananas drizzled with a little honey.
  • For a delightful side dish, sauté 1 ½ cups blanched almonds with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon crushed cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt.

Lemon

The desire for citrus fruits increased greatly after the 1890s when physicians found that people suffering from scurvy (a disease of vitamin Ca deficiency) could be cured by drinking citrus juice.  Lemons were in such demand that people were willing to pay up to $1 per lemon, an astronomical price for that time.  Later, scientists discovered that the juice is beneficial because it is the most potent and concentrated source of Vitamin C.  Lemons also contain vitamins A, B1, and P, as well as potassium, magnesium, and folic acid.
Health Benefits:
The phytochemical limonene, which is extracted from lemons, is currently being used in clinical trials to dissolve gallstones and is showing extremely promising anticancer activities.  The highest content of limonene is found in the white spongy inner parts of the lemon.
How to Select and Store:
When choosing a lemon, one should hold the fruit and determine if it is heavy.  The heavier the fruit and the thinner the skin, the more juice it has.  A ripe lemon should be firm, with a fine-textured peel with a deep yellow color.  Acidity varies with the color of the lemon.  A deep yellow lemon is less acidic that a lighter or greenish yellow one.  Store lemons at room temperature, away from sunlight, and enjoy their cheerful color.  They keep without refrigeration for about two weeks.  Lemons can also be juiced and stored for later use.
Quick Serving Ideas:
  • Place thinly sliced lemons, peel and all, underneath and around fish before cooking.  Baking or broiling will soften the slices so that they can be eaten along with the fish.
  • Combine lemon juice with olive or flaxseed oil, freshly crushed garlic, and pepper to make a light, refreshing salad dressing.
  • If you are watching your salt intake (and even if you are not), serve lemon wedges with meals, as the tart lemon juice makes a great salt substitute.
Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

Oats

In terms of quantity, the oat is the fourth leading grain in the United States, behind corn, wheat, and sorghum.  Although oats are hulled, this process does not strip away their bran and germ, allowing them to remain a concentrated source of their fiber and nutrients.  Different types of processing are then used to produce various oat products, which are generally used to make breakfast cereals, baked goods, and stuffing.

 

Health Benefits

Oat bran’s dietary fiber is high in beta-glucan, which helps to lower cholesterol.  Studies also show that oat bran has beneficial effects on blood sugar as well.  Adults with type 2 diabetes who were given foods high in oat fiber experienced a much lower rise in blood sugar than those who were given white rice or bread.

 

 

How to Select and Store

Oats have a slightly higher fat content than other grains and can go rancid more quickly.  As a result, we suggest you buy small quantities at one time.  If you purchase already prepared oats, look at the ingredients list to ensure there is no salt, sugar, or other additives.  If you buy oats in bulk, make sure that the bins are covered and the store has a fast product turnover to ensure maximum freshness.  Fresh oats have a clean, sweet or grassy smell.  Cooked oats are good for two to three days and can be frozen for one month.

 

Quick Serving Ideas:

  • For a healthy breakfast, cook oats and add ½ Tsp of organic butter, a pinch of salt, sliced dried prunes or fruit of your choice, 1 Tsp cinnamon, and raw walnut pieces.  Once the oats are in your bowl, finish with 1 TB of flax meal, and for sweetness add some maple syrup or raw honey.
  • Oatmeal is more than just a breakfast food; try adding chopped vegetables, miso, sesame seed butter (tahini), and fresh herbs and spices to make an easy, one-pot meal.
  • With or without raisins, oatmeal cookies are a favorite of kids of all ages.
  • Add some oat flour or whole oats to your next bread or muffin recipe.
  • Oat bran adds healthy fiber to any cold or hot cereal.
  • Try oat groats as the foundation of your next turkey, chicken, or quail stuffing.

 

Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

 

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflowers are native to both North and South America, where indigenous people were the first to cultivate them.  Sunflowers have been cultivated for more than 5000 years by the Native Americans, who used all the parts of the plant for various purposes, such as oil sources and dye pigments.  The Spanish explorers took the sunflower back to Europe, from which it extended its beauty to adjoining countries.  Today, sunflower oil is one of the most popular oils in the world.

 

Health Benefits

The health benefits of sunflower seeds are similar to nuts that provide a high content of monounsaturated fat and arginine.  Research studies have shown that the important nutrients a sunflower provides are often in insufficient supply in the American diet.  Deficient intake of these vital nutrients has been shown to be linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and selenium in particular has anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and antiallergenic properties as well.

 

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, purchase organic sunflower seeds, shelled or unshelled.  It is important to make sure they are not broken, dirty, or limp nor appear yellow in color.  Sunflower seeds that are limp or yellow are probably rancid.  The highest-quality sunflower oil is cold-pressed (this should be clearly stated on the bottle).  Once the bottle has been opened, store it in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.

 

Quick Serving Ideas:

 

  • Add sunflower seeds to your favorite hot or cold cereal
  • Add sunflower seeds to any rice pilaf dish
  • Flaxseed dessert balls: Mix together ground flaxseed, ground sunflower seeds, ground sesame seeds, some carob powder, ground coconut, a pinch of salt, and some honey or maple syrup. Knead the mixture together and form it into balls.

Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family that is extensively cultivated in India, China, Indonesia, and other tropical countries.  In cooking, the rhizome root is the part that is utilized.  It has a tough brown skin and deep orange flesh, and is similar to ginger with smaller branched arms 1 to 1 ½ inches around.  It is usually cured (boiled, cleaned, and sun-dried), polished, and ground into a powder.  Turmeric’s flavor is peppery, warm, and bitter, while its fragrance is mild, yet slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger.

 

Health Benefits

Turmeric has been and still is a key component of both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine, where it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent and in the treatment of numerous conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic.

 

How to Select and Store

Fresh turmeric should be free of dark spots and be crisp.  It may be stored in the refrigerator, where it will keep for one month.  Alternatively, it can be chopped or sliced and stored in an airtight container for up to three months.

 

Quick Serving Ideas:

  • To make your own curry powder, combine in a grinder 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, ½ tablespoon coriander, and 1 teaspoon each fenugreek, fennel, ginger, and turmeric. Store the mixture in a cool, dark, dry place for up to six months.
  • Mix 2 cups cooked brown rice, ¼ cup raisins, ¼ cup cashews, and 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with ¼ teaspoon each turmeric, cumin, coriander, and salt.
  • Turmeric is a great spice to complement recipes that feature legumes, particularly lentils.
  • Add turmeric to egg salad to give it an even bolder yellow color and richer flavor.
  • Give salad dressings an orange-yellow hue by adding some turmeric powder to them.

 

Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

 

Oregano

Oregano is native to northern Europe.  Greeks and Romans regarded oregano as a symbol of joy and happiness.  Appropriately, it was a tradition in Greek and Roman marriage ceremonies for the bride and groom to be crowned with laurels of oregano.

 

Health Benefits

The volatile oil of oregano contains thymol and carvacrol, two powerful antimicrobial agents.  Oregano also has tremendous antioxidant activity.

 

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, choose fresh oregano over dried, since it is superior in flavor and health benefits.  The leaves of fresh oregano should be vibrant green in color and free from dark spots or yellowing.  Fresh oregano should be wrapped in slightly damp paper towels and stored in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to seven days.

 

Quick Serving Ideas:

 

  • Fresh oregano is a great garnish for your next slice of pizza.
  • Sauteed mushrooms and onions are brought a new life with oregano.
  • Adding a few sprigs of fresh oregano to a container of olive oil will infuse the oil with the essence of the herb.
  • Frittatas and omelets are well complemented by fresh oregano and garlic.
  • A sprinkling of chopped oregano is always a welcome addition to homemade garlic bread.  Minced garlic can be added on top of the bread, or the garlic can be lightly rubbed on for a milder flavoring.

 

Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

Rosemary

The taste and aroma of the herb rosemary, historically used for strengthening the memory, are unforgettable. Rosemary’s name means “dew of teh sea,” and it has a pinelike flavor that is counter-balanced by a rich pungency, a unique combination that evokes both the deep forest and the open sea. Its memorable flavor makes it an essential herb every place food is prepare.
Health Benefits:
 Rosemary oil contains several potent antioxidants, so powerful that an extract of rosemary is being investigated for use as a natural alternative to synthetic antioxidants that are often added to foods as preservatives. Rosemary has been shown to increase the blood flow to the head and brain, thus improving concentration, too.
How to Select and Store:
Whenever possible, choose fresh rosemary over the dried form of the herb, since it is far superior in flavor. The sprigs of fresh rosemary should be deep sage green in color and free of yellow or dark spots. Fresh rosemary should be stored in the refrigerator either in its original packaging or wrapped in a slightly damp paper towel for up to one week.
Quick Serving Ideas:
  • Add fresh rosemary to omelets and frittatas for a fresh taste.
  • Rosemary is a perfect herbal choice to season fish and lamb dishes.
  • Add rosemary to tomato sauces and soups.
  • Simmer 1 cup milk or soy milk with 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves and honey to make a delicious Italian-inspired beverage.
Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

Apple

 Apple
 
History:
            The apple holds a special place in many historical and mythical realms, beginning with the biblical story of Adam and Eve.  In Norse mythology, apples were believed to keep people young forever.  The apple has been used as a symbol in many classic stories.
Nutritional Highlights:
            Apples are an excellent source of Vitamin C, pectin, and other fibers and are also a good source of potassium.  Most of the apple’s important nutrients are contained in its skin, and raw apples are higher in many nutrients and phytochemicals as well.
Health Benefits:
            The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” appears to be true.  In more than eighty-five studies, apple consumption was shown to be consistently associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancel, asthma, and type 2 diabetes compared to other fruits and vegetables.  Apples’ insoluble fiber and pectin both help promote bowel regularity, relieving both constipation and diarrhea.
How to Select:
            There are more than twenty-five varieties of apples available in the United States. When it comes to selection, it depends on your palate whether you prefer a sweeter or more tart apple and whether you like to have your apple baked or raw.  Red and Golden Delicious apples are among the sweetest, while the Braeburn and Fuji are only slightly tart.  The tartest apples are the Gravenstein, Pippin, and Granny Smith.  These apples retain their texture best during cooking.  Apple season begins at the end of summer and runs until early winter.  Apples that you see available at other times of the year have been in cold storage or imported from different parts of the world.
Quick Serving Ideas:
  • Add diced apples to fruit or green salads.
  • Lightly sauté slices from one apple with one diced potato and onion.
  • Lightly sauté slices from one apple with a few raisins, sprinkle with ground cinnamon, cloves, or ginger, add a few chopped walnuts, then use as a filling for a nutritious omelet.
  • For an unusual dessert, skewer apple chunks on cinnamon sticks and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes
  • Sliced apples and cheese are a favorite European dessert.
Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

Salmon

Salmon is perhaps the most incredible fish in many ways.  Although born in fresh water, salmon spend a good portion of their lives navigating the open sea, only to swim back hundreds of miles to return to their birthplace in order to spawn.  There’s a reason why these intelligent, intuitive fish are considered a “brain food.”

Health Benefits:

Fish, particularly cold-water fish such as salmon, have been shown to be very beneficial for protecting against heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and many forms of cancer.  In terms of health benefits, salmon is one of the most highly valued fish because of its exceptionally high content of omega-3 fatty acids.  Wild Alaskan salmon also tends to be one of the cleanest sources of fish, as it typically contains the lowest levels of heavy metals and pesticide residues.
How to Select and Store:
 Salmon can be purchased as either steaks or fillets.
Quick Serving Ideas:
  • Combine leftover cold salmon with greens and vegetables for a delicious salad.  Or place between two pieces whole-wheat bread, garnish with mustard, and enjoy an easy-to-make yet exceptionally delicious sandwich.
  • For a twist on scrambled eggs, combine eggs with lox (smoked salmon) and onions, a classic New York delicatessen breakfast favorite.
  • Combine 1/2 pound silken tofu and 1/2 pound baked or smoked salmon in a blender with 2 TB lemon juice, 1/2 cup chopped scallions, and 1/3 cup parsley or dill to create a delicious dip.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve baked salmon over whole-wheat pasta.  Top with a sauce made of 4 TB olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill weed, 1/4 lemon peel, 1/2 cup sliced scallions, and black pepper to taste.
  • For a healthy appetizer, serve smoked salmon on a platter with onions, capers, lemon wedges, and mini rye bread slices.
Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.

Carrots

Food of the Month

Carrots

Carrots

Carrots are believed to have originated in the Middle East and Asia.  Carrots were introduced into North America by European colonists.  As a sign of its heightened popularity, in the early 1800s the carrot became the first vegetable to be canned.  The world’s largest producers of carrots today are the United States, France, England, Poland, China, and Japan.

 

Health Benefits

Carrots are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds that help protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Extensive human studies suggest that a diet including as little as one carrot per day could conceivably cut the rate of lung cancer in half.  Carrots also promote good vision, especially night vision.

 

How to Select and Store

Carrots are available throughout the year.  The inspection of carrots begins with how they look; avoid carrots that have cracks, are bruised, or have mold growing on them.  The carrots should be deep orange in color and fresh-looking.  Since carrots are efficient at maintaining their water content, they will keep longer than many other vegetables.  To maximize storage time, store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel.  This will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form.  Stored this way, carrots will stay fresh for up to two weeks.  Carrots should be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas, since this gas will cause them to become bitter.

 

Quick Serving Ideas:

  • Carrot juice is perhaps the most popular juice prepared in home juice extractors.  Its sweetness blends well with other vegetables.
  • Lightly steamed carrots are delicious on their own.
  • Grated carrots can be added to many fruit salads, such as chopped apples, raisins, and pineapple; chopped or sliced carrots can be added to vegetable salads.
  • Carrots can be added to baked goods, such as carrot cakes and muffins, soups, casseroles, and other recipes.
  • To make spiced carrot sticks, soak 2 cups carrot sticks in 2 cups hot water with ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne, 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, and salt. Soak until cool, drain, and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Murray, M. (2006) The Condensed Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, Pocket Books.