Friday, January 18, 2013

7 Foods to Try in 2013

Alright folks, let's get real here. Defrumping, according to Defrump Me, includes things like learning how to dress more like a real person and less like a slob, discovering new ways to organize and decorate your home and make it more inviting, being intentional about your relationships with others and with God instead of letting those important things fall to the wayside, and even revamping your menus to make eating more enjoyable instead of the same old PBJ luches and chicken casserole dinners.

It's all about striving to be better, improvement, keeping the temple healthy and beautiful and nurturing. Right?



So, today I'm talking about the physical health side of defrumping. Specifically, "super-foods"! Have you heard of these so-called super-foods? These are foods that are loaded with nutrition and health benefits that are proportionally higher than other foods. If you watch programs like Dr. Oz or are into the health world at all, you've probably heard of a few of these. But in case you are simply living life and wondering what all the hype is about, I'm gong to share with you today some of the foods that I'm eating, why they are considered "super" and why you should use them, where to find them, and how to use them.

These foods are particularly good for you if you are working to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. But even for you skinny-Minnies, these foods are excellent for everyone in every stage of life (including pregnancy, breastfeeding, and childhood). So, strap in - you'll be tightening that belt before you know it!!

(PS  It should be noted at this time that I am by no means a nutritionist, doctor, or other health professional. All information shared here comes from my own personal research from books, websites, and personal experience. If you do have any concerns about the following information, I definitely encourage you to follow up with your own research and even talk with your healthcare professionals.)

Now that we've got that disclaimer out of the way, in no particular order...

1. Ch-ch-ch-Chia!

Oh yes! If you are reading this blog, chances are you have heard of Chia Pets. And yes, the super-food I'm hitting on first is actually the seeds of that beloved(?) product.


Benefits
Chia seeds have been used since WAY back to the Aztecs, and probably before. We are talking millennia here. And they've regained popularity in the 21st century because they are so darn cool! Here's why:
- They many of the same health benefits of flax seed (which we'll hit on later), without needing to grind them!
- They absorb more than 10 times their weight in water, forming a gel that causes you to feel fuller, longer!
- They contain nearly 11 grams of fiber per ounce, and in a culture generally lacking in sufficient protein, that's a big chunk of the recommended 35+ grams!
- Per ounce, they contain 3 times more calcium (18% DV) than skim milk!
- They contain more Omega-3s than salmon (by weight)!
- They are even packed with complete proteins, antioxidants, and minerals that provide extra energy all day!

Where to Find It
I've never seen chia seeds in my local Walmart, but they can be picked up in a health store, or I ordered mine online. I know Amazon carries several brands, but I picked my recent bag from www.netrition.com because I was ordering other things, and even with the shipping, it was cheaper than Amazon's price. They have a shelf-life of over 2 years.

How to Use It
Here's the cool thing about chia seeds - they don't really have their own flavor, so they absorb or blend in with whatever they are added to! So they can go sweet in a tapioca-like pudding, or add a crunch to your savory salad! Mix it in with your poppy seeds (that's kinda what they look like) and add an extra bit of nutrition to your favorite poppy seed recipes. If you don't care for the crunch of the full seed, you can find ground chia seeds, or you can grind them yourself in a coffee grinder.

Here's an easy recipe for a healthy chia seed pudding:

Vanilla Chia Tapioca Pudding

3/4 to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (You can use canned coconut milk or a mixture of half & half and water, too, but almond milk has only 30 calories per cup, sooo I go with that when I can!)
3 T chia seeds
Splash of vanilla
Sweetener of choice, to taste (I use Truvia or straight stevia extract. When I use Truvia, it's about 3-4 teaspoons. You can always add more later if it's not quite sweet enough.)

Combine all ingredients in a pint-sized jar with a lid and shake well. You can taste at this point to see what other sweetener/flavors (like cinnamon) you may want to add. Place in the refrigerator. About 15 minutes to an hour later (just don't forget), come back and shake the jar again so the seeds don't clump.
Let this all sit for at least 3-4 hours or overnight. It's yummy and filling!


2. Quinoa

Another ancient culture secret (this time the Incas), pronounced "KEEN-wah", this superfood is also loaded with good stuff and easy to cook!


Benefits
- It contains more fiber than most grains, but it's a seed and more digestible than almost every grain out there!
- It is a complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids, which makes it a great candidate for meatless or less-meat meals!
- It is a great source for necessary vitamins and minerals like iron, lysine, magnesium, manganese, and Riboflavin (B2)!

Where to Find It
Now, THIS you should be able to find in your local Walmart or grocery store. Look with the other grains like rice, couscous, and rice mixes. Read the directions carefully because some brands require you to rinse the quinoa to avoid a bitter taste.

How to Use It
Quinoa is easy to cook on the stovetop or in your rice cooker. Just use 1-2 ratio of quinoa to water or broth. It's versatile to use in the place of rice, or even as a breakfast porridge. It cooks quickly - as little as 15-20 minutes in my rice cooker. I've made quinoa a few different ways, including as a pilaf, but I'm always looking for something new. Here's a recipe I found on Pinterest that I plan on trying soon.



3. Coconut Oil

Once thought to be a "bad fat" because it is technically a saturated fat, we now know that coconut oil is actually super heart-healthy, and has numerous other benefits and a plethora of uses. ("Jefe, what is a plethora?" ....Any Three Amigos fans out there?)
Too bad we don't have scratch and sniff screens because
this stuff smells amazing!!

Benefits
- Contains lauric acid, which helps improve healthy cholesterol ratios, and can restore proper thyroid function!
- It is made up of medium chain fats (technically called Medium Chain Triglycerides or MCTs) that have been shown to help reduce abdominal fat and cause the body to burn fat more efficiently! So it's a fat...that makes you less fat -AWESOME!!
- Amazingly, coconut oil fights bacteria, fungus, yeast, and improves immune function to help your body fight off bacterial and viral infections!
- It also has been shown to help regulate hormones, improve thyroid function, control insulin, boost energy and endurance and metabolism, AND aid digestion!
- Besides just a food, coconut oil is so good for your skin and as a hair conditioner. Safe for everyone to use in a variety of ways from an after shower moisturizer, to a personal lubricant for romantic enjoyments! (That last thing is particularly interesting because of coconut oil's aforementioned anti-bacterial and anti-yeast properties!)

Where to Find It
You can find the LouAnna brand of coconut oil on your Walmart or supermarket shelf near the olive and other oils. As a cooking oil, LouAnna works quite well, as it doesn't have a strong coconut scent or flavor, and it can take a bit more heat than olive oil. In a pinch, it does work for the other functions as well, but I would also recommend splurging on a container of extra virgin, or first press coconut oil. Nutiva is a popular brand and can be found on Amazon. Vitacost also sells coconut oil in bulk. Or you can find it at your local health store.

How to Use It
As mentioned, you can use it externally with many excellent benefits, but as this is a post about food, I'll describe that function. You can use coconut oil as a replacement for any oil in your cooking. Coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees and liquid above 76 degrees, which makes it unique among oils outside of animal fat. So if you plan to use it in your baking, you'll need to make sure it is liquid first and don't add it directly to your cold liquids, as that will turn it into a chunk. On the stovetop it works great for sautéing or frying anything!

You can also add coconut oil to things like smoothies! A tablespoon added at any point in the mixing process adds a depth of texture (and flavor if you use the virgin variety) that is just wonderful!

4. Flax

Flax seed has been on the radar for a few more years than the foods above, but that doesn't mean it's any less cool for 2013!

Benefits
- It is packed with Omega-3s, so good for your heart and brain function! If you are pregnant or nursing, Omega-3s are of even greater importance to the nourishing of your baby!
- Flax has tons of fiber! (Please note that, due to this great amount of fiber, if you are new to flax or chia, start with small amounts and build up to avoid uncomfortable bloating.)
- It can replace things like eggs and other fats in your baking, if necessary!
- It is very versatile!

Where to Find It
I can easily find milled flax on the baking aisle at my Walmart. After opening milled flax, or if you are purchasing it ahead of time, be sure to refrigerate or freeze it, as pre-milled flax can spoil or oxidize quickly. The unmilled flax seed must be ground in order to reap the benefits mentioned above; the hearty seeds would just pass right through your system. You can mill your own seeds if you find them at your health store or order them online, just use a coffee grinder.

How to Use It
Add it to pretty much any of your baking, pancake and waffle batters, cooked oatmeal, and even to your yogurt for a nice nutty flavor!

5. Stevia

This natural sweetener has been used for centuries, but is only recently coming into more popular use in the form of the brand Truvia. What's the big deal, and why is it better than the pink, blue, and yellow packets?

Benefits
- Stevia is a natural extract of the stevia plant, which is native to South America. Did you catch that? Natural Extract! Not chemical compound designed to trick your taste buds!
- Stevia has zero calories and zero glycemic index impact!
- Stevia is many times sweeter than cane sugar (anywhere from 30-300 or more times!), so a little goes a very long way!
- Some studies have shown stevia to lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, and be effective as an anti-bacterial agent suitable for oral use in mouth wash, toothpaste and the like.

Where to Find It
The brand Truvia is pretty common in Walmarts and grocery stores. Truvia is actually a combination of stevia extract and the safe sugar alcohol erythritol. It makes it easier to control the amount you use and the erythritol helps prevent the sometimes bitter taste some people experience with straight stevia sweetener. Note: avoid the baking version of Truvia as it contains sugar and extra fillers. Also at Walmart, you can usually find liquid stevia that you can use as drops. Liquid stevia drops are available online as well and come in a variety of different flavors, from lemon or vanilla to root beer or cherry! Add a few drops to some sparkling water and you've got your own spritzer!

If you'd like to get the pure extract, you can pick that up at your health store, or order it online. I've had better experience with the Nunaturals brand of stevia than the KAL brand I picked up at my local health store.

How to Use It
As I mentioned, some people experience a bitter flavor or aftertaste when they first start using stevia. Or some people find it almost too sweet. Again, a little goes a long way, so even if your container comes with a small scoop, start with just a fraction of that until you get accustomed to the measurement. You can use stevia or Truvia in your desserts, beverages, and other cooking. I started with mostly Truvia, and I have been able to transition to mostly stevia now (which will definitely save me money in the long run).

6. Berries

Perhaps one of the easiest in this list to convince people to eat, berries are so very good for you and easy to add into your daily diet!

Benefits
- All the berries - raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries (and others) - are full of antioxidants that help prevent diseases of the heart and cancers! (Raspberries have the highest levels of the berries.)
-  Each berry has its own special properties, but they are all high in vitamins and minerals!
  • Raspberries specialize in riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese.
  • Blueberries are high in B vitamins, fiber and vitamins C, E and K.
  • Cranberries, with their tart flavor, contain plenty of fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and more.
  • Blackberries are chockfull of vitamins C and E, plus lycopene for eyesight, and they have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help fight infection.
  • Strawberries, perhaps the most common and least expensive of the berries, are a great source of vitamin C, folate, fiber and B-vitamins.
- Berries are easy on your blood sugar and insulin production, with low scores in both Glycemic Index  and Glycemic Load measurements. Since high GI and GL foods (even fruits like bananas, pineapples, and citrus fruits) spike blood sugars and cause insulin to spike and increase fat storage, low GI/GL foods are your friends if you are looking to attain or maintain a healthy weight!

Where to Find It
Berries are available in their frozen form year-round. Since fruits and vegetables are processed and frozen at their peak, you can have the health benefits and the tastiness of the succulent treats all year! Even in season, unless you are picking up your berries from the farmer's market or fresh picking them yourself, frozen berries may be your best bet. I would say I use berries on a daily or near-daily basis -they are a main fruit source - so I usually buy in bulk from Sam's or the large bags at Walmart or even Aldi.

How to Use It
Throw a handful of berries in smoothies, in your oatmeal, top your pancakes, in your muffins, in your yogurt...the possibilities are truly endless. Add a little stevia and you'll never miss your normal syrup or your flavored yogurt when you stir this into the last food on the list.

7. Greek Yogurt

If you aren't already into Greek yogurt, you SHOULD be! When I first heard about it, I knew it was gonna be a big deal, and sure enough, the many varieties now take up at least half the yogurt wall at the local Walmarts!

Benefits
- With more than double the protein of regular yogurt, as much as 20-22 grams or more per cup, yogurt and berries make a meal all on their own!
- It is full of necessary calcium, so essential for normal health and especially for women and children!
- Yogurt is good for your digestive system! With their various active cultures, yogurts help populate your gut with the good bacteria your body needs to digest other foods! Bonus if you avoid yeast-feeding sugar in your yogurt!
- It is thick, rich, and creamy, which makes it an excellent choice for everything from spreads on toast and tortillas to toppings for oatmeal to dessert dishes on its own!
- Versatility is key in the kitchen, and plain Greek yogurt is super versatile! Use it as a low fat or fat free cream in your main courses, use it to top your chili and soups in place of sour cream, mix savory seasonings in to create fabulous dips for veggies, and add it to your smoothies for rich and creamy texture and added protein!

Where to Find It
Greek yogurt has become pretty popular these days, as I said, it takes up half the yogurt wall at the grocery stores. So it's quite easy to find anything from flavored, sugar-packed gourmet versions, to plain, organic, fat-free versions, and everything in between. I personally buy two different 32 oz containers, both 0% fat (because why add the extra calories when I don't have to?) - the cheap store brand for smoothies and cooking, and Dannon Oikos for creating my own flavored yogurts and desserts. I've tried several brands, and the Oikos is my favorite. We have enjoyed the fruit-on-the-bottom cups in the past as well. Even Aldi carries their store brand of fruited Greek yogurt as well as occasionally the plain, fat-free Fage brand.

How to Use It
I named a whole bunch of ways to use it in the benefits list above - smoothies, dips, desserts, in place of sour cream or cream cheese, etc. So grab some 0% Greek yogurt, add a handful of thawed frozen berries, a tablespoon of flax and/or chia seeds, and mix in some stevia/Truvia to taste, and you've got some guilt-free, filling, health-revitalizing, super-food deliciousness ready to relish!!

Now THAT is something I think we can all get behind!



Don't just enjoy your food, let it nourish you! And if you are looking for an excellent informational/cookbook that goes into even greater detail about these and other super-foods and has tons of recipes and other really great information specifically geared to women and mothers, we encourage you to check out the book Trim Healthy Mama. I requested it for Christmas, and I have enjoyed and bragged on it so much that Lauren and Amber each bought their own copy!!

To our health!!




2 comments:

  1. You have no idea how much I love this information you provided! Thank you ever so much, especially the coconut oil info! I love Greek yogurt, my favorite. Here's a tip for the Greek Yogurt, buy plain and add your own pure vanilla extract (less sugar this way) or other fruite and flavorings. Be blessed!

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  2. These are all foods I want to use more. Thanks for the information on how to use each one! I have a new Pinterest Party and would love to have you share this if you have a chance!

    http://www.thetaylor-house.com/2013/01/24/pinterest-power-party-3.html

    Thanks!
    Chrissy

    ReplyDelete