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Archive for September, 2011

When we think of Pumpkin, we think holidays, frost, long cold nights and the oncoming of winter. Pumpkin, however, is one of the most nutritious fruits available. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, both the flesh and seeds of the pumpkin offer numerous health benefits.
Nutrients in Pumpkin

Pumpkin is low in fat and calories and rich in disease-fighting nutrients such as:

  • Alpha-carotene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins C and E
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Pantothenic acid

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

The alpha-carotene and beta-carotene are antioxidants found in pumpkin and are loaded in vitamin A. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision and ensures proper immune function. The beta-carotene in pumpkin may also reverse skin damage caused by the sun and act as an anti-inflammatory. Alpha-carotene is thought to slow the aging process and also reduce the risk of developing cataracts and prevent tumor growth. Carotenoids also boost immunity and lessen the risk of heart disease.

Pumpkin is an excellent source of fiber; one-half cup serving contains 5 grams of fiber. Fiber helps reduce bad cholesterol levels, protect the body against heart disease, control blood sugar levels, promote healthy digestion, and plays a role in weight loss.

The vitamin C that is found in pumpkin boosts immunity, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, and regulates cholesterol levels. Pumpkin is also a good source of vitamin E which promotes healthy skin by protecting the body from sun damage and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.

The potassium found in pumpkin aids in balancing fluid levels in the body, promotes strong bones, is necessary for energy production, and helps to control blood pressure. Pumpkin is also rich in magnesium, which aids the body in hundreds of functions, including promoting a healthy immune system, contributing to bone strength, and normalizing heart function.

Pumpkin Seeds

While the pumpkin flesh is nutrient-rich, pumpkin seeds also contain essential vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of vitamin E, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and are an excellent plant-based source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Use Pumpkin

Fresh Pumpkins are typically only available during fall and early winter; however, canned pumpkin is just as nutritious as fresh. Fresh pumpkin or canned pumpkin puree can be used to make soups, muffins, breads, puddings, and smoothies. Pumpkin seeds can be eaten as a snack, used to top salads or added to sautéed vegetables. Pumpkin-seed oil can be used in cooking or as a salad dressing.

Tips for Using Pumpkins in the Kitchen

  • Bigger pumpkins have tougher meat than smaller ones; that’s why pumpkins used for pies tend to be smaller than the ones used for carving. But you can still cook and eat the meat of a carving pumpkin; it just won’t be quite as soft.
  • If you don’t like the taste of pumpkin, try adding a small amount of orange juice.
  • If you’re planning on cooking rather than carving the pumpkin, you don’t have to go to the trouble of scooping out the inside after you remove the top. You will have to remove the seeds, but after that you can just cut the entire pumpkin into pieces, remove the skin with a peeler, and boil the pieces in water for about 20 minutes. After the pieces have been boiled, drain the water and either mash the pieces by hand or puree them in a blender.
  • A whole pumpkin can be stored at room temperature for up to a month, or in the refrigerator for up to three months.
  • Besides the traditional pumpkin pie, pumpkin can be used to make pudding, custard, cookies, and of course pumpkin bread. But it’s also great as soup, or as a side dish for the main course of a meal.
  • Sprinkle some oil and other flavorings on pumpkin seeds and roast them at 300° for about 30 minutes. However, most nutritional experts believe that roasting weakens a lot of the nutrients, so they recommend that the seeds be eaten raw. Whole seeds can be added to steamed vegetables, salads, cereals, as well as ground seeds can be added to burgers.

Next time you’re carving a pumpkin and are tempted to just throw out the inside remember to save it, cook or bake it.

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With the weather cooling down, what other way to warm up other than a bowl of warm black bean chili for lunch or dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion (8 oz.), peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) black beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon canned chipotle chili purée*
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Tomato salsa (optional)

Preparation

  • In a 3 to 4-quart pan over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic in olive oil, stirring often until the onion is limp and starting to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Add beans, tomatoes and their juice, cumin, and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors for about 15 minutes.
  • Stir in cilantro, chipotle purée, and rice vinegar. Add salt to taste. Spoon chili equally into four bowls and top each with 1 teaspoon sour cream and, if desired, with tomato salsa to taste.

*To make the chipotle purée, whirl a 7-ounce can of chipotle chilies, including the adobo sauce, in a blender or food processor until smooth. This can be stored  in the refrigerator up to 1 week or in the freezer for several months.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving; 1 serving= 6 oz

Calories: 265, Calories from fat: 21%, Protein: 14g, Fat: 6.2g, Saturated fat: 1.5g, Carbohydrate: 40g, Fiber: 10g, Sodium: 709mg, Cholesterol: 5mg

 

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It’s true that most fast foods are not good for you. Rarely do you see fresh fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains. But sometimes life throws us curve balls, and we are obligated to pick up some fast food on the way. This blog post will help you make the best of the fast food choices.

You can make smart choices and options anywhere you go. Here are some general easy to remember rules:

Avoid excessive fat and calories by skipping the fried foods and choosing for grilled.

Get your sauce on the side, go without “extra” cheese, and get the smallest size possible.

The only advantage of “super sizing” is if you plan to share the meal with someone else.

Don’t drink any calories which mean no sweet tea, soda, or other sweetened beverages. Go for water, low fat milk, or iced green tea.

Below are 3 of the major fast food chains where you can find healthier options to choose from.

Chipotle
Chipotle offers an amazing variety of Mexican based cuisine that you can customize. Keep in mind portions are out of control and toppings push some of the burritos to be over 1000 calories.

For 300 calories you could get 3 hard or soft shell tacos filled with the vegetable fajita mix, lettuce, and medium spice green salsa. The nutrition totals: 300 kcal, 15 g fat, 5 g protein, 35 g carbs.

Panera
From soups and sandwiches to salads and sweets, Panera offers plenty of great choices. While it may be your first instinct to place your order for a salad, think twice. Fast food salads often contain sneaky calories in the form of croutons or noodle toppings, enormous portions and an overload of dressing.

Your best bet is to go for the “You Pick Two”. Get the low fat garden vegetable soup. The soup totals up to 90 calories with zero grams of fat. For your second part of the order, you can get your salad, but this time it is portion controlled. A half strawberry poppy seed and chicken salad pulls in some protein and evens out at 140 calories, 4 g fat, 14 g carb and 14 g protein.

Mcdonald’s
While this fast food restaurant is known to be the worst of all, they do have some realistic options which it is on here. Recent hype about super-quadruple-double burgers is ridiculous. One person does not need that amount of food or sodium within a meal! A single hamburger patty is a realistic option which will put you at 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, 31 g carbs and 12 grams of protein.

Snack Wraps are correctly portioned for a lunch. The honey mustard grilled chicken is 260 calories with 9 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbs and 18 grams of protein.

Sometimes you need something cold and sweet in this heat, in that case, what aboutan ice cream cone? The regular (nowadays small) size vanilla ice cream cone has only 100 calories.

For quick and healthy recipes, make sure to check out the recipe section of this blog!

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