Microgreens

What are microgreens?

As the name suggests, microgreens are vegetable and herb seedlings less than 14 days old. They are younger than baby greens (i.e. baby spinach, baby kale) and older than sprouts (i.e. bean sprouts). They have been gaining in popularity in recent years due to their high nutrition content and ability to garnish many dishes with bright colors.

Health benefits

These tiny, vibrantly colored greens, pack even more nutrients that their adult versions. One research study measured the amount of four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals – including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene in 25 varieties of commercially available microgreens (i.e. daikon radish, arugula, cilantro, and basil). The results showed that microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than their adult counterparts.

Phytonutrients are known for their beneficial health-promoting properties, such as including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Thus, incorporating them into a healthy diet could be beneficial for Americans. Especially since only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables to meet the daily recommended amount of vitamins and minerals.

Where can I buy microgreens?

Some stores like Whole Foods sell microgreens. However, unless you live in a larger city, you will likely have trouble finding them at your local supermarket. Many people like to grow their own microgreens. Given this, microgreens are showing up more frequently at local farmer’s markets these days. The short germination and life span make it easy to grown them in small spaces, and indoors. You can also order them online.

Ways to incorporate microgreens into your diet

Microgreens make an excellent ingredient or garnish for soups, salads, and sandwiches. Try one of these easy recipes:

Three-ingredient Pea Soup. An excellent source of protein, fiber, and Vitamin A.

Microgreens with Strawberry-Lime Vinaigrette. An excellent source of protein, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron.

California Club Sandwich. An excellent source of protein, fiber, unsaturated (healthy) fat, Vitamin C, and Iron.

Check out our Pinterest board for more ideas. 

Army H.E.A.L.T.H.'s Guide to Greens

Navigating the greens section at the grocery store can be intimidating, especially if you tend to buy the same variety of produce at each visit. By learning more about the diverse tastes, textures, and nutrients in different salad greens, you will feel more confident in your purchase and hopefully comfortable enough to branch out of your comfort zone and try something new.

As you will read below, salad greens are a great addition to a healthy, balanced diet. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming at least 1.5 cups of dark, leafy vegetables per week. Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or just add some more nutrient-dense foods to your diet, salad greens are the perfect addition. They are low in calories and high in volume, helping you to feel more full and satisfied when including them in your meal plan. They are also very diverse. Greens can be used in salads, smoothies, wraps, and soups, to name a few. They can be eaten raw, sautéed, or baked in the oven as crisps.

Nutrition

Dark, leafy greens are high in several vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. They are also rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive tract regular and the colon healthy. Kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, romaine, rapini, and Swiss chard are all examples of dark greens.

Additionally, one serving of spinach has only 23 calories, but 3 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  One cup of kale has only 49 calories but 4 grams of protein. Their high fiber and protein content will leave you feeling fuller, longer. For more information on the health benefits of spinach and kale, check out the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Superfood Series.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Taste and Texture

Consider the texture of the green when thinking of a proper use for it. For example, kale is very durable and its leaves do not wilt easily. This makes it ideal for baking kale chips in the oven. It is also a good green for salads that have dressing added ahead of time, as the leaves will not get soggy and wilt. Romaine lettuce is crispy, and tender, without being bitter. This makes it ideal for strongly flavored dressings such as Caesar. Spinach has a rich flavor and tender leaf, which makes it great for eating raw in a salad or in a wrap. Swiss chard is slightly bitter, so it is best enjoyed when sautéed or added to a soup or casserole.

Health Benefits and Risks of Alcohol

You may have heard that drinking alcohol has some health benefits to it. In fact, one of the most highly recommended diets for good health is the Mediterranean diet, which includes a daily glass of red wine. But, why aren’t other types of alcohol, such as beer or white wine included in this stipulation? And what exactly is it in the red wine that may benefit your health? Below, we will examine what the research tells us. You might be surprised.

Why Red Wine?

Yes, there are some health benefits to alcohol, red wine in particular. Most experts agree that red wine does have some heart healthy qualities. This type of alcohol contains antioxidants (i.e. flavonoids) and another substance called resveratrol. It is believed that these two properties of red wine are what provides the heart healthy benefits.

Research shows that resveratrol in red wine might be the ingredient that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), and prevents blood clots. Additionally, some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. It is important to note, however, that most of these studies have been done in animals, not humans. And, if you drink too much alcohol, any positive effects received from the resveratrol are easily trumped by the damage that can be done to your body, especially your liver.

Moderation is key

So how much is too much? More than one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men. Any more than that and you are increasing your risk for chronic diseases such as alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and colon and cognitive impairment. It’s easy to see why most health professionals do not recommend drinking alcohol at all.

Confounding factors

In addition to the resveratrol and antioxidants found in red wine, research tells us that it’s also the general dietary habits of people who tend to drink red wine as compared to beer, that actually lend to some of the statistics which show that people who drink red wine generally have less of the diseases mentioned above. In general, people who drink red wine are also more likely to buy heart healthy foods containing healthy fats and antioxidants, such as olives, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and low fat cheese and milk. By comparison, the beer drinkers generally buy more processed, sugary, and heavier fat meats (i.e. sausage and pork).

The take home point here is that drinking a glass of red wine per day is not a magic health bullet. If you are interested in reaping the health benefits of red wine, it is best if you commit to eating a healthy, balanced Mediterranean style eating plan, in general.

Bottom Line

Deciding to include alcohol in your diet is a personal decision. Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Alcohol can be addictive and can cause or worsen other health problems. It’s safe to say that you would be better off if you didn’t drink alcohol at all. But, if you really want those antioxidants in the form of wine, stick to no more than one (for women) or two glasses (for men).

Superfood Series: Part 6

 

Blueberries can thank their high flavonoid/anthocyanin content which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects for helping them earn their superfood status.  Blueberries are also low in calories and high in nutrients and water content which make them a good snack choice. Here are 7 more reasons to love blueberries.     

*RDA= Recommended Daily Allowance

1 serving blueberries= 1 cup fresh blueberries

Digestion and Weight LossFiber aids in digestion and one serving of blueberries has 4g of fiber. That’s 14% of the DRA for fiber.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans.

Lower Blood Pressure.  Blueberries contain anthocyanins and flavonoids which may contribute to the prevention of high blood pressure.  Anthocyanins have a beneficial effect on blood flow and blood vessels.  One study found that compared to those who did not eat blueberries, those eating at least one serving per week reduced their risk of high blood pressure by 10%.

Metabolism Efficiency.  Back to the anthocyanins.  Some research studies have shown they can prevent growth of fat cells while at the same time, encouraging the release of a hormone that helps reduce inflammation and blood sugar, which can help reverse insulin resistance.  Fresh or frozen blueberries will provide you with the highest amount of anthocyanins per serving.

Lower LDL cholesterol.  Blueberries can help reduce the buildup of LDL (low-density, “bad”) cholesterol which consequently reduces risk for heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.  Normally, dietary cholesterol is reabsorbed by the body as it is digested.  Blueberries impact the digestive process by reducing reabsorption of cholesterol into the body, therefore, aiding in removal of cholesterol via the digestive tract.

Reduced Breast Cancer.  The anthocyanins in blueberries have been shown to prevent or stop cancerous cell growth. The results of one study indicated that mice which were fed blueberry extract had tumors that were 70% smaller and less likely to migrate to other areas of the body than mice that were not given the extract.

Graceful Aging. Due to their flavonoid production, blueberries appear to reduce rates of cognitive decline in older adults.  One study found that participants who drank wild blueberry juice daily for 12 weeks experienced such benefits as improved learning, memory recall, reduced depressive symptoms, and lower glucose levels. This preliminary research supports the idea that blueberries can improve memory in older adults.

Versatility.  Blueberries are eaten fresh or frozen. Raw or baked into your favorite dessert. The frozen ones are great raw or thrown into a smoothie.  They can easily be kept at room temp, which makes them a great option for an on the go snack. Bonus: they are naturally very sweet, so they are a great healthier snack for people trying to reduce their sugar intake (in moderation, of course).

Sources:

http://reedir.arsnet.usda.gov/codesearchwebapp/(2m31cz45hr1lqdv2vl0xv055)/measures.aspx?id=63203010

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/93/2/338.long

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/10/981005074625.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862148/?tool=pubmed

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20047325/  

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535616

Superfood Series: Part 5

6 Reason why Walnuts are Superfood All-stars:

  1.  Heart Health.  Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and preserve endothelial cell function that is associated with heart disease.  These heart healthy fats have a unique chemical structure that aides in unclogging arteries the same way drain cleaner unclogs your kitchen sink pipes.  Walnuts also contain a unique combination of fiber and unsaturated fats which can also help lower cholesterol (and reduce insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes). 
  2. Weight controlResearch indicates that diets containing walnuts are more supportive of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.  Even though walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories for size, when eaten in moderation they can help suppress appetite in between meals and provide high amounts of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full).  This is because walnuts have a good amount of protein and fiber (1-.25 cup serving contains 5g protein and 3 g fiber), both of which contribute to the feeling of fullness.  There are many ways to include walnuts into your diet.  Try eating a handful or throw them into your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. 
  3. Brain Health.  Back to the Omega -3s, there is a link between Omega-3 consumption and the ability to fight depression and cognitive degeneration.  Research shows that people who ate walnuts as part of a Mediterranean style diet were associated with better memory and brain function.  A review of the literature postulates that antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline. 
  4. Slows Cancer Tumor Growth.  Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in walnuts are arguably the two most important factors that can have an effect on the development of cancer.  Antioxidants help prevent cancer by repairing damaged cells.  Research has revealed that walnuts have the ability to help prevent, fight, and slow growth of certain cancerous tumors (i.e. prostate, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer). 
  5. Sleep.  Walnuts have the ability to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times.  Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  It plays a role in sleep regulation by controlling the sleep wake cycle, helping you to feel sleepy at night.  Bonus?  Melatonin in walnuts is in bio-available form, which means it is easier to absorb than other supplemental sources of melatonin. 
  6. Metabolism booster.  Thecombination of protein and essential fatty acids found in walnuts can help boost metabolism.Walnuts also contain16% of the daily recommend amount of magnesium-which is needed for protein synthesis.  Magnesium functions as an electrolyte, which means that it is used to communicate between nerves and muscles. When muscles have adequate magnesium, they are able to function properly and continue to support a healthy metabolism. To sum it up, walnuts can help your body to function and continue to grow stronger and build muscle as you exercise.

*For full health benefits, make sure to eat the raw version of walnuts and stay away from anything that is coated in sugar or salt like candied walnuts.

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99; http://www.naturalnews.com/040837_walnuts_healthy_nuts_brain_food.html; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/nuts-and-health-how-walnuts-can-improve-your-memory; http://www.today.com/id/23547010/ns/today-today_health/t/ways-boost-your-metabolism/#.U_SzxMVdW0I; http://news.psu.edu/story/276393/2013/05/08/research/whole-walnuts-and-their-extracted-oil-can-reduce-cardiovascularhttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/walnuts-slow-prostate-cancer-growth; http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/9/1757S.full; http://theearthdiet.blogspot.com/2011/05/eating-for-blood-type-o.html