Tag: smart fuel
Haven’t been eating your beets? Don’t beat yourself up (see what we did there), because technically they’re out of season right now. But with spring fast approaching, perhaps it’s time to dig deeper and examine what these little purple monsters have to offer!
Hailing from South Africa, the beet – which is a relative of Swiss chard and a member of the Chenopodiaceae family – was initially cast off in Northern Europe as nothing more than animal chow. However, in the 16th century, Romans began eating the green leaves of the root vegetables and by the 19th century, they had become less picky and began eating the whole darn thing! In doing so, it was discovered that beets were an excellent source of natural sugar – so much so that Napoleon declared them Poland’s primary source of sugar after the British put the squeeze on other sugar sources during the war!
Meet Kale, yet another member of the brassica family, a clan of vegetables that includes cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts.
Although believed to have been brought over to Europe around 600 BC by groups of Celtic wanderers (and over to the U.S. in the 17th Century), Kale has only recently stepped into the spotlight for its organosulfur-containing phytonutrients. Specifically, kale offers a hefty dose of the phytonutrients glucosinolate and cysteine sulfoxide, which are thought to activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver and neutralize potentially carcinogenic substances, free radicals and other harmful compounds.
Used for cooking and medicinal purposes for over 2,000 years, asparagus is one nutritious perennial garden plant! See, and you thought all it was good for was turning your pee green!
Among its many health benefits, asparagus logs off-the-charts levels of Vitamin K (more than 115% recommended daily allowance (RDA) per 1 cup serving!), which is important for heart health and calcium regulation. In addition, asparagus also boasts high levels of folate that, when combined with Vitamins B6 and B12 (as is the case in asparagus), can protect against heart disease and other cardiac ailments. Asparagus also contains a hefty dose of potassium, which combines with an amino acid called asparagines to cause a diuretic effect as well as a healthy type of carbohydrate called inulin that clears the intestinal tract of unhealthy bacteria and promotes good digestive health.
Is it a plant? Is it an animal? Who cares when it tastes this delicious!
Classified as an algae (so neither plant nor animal!), the sea vegetable family counts ultra-healthy seaweed, sea lettuce, nori and kelp among its many relatives. Mimicking the mineral content of the ocean – which incidentally mimics the mineral content of human blood – sea vegetables are, pound for pound, the most nutrient dense food in existence.
On the minerals side, sea vegetables provide each of the 56 minerals required by the body for optimum physiological function. In addition, these minerals are made available in colloidal form, meaning that they are small enough to be easily absorbed by the body.
As was mentioned in a previous post, broccoli rabe (pronounced rob) is one vegetable that has more aliases than Jennifer Garner. Often referred to as rapini, rappa, Italian turnip, fall and spring rabe, and broccoli de rape, the one thing this vegetable can’t be confused for is broccoli itself!
As a member of the brassica family, broccoli rabe is most closely related to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, rutabaga and turnips and even has some ties to the mustard family.
Much like its relatives, broccoli rabe is a great source of folate, which is important in fetal development and may also reduce the risk of cancer, especially tumors of the colon, breast, cervix and lung. When combined with vitamins B6 and B12, as is the case in broccoli rabe, folate can also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, broccoli rabe touts high levels of vitamin K and magnesium, which is integral for bone development and repair.
With a long narrow, knobby body and a tuft of green leaves, the parsnip could easily be confused for an anemic version of the carrot.
The missing link, if you will, is beta-carotene, the compound responsible for giving carrots their golden hue. But rest assured, parsnips have plenty of nutritional power. For example, the parsnip boasts a high volume of insoluble fiber, which is important for a healthy digestive system as well as for regulating cholesterol and reducing blood sugar fluctuations. It is also a good source of potassium, which helps reduce the risk of kidney stones. The vegetable’s high folic acid content, meanwhile, can help reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia and, for pregnant women, decrease the likelihood of birth defects. Rounding out parsnip’s nutritional power punch, its high vitamin C content has been associated with improved lung function—and even a reduction in asthma symptoms in children—and also gives skin a healthy glow.
While the effects of Brussels sprouts aren’t likely to win you any friends—unless you’re interested in hanging with the lads at the local fraternity—these cruciferous little devils pack a serious health punch.
Once considered a delicacy in Belgium—and since named Britain’s least favorite food, according to one recent poll—Brussels sprouts are loaded with compounds that disarm cell-damaging free radicals and help detoxify the body. In fact, less than a cup a day of the little critters is thought to reduce the risk of cancer—particularly those affecting the breast, liver, colon and bladder—and reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 71% in men and 59% in women, according to one recent study. In addition, Brussels sprouts’ off-the-charts vitamin C content—which clocks in at 4 times that of an orange—can help shore up the body’s immune response and give your skin a healthy glow (but not in a freaky Paris Hilton-esque fake-and-bake way!)
Now this is some smart fuel we can live with! Step aside kale, move over broccoli: the best way to ward off a wintry cold is to drink red wine.
You’re not reading that wrong. Not one, but two major studies have just reported evidence that those who drink wine moderately – no more than two glasses a day – have better immunity and resistance to infectious cold viruses than those who do not drink. This benefit is cancelled out if you’re a smoker, however.
Of course, red wine is also healthy because it is rich in resveratrol, a vital antioxidant. To learn Mark’s great and creative ways to enjoy wine more often, read How to Drink More Wine and Eat More Chocolate Every Day.
polifemus Flickr Photo (CC)
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Tarragon is for more than fish. This overlooked but deliciously sweet, rich herb offers major flavor and health benefits. Tarragon has a strong fragrance and a slight licorice taste, but it also has subtle earthy notes – it’s a bit fuller in flavor than basil, and not quite as sharp, either. You can interchange tarragon for basil in recipes for a slightly mellower, sweeter taste and a softer, more velvety texture. Is your mouth watering yet? Tarragon, a perennial, is easy to grow, too. It’s really only good fresh.
Tarragon is very low in calories, like most greens and herbs, and like purslane, contains some Omega-3’s. It has natural antimicrobial properties and contains generous amounts of many nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium and trace minerals. The primary benefit of tarragon is the fiber, but we think the aromatherapeutic benefit is a close second!
This week’s Smart Fuel: Acorn Squash
Winter is a wonderful time to enjoy drier, more dense vegetables, seeds, nuts and squashes. This week we’re highlighting acorn squash.
Acorn squash is considered a winter squash, but it’s actually classified with zucchini and other summer squashes. No matter; it is delicious no matter what you call it. Try it baked or stuffed; you can also fry it up with onions, meats, garlic and other savory additions. One acorn squash is usually less costly than an artichoke and can either serve as a delicious light dinner for one or a versatile, hearty side dish for 2.
Acorn squash is rich in beta carotene, though not as much as other winter squashes. However, acorn squash has generous amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Plus, halved and hulled, acorn squash makes a perfect easy portion.