Butternut squash: Ever tried it? As a food blogger myself I’m extremely embarrassed to admit that I have not only never cooked butternut squash, I’ve also never even eaten it! This is borderline foodie blasphemy, I say, but that’s all about to change. Today we’re taking a nose dive right into this delectable squash and uncovering its health benefits, cooking methods and just what kinds of savory and and sweet recipes it can be used in. Let’s start with the important stuff: Is it good for you?
Health benefits: To answer the above-asked question in one word, “yes.” Butternut squash is a member of the gourd family, which also includes melons, cucumber, and pumpkin. And just like its seedy siblings, butternut squash is also technically a fruit. Who would’ve thought? In addition, it’s considered the most common among winter fruits, according to Nutrition and You.
When it comes to health benefits, this squash is ripe with vitamins and nutrients: phytonutrients, antioxidants, and plenty of fiber. In addition to these perks, this winter fruit is also rich in potassium, vitamin B6, and folate, which help support bone health, the nervous and immune systems and heart health, respectively. (more…)
Artichokes: Where do I begin? As a child I was absolutely terrified by them and as an adult I’m still a little bit unsure of their distinct texture, taste and shape. When I order a salad at a restaurant and it comes with artichokes, I usually manage to eat about half before throwing in the towel. However, I think the problem here is two-fold: 1) I didn’t realize how good they were for you, and 2) I’ve never actually cooked them myself. However, all of that’s about to change.
Health benefits: It’s no surprise that artichokes are a staple in the Mediterranean diet as they’re loaded with vitamins C and K, folate, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Like many other fruits and veggies, artichokes are also high in fiber – nearly 10 grams in one medium choke. Each serving also contains approximately 3-4 grams of protein and less than one gram of fat for a satisfying, healthful indulgence. One of the tricks to getting the most nutrients out of your artichoke is eating the whole vegetable. If you opt only for the hearts, you will inevitably miss out on some of the vitamins and minerals. However, with that being said, the hearts are still worth devouring as they’re no doubt a healthy, low-calorie food.
Nutritional statistics: 1 cup contains approximately 76 calories, 1 g fat, 15 g carbohydrates, 8 g of dietary fiber, 1 g sugar and 5 g protein. (more…)
Cacao is one of those elusive ingredients that I’ve dared not used up to this point. Many of my more experienced, sophisticated blog friends use it quite frequently in their dishes. Raw cacao cakes and fancy spelt cookies with cacao nibs – sounds dreamy and all, but my timid self couldn’t possibly brave those wild waters…right?
If you’re in the same boat as I am when it comes to cacao, what do you say we venture into these unchartered waters together and claim some of the delicious bounty for ourselves?
Cacao vs cocoa: For starters, there is a pretty big difference between cacao and cocoa. Cacao (pronounced kuh-cow) is the name of the actual tree that produces chocolate. Its species name is Theobroma cacao, which produces cacao seeds that are then dried and fermented. The end result is what we more commonly know as cocoa, which can then be processed into cocoa powder, cocoa butter or all kinds of chocolate.
In baking you may see a recipe that calls for cacao nibs, which are not as sweet at chocolate chips thus giving the recipe a more sophisticated, healthy appeal.
Health benefits: The health benefits of cacao are more abundant than that of chocolate since it is unprocessed and the vitamins and minerals are preserved in its raw state. Because of this cacao contains much higher levels of antioxidant flavanoids, which are extremely beneficial for fighting free radicals in the body. In fact, according to lifesuperfoods.com cacao contains the most antioxidants of any food tested so far, including blueberries, red wine, and even black and green teas. (more…)
To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever cooked with leeks myself – I find them somewhat bizarre and intimidating, so this lesson in all-things leeks is actually quite beneficial for me! Some of my favorite bloggers utilize leeks in their everyday cooking – one being Sara from Sprouted Kitchen whose two gorgeous recipes I’ve featured below. Feeling inspired and curious all at the same time, I’m ready to dive in and find out what this peculiar little vegetable is all about.
Leeks are a member of the onion family, and are similar in texture and appearance to garlic and chive. The leek itself exudes a sweet flavor that isn’t overpowering or nearly as strong as an onion. However, it inserts an amazing bright, earthy flavor when seasoned appropriately and paired well with other ingredients in dishes.
Health benefits: Like most vegetables, leeks are extremely low in calories and have a high fiber content. They’re also high in vitamin A, which promotes healthy function of the mucosal lining of the throat, nose, and urinary and digestive tracts, according to livestrong.com.
Leeks are also an excellent source of folic acid, potassium, calcium, and vitamin C and provide laxative, antiseptic, diuretic and anti-arthritic benefits. And among other perks, leeks are also a great source of flavonoid antioxidants, which help fight various types of cancer in the body. (more…)
Even for beginner-level cooks, sage is a beautiful and robust herb that should be introduced into recipes early on in the experimenting process. This soft, leafy herb has a woodsy, slightly sweet and minty aroma and infuses dishes with a distinct flavor that screams all-things Thanksgiving. In addition to making dishes taste wonderful, sage also adds much nutritional value. The following notes are just a few reasons why you should start incorporating this unique into your recipes today.
Health benefits: Sage is an incredibly healthy herb that carries a number of nutritional benefits. In fact, according to WorldsHealthiestFoods.com, sage won Herb of the Year in 2011 for its superior health-promoting properties. Sage is in the mint family and claims rosemary as a “sister herb.” It contains many volatile oils, flavonoids, and phenolic acids which boast such benefits as reducing inflammation, fighting free radicals in the body, and improving brain function.
According to AntioxidantsforHealthandLongevity.com, few people know that herbs like sage contain higher concentrations of antioxidants that many common fruits and vegetables. In addition, they contain a wider variety of antioxidants, which makes them one of the top antioxidant food sources available. For ways to sneak more sage into your daily diet, try adding it to dishes like smoothies, dips and soups for a fresh and flavorful spin. (more…)
When fall rolls around, I can’t seem to steer my mind away from all-things pumpkin. Just this week I was busy at work in the kitchen, dreaming up new pumpkin recipes to share with family and friends. While most assume that pumpkin is high in calories because it’s most often found in pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds and fruit are actually incredibly healthy and often overlooked as an important source of vitamins and minerals. Here we take a look at the abundance of health benefits this fall fruit provides, as well as methods for preparing it with five delicious and healthy recipes.
Health benefits: Both pumpkin seeds and fruit are two super foods that you don’t want to miss out on this fall. Pumpkins are loaded with good-for-for you vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, which promote healthy, glowing skin among other important health benefits. They’re also high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, and lutein, which can improve eye health. In addition, pumpkins contain plenty of beta carotene, which have anti-inflammatory properties; and antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body and help prevent cancer.
Other surprising health benefits? Pumpkins can promote better bone density and digestion and even lower cholesterol. They’ve also been found to help prevent prostate cancer, kidney stones and even depression. (more…)
Believe it or not, I tried my very first fig just this year. While I didn’t know what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle sweet flavor and delicate texture. Since discovering I enjoy this fruit so much, I’ve since realized how incredibly nutritious and versatile they are. For instance, figs can be enjoyed fresh or dried, roasted or baked, savory or sweet. Plus, a 1-cup serving contains nearly 15 grams of fiber! I think I’ve found a new favorite fruit to cycle into my daily snack line-up.
Health benefits: Figs are extremely healthy for you, containing a variety of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, fiber, flavonoids, potassium, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin K, magnesium and copper. Figs are also considered a healthy low-calorie, low-fat food with the ability to boost mood and improve both digestive and cardiovascular health. Additionally, they contain antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body to combat and prevent certain types of cancer, and have also been found to have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Nutrition statistics: 1 cup dried figs contains approximately 371 calories, 1 gram fat, 15 mg sodium, 95 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams fiber, 71 grams sugar, 5 grams protein.
Cooking methods: When choosing a fig, make sure it’s soft but not mushy. It should smell slightly sweet and never sour. Once washed and removed of the stem, you can eat the entire fig as is. Perhaps the most popular way to eat figs besides dried is fresh in salads, over yogurt or on toast with honey. (more…)
Tofu used to scare me, but now we’re quite comfortable with each other. I pick up a package once a month or so to add as a nice meat-free protein source to my favorite recipes. I find it works best in dishes with very high flavor profiles, such as sweet and spicy pad thai, since tofu lacks much taste on its own but absorbs seasonings well.
Though tofu can be tricky to master at first, once you get the hang of it it can prove quite useful as an alternative and cost-friendly meat alternative in your diet.
Health benefits: Tofu is a bean curd that’s made by adding mineral salt, such as calcium sulfate, and water to a soybean “mash.” The salt makes the protein and fiber in the soy turn thick and smooth, and it’s then pressed in to a block for packaging. Tofu is a great and cheap source of calcium and vitamin E and is very rich in protein. One half-cup serving contains nearly 10 grams.
Tofu also boasts such benefits as lowering bad cholesterol, alleviating symptoms of menopause, and even lowering risk of cancer when eaten regularly. (more…)
Grapes have always been one of my very favorite fruits. With each bite their crisp skin gives way to a sweet, soft center that I simply can’t resist. Once I start eating a bowl, I’m hard pressed not to finish. Though I enjoy grapes very much as is, I’ve also loved plucking them from the vine and freezing them for a light and delicious after-dinner snack.
Health benefits: Grapes are considered a low glycemic index food, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar upon consumption. They’re also a great source of manganese, vitamin C, and potassium. Grapes also contain resveratrol, which is a polyphenol that helps improve brain health, and are also widely known for their ability to aid in digestion. In fact, they are considered a laxative food as they help relieve cramping and constipation.
In addition, purple grapes have even been found to help prevent breast cancer and even macular degeneration according to recent research studies. And among many other health benefits, grapes contain powerful antioxidant-containing flavonoids that fight free radicals in the body and even prevent cardiovascular diseases and some types of cancer.
Nutritional statistics: One cup of red or green grapes contains approximately 104 calories, 0 grams fat, 3 mg sodium, 27 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 23 grams sugar, and 1 gram protein. (more…)
Fall is nearly upon us, at least here in the Midwest. With leaves falling and the weather cooling down, we have three things on our mind: fall baking, pumpkin lattes and apple picking.
With autumn in full bloom, the selection of apples is beginning to grow at our local grocery stores and we can’t help but get excited at the thought of all the delicious things we can make with this nutritious fruit.
Health benefits: Apples are loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, beta-carotene, riboflavin, calcium and vitamin B-6.
They’re also a great food for healthy diets as they’re incredibly filling and high in fiber, which will keep you fuller longer than less water-dense foods.
Apples also contain an antioxidant called quercetin, which can help oxygen flow to the lungs. There have been countless studies surrounding apples and among the many benefits discovered, they’ve been found to help with asthma, protect our bone health, help prevent Alzheimer’s and even lower cholesterol. (more…)