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Leafy Greens

Leafy Greens 101 – The Basics

Leafy Greens 101 – The Basics

What Are Leafy Greens?
“Leafy greens” is a broad term for plant leaves eaten as a vegetable. There are a variety of flavors and textures of leafy greens and they can belong to different botanical families. Flavors can range from very mild, to nutty, to spicy/peppery, to bitter. Some are tender and sweet, and are usually eaten raw (such as spinach and lettuce), whereas others are tougher and somewhat bitter (such as mustard and collard greens), so they are usually cooked.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists over 60 different varieties of leafy green vegetables known to be imported or grown commercially in the United States. There are yet other lesser-known varieties grown in home gardens or gathered in the wild.

Leafy greens have been called “super foods” and people have been eating them for thousands of years. This is for good reason! They’re packed full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other compounds that boost our health in many ways. Plus, they’re very low in calories, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked in a variety of ways. What more could we possibly ask for in a food?

Types of Leafy Greens
Collards, mustard greens, kale, chard, broccoli rabe, spinach, bok choy, arugula, beet greens, dandelion greens, lettuce, broccoli, endive, escarole, purslane, radicchio, savoy, sorrel, parsley, and cress are but some examples of leafy greens. Leafy green vegetables and herbs come in many different shapes, sizes, flavors, and even colors or shades of green. Some form tightly bound heads of leaves, while other form loose heads. Others are loose leaf varieties, forming no distinguishable heads at all. Yet, they fall under the broad category of leafy greens. Many, but not all, belong to the Brassica plant family (also known as cruciferous vegetables). What they all have in common is the fact that they are extraordinarily good for us to eat and have important health properties that shouldn’t be ignored.

Sweet Greens. Lettuce is a type of leafy green and is one of the most commonly eaten vegetables in the United States. Different types of lettuce have different colors, ranging from light to dark green, with some even having some red tones on the leaves and stems. Lettuce is usually sweet and mild in flavor.

Bitter Greens. Bitter greens are just that…bitter in flavor. However, the degree of bitterness can vary from variety to variety, and even within the same plant species. For instance, arugula can be mild and somewhat peppery when harvested early in the season. But when harvested later, toward the end of its growing season, it can be extremely strong tasting.

Endive, escarole, and radicchio are under the same plant family umbrella (Asteraceae) as lettuce, but they are actually different types of plants. They are from the chicory family, while lettuce is from the daisy family. Endive, escarole, and radicchio are bitter in flavor and also have more fiber than lettuce, to they are tougher to chew.

Other bitter greens are cool-weather plants, such as collards, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, and even spinach. These greens are sometimes used in raw applications (especially young spinach leaves), but the mature leaves are often cooked to tame their bitterness. They are usually more tough than lettuce, and they tenderize when cooked.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Leafy greens are well-known as being nutrient dense foods. This simply means that they supply a LOT of nutrients with few calories. They would be an excellent addition to any “all you can eat” food list. Dark-green leafy vegetables offer a lot of nutritional value with many important health benefits. The darker the leaves, the more nutrient-rich is the vegetable. For instance, romaine lettuce has nine times more Vitamin A than iceberg lettuce.

Since this article focuses on leafy greens in general, it’s not possible to be all-inclusive about the nutritional components of each specific leafy green vegetable. However, even though the components and amounts may vary, they do have some nutritional benefits in common. Overall, they contain plenty of Vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, E, and K. Many of the dark-green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and collard greens are also rich in B-complex vitamins, especially folate. Greens also contain magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, fiber, and a wide array of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, and even some omega-3 fatty acids.

Cancer Prevention. It has long been established that green leafy vegetables are high in compounds that have strong anti-cancer properties. Such compounds include isothiocyanates, carotenoids, and folate. These compounds are particularly high in the Brassica (cruciferous) family of plants, including arugula, broccoli, kale, collards, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, turnip greens, and watercress, among others.

Research has shown that eating 2 to 3 servings of green leafy vegetables a week may reduce the risk of stomach, breast, and skin cancers. We also know that leafy greens are high in the B-vitamin folate. Research studies have shown that a high intake of folate may lower the risk of colon polyps by 30 to 40 percent, when compared to low intakes. Some studies also suggest that a low intake of folate may increase the risk of breast, cervix, and lung cancers.

Weight and Blood Sugar Control. Leafy green vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, giving them a low glycemic index. This makes them ideal foods to add to a healthy diet, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Also, the low glycemic index of leafy green vegetables combined with their high fiber content makes them an ideal food to eat often to help regulate blood sugar and manage diabetes.

Prevention of Neural Tube Defects in Newborns. Neural tube defects are birth defects where the embryo’s central nervous system (the neural tube) fails to close completely before birth. The neural tube forms very early, just one month after conception. This is the structure that will grow into the brain and spinal cord of the infant. In neural tube defects, the seam over the tube does not close correctly, and portions of the spine, the covering of the spinal cord (the meninges), or the cord itself can protrude out of the back of the fetus.

The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and tethered cord syndrome. Spina bifida is a malformation of the vertebrae and skin surrounding the spine that can lead to a number of serious health issues. This defect forms very early in embryonic development, merely one month after conception. Most of the time, surgical correction of the defect is needed soon after birth.

Tethered cord syndrome occurs when the spinal cord is abnormally attached to surrounding tissue. Failure to detect this defect can lead to a sudden injury or paralysis during childhood or adolescence. Diagnosis is usually confirmed by an MRI scan and surgery is usually needed to correct the problem.

Research has shown that getting enough folate before conception through early pregnancy can greatly reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Since grain products have been fortified with folic acid, the incidence of such defects has decreased tremendously.

Furthermore, research has found that women who are obese, have poorly controlled diabetes, have been exposed to high temperatures (such as a fever or using a hot tub or sauna) during early pregnancy, or take certain antiseizure medications have a greater risk than other women of having a child born with a neural tube defect.

This example shows how important diet and lifestyle can be not only to adults, but to their potential offspring. Such defects can occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Once she learns of her pregnancy and makes needed dietary improvements, the damage may have already been done. So, if you are planning on having a child, it is important to prepare yourself in advance of becoming pregnant. Eat the best foods you possibly can, and be sure to include plenty of leafy green vegetables along the way.

Bone Health. Green leafy vegetables are known to be high in both calcium and Vitamin K. One role of Vitamin K is to work with calcium in helping to build and maintain healthy bones. Without adequate Vitamin K, bones cannot utilize calcium in the bone building process. Eating leafy green vegetables helps to ensure we have adequate nutrients to keep our bones strong. Some research studies have shown that higher Vitamin K intakes are associated with a lower rate of hip fractures and higher bone density. A report from the Nurses’ Health Study suggests that women who get adequate Vitamin K are less likely to break a hip than women who don’t. Eating one serving of leafy green vegetables a day cut the risk of hip fracture in half when compared with eating only one serving a week. Because of their Vitamin K content, dark green leafy vegetables have been shown to help protect bones from osteoporosis.

Heart Health. Vitamin K is also known to help protect the heart from left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). The left ventricle is the heart’s major pumping chamber. In LVH, the left ventricle is enlarged which causes the heart to be less efficient at pumping blood. This is a condition often looked for in adults; however, it can be found in just about any age group. In a study reported in the October 2017 issue of The Journal of Nutrition, researchers monitored the physical activity routines and diets (with a focus on their Vitamin K intake) of 766 adolescents who were 14 to 18 years of age. They found that those with the lowest Vitamin K intake, had the highest rate of LVH. Subjects with the highest intake of Vitamin K had the lowest rate of LVH. Those who ate 42 mcg or less of Vitamin K per day were over three times more likely to have left ventricular hypertrophy than those who ate 90 mcg or more per day.

Without follow-up investigation it is not possible to say for certain that the dietary habits of the subjects who ate little Vitamin K led to heart disease in their adult years. However, it certainly is a possibility. It is interesting to note that only 25 percent of the teenagers in the study met adequate intakes of Vitamin K in their diet.

Needless to say, the importance of a healthy diet cannot be overestimated, and this stands for people of all ages, not just adults. Without a doubt, we all need to make sure that our entire families eat plenty of leafy green vegetables on a regular basis, if for no other reason than our heart health!

Folate, one of the B-complex vitamins that is abundant in leafy greens, is known to promote heart health.  Researchers have found that getting adequate folate on a regular basis can lower our risk for heart disease and stroke by about 20 percent. Folate lowers homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. A growing body of research suggests that a higher-than-normal level of homocysteine is an independent risk factor for heart disease. It can lead to dangerous blood clots and hardening of the arteries. Getting ample folate in the diet through eating plenty of leafy green vegetables is an easy way to meet your folate needs, reducing your risk for heart disease by keeping homocysteine levels in check.

Eye Health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two important and very powerful carotenoids that are found in many fruits and vegetables. They often give plants a yellow to reddish hue. Dark green vegetables and herbs such as kale, spinach, parsley, and broccoli are also excellent sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. The yellow pigment of the carotenoids is masked by the chlorophyll in the greens, so don’t let the color fool you. The average diet, which is low in colorful fruits and vegetables, does not contain a lot of these carotenoids.

These two important carotenoids are best known for protecting the eyes from free radical damage. With the eyes constantly being exposed to oxygen and light (during our waking hours), free radicals can easily form. Lutein and zeaxanthin work together to disable free radical molecules before they have a chance to damage our eye cells. In fact, they are the only dietary carotenoids that accumulate in the retina, especially in the macula region, located at the back of the eye. Since the macula is essential for vision, they work together to help prevent macular degeneration, helping to preserve our vision even into old age.

Lutein and zeaxanthin also act as a natural sunscreen by absorbing excess light. They are believed to offer protection of the eyes from excess blue light. This is especially important if we spend a lot of time looking at electronic devices, such as computer screens, cell phones, tablets, and televisions.

Some conditions that lutein and zeaxanthin may help include:
* Age-related macular degeneration (already discussed above)
* Cataracts
* Diabetic retinopathy
* Retinal detachment
* Uveitis. This is an inflammatory condition in the middle layer of the eye that can cause blindness. Lutein and zeaxanthin are believed to help reduce the inflammatory process in this condition.

Considering the average diet is low in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, this information alone should give many people good reason to include more of these special foods into their meals.

Word of Caution. Leafy greens are usually high in Vitamin K which is a blood thickener. If you are taking blood thinning medications, you have probably already been told to limit your intake of Vitamin K-rich foods, such as leafy greens. Therefore, if you want to change your usual diet and increase your intake of any foods that are high in Vitamin K, it is important to consult with your doctor first. Your prothrombin time may need to be monitored and your medication may need to be adjusted.

How to Select Leafy Greens
Choose greens with crisp, brightly colored leaves. They should not be wilted. Avoid those with yellowing leaves or damage.

How to Store Salad Leafy Greens
Packaged Prewashed Salad Greens. If you purchased already washed salad greens in a tub, simply store that in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Sometimes droplets of water may form within the tub and under the lid, which causes them to age faster. To help prevent this, it is helpful to place a paper towel on top of the greens in the tub as soon as you bring them home. This will absorb any excess moisture that forms on the inside of the lid, helping to keep the greens from wilting. Be sure to use them before the “Best By” date for optimal freshness.

Whole Heads of Lettuce. Fresh heads of lettuce may be stored in a couple different ways. If you prefer to store them unwashed, simply wrap your new head of lettuce in a clean cloth. Drizzle the cloth with no more than ¼ cup of water, and place the wrapped head in a plastic bag to keep the lettuce from drying out. Store it in the refrigerator (crisper drawer, if possible) until you are ready to use it. For optimal freshness, use it as soon as possible, preferably within 7 to 10 days (at most).

If you prefer to wash your lettuce in advance, tear the lettuce into the size pieces you intend to use later. Rinse and spin them dry in a salad spinner. Transfer them to an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to a week (10 days at most). It is helpful to line the container with a clean cloth or paper towels to absorb any excess water that may be on the leaves, preventing them from rotting. The towels will retain the moisture, creating a humid environment that will help to keep the leaves crisp.

How to Store Bitter Leafy Greens
Remove any discolored, wilted, or damaged leaves before storing your greens. It’s easiest to keep your greens whole and unwashed until you need them by simply removing any twist ties holding them together, and wrapping the loose leaves in a clean cloth. Drizzling the cloth with no more than ¼ cup of water. Place the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and store it in the refrigerator.

To prewash your greens before storing them, rinse them well with water, shake off excess water, then lay them out on paper towels or a clean cloth, and roll them up. Do not drizzle the towel with water since the leaves will already have water on them. Place the wrapped leaves in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Try to use them within 3 to 5 days.

How to Prepare Salad Leafy Greens
Salad Greens. If you did not wash your salad greens before storing them, simply give them a quick rinse, then spin them dry in a salad spinner, shake off excess water in a colander, or pat them dry on a layer of clean cloth or paper towels. Serve as desired.

Packaged Prewashed Salad Greens. Despite the fact that they have been prewashed, it is advisable to give them a quick rinse right before you use them. Spin them dry in a salad spinner, shake excess water off of them in a colander, or lay them on a clean cloth or paper towels and blot them to remove excess water. Remove and discard any discolored or wilted, soggy leaves. Serve as desired.

Prewashed Heads of Lettuce. If you prewashed your head of lettuce when you brought it home, and stored it as detailed earlier, you should be able to use it straight from your container. If preferred, you may wash it again, then use it as desired.

How to Prepare Bitter Leafy Greens
Rinse your greens well and shake off excess water. Cut off (and discard) a small portion of the bottom end of the stems (unless you are removing the stems and not using them at all). If your greens are a little wilted, trim off a small portion of the bottom end of the stem and stand them upright in a bowl or pitcher of water and allow them to rest there until revived. About an hour may be enough time to refresh the greens. Then cut them as desired and prepare as planned.

How to Freeze Bitter Leafy Greens
Freezing leafy greens is an excellent way to preserve extras that you have on hand. It makes them quick and easy to cook, with all the prep work having been done in advance. There is a current movement to freeze vegetables without blanching them. This can be done, but if you want to preserve your foods for the longest time with the best quality possible, blanching them is something that must be done. It’s not hard and really does not take much time. The effort is well worth it in the long run. Here are the steps:

  1. Wash your greens well and chop them into desired size pieces. Strip away the stems, if desired. If you want the stems, leave them attached, but trim off a small portion of the bottom end of each stem. With leafy greens, cutting them into smaller pieces before freezing is usually best because they will be the easiest to cook and eat later.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Do not add salt to the water. Have a timer handy.
  3. When the water is boiling, transfer your prepared greens into the water. Immediately set your timer for 1 minute. Meanwhile, get a large bowl of ice water ready.
  4. As soon as the timer is finished, transfer the greens to the ice water bath. Allow them to chill for at least 1 minute.
  5. Transfer the chilled greens to a colander and allow them to drain well. Squeeze them if you want to remove any excess water. (This step is helpful, but not mandatory.)
  6. Transfer your drained greens to a freezer bag or airtight container. Remove as much air from the bag or container as possible, and place them in the freezer. If you want to avoid having your greens freeze into one big lump, first lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray. Place the tray in the freezer until the greens are completely frozen. Then transfer the frozen greens to your freezer bag or container, and return them to the freezer. Be sure to label the container with the contents and date they were frozen. Use them within 1 year.

For best results, your frozen greens will need to be cooked in some way when it’s time to use them. It is not mandatory, but they can be thawed first, if preferred. They can be placed in the refrigerator overnight, placed on the kitchen counter for an hour or two at the most, or placed in a colander and thawed under running water.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Leafy Greens
There are many ways to include leafy greens in your diet. Here are some examples:

* Use salad or bitter leafy greens as a foundation for a meal, as often as you can. Add assorted vegetables, fruits, grains, and proteins of your choice.

* Include a lot of leafy greens such as spinach, arugula, lettuce, cabbage, or Swiss chard as a filling for a wrap.

* Add greens to soups. Bok choy, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or Asian greens would all add color, nutrition, and flavor to just about any soup.

* Try adding chopped greens to your favorite pizza.

* Add chopped greens to sautés and stir-fries.

* Use leafy greens when making pesto.

* If you juice fresh fruits and vegetables, don’t forget to add fresh leafy greens! Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, Spring mix, or even romaine lettuce would all work well.

* Don’t forget to add leafy greens to a sandwich. Lettuce, arugula, Spring mix, baby greens, and spinach would all work well.

* Leafy greens can be chopped finely and added to sauces. Adding greens to a marinara sauce would add texture, flavor, nutrition, and color.

* Greens can add extra flavor, color, and nutrition to any meal. Try grilling, steaming, boiling, braising, and even stewing them. Some greens, like Spring mix, baby greens, or spinach would work well as a raw adornment to many dishes.

* Add greens to smoothies. Spinach, Spring mix, baby greens, and lettuce are all tender, mild flavored greens that would work well in just about any smoothie mixture.

* Some leafy greens, such as collard greens, spinach, and chard are high in Vitamin K. If you are on blood thinning medication, it’s important to talk with your doctor before increasing your intake of Vitamin K-rich foods. Your prothrombin time may need to be monitored, and your medication dosage may need to be adjusted.

* If you eat eggs, try adding some chopped leafy greens like spinach, to an omelet or scrambled eggs.

* Try roasted radicchio drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar.

* Grill wedges of radicchio and serve as a side dish.

* Try adding a little radicchio to a stir-fry.

* Add radicchio to soups, stews, and pasta dishes.

* It’s helpful to remember that some greens cook faster (like spinach) than others (like kale or collards). So, if you intend to combine them on one dish, add the more tender greens that cook faster toward the end of cooking, to avoid overcooking them.

* Chop greens into bite-size pieces and add to soups and stews.

* Try a wrap packed with your favorite salad greens, bell pepper, and your favorite hummus.

* Keep green salads interesting by combining different types of leafy greens. Different types of lettuce, Spring mix, radicchio, cabbage, spinach, Asian greens, arugula, chard and baby mixed greens, all go well together in a mixed green salad. Different greens can be tender or crispy, slightly bitter or sweet, and vary in color, texture and nutritional value. All of that can add to flavor and visual appeal of your salad. Enjoy a large salad every day!

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Leafy SALAD Greens
Anise seeds, basil, capers, cayenne, chervil, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, dill, garlic, ginger, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, parsley, pepper, salt, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Leafy SALAD Greens
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, beans (in general), beef, black beans, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, hazelnuts, lamb, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts, peas, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sugar snap peas, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu, tuna (and other seafood), turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Beets, bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chayote, chiles and chili paste, chives, cucumbers, fennel, jicama, leeks, mushrooms, nori, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, scallions, shallots, sprouts, tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples, apricots (esp. dried), avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries (dried), figs, grapefruit, grapes, lemon, limes, mangoes, olives, oranges, pears, persimmons, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, raisins, strawberries, tangerines

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, corn, corn chips, corn tortillas, croutons, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Buttermilk, cheese (in general, esp. asiago, blue, cheddar, feta, goat, Gorgonzola, mozzarella, Parmesan), crème fraiche, yogurt

Other Foods: Honey, mayonnaise, miso, mustard (prepared), oil (esp. flaxseed, grapeseed, olive, sesame), soy sauce, tamari, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar (esp. balsamic, champagne, cider, red wine, rice wine, sherry, tarragon, white wine), vinaigrette dressings

Leafy SALAD greens have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…

Lettuce wraps, salads (i.e., grain, green, potato), sandwiches, burgers (of all types)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Leafy SALAD Greens
Add leafy salad greens to any of the following combinations…

Almonds + Avocado + Carrots + Tomatoes
Almonds + Citrus + Fennel
Almonds + Jicama + Orange
Apples + Celery + Hazelnuts
Apples + Celery + Lime + Raisins + Walnuts
Apples + Clementines + Endive + Walnuts
Avocado + Cilantro
Avocado + Grapefruit + Pecans + Radicchio
Avocado + Lime
Balsamic Vinegar + Garlic + Mustard + Olive Oil
Beets + Celery
Blue Cheese + Pears + Walnuts
Carrots + Cucumbers + Dill + Feta Cheese
Chickpeas + Cucumbers + Feta Cheese + Olives + Red Onions + Tomatoes
Chiles + Orange + Pecans
Dill + Garlic + Lemon + Scallions
Dill + Olive Oil + Red Wine Vinegar + Scallions
Dijon Mustard + Lemon + Olive Oil + Scallions
Fennel + Grapefruit
Feta Cheese + Tomatoes
Figs + Goat Cheese + Tarragon
Goat Cheese + Pecans
Goat Cheese + Strawberries
Gorgonzola Cheese + Hazelnuts + Lemon + Olives
Lemon + Parmesan Cheese
Lentils + Rice
Pears + Sherry Vinegar + Walnuts

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, capers, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, curry spices, dill, garlic, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, black-eyed peas, cashews, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, ham, lentils, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pork, salmon (seafood, in general), sausage, sesame seeds, shrimp, sunflower seeds, tofu, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Chiles, chives, fennel, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips

Fruits: Apples, avocado, coconut, lemons, limes, olives, oranges

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bread crumbs, corn, cornbread, grains (in general), millet, noodles (esp. Asian), pasta, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e., Parmesan, pecorino), coconut milk, cream

Other Foods: Miso, mustard, oil (esp. olive, sesame), soy sauce, stock, tamari, vinegar (esp. apple cider), wine (dry white)

Leafy BITTER and OTHER greens have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
African cuisines, Asian cuisines, Chinese cuisine, Indian cuisine, Japanese cuisine, pasta dishes, salads, soups (esp. bean, potato, root vegetable), Southeast Asian cuisines, Southern (U.S.) cuisine, stews, stir-fries, tofu scrambles

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Leafy BITTER and OTHER Greens
Add leafy bitter and other greens to any of the following combinations…

Apple Cider Vinegar + Black-Eyed Peas
Apple Cider Vinegar + Chili Flakes + Garlic
Chiles + Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil
Garlic + Ginger + Soy Sauce
Garlic + Lemon
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Onions
Garlic + Olive Oil + Tamari
Garlic + Tomatoes
Lemon Juice + Olive Oil + Rice
Onions + Tomatoes
Pasta + White Beans
Scallions + Sesame Oil + Tamari
Tomatoes + Zucchini

About the Different Types of Leafy Greens
Head varieties
of greens form more tightly formed heads than the leaf varieties of greens. This list is not all-inclusive, but covers many types of greens that may be found in stores in the United States.

Bok Choy
Bok choy is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It is also known as Chinese cabbage, pok choi, and other names in various cultures around the world. The flavor of bok choy is very mellow with a mild, peppery spice. The flavor is similar to cabbage. Bok choy leaves are tender yet crisp. The stalks are crunchy, firm and juicy. Depending on the variety, the leaves may be dark green or yellow-green, and the stalks may be yellow-green or off-white. Bok choy may be found in mature and “baby” sizes. Both are tender, but the baby variety is more so, and is often cooked whole. Bok choy is excellent when stir-fried, braised, steamed, sautéed, or added to soups. The leaves may be eaten raw in salads. Bok choy is usually found in most American grocery stores and should also be available in most Asian markets. One outstanding nutritional feature of bok choy is that it contains selenium, a mineral that helps cognitive function, thyroid function, metabolism, immunity, and possibly cancer prevention.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica plant family. They have compact, small heads with tightly bound leaves, and are usually one to two inches in diameter when mature. They are similar in flavor to cabbage, but can be somewhat bitter, depending on the cooking method. Younger Brussels sprouts are sweeter than larger, more mature ones.

Brussels sprouts may be eaten raw when grated or shaved finely. More often they are cooked. However, they taste their best when not boiled, as boiling brings out their sulfurous, bitter flavor more than any other cooking method. Roasting, quick braising, or pan frying in oil or butter are better methods of cooking Brussels sprouts for the best flavor. Their flavor is complimented well with garlic, shallots, thyme, rosemary, and sage. They can be added to casseroles, gratins, and roasted vegetable medleys. They pair well with bacon, pork, cheese, cream, eggs, ham, grapefruit, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon, hollandaise sauce, maple syrup, mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, pepper, pistachios, and pancetta.

Cabbage
Cabbage is a member of the Brassica plant family, so it is related to Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale, among other greens. The heads can grow in green, white, or purple colors. Cabbage can have a somewhat bitter flavor when raw, but mellows when cooked. Cabbage is often sautéed or added to soups and stir-fries. It can also be stuffed or made into cabbage rolls. Many cultures ferment cabbage into sauerkraut or kimchi. Cabbage offers a lot of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, folate, manganese and many antioxidants. Cabbage, like other members of the Brassica plant family contain properties that have been shown to help prevent various forms of cancer.

Endive
Endive is a member of the Cichorium plant family. This same family also includes dandelions and sunflowers. It is sometimes marketed as Belgium endive or frisée. The flavor of endive is nutty and mellow. It is usually added to salad with other mixed greens. Belgium endive is most often roasted or grilled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, which brings out its nutty flavor. Endive is a good source of Vitamins A and K, along with folate and kaempferol, an antioxidant that is known for reducing inflammation.

Escarole
Escarole has dark, thick leaves that are bunched up together, making it look like a head of lettuce. Lighter leaves have a sweet flavor, while the darker leaves are more bitter. When used raw in salads and sandwiches, escarole adds a strong flavor to the dishes it’s included in. The strong flavor mellows when the leaves are cooked. They are often sautéed or added to soups. Escarole contains a lot of Vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, and fiber.

Lettuce (Romaine)
Romaine lettuce is a popular variety of lettuce that has large, dark green leaves with firm ribs attached to a base. This variety of lettuce is crisp and mild in flavor. It is usually the main ingredient in Caesar salad. However, romaine lettuce may be used in any type of salad, lettuce wraps, or sandwiches as desired. Most of the nutrients in romaine lettuce are found in the dark, thick leaves. They are especially high in Vitamins A and K.

Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage)
Napa cabbage is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It has many names that vary from country to country. The flavor is delicate, mild and a bit sweeter than green cabbage. It is watery yet firm and crunchy with thick stalks. The leaves are thinner and more delicate than those of green cabbage. They are tender and juicy when cooked. Napa cabbage is best when cooked in stir-fries and soups. It can be shredded and included in salads, slaws, and wraps. Napa cabbage is often used in making kimchi, and as a filling for Chinese dumplings.

Radicchio
Radicchio is a bitter vegetable that is often mistaken for a colorful variety of lettuce or cabbage. It is actually a type of chicory, and is often called Italian chicory because it is used a lot in Italian cuisine. Radicchio forms a round or elongated head with deep reddish-purple leaves with white veins. It may be eaten raw in salads or slaws, for a distinct spicy bitterness. When eaten raw, radicchio is often paired with something sweet or acidic to balance the flavors. Cooking mellows the bitterness of radicchio, and actually sweetens it some.  Radicchio roasts, sautés, and grills up well, and can also be slow-cooked and combined with other vegetables and/or meat. Radicchio is particularly high in Vitamin K, which helps with cognition, and heart and bone health. It is also high in antioxidants, helping to protect us from oxidative stress. It also contains good amounts of other nutrients, including Vitamins C and B6, magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, potassium, and selenium, among others.

 

Leaf varieties of greens form loose heads or individual leaves. This list is not all-inclusive, but covers many types of greens that may be found in stores in the United States.

Arugula
Arugula is sometimes called “rocket.” It is a member of the Brassica plant family. The flavor of arugula is peppery. This characteristic makes it a green that is often added raw to salads and pizza for added flavor. Arugula can also be sautéed and added to pasta dishes and soups for an added flavor dimension. Arugula is high in dietary nitrates, carotenoids, Vitamin K, and folate.

Beet Greens
Like turnip greens, beet greens are often discarded. But they are edible and can be used just like spinach. They can add some wonderful flavor and interesting color to any dish. The flavor of beet greens is earthy, much like their bulbs. They are very tender, so they can easily be enjoyed raw in salads, and they pair well with a lemon-based or vinaigrette dressing. When beet greens are sautéed or steamed, the dark red color in the stalks remains intact, which makes them a colorful addition to any plate. They make great additions to soups and side dishes. Beet greens are rich in potassium, fiber, beta-carotene, and lutein. They also contain a lot of calcium, and Vitamins A and K.

Broccoli
The broccoli crown (floret) that we typically see in the grocery store may not appear to be a “leafy” green vegetable. But in actuality, the crowns we buy are the flowering heads of the leafy green broccoli plant that is maturing and about to produce seeds. So, the broccoli plant itself is a leafy green vegetable. It would be a very rare occasion (if at all) to find broccoli leaves in your local market. In fact, just about the only way to access broccoli leaves would be for you to grow the plant yourself. The leaves are perfectly edible and are quite delicious. They are mild and not overly bitter, like many similar leafy greens. They may be prepared like any bitter green such as kale, collards, or turnip greens.

In a study published in the April 2018 issue of the journal Molecules, researchers compared a nutritional analysis of broccoli crowns, stems, and leaves. The crowns had higher concentrations of amino acids and glucoraphanin (the precursor to sulforaphane, a compound with strong health benefits) when compared with the other tissues. The leaves were higher in carotenoids, chlorophylls, Vitamins E and K, total phenolic content, and antioxidant activity. The leaves were also good sources of calcium and manganese when compared with the stem and florets of the plant. So, if you grow your own broccoli, don’t toss out the leaves! Enjoy them as you would any leafy green vegetable. If you don’t grow broccoli, enjoy broccoli florets on a regular basis.

Broccoli Rabe
Despite its name, broccoli rabe is actually part of the turnip family of plants. It is often called turnip broccoli, rapini, Italian turnip, broccoli rabe, and broccoletti di rapa. The flavor of broccoli rabe is bitter, so it is usually cooked which mellows the flavor. It may be sautéed, blanched, boiled, or steamed. It is often sautéed with garlic and onion, and topped with Parmesan cheese. Broccoli rabe is high in potassium, fiber, and pantothenic acid.

Chard
There are many varieties of chard plants, but all have dark leaves with a long stalk in the center. The stalks can be a variety of colors, and marketed as rainbow, red, yellow, or white chard. It may also be referred to as leaf beet, sea kale, or silver beet. Chard has a mellow, earthy flavor, with stalks that are slightly sweet. It is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. The stalks take longer to cook than the leaves, so they are often separated so they can be cooked for appropriate times. Chard is often sautéed or steamed then added to soups, casseroles, or even tacos. Chard can be eaten raw, but the leaves can be tough. The stems can provide a crunchy snack. Swiss chard is high in Vitamins A, K, and C, along with potassium, and manganese.

Collard Greens
Collard greens are also known as collards, borekale, and tree cabbage. The plant has thick, dark green leaves that are packed with nutrients. The flavor of their rather tough leaves is slightly bitter, so although they can be eaten raw, they are most often cooked to tenderize them and remove the bitterness. Collard greens are often braised or steamed and served with pork. They can also be added to stir-fries, slaws, and even sandwiches. Collard greens are exceptionally high in Vitamin K.

Dandelion Greens
Even though we consider them to be weeds in the lawn, all parts of the dandelion plant are edible: the flower, roots, and stem. If you elect to pick them out of your yard to eat, be sure they have not been tainted with pesticides, even from a neighbor’s yard. The flavor of dandelion greens is earthy and somewhat nutty. The greens may be eaten raw in salads and sandwiches. They may also be sautéed and added to casseroles. Some chefs use dandelion greens in place of spinach to add a unique touch to pasta dishes. Interestingly, the nutritional value of dandelion greens remains even after being cooked. They are full of Vitamins E, A, and C, and folate. They also contain a substantial amount of calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Kale
There are different varieties of kale that vary in shape, color, and degree of tenderness. Kale is typically dark green with a strong stem in the middle with leaves that are curly at the ends. Kale is slightly bitter when eaten raw, but mellows when cooked. It is often sautéed, added to soups, and roasted as kale chips. Kale may also be eaten raw in salads. Younger, baby kale leaves would be more tender and easier to eat in a salad. To get the most nutritional value out of kale, eat it raw, or drink freshly made kale juice. Kale is exceptionally high in Vitamins A, K, B6, and C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese.

Kohlrabi Greens
Kohlrabi is a member of the Brassica plant family. Kohlrabi greens are simply the long stalks with leaves attached that grow upward from kohlrabi bulbs. The stalk matches the color of the kohlrabi bulb, which can be white or purple. The flavor of the greens is mild and sweet, similar to broccoli. The leaves and stalks of kohlrabi are usually cooked, and can easily be sautéed with garlic in oil, like any leafy green. Kohlrabi greens are packed with antioxidants that are known to help prevent cancer and heart disease. They are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and Vitamins C and B6.

Mustard Greens
There are different varieties of mustard, but all have a peppery, spicy flavor. They are a staple in Southern USA cooking and are often cooked until soft and served with ham. The longer they are cooked, the less spicy is their flavor. Adding a little lemon juice or vinegar at the end of cooking helps to tame the flavor. Mustard greens are often used to make zesty mustard sauces. The seeds are used to make the condiment we know as prepared mustard. Mustard greens are a good source of calcium, folate, magnesium, and Vitamin K.

Pak Choi
Pak choi is a member of the Brassica family. It is a non-heading Chinese cabbage with many varieties that are also known as Bok choy, Bok choi, and Bai cai among other names. It is considered to be one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world and is commonly used in Asian cuisine. It is used in both hot and cold dishes.

Pak choi has oval-shaped leaves with curved, thick stems loosely clustered to a bulbous base. The stems can range in color from white to pale green and are crunchy with a slightly fibrous texture. Both the leaves and stems are edible. When eaten raw, Pak choi has a sweet, mustard-like flavor. When cooked, it becomes more tender and the flavor mellows to being similar to cabbage and spinach. Pak choi is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, along with Vitamins B6, K, and E, magnesium, potassium, iron, manganese, and calcium.

Pak choi is excellent for raw uses, such as in salads and slaws. It is also excellent in cooked applications, such as steaming, boiling, grilling, braising, and sautéing. After being cooked, it is often topped with a sauce, or included in soups, noodle dishes, stir-fries, or served as an accompaniment to meats. It may also be pickled for preservation and extended use.  It is sometimes mixed into pasta dishes, added to gnocchi, and served in grain bowls. Pak choi pairs well with mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, citrus, tofu, fish, pork, duck, and other poultry.

Radish Greens
Radish greens are often discarded, but they are completely edible. They have a similar peppery flavor and texture profile as turnip greens. However, radish greens are not usually eaten raw because the leaves can be prickly. Nevertheless, they can be pureed into a zesty pesto. Cooked radish greens are versatile. They can be roasted as a spicy side dish, or added to stir-fries. They can also be added to creamy soups and quiches. Radish greens are high in fiber and iron, making them a green to consider when fighting anemia. They also contain Vitamins A, C, and K, along with antioxidants.

Sorrel
Sorrel is sometimes referred to as sour grass, spinach dock, or sour dock. It has narrow, spade-like leaves that can sometimes be confused with mature spinach. The flavor is tart and acidic. Sorrel is popular in Europe and Central Asia, and can be hard to find in the United States. It can be eaten raw and is often served in salad blends with mixed greens. Sorrel can be added to soups and stews. When cooked, sorrel takes on a lemony flavor that goes well with fish.

Spinach
Spinach has dark-green, rounded leaves. It is a very versatile and often used leafy green, so it should be available in most grocery stores. The mild flavor of spinach allows it to complement many dishes. It can be eaten raw in a salad or sandwich, or cooked in side-dishes and entrées. Spinach may be added to omelets, phyllo pastry, pasta dishes, and even smoothies. It is important to know that the volume of spinach dwindles down dramatically when it is cooked, which means you should probably use more than you think you should when cooking spinach. Spinach is packed with nutrients and is one of the most protein-rich green vegetables. It is also rich in folate, which is critical in red blood cell production, and also helps in proper fetal development during pregnancy.

Tatsoi. Tatsoi is a member of the Brassica family of plants. It is also known as spinach mustard, spoon mustard, rosette bok choy, and Japanese spinach. It has a slightly bitter flavor, like mustard greens, but milder. It has thick, dark green leaves with crisp, juicy stalks. Tatsoi is best cooked, when added to soups, stir-fries, or simply sautéed. Baby tatsoi can be served raw in salads. In the United States, Tatsoi may not be found at most grocery stores; however, Asian markets may carry it.

Turnip Greens
Like many leafy vegetables, turnips are in the Brassica plant family. The greens are simply the leafy tops that grow upward from turnips. The greens have a slightly peppery flavor and are often cooked in a similar way as collard greens. They can be braised or sautéed and served with ham shanks and potatoes. They are sometimes prepared in a slow cooker into a rich and spicy soup. Turnip greens are almost always cooked. They have a prickly texture which makes them undesirable for eating raw. Turnip greens are more nutritious than turnip bulbs. They are packed with antioxidants, calcium, manganese, and Vitamins A, C, and K.

Watercress
Watercress is an aquatic plant that has small, rounded leaves. Like many of the foods discussed in this article, watercress is also a member of the Brassica plant family. The flavor of watercress is similar to that of arugula and mustard greens. It tastes slightly spicy and bitter. Watercress may be eaten raw or cooked. It is often sautéed or cooked as a side dish or added to soups. It supplies a lot of Vitamin K and antioxidants and has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Watercress is often used in herbal medicine around the world.

Recipe Links
50 Ways to Get More Leafy Greens in Your Life https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/ways-to-get-more-leafy-greens-in-your-life/

79 Green Vegetable Recipes for Soups, Salads, Sautés, and More https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/best-green-vegetable-recipes-gallery

19 New Ways to Eat Leafy Greens https://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/leafy-greens-recipes

13 Leafy Green Dinners That Go Beyond Kale https://www.brit.co/living/healthy-eating/leafy-green-dinners-recipes/

Creative Vegetarian Recipes That Make Leafy Greens the Star of Your Plate https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/meal-ideas/sayonara-salad-17-creative-vegetarian-recipes-using-leafy-greens

Basic Sautéed Leafy Greens https://bostonorganics.grubmarket.com/recipes/chard/basic-sauteed-leafy-greens

Tortellini, White Bean, and Turnip Greens Soup Recipe https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/tortellini-white-bean-and-turnip-greens-soup-recipe

Roasted Baby Turnips with Turnip Green Pesto https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/roasted-baby-turnips-recipe

Turnip Green Salad Recipe https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/turnip-green-salad-recipe

Turnip Greens Soup https://www.yummly.com/recipe/Turnip-Greens-Soup-996412

Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Salad https://rainbowplantlife.com/roasted-butternut-squash-and-cabbage-salad/

Vegan Chickpea Quinoa Arugula Salad with Lemon Garlic Dressing https://shortgirltallorder.com/chickpea-quinoa-arugula-salad#

Japanese Spinach Salad with Sesame Dressing https://okonomikitchen.com/spinach-gomaae/

Vegan Cobb Salad https://www.eatingbirdfood.com/vegan-cobb-salad/#wprm-recipe-container-35408

The Ultimate Fall Salad https://www.makingthymeforhealth.com/the-ultimate-fall-salad/

Kale Citrus Salad https://minimalistbaker.com/kale-citrus-salad/

Thanksgiving Kale Salad with Maple-Tahini Dressing https://www.eatingbyelaine.com/thanksgiving-kale-salad-with-maple-lemon-tahini-dressing/

Vegan Kale Salad with Almond Butter Dressing https://thevegan8.com/garlic-lemon-kale-salad#wprm-recipe-container-34252

Kale and Zucchini Salad with Roasted Parsnip Chips https://thekoreanvegan.com/kale-and-zucchini-salad-with-roasted-parsnip-chips/

Arugula Salad with Peaches https://lifemadesweeter.com/arugula-salad-red-cabbage-pomegranate-orange-pineapples/#wprm-recipe-container-30804

38 Amazing Broccoli Recipes Even Broccoli Haters Can’t Hate https://www.delish.com/cooking/nutrition/g241/broccoli-recipes/

Caramelized Broccoli with Garlic https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/caramelized-broccoli-garlic

Our Very Best Broccoli Recipes https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/photos/broccoli-recipes

Roasted Broccoli https://www.loveandlemons.com/roasted-broccoli/

50 of the Best Broccoli Recipes We’ve Ever Tasted https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/superstar-broccoli-recipes-even-picky-eaters-will-love/

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli https://damndelicious.net/2014/09/19/garlic-parmesan-roasted-broccoli/

Sautéed Broccoli https://www.loveandlemons.com/sauteed-broccoli/#wprm-recipe-container-52652

Resources
https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-know-your-leafy-greens

https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/green-leafy-vegetables#how-to-add-to-the-diet

https://www.seriouseats.com/asian-green-guide#toc-tatsoi

https://www.webstaurantstore.com/article/526/types-of-greens.html#top

https://eatfresh.org/discover-foods/leafy-greens

https://www.thespruceeats.com/all-about-radicchio-radicchio-rosso-3955258

https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-radicchio#2

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Pac_Choi_13230.php

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-k/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566462/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319645#Low-vitamin-K-1-intake-correlates-with-LVH

https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/10/1960/4727995

https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20021122/folic-acid-for-your-heart

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/ntds/conditioninfo/causes

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/neural-tube-defects

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/different-kinds-of-lettuces-and-greens

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lutein-and-zeaxanthin

https://nevegetable.org/crops/lettuce-endive-and-escarole

https://foodiosity.com/endive-vs-lettuce/

https://www.sunriseseniorliving.com/blog/january-2016/foods-to-try-that-are-high-in-folate.aspx

https://livinghealthworks.com/leafy-greens-to-prevent-and-fight-cancer/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/blanching-and-freezing-leafy-greens-1327683

https://foodsguy.com/freeze-greens-without-blanching/

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Brussels_Sprouts_1413.php

https://www.eatthis.com/side-effect-eating-leafy-greens/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/glucoraphanin

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6017511/

https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-many-types-and-health-benefits-of-kale

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708350/

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/joph/2015/523027/

https://kerrinboothnaturopath.com/2018/05/11/macular-degeneration-and-retinal-detachment/

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Grapes

Grapes 101 – The Basics

Grapes 101 – The Basics

About Grapes
Most people are familiar with grapes, which are small round or oval sweet-tart berries with semi-translucent flesh encased in a smooth skin. They have become a popular treat around the world and because of modern day shipping, they are available year-round in most places.

Grapes are native to many parts of the world, including parts of Asia, Africa, and North America. They have grown wild since prehistoric times. Evidence shows that grapes were cultivated in Asia as far back as 5,000 B.C. People enjoyed grapes so much, that the fruit was carried around the world and is now cultivated everywhere except in Antarctica. Worldwide, about 30,000 square miles of land are planted with grapes. The annual production is about 150 trillion pounds of grapes. Italy, China, Spain, and France grow about half of all commercially produced grapes. Other key grape-producing countries include Turkey, Chile, Argentina, Iran, South Africa, and Australia. In the United States, over 90% of all commercially grown table grapes are produced in California, where over 700,000 acres of table, wine, and raisin grapes are cultivated.

There are 60 different species of grapes with literally thousands of varieties scattered around the world. Basic types include table grapes (usually enjoyed fresh), wine grapes (used for making wine), and raisin grapes (used for making dried fruit). Some contain edible seeds, while others are seedless. Like blueberries, grapes are often covered by a protective whitish bloom.

Table grapes are often larger in size and have been developed to be seedless, with relatively thin skins. Wine grapes are often smaller in size, contain seeds, and have relatively thick skins, which help to provide the wine with a richer aroma. All types of grapes come in a variety of colors. Green, red, and black are the most commonly found colors in the United States. However, grapes may also be yellow, blue black, crimson, pink, and purple. Raisins are made from dehydrating grapes either in the sunlight or oven drying.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
With regard to specific nutrients in grapes, their shining star appears to be more in their phytonutrients rather than vitamins and minerals. However, grapes do have some noteworthy nutrients to mention. Both red and green grapes have a significant amount of copper, along with appreciable amounts of Vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium, manganese, Vitamin C, magnesium, Vitamin A, fiber, and iron. One cup of red or green grapes has 104 calories. Of course, they have a high water content along with plenty of naturally occurring sugars.

As a group, grapes have an amazing phytonutrient content. While no one variety of grape will be high in all of the phytonutrients found in grapes, collectively they have been widely studied and the list of phytonutrients in grapes appears to be ever-growing. The phytonutrient compounds found in grapes include: Stilbenes (resveratrol, piceatannol, and pterostilbene), Flavanols (catechins, epicatechins, procyanidins, proanthocyanidins, and viniferones), Flavonols (quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin), Phenolic Acids (caffeic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and gallic acid), Carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin).

Also, grapes have been shown to contain melatonin and unique oligopeptide molecules that have antibacterial and other beneficial properties. With so many beneficial phytonutrients, it is not surprising that grapes have been found to offer many health benefits supporting the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, inflammatory, blood sugar regulating, and nervous systems. They have also been found to offer cancer prevention, lowering the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers, in particular.

Raisins. Raisins are dehydrated grapes processed either through the heat of the sun or oven drying. While raisins can be a good addition to a healthy diet, they should not be considered to be a substitute for fresh grapes. The dehydration process removes water, concentrating the sugar and calories in the grapes. For every ounce of raisins, you have four times the amount of sugar and calories that you would find in an ounce of fresh grapes. Also, we should not assume that information that applies to fresh grapes would also apply to dehydrated grapes. Separate research would need to be conducted on raisins to determine their health benefits and related information as it applies to the dehydrated fruit. Nevertheless, raisins can be a healthful and tasty addition to snacks, cereals, salads, and other recipes.

Antioxidant Benefits. The total number of different antioxidant nutrients found in grapes totals well into the hundreds! It is noteworthy that these compounds are concentrated largely in the seed and skin of grapes. However, it is important to eat the whole grape since there is also value in the flesh too.

Research on the antioxidant benefits of grapes includes preventing certain oxygen-related enzymes from becoming overactive, increasing our blood levels of glutathione (a critical antioxidant nutrient), helping to protect cell membranes from free radical damage, lowering levels of oxygen reactive molecules in the blood, reducing the oxidation of fat, and lowering biomarkers of oxidative stress.

Anti-inflammatory Benefits. Along with their strong antioxidant support, grapes also provide us with equally strong anti-inflammatory benefits. Grapes have been found to lower the risk of inflammation by reducing the activity of pro-inflammatory messaging molecules and the overproduction of pro-inflammatory enzymes.

Cardiovascular Benefits. The cardiovascular system benefits in many ways from the abundant antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in grapes. The following benefits have been found through research studies on grapes and grape components:

* Better blood pressure regulation (including lowering high blood pressure)
* Better regulation of total cholesterol (including lowering high total cholesterol)
* Reducing LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels
* Reducing LDL oxidation
* Reducing the levels of reactive oxygen molecules in the blood
* Reducing cell adhesion to blood vessel walls
* Reducing clumping of platelet cells, when such clumping is inappropriate
* Enhancing the release of nitric oxide from the lining of blood vessel walls in situations where vasodilation is needed
* Better inflammatory regulation in the blood
* Increased levels of glutathione in the blood

Blood Sugar Benefits. Grapes are classified as a low-glycemic index food, with a value ranging from 43 to 53. Research has connected grape intake to better blood sugar balance, better insulin regulation, and increased insulin sensitivity. It is speculated that the strong phytonutrient content of grapes is largely responsible for these benefits.

Anti-Ageing and Longevity. Some of the phytonutrients in grapes appear to play a role in longevity and may provide anti-aging benefits. Resveratrol (a stilbene phytonutrient found mostly in grape skins, but also in grape flesh and seeds), has been shown to increase the expression of three genes related to longevity. Some researchers have shown a link between resveratrol and these specific genes by activation through diets that keep us optimally nourished with fewer calories. This combination appears to increase our chances of healthy aging and longevity.

Cognitive Benefits. Several recent studies have shown that grapes may provide us with some important cognitive benefits. One human study found improved scores on the California Verbal Learning Test after participants drank 1 to 2 cups of Concord grape juice a day over several months. Other animal studies have shown that excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain could be prevented with grape extracts. Grape extracts have also been found to reduce pro-inflammatory messaging molecules in the brain. Large-scale human studies are needed to confirm these findings, but the benefits look very promising.

Anti-Microbial Benefits. A number of phytonutrients in grapes (including quercetin and resveratrol) have been shown to have anti-microbial properties. Research in this area is very young, but scientists speculate these compounds may help prevent microbe-related problems like food-borne illness.

Anti-Cancer Benefits. Chronic oxidative stress and inflammation are key factors in the development of cancer. Since grapes have abundant supplies of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, they can help lower our risk for cancer by reducing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Current research has focused primarily on the effects of the antioxidants in grapes on breast, colon, and prostate cancers.

Vision Benefits. According to a study by researchers at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami, Florida, grapes can help to ward off eye diseases. This benefit is attributed to their lutein and zeaxanthin, two strong antioxidants that prevent free radicals from causing damage to the retina.

How to Select Grapes
For the best flavor and most antioxidants in grapes, choose those that are fully ripe. They should be plump and without wrinkles. They should be intact, firmly attached to healthy-looking stems and not leaking juice. The area of the grape around the attachment point should have the same color as the rest of the grape.

Color can be an indication of sweetness in grapes. Green grapes are medium sweet. They should have a slight yellowish hue. Red grapes are very sweet and should be mostly red. Purple or blue-black grapes are the least sweet, and should be a deep, rich color.

How to Store Grapes
Grapes will spoil and ferment at room temperature, so they should always be stored in the refrigerator. Store them unwashed loosely wrapped in a perforated or open container. It is helpful to place a paper towel or clean cloth in the container (under the grapes) so it can absorb any moisture released by the grapes, wicking it away so the grapes do not sit in drops of water. Grapes need air circulation to help keep from getting moldy, so a perforated or open container solves that problem. They should keep fresh for up to 5 days.

How to Prepare Grapes
Simply give your grapes a good rinse in fresh water. Having them in a colander is helpful so they don’t fall off into the sink. Allow them to drain well, and pat them dry if desired. Enjoy!

If you have standard commercially grown grapes (not organic) and want to remove any chemical residues from them, here’s an easy, scientifically-proven way to do it…

To a large bowl or pot, add a solution of 1 teaspoon of baking soda per 2 cups of water. Make enough solution to be able to completely cover the grapes. Allow them to sit in the solution for 15 minutes, then rinse them well. Pat them dry, if desired. Then use your grapes as desired. Grapes can be treated like this first before storing them in the refrigerator. When storing them after treatment, be sure to loosely wrap them in a paper towel or clean cloth, then place them in an open container in the refrigerator. This will allow time for any extra moisture to dry. Once they are completely dry, they can be transferred to a perforated container or left in the open container. Try to use them within 5 days.

How to Freeze Grapes
Grapes may be removed from stems, washed, and patted dry. Place the prepared grapes on a baking sheet (lined or not…either way will work) and place that in the freezer until the grapes are frozen. Then, transfer the frozen grapes to an airtight container or freezer bag and return them to the freezer. Use them within 12 months.

The flavor of frozen grapes will not be as strong as when they were fresh. Also, the texture will be very soft if thawed, so it is best to use them in their frozen state. Frozen grapes can be enjoyed as a simple snack, added to smoothies or beverages, blended with frozen banana as an added sweetener, or added to any fruit salad to help keep cut fruit cold.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Grapes
* Add grapes to any fruit salad for added color, flavor, texture, sweetness, and nutrition.

* Try adding fresh grapes to your favorite curry.

* Add grapes to your favorite green salad.

* Serve grapes with your favorite cheese.

* Make a parfait with yogurt, grapes, and bananas, or any other fruit(s) of choice.

* Make a simple fruit and spinach salad by tossing together some fresh spinach, tangerine sections, seedless grapes (halved), some toasted chopped walnuts, one chopped scallion or some chives, and top it with your favorite vinaigrette dressing. Add a little shredded cheese of choice, if desired.

* Make some fruit and cheese kabobs for your next lunch gathering. On skewers, alternate grapes, strawberries, and cheese cubes (i.e., cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses). Serve with a dip made of 1 cup vanilla yogurt, ½ cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons of honey, and ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

* If you’re making a dish that calls for grapes and you don’t have enough, you could substitute blueberries in place of the grapes.

* One pound of fresh table grapes = about 75 medium grapes = 2-1/2 to 3 cups.

* On a hot summer day, cool off by snacking on frozen grapes. Simply pull them off their stems, rinse and dry them, then pack them in a freezer bag or container. [To keep them from freezing together, freeze them on a tray first before placing them in the bag or container.] Enjoy them whenever you want a quick, frozen treat.

* Try a frozen grape slushie. Blend frozen grapes, and another fruit if you want, such as blueberries or strawberries (optional), along with some grape juice and some ice. Enjoy!

* To “wow” your guests at a gathering, try making chocolate dipped grapes. Wash the grapes ON their stems. Then snip the stems into small bundles of 3 or 4 grapes. Dab them dry or allow them to dry on a paper towel. Then, carefully dip the grapes halfway into melted chocolate of your choice. By dipping them only half way, you end up with two-toned colorful grapes that are delicious and also a delight to see on a fruit tray. You can bet they won’t last long!

* Try roasted grapes. Lightly coat them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast them on a sheet pan at 425F for 30 minutes. They will be blistered and caramelized on the outside and juicy, almost like grape jam on the inside. If you want to make them savory, add some fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs to the baking pan. Serve them as a condiment with meat of choice, on toast, spoon them over ice cream, add them to a green salad, toss them with pasta for a balance of sweet and spicy flavors, or add them to a cheese tray.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Grapes
Basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, salt, star anise, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Grapes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, cashews, chia seeds, fish, hazelnuts, lamb, lentils, nuts (in general), peanuts and peanut butter, pecans, pistachios, pork, poultry, pumpkin seeds, veal, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (esp. red), carrots, celery, celery root, cucumbers, endive (Belgian), fennel, greens (salad), jicama, onions, scallions, sprouts (i.e., radish, sunflower), tomatoes, watercress

Fruits: Apples and apples juice, avocados, bananas, blueberries, figs, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mango, melon, orange, pears, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Bulgur, farro, grains (in general), rice, quinoa

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (esp., blue, Brie, cream, feta, goat, ricotta, soft), mascarpone, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Caramel, chocolate, honey, mayonnaise, oil (esp. grapeseed, olive, walnut), rum, sugar, vinegar (i.e., balsamic, sherry, white wine), wine

Grapes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Desserts (i.e., tarts), pizzas, salads (i.e., fruit, grain, green, vegetable), salsas, soups (i.e., fruit, white gazpacho)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Grapes
Add grapes to any of the following combinations…

Apples + Bulgur + Lemon
Balsamic Vinegar + Ricotta Cheese
Cream Cheese + Ginger
Endive + Walnuts
Feta Cheese + Hazelnuts + Salad Greens
Feta Cheese + Lentils + Mint
Lemon + Sugar

Recipe Links
Grape and Arugula Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=168

10-Minute Fruit and Cheese Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=129

5-Minute Grapes in Honey-Lemon Sauce http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=219

Grape and Melon Salad http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=169

Ginger Yogurt with Fruit http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=127

Yogurt with Fruit http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=176

15 Things You Aren’t Making with Grapes (But Totally Should Be!) https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/creative-recipes-for-grapes/

18 Unconventional Grape Recipes to Step Up Your Dinner Game https://www.brit.co/grape-recipes/

12 Delicious Grape Recipes https://californiagrown.org/blog/12-delicious-grape-recipes/

5 Minute Grape Sorbet https://www.liveeatlearn.com/5-minute-grape-sorbet/

15 Great Recipes Starring Grapes https://www.marthastewart.com/275164/grape-recipes

33 Grape Recipes for Pizza, Jam, Salad and Pie https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/14-ways-to-cook-with-grapes-gallery

Easy Grape Jam https://www.fabfood4all.co.uk/easy-grape-jam/

Grape Recipes https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/16966/fruits-and-vegetables/fruits/grapes/

28 Gorgeous Grape Recipes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/gorgeous-grape-recipes/

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=40

https://www.myrecipes.com/how-to/can-you-freeze-grapes

https://www.healthshots.com/healthy-eating/superfoods/7-health-benefits-of-grapes-that-you-never-knew-about/

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/174683/wt1/1

https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/6-genius-ways-to-enjoy-grapes-including-frozen-grapes/

https://www.grapesfromcalifornia.com/foodservice-operators/top-21-ways-to-use-grapes/

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-roast-grapes-and-what-to-do-with-them-article

https://www.soupersage.com/complete-protein-pairings/grapes

https://producemadesimple.ca/what-goes-well-with-grapes/

https://www.foodandwine.com/fruits/berries/grapes/cooking-grapes?

https://spoonuniversity.com/how-to/made-for-each-other-meat-and-fruit-pairings

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Different Types of Onions

Onions 101 – About the Different Types of Onions

Onions 101 – About the Different
Types of Onions

About Onions
Onions are one of the oldest known cultivated vegetables believed to be grown for over 5,000 years. They are a culinary staple in most kitchens. Onions are available in many sizes, shapes, colors, and flavor intensities, with each type having its own unique uses in food preparation. Onions are members of the allium family, a group of pungent plants that includes literally hundreds of species. Besides onions, this plant family also includes garlic, leeks, chives, ramps, and many other such foods. Each member has its own special characteristics. This article covers helpful information about the most common types of onions that you may find in your local grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

 

Storage Onions
Storage onions are those that have been cured (laid out to dry) after being harvested. They can be kept fresh for months when stored properly. According to the National Onion Association, the best way to keep storage onions is in a cool, dry, dark and well-ventilated room, such as a pantry, cellar, basement or garage. The ideal temperature is 40-50°F. A dry, cool environment helps to keep them from sprouting or rotting. Ventilation helps to prevent molding and rotting. Avoid keeping them in a plastic bag since the trapped humidity and lack of ventilation will cause them to age faster. An open basket, bamboo steamer, mesh bag, netted bag, or even hung up in old pantyhose will work well for keeping storage onions. Keeping them in darkness also helps them to last longer. The lack of sunlight reduces temperature and humidity changes, which promote onions to age faster. Examples of storage onions include yellow, red, and white onions.

Yellow Onions
Characteristics. Yellow onions are a type of storage onion. They are sometimes referred to as brown onions because their skin looks light brown after being cured. They are cured after being harvested, and can be kept for months when stored properly. Yellow onions are excellent all-purpose cooking onions. Because of their relatively high starch content, they won’t become overly mushy when cooked for an extended period of time. Yellow onions range in size from small to large. The average, medium size yellow onion is 2 to 3 inches in diameter and weighs about 3.88 ounces (110 grams). Almost all (about 90 percent) of the storage onions grown in the United States are yellow onions.

Flavor. Yellow onions are generally the preferred onion for most applications because their flavor is moderately sharp when raw, being between that of a red onion (sharp flavor) and a white onion (mild flavor). The flavor is sharp when eaten raw, but mellows when cooked. The flavor actually becomes sweet when yellow onions are caramelized.

Best Uses. Since yellow onions are considered to be an all-purpose onion, they can be used any time a recipe calls for onions.  If a recipe doesn’t call for a specific type of onion and you’re not sure which onion to use, yellow onions should be your automatic choice. They work exceptionally well in any dish that requires a long cooking time, such as stews, stocks, braises, and soups. They also work well in meat dishes, including roasts. Yellow onions can be used as a substitute for any onion. Yellow onions are the preferred variety for making onion rings, French onion soup, and Bloomin’ onion recipes.

Red Onions
Characteristics. Red onions are storage onions with a red-purple skin with white layers inside, each with a purple coating.  They are sometimes referred to as purple onions or salad onions. The richly-colored skin is due to the presence of anthocyanins and flavonoids, which are valuable antioxidants with important health properties. Red onions lose their color when cooked, so many people prefer to use them in raw applications. Red onions make up about ten percent of the onion crop in the United States. Red onions may be used as a substitute for white onions.

Flavor. Resources have conflicting information regarding the flavor of red onions. Some state they have a milder flavor than yellow onions, while other say their flavor is sharper and spicier than that of yellow onions. Personally, I have found both to be true, with some red onions being mild in flavor, while others are extremely sharp. When using a red onion for a raw application, it is advisable to taste a small piece as you are preparing the onion. If the flavor is mild, use it as needed. If the flavor is very sharp and needs some taming for your application, soak it in a bowl of cold water as you’re doing your food preparation. Soaking will help to keep it crisp as you’re working with other foods, and will also tame the flavor making it more tolerable for being eaten raw.

Best Uses. Red onions are most often used in raw foods such as salads and salsas. They may also be sliced and added as a burger or sandwich topping. Red onions may also be pickled and grilled, where their inside will turn into a type of onion jam. Red onions may be cooked, although cooking tends to wash out their rich color, and also diminishes their flavor.

White Onions
Characteristics. White onions are storage onions that are round, medium to large in size, and with thin, white, papery skins. They have a high water content, so they are very crisp. They are most commonly used in Mexican cuisine. White onions make up about 5 percent of the onion crop in the United States.

Flavor. White onions have a flavor similar to yellow and red onions, that is pungent yet mildly sweet. It has less of a lingering aftertaste than their yellow and red counterparts. If you find you need to tame the flavor, soak them in cold water for up to one hour.

Best Uses. White onions can be used as a substitute for yellow or red onions, both in raw and cooked applications. The texture of white onions makes them a perfect addition to salsas, chutneys, and other raw food applications. They can be diced and added to salads, sauces, guacamole, and wraps. Sliced white onions are excellent on sandwiches and burgers. They can be chopped and added to soups, stews, stocks, and casseroles. They can also be grilled and served with roasted meats, or used as a pizza topping. They are excellent when sauteed, lending an almost sweet-sour flavor to food. White onions pair well with tomatoes, jalapenos, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, garlic, fennel, meats, poultry, seafood, beans, rice, and herbs such as bay leaves, tarragon, rosemary, marjoram, cilantro, and thyme. They also pair well with spices such as cumin, cinnamon, coriander, anise, and cloves. White onions will keep for one to two months when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.

 

Soft Onions
Soft onions are more delicate than storage onions. They should be kept (unwashed) in the refrigerator to extend their storage life. Store them in a perforated bag or wrapped in paper towels within a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They should be used within 4 to 5 days of purchase. Examples of soft onions include sweet onions, green onions (AKA scallions), and Spring onions.

Sweet Onions
Characteristics. Sweet onions are medium to large in size. With their light brown papery skin, sweet onions look very much like yellow onions. However, they contain less sulfur and more water than yellow, red, and white onions. Because of that, they are milder and crisper than the storage onions. Sweet onions are usually named for the region where they are grown, such as Washington’s Walla Walla Onions, Georgia’s Vidalia Onions, and Hawaii’s Maui Onions. Such onions are often available only seasonally. They may be used as a substitute for yellow onions.

Flavor. Sweet onions are crisp yet tender, and mild in flavor. They are sweet without the sharpness of the common storage onions.

Best Uses. Sweet onions may be used in both raw and cooked applications. They are excellent when eaten raw on salads or sandwiches, fried into onion rings, or stuffed like you would a mushroom or tomato. They are also excellent when caramelized or used in dishes where onion is the main flavor, such as in onion soup. Sweet onions are excellent when roasted with other vegetables, blended into dressings, dips, and pesto, and roasted with meats. They pair well with basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary, fennel, garlic, chives, tomatoes, citrus fruits, avocado, apples, ginger, meats, seafood, legumes, pasta, cheese, cinnamon, and cloves.

Green Onions
Characteristics. Green onions are also called scallions, bunching onions, and sometimes erroneously called Spring onions. They are small to medium in size and grown in clusters of elongated, straight leaves with narrow, slender bases. The dark green leaves are smooth, stiff, and hollow with small, central tubes. The white base is dense, succulent, and firm with small white roots attached. They are milder and softer than any of the storage onions. Some people believe the white ends are not edible, but they actually are not only edible, but delicious! If you’re a gardener, save the root ends because they will regrow when planted.

Flavor.  Green onions are crisp and juicy with a grassy, sweet, slightly pungent flavor. Green onions have a much milder flavor than mature yellow and red onions. Their mild flavor allows them to easily be used in many raw applications. The whiter ends have a stronger, more oniony flavor than the green leaves. Because of the flavor differences, many people will use the green leaves for raw applications and save the white ends for adding to cooked dishes.

Best Uses. Green onions are excellent in both raw and cooked applications. They are delicious when served raw, such as sprinkled on a green salad. They are also often used as a garnish in soups and chili cheese fries. Green onions are often used in Asian and Latin American cooking. Green onions make an excellent addition to any recipe calling for raw onion. Try them in stir-fries, sauteed, roasted, and grilled dishes. Add them to pizza, pasta, casseroles, stews, and curries. Add minced green onions to deviled eggs, savory pancakes, salsa, biscuits, and sandwiches. Green onions pair well with sweet peas, Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, citrus fruits, eggs, meats, and seafood. Green onions will keep for up to five days when wrapped in paper towels within a plastic bag, tucked in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Spring Onions
Characteristics. Spring onions are nothing more than very young storage onions. They have small, round globes attached to a straight, layered stalk of overlapping leaves. The bulbs are smooth, firm, crisp, and have colors from white to red hues, depending on the variety. The dark green tubular leaves have a stiff, thick, and crunchy consistency. They are usually harvested early to give the other, nearby bulbs room to grow. As true to their name, they are very seasonal.

Flavor. Spring onions have a sweet, mild, mellow flavor. This is due to the fact that they have not yet developed the gases that are in more mature bulbs. The leaves have a stronger flavor, with herbaceous, pungent, and grassy notes.

Best Uses. Since Spring onions have a fresh, sweet, and subtle flavor, they are excellent for both raw and cooked applications. Both the bulb and leaves are edible, with the leaves having a stronger flavor than the bulb. The onions can be thinly sliced and added to salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, and slaws. They can also be added to soft cheeses, dips, and spreads on appetizer trays. Spring onions are excellent when grilled, roasted, simmered, sauteed, or braised. Spring onions can be a wonderful addition to soups and stews, baked in casseroles, used as a pizza topping, added to stir-fries, cream-based sauces, vinaigrette dressings, and egg dishes. They pair well with asparagus, sweet peas, lettuce, mushrooms, radishes, citrus fruits, potatoes, and meats.

 

Small Onions
These are simply varieties of onions that are small in size. Store them in a cool, dry, and dark place with good air circulation. Use within one to two months. When cut, store unused pieces, sealed in plastic wrap or an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use cut pieces within four days. Examples of small onions include shallots, Cipolline onions, and pearl onions.

Shallots
Characteristics. Shallots are small varieties of storage onions. Their size varies from small to large, depending on the variety. They are oblong with a rounded center and tapering ends. The bulbs have dry, papery, thin skin that flakes when touched. Colors range from copper, gold, and pale pink, to red. After being peeled, the interior consists of clusters of cloves, divided into individually wrapped segments, like garlic. Small shallots will average two or three cloves, whereas larger varieties may contain up to six cloves. The semi-dry flesh is off-white to translucent, firm, and dense, with light purple or red rings. Shallots are aromatic with a blend of spicy, sweet, and pungent flavors. They are crisp and not as pungent as yellow onions. The bulbs keep for one month when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Flavor. Shallots have a typical onion flavor, but are not as strong as storage onions. They are very mild and sweet. Shallots can be used any time you don’t want an overpowering onion flavor. When raw, shallots are crisp and astringent. When cooked, they have a delicate, sweet, and savory flavor, reminiscent of garlic.

Best Uses. Since shallots are rather mild in flavor, they can be used both raw and cooked. They can be added raw to salads, bruschetta toppings, and blended into sauces, guacamole, and vinaigrettes. They may also be roasted, pickled, sauteed, cooked with meats or vegetables, added to stews, blended into curries, baked into casseroles, stir-fried with rice, added to pasta, and sliced thin and fried. Shallots may be used in any cooked application and may be used as a substitute for any onion. Also, they can be used as a substitute for garlic, lending a slightly milder and sweeter flavor to the dish. Shallots pair well with beets, tomatoes, mushrooms, green beans, spinach, garlic, capers, meats, fish, cheeses, and herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, and mint.

Cipolline (or Cipollini) Onions
Characteristics. Cipolline onions look like small, squatty yellow onions. They are petite and squat, almost like saucers. They have thin, papery skin that adheres tightly to the flesh. To easily remove the skin, quickly place them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then transfer them to an ice water bath. The skin will be much easier to remove. The firm, juicy flesh of these onions is white and almost translucent. The bulbs will keep up to two months when stored in a cool, dry place.

Flavor. Cipolline onions are sweeter than the larger storage onions. When raw, Cipolline onions have a mild aroma with a semi-sweet, pungent flavor. When cooked, they sweeten and soften into a tender, almost melting texture.

Best Uses. Because of their natural sweetness, Cipolline onions are ideal for both raw and cooked applications. They may be roasted, baked, sauteed, and pickled. Their high sugar content makes them excellent candidates for caramelizing. Add them whole to stews, roasts, and casseroles. They may be chopped and mixed into mushroom tarts, pasta, potato salads, and kabobs. Cipolline onions pair well with balsamic vinegar, mushrooms, chives, green onions, fennel, parsley, thyme, tomatoes, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, potatoes, olives, red wine, and cured meats.

Pearl Onions
Characteristics. Pearl onions are sweet and small, averaging only one to four centimeters in diameter. They are round with slightly pointed ends. They can be found in red, white, and yellow varieties. Pearl onions have a thin, papery skin that flakes off easily. The flesh is firm, juicy, and crisp. The skin is often removed by boiling the whole onion for 2 minutes, then plunging them into ice water, cutting off the ends, then pinching the flesh out from under the skin. Sometimes pearl onions may be found (already peeled) in the freezer section of many grocery stores.

Flavor. The flavor of pearl onions is mild with a savory, sweet, and slightly less pungent flavor than full-sized storage onions when cooked.

Best Uses. Pearl onions are well suited for both raw and cooked applications. They may be creamed, roasted, pickled, and glazed. The small bulbs are commonly used whole. They may be included in stews, gratins, casseroles, braises, soups, stocks, added to meat and vegetable dishes, and even served alone. Pearl onions are an excellent option for being skewered with meats and vegetables and grilled for a caramelized finish. They pair well with parsley, basil, Dijon mustard, potatoes, green beans, peas, beets, turnips, tomatoes, paprika, red wine, mild flavored vinegars, meats, fish, and assorted cheeses.

 

Resources
https://www.bonappetit.com/story/types-of-onions-what-theyre-best-for

https://whatthingsweigh.com/how-much-does-an-onion-weigh/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-store-onions#regular-onions

https://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/ultimate-onion-cheat-sheet-which-onion-goes-best-with-what-0150676/

https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-the-difference-sweet-yel-130223

https://www.potandon.com/onions

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Spring_Onions_297.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/White_Pearl_Onions_2006.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Italian_Cipollini_Onions_5462.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/shallots_909.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Green_Onions_2223.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/california_sweet_onions_1015_2237.php

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/yellow_onions_689.php

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/white_onions_1219.php

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fiber 101 – The Basics (About the Types of Fiber and Their Varieties)

Fiber 101 – The Basics
About the Types of Fiber and Their Varieties

What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is sometimes called “roughage” and includes parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest or absorb. Other food components, like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive process and absorbed into the blood stream. Fiber, on the other hand, is a type of carbohydrate, but it cannot be digested by the human body. Instead, it travels through the stomach and intestinal tract providing food for our intestinal bacteria.

Researchers have found that increasing fiber intake over a mere two-week period significantly altered subjects’ gut microbiome. Specific species of bacteria that break down fiber were increased. When such bacteria digest fiber, they release short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs then become a source of fuel for the cells of the colon and are also used in cell signaling. Some SCFAs also have anti-inflammatory properties, and may influence insulin sensitivity and body weight.

Fiber has two general classifications: soluble and insoluble. Each type has its own health benefits in addition to providing food for the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines. The amount and types of fiber found in foods varies, but it is only found in plant foods. Whole, intact plant foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans, peas, nuts and seeds) will provide dietary fiber, whereas processed plant foods (such as white flour) will provide little to none. Animal-based foods do not provide dietary fiber.

What is insoluble fiber?
Insoluble fiber remains pretty much unchanged as it moves through the digestive tract. Humans do not have the enzymes necessary to break down insoluble fiber. Since it is not broken down during digestion, insoluble fiber does not provide calories in the diet. In the intestines, it absorbs fluid and binds to other nearby materials, forming stool. This type of fiber helps to move the contents of the intestines forward, warding off constipation and promoting bowel movements. Whole grains, nuts, beans, and vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.

Types of Insoluble Fiber and Their Food Sources
Cellulose. Cellulose is the main fibrous component of plant cell walls. Many vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower are rich in cellulose. Legumes, nuts, and bran from grains are also rich in cellulose. Cellulose passes through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, binding to food components moving them forward along the tract. Cellulose also helps to keep the digestive system healthy by feeding beneficial gut bacteria and supporting their colonies.

Hemicellulose. Hemicellulose is a type of dietary fiber that can be soluble or insoluble. It is a nondigestible fiber found in plant cell walls that can absorb and retain water in the gut. Despite the fact that it absorbs water, it has little effect on stool size. Hemicellulose can be digested by our gut bacteria. It is sometimes used in foods as an added fiber, thickener, emulsifier, or stabilizer. Green beans are high in hemicellulose. They are also found in cereal grains.

Lignin.  Lignin is another type of insoluble fiber that is part of the plant cell wall structure. Lignin provides rigidity to plants. It is also found in some seeds. Lignin is not broken down by human enzymes, and is also poorly digested by our gut bacteria. It absorbs water in the gut, and gives bulk to stool. Lignin can be found in whole grains (such as wheat and corn bran), legumes, vegetables (like green beans, carrots, horseradish, cauliflower, peas, and zucchini), fruits (like avocado, unripe bananas, peaches, and apples), and nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed and Brazil nuts). It is also found in edible seeds, such as those found in berries and tomatoes.

What is soluble fiber?
Soluble fiber is the type of plant fiber that absorbs water and fluids in the intestinal tract, forming a gel-like substance. The gel moves through the digestive tract and is digested by bacteria in the large intestine. The remainder is excreted in feces. The bacteria release gases as they digest the gel, which is what may cause some people to experience bloating when ingesting fiber-rich foods. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.

Types of Soluble Fiber and Their Food Sources
Inulin.  Inulin helps to keep you feeling full for longer since it slows digestion. This type of fiber also takes longer to absorb, which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal. Inulin is not digested in the stomach nor absorbed in the intestinal tract. Instead, it promotes the growth and support of beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Inulin is found in chicory root, grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, and fruits and vegetables such as bananas, garlic, onions, and asparagus. Inulin is readily fermented by our gut bacteria. This property may give some people GI distress when eating inulin-rich foods.

Gums and Mucilages. Gums are complex carbohydrates that are soluble in water, forming gels and mucilages. Mucilages are a type of thick, viscous gum in plant roots and seeds. The gelling characteristics of gums and mucilages allows them to be used in many food products as thickening agents, and additives for moisture retention, emulsification, and stabilization. Commonly used food sources of gums and mucilages include guar bean, locust bean (carob), tamarind, seaweed (agar and carrageenan), fenugreek, aloe vera, cactus, and flax.

Pectin.  Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that helps reduce the glycemic response in the body by slowing glucose absorption after a meal. Like other soluble fibers, pectin helps to feed our gut bacteria. It also helps to keep cholesterol down by flushing fatty acids out of the body. Pectins can be found in abundance in foods like apples, strawberries, citrus fruits, carrots, and potatoes. Legumes and nuts also contain pectins, but in smaller amounts.

Beta-Glucan.  Beta-glucan forms a gel in the intestinal tract that is fermentable by gut bacteria. It is considered to be a prebiotic, providing food for helpful bacteria. Beta-glucan may also be helpful in increasing satiety and managing blood sugar levels, thanks to the fact that it has a slow transit time in the stomach and intestines. Beta-glucan is plentiful in oats, barley, shiitake mushrooms, and reishi mushrooms.

Psyllium.  This soluble fiber is the active ingredient in products like Metamucil. It is known for softening stool, helping it to pass out of the body. Psyllium also forms a gel that binds to cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing its absorption into the body. Psyllium is also a prebiotic, feeding friendly bacteria in the gut. Psyllium is derived from a shrub-like herb (Plantago psyllium), grown mainly in India. It will not be found in any specific food source. However, it is often used in fiber supplements, both in powders and pills. Researchers have studied the effects of psyllium and found that it may help to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, diverticulosis, high blood pressure, and obesity. It may also improve diarrhea, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol. However, since it is a soluble fiber, those benefits may also be obtained from ample food sources of soluble fiber in the diet.

Resistant Starch. Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion in the small intestine. It travels pretty much intact until it reaches the large intestine. There, friendly bacteria feed on the undigested starch, so it is often referred to as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in the gut. Resistant starch also helps to control the appetite and reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal. Since resistant starch is not broken down during digestion, it does not release glucose, so it cannot raise blood sugar levels. It can also help to increase our feeling of fullness after a meal, and be used to treat and prevent constipation. It also helps to lower cholesterol, improve digestive health, and lowers the risk of colon cancer. Resistant starch is fermented slowly in the gut, so it causes less gas than other types of fiber. Legumes, peas, beans, lentils (with white beans and lentils being especially high in resistant starch), oats, barley, plantains, and unripe bananas are excellent sources of resistant starch.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The Institute of Medicine provides the following recommendations for adults:

* Men age 50 or younger should get 38 grams of fiber.
* Men age 51 and above should get 30 grams of fiber.

* Women age 50 or younger should get 25 grams of fiber.
* Women age 51 and above should get 21 grams of fiber.

Health organizations recommend that both children and adults should get about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they eat. That usually means that children ages 1 to 3 years should get about 10 grams of fiber a day. Children ages 4 to 8 years should eat about 25 grams of fiber a day.

Research has shown that the amount of fiber typically consumed in the Western diet is merely between 12 and 14 grams a day. Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the recommended amount of fiber. There is ample scientific evidence that indicates that dietary fiber affects normal physiologic function and the onset of chronic diseases and their progression. Therefore, increasing fiber intake offers a prime opportunity to improve our health and ward of serious chronic diseases.

Despite the above recommendations, there is scientific evidence that ancient man consumed as much as 100 grams of fiber a day! Of course, that was from unprocessed plant foods, primarily from fruits and vegetables. Keeping this in mind, we certainly have plenty of leeway for increasing our daily fiber intake with as many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains that we can manage to eat.

Benefits of a High Fiber Diet
To keep things easy and get the most benefit from your diet, focus on simple, whole, unprocessed plant foods. Work as many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as you can into your day without worry about how much soluble vs insoluble fiber you’re eating. Most plant foods have a combination of both in different ratios. What’s important when trying to reap the health benefits from fiber in foods is looking at the total picture and focusing on increasing your overall fiber intake through whole, unadulterated foods. The following are some benefits from enjoying a high fiber diet.

Prevents Constipation. Dietary fiber promotes the movement of the contents of the digestive tract forward. It increases stool weight and size, so it helps prevent constipation and irregular bowel movements. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool.

Helps Maintain Bowel Health. A high fiber diet helps to reduce your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in the colon (diverticular disease).

Aids in Weight Management. High fiber foods tend to be more filling than low fiber foods, so you’re less likely to overeat and more likely to feel full longer. Fiber takes up space in the stomach and intestines, which helps us to feel full after a meal, which in turn helps us to manage our weight. We’re less likely to overeat when the meal has had ample fiber. Furthermore, high fiber foods tend to be lower in calories than low fiber, processed foods or animal products. So, loading up on plant foods can help us to manage weight in more ways than one!

Cancer Prevention. Increased fiber intake may help to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports show that for each 10-gram increase in dietary fiber, the risk of colorectal cancer is lowered by 7 percent. There is also scientific evidence that indicates that a high-fiber diet may also be protective against breast, ovary, and endometrial, as well as gastrointestinal cancer.

Helps Prevent Heart Disease and More. Soluble fiber is especially important because it can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by reducing blood pressure, improving our blood lipid profiles, and reducing inflammation.

Soluble fiber is known to help lower blood cholesterol levels. In the digestive tract, soluble fiber binds with bile acids, carrying them out of the body in the feces. Bile acids are made in the liver from cholesterol, and exported to the gallbladder where it is stored until it is needed. When dietary fat leaves the stomach and enters the duodenum, the first section of the small intestine, the gallbladder receives the signal to release bile into the duodenum to emulsify the fat that just left the stomach. This is important because the emulsification process allows the fat to be disbursed among the watery fluids in the intestines. This improves the breakdown of foods and the absorption of nutrients. Without bile, fatty substances may tend to “float” toward the top of the watery fluids in the intestines, hindering the proper breakdown of foods and absorption of their nutrients.

When soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the digestive tract, it carries the bile out of the body through the feces. This action forces the liver to make fresh bile from cholesterol. This process helps to lower blood cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, while improving our blood lipid profiles and reducing inflammation.

If our diet does not contain enough soluble fiber to carry the bile out of the body, the unbound bile acids will be reabsorbed into the blood from the intestines, and carried back to the liver to be used again. When this happens, the bile becomes more concentrated with toxins, which in turn, can lead to inflammatory diseases such as gallbladder disease, intestinal inflammation, and even skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

Also, research suggests that increasing your dietary fiber intake is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Helps Control Blood Sugar Levels. In those with diabetes, fiber (especially soluble fiber) can slow the absorption of sugar helping to improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet with ample fiber may also reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Best Sources of Fiber
Categories of foods that can boost your fiber intake include:

* Whole-grains
* Fruits
* Vegetables
* Beans, peas, and other legumes
* Nuts and seeds

Refined or processed foods are lower in fiber than the fresh foods they were made from. This includes canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and cereals made with refined grains. The refining process of grains removes the bran, or outer coat, from the grain. This lowers the fiber content of the grain. Along with the removal of the bran, the germ layer is usually removed too. The germ is where many vitamins and minerals associated with the whole grain are found. When these two components are removed from grains, the inner starchy endosperm that remains is what is processed into white flour or sold as the refined grain. Many times, the refined grains are enriched where some (but not all) of the nutrients that were stripped away, are added back. However, the fiber content is not added back in the enrichment process. So, the only way to get the full nutritional value of a grain, including the fiber content, is to use only the whole grain.

Fiber Supplements.  Metamucil, Citrucel, and Fibercon are examples of fiber supplements. Some people may need such supplements if they suffer from bowel issues and dietary changes aren’t enough to fix the problem. It is advisable to check with your healthcare provider before starting such supplements.

Some specialty foods have fiber added to them. Some cereals, granola bars, yogurt, and ice creams are examples. The added fiber is usually inulin or chicory root. Before adding such foods to your diet, it is important to note that some people complain of gas and bloating after eating foods with these added fibers.

Generally speaking, whole foods are a better option than fiber supplements. Whole foods naturally provide a blend of soluble and insoluble fibers, along with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients that the fiber supplements don’t have. Consuming whole foods as nature provides, offers complementary nutrients that often have a synergistic effect on the body. In other words, their combined effect is often greater than if the individual components were taken separately. Furthermore, foods have many yet-to-be-discovered components that we will never find in isolated supplements. So, it is best to choose whole foods as nature provides, whenever possible.

Tips for Adding More Fiber to Your Diet
There are a LOT of ways to add more fiber to your diet. The following are just a few points that may help along the way. Try what works best for you for starters. Add more as you’re able to and build from there. Take it slow to allow your body (and gut microbiome) time to adjust to the new foods and added fiber intake. This approach will help you to avoid discomfort, gas and bloating, and possibly even diarrhea.

* Examine your usual breakfast. Are you eating low-fiber foods such as processed cereals, pastries, white bread, juice (pulp-free), and/or an array of no-fiber foods like animal products such as bacon, eggs, sausage, milk, cheese, and even yogurt? Try substituting some of those foods with high-fiber options, like oatmeal or a whole-grain cereal and fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.

* How about your snacks? Are you snacking on doughnuts, pastries, cake, cookies, candy, and a sugary beverage or coffee? Try replacing the calorie and fat-laden, low-fiber pastries with fresh fruit and maybe a cookie made simply from whole oats, bananas, a touch of cinnamon, and raisins. How about snacking on fresh vegetables and a small handful of nuts? Or enjoy a snack of vegetables dipped in hummus. Replace sugary beverages or coffee with a tall glass of lemon water or an herbal tea, sweetened with honey, if desired.

* Make it a routine to add a tossed green salad to either lunch or supper each day. Be mindful of what ingredients are added to the salad. Load it up with lettuce and other assorted fresh greens, and top it with assorted chopped fresh (or even lightly cooked) vegetables. Leave off the croutons, shredded cheese, and added meats. Use the simplest dressing you can tolerate. Even just a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime, or orange juice is extremely healthful, although it may take some time to get used to it if you’re accustomed to fat and/or sugar-laden dressings. Studies have shown that those who eat a salad or a small serving of vegetable soup before a meal not only increases fiber intake, but has been linked to eating fewer calories during the meal.

* Once you get used to enjoying a side salad every day, try increasing that to one meal a day consisting of a very large green salad. As detailed above, load it up with your favorite vegetables, and even fruit if you want. Add some cooked beans, peas or lentils for additional protein if you want. Top it with a simple dressing and enjoy! Work up to making this a daily routine and your health will benefit in many ways in addition to getting a nice fiber boost.

* Lean on legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are wonderful sources of fiber and added protein. Add legumes of choice to soups or a large meal salad.

* At least once a week, choose a meal of beans, peas, or lentils served over a whole grain of your choice. Brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, or even steel cut oats would all work well. Serve it with a large portion of any vegetable of choice and you’ll have a healthy, filling, fiber-filled meal.

* Try a wrap with cooked beans (pinto or black beans would be tasty), lots of fresh vegetables including leafy greens, served on a whole grain tortilla. Top your filling with salsa before rolling it up, and enjoy!

* Make it a point to load up on fruits and vegetables every day. Strive to eat at least five servings a day. As you get used to boosting your fruit and vegetable intake, try to slowly increase your servings to as many as ten servings a day. To do this, you may find that you need to cut back on other foods (the stomach can only hold so much!). Examine the foods you’re eating and identify the least healthful, most processed foods that you’re eating and strive to replace them with more healthful options. That will not only boost your fiber intake, but also will increase your vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and other phytonutrient intake as well. Your health can only benefit from such a transition.

* Make desserts count. Instead of indulging in cheesecake, ice cream, traditional cookies, or chocolate cake for dessert, opt for a piece of fresh fruit. If you yearn for ice cream, try blending a frozen banana and making “Banana Nice Cream.” If desired, it can be flavored with a little cocoa powder, cinnamon, added fruit, vanilla extract, or even a little milk of choice for smoothness and flavor.

* Enjoy fruit as a snack. Apples, pears, and berries are examples of high-fiber fruits that make a quick and easy snack. They are easy to transport also, and can be included in a packed lunch, tucked in the car when traveling, or stashed in a backpack when hiking.

* When shopping, always opt for whole grains rather than refined or processed foods made with refined flour. When at home, you’ll be reaching in the pantry for foods to prepare. If you don’t have it, you can’t prepare it. Make it a priority to buy only foods that you know will benefit your health.

* Try adding chia seeds to overnight oats, your favorite smoothie, or pudding.  Use chia seeds as an egg replacer in some dishes like quick breads, pancakes, and puddings. Combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 2-1/2 to 3 tablespoons of hot water in a small bowl. Allow it to rest about 5 minutes to thicken. Chia seeds provide omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, minerals, and about 10 grams of fiber per ounce. They are packed with nutritional value, so it pays to include them in your diet any way you can.

* Flax seeds are another high fiber seed to consider. They provide about 2 grams of fiber per tablespoon. Be sure to enjoy them ground rather than whole since they are very hard to break down in the digestive process. Add ground flax seeds to oatmeal, a smoothie, pudding, granola, breading, and baked goods. Mix it into applesauce as a thickener. Use it in recipes in place of wheat bran, wheat germ, or oat bran. Soups and stews may also be thickened with ground flax seeds. Sprinkle it on nut butter. Add it to homemade crackers. Sprinkle a little ground flax on salads. Add it to sauces as a thickener. Add a little ground flax to your favorite hummus (try 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground flax seed to 1 cup of hummus). Ground flax seed can be used as an egg replacer, just like chia seeds. Follow the same directions as detailed above.

* Replace refined fruit juices with whole fruit. Whole fruit has a lot more nutritional value to offer than refined fruit juices. And, the whole fruit will also quench thirst at the same time. For example, enjoying a juicy, ripe pear can satisfy your thirst, help fill a void in the tummy, and provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber all at once.

* Avocados are very nutritious fruits, and there are many ways to add them to your day. Their creamy flesh is rich in vitamins, minerals, monounsaturated fatty acids, and fiber too. One half of an avocado delivers 5 grams of fiber. Furthermore, avocados have been linked to a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

* When possible, try to enjoy fruits and vegetables with the peel left on. There is often a lot of nutritional value and fiber associated with the peels, and most of that gets tossed in the trash when the peel is removed and not eaten.

* Try to include some type of fiber-rich food (or foods) at each meal. Whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables (cooked or raw), cooked beans, peas, or lentils, and nuts or seeds can be included with meals and snacks throughout the day. Enjoy a variety of fiber-rich foods as often as you can until it becomes habit and you no longer have to think about it. That will help you to develop life-long habit of eating fiber-rich foods. Your body will thank you!

* Snack on fresh veggies with your favorite hummus dip for a fiber-rich snack.

* Try whole grain pasta instead of pasta made with refined flour. Also, there are some new types of pasta available that were made from legumes and no grain at all. They are naturally high in fiber and are at least worth a try to see if they work well for you.

Adjusting to Increased Fiber Intake
Suddenly switching from a low-fiber diet to one with a lot of fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, bloating and cramping, and maybe even diarrhea. Increase your fiber intake slowly over a few weeks or even longer. This allows you time to adjust to the change in food choices and also gives your intestinal bacteria time to adjust to the change as well. This will also give your intestinal tract time to adjust to the increased fiber, especially if you’re going from being chronically constipated to slowly establishing regular bowel movements.

Also, it is VERY important to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Fiber works best when it absorbs water in the stomach and intestines. This makes your stool softer and bulky, promoting regular bowel movements. Herbal teas and fresh vegetable juices are also excellent additions, but should not replace adequate water intake.

It’s helpful to make small, manageable changes at a time. If they work well for you, maintain those changes, then find another change you can make and add it to your regimen. Then maintain both of those changes and find yet another. Repeat the process as often as you feel it is necessary to improve your diet and achieve your goals. This process allows you to gradually change your dietary habits as your body and gut microbiome adjust. Make it a point to maintain those changes until they become second-nature. Such changes should be considered to be lifelong adjustments and not temporary for the sake of achieving a goal within some short period of time, then reverting back to prior habits. That’s a recipe for failure. It’s best to think in terms of lifelong changes that you can maintain long-term. Over time, you’ll be so accustomed to your new habits that you won’t yearn for the foods you left behind and you won’t have to give much thought to what you’re doing at the grocery store or in the kitchen.

Summary
Fiber is an important component of whole plant foods. It is critical to consume plenty of fiber-rich foods to prevent constipation and bowel issues, along with many other serious diseases and conditions. Chronic constipation (provided you have no otherwise obstructive bowel issues) is a clear sign you need more fiber in your diet. Increasing your intake of whole plant foods is a simple solution to the problem. When you’re not used to eating a lot of such foods, it is helpful to increase your intake slowly over time, especially when increasing the amounts of legumes, beans, and peas in your diet. Gradually increasing such foods will help minimize the risk of gas, bloating, or diarrhea that may occur. Give yourself time to work your way up to about ten servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Eventually, your bowel habits will stabilize and constipation will be a thing of the past. You’ll also greatly increase your intake of vitamins, minerals, and important antioxidants and other phytonutrients in the process. Your body will thank you!

 

Resources
https://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/types-of-fiber

https://www.livestrong.com/article/288536-foods-with-psyllium-fiber/

https://experiencelife.lifetime.life/article/fiber-why-it-matters-more-than-you-think/

https://www.healthline.com/health/soluble-vs-insoluble-fiber

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942856/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16441938/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319176#what-are-the-benefits-of-fiber

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/short-term-increase-in-fiber-alters-gut-microbiome

https://www.nutrientsreview.com/carbs/dietary-fiber-hemicellulose.html

https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/hemicellulose

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2993399/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lignin

https://www.nutrientsreview.com/phytonutrients/insoluble-fiber-lignin.html

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-difference-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber/

https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/74425

https://www.preparedfoods.com/articles/124823-hardworking-gums-and-fibers

https://hopkinsdiabetesinfo.org/what-is-resistant-starch/

https://www.webmd.com/children/features/digestive-health

https://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/ask-the-dietitian-get-your-facts-right-on-fiber-and-whole-grains/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1851150/

https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/ways-use-flaxseed/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-to-eat-more-fiber#The-bottom-line

https://www.verywellfit.com/why-your-body-needs-fiber-2505934

Whitney, Ellis and Sharon Rady Rolfes. (2011) Understanding Nutrition. 12th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Dates

Dates 101 – A Comparison of Medjool and Deglet Noor Dates

Dates 101 – A Comparison of Medjool and Deglet Noor Dates

About Dates
Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree, which is native to the Middle East and Northern Africa. They have been a staple food in the Middle East for thousands of years. Many in that region consider date palm trees and dates to be sacred because they can literally be life-sustaining. Today, dates are also grown in the Mediterranean region, Asia, Mexico, and the United States (mostly in southern California and Arizona). The fruit grows in large clusters that hang from the top of date palm trees. As they ripen, their skin turns brown and wrinkles develop as moisture leaves the fruit. This is the point when they are usually harvested. They still have some moisture at this time. Whole dates have a stone or pit in the center that must be removed before eating. Dates are sold both with and without pits.

Dried and fresh dates are available year-round, but the fresh dates are best from November to January. There are many varieties of dates, but the most popular are the Medjool and Deglet Noor dates. Medjool dates are usually sold with the pit still within the fruit, whereas Deglet Noor dates are commonly sold pitted, with the seed being removed. In general, the Medjool dates are larger, sweeter, and stickier then the Deglet Noor dates.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
When comparing a nutritional analysis of three Deglet Noor dates with one Medjool date, none of which were pitted, the weight was close, with the Deglet Noor dates weighing 21 grams and the Medjool date weighing 24 grams. The slight increase in weight of the one Medjool date resulted in slightly more calories in the Medjool date with 66 calories, and 59 calories in the Deglet Noor dates. However, when comparing gram per gram, 100 grams of Medjool dates has 277 calories, whereas 100 grams of Deglet Noor dates has 282 calories. The high calorie count is due to the abundant natural sugars in both types of dates.

Many of the vitamin and mineral components were very closely matched, often with slightly more in the Medjool date, most likely because it contained more flesh than the three Deglet Noor dates. When comparing gram per gram, the nutritional differences are considered to be negligible.

Medjool Dates: Nutrients that were slightly higher in the one Medjool date include calories, carbohydrates, sugars, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, niacin, pantothenic acid, and Vitamin B6.

Deglet Noor Dates: Nutrients that were slightly higher in the three Deglet Noor dates include protein (although the protein content is low in either type of date), fiber, lutein and zeaxanthin (important antioxidants).

Overall: No matter what type of date you choose, consider them to be high in sugars, with 3 Deglet Noor dates or 1 Medjool date providing roughly one-third of the recommended amount of sugar intake for the day. They also provide a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B6, iron, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, lutein and zeaxanthin. They even contain some protein. The high fiber content of dates helps to offset the digestive effects of their high sugar content. This means they will not spark a high spike in glucose levels when eaten, as compared with a piece of candy. Eating dates with some protein (such as a nut butter or cheese) can help to reduce the rise in blood sugar levels when consumed.

High in Fiber…Helps Prevent Constipation. Dates are high in fiber, with about 7 grams in a 3.5 ounce serving. Consuming dates on a regular basis can help to ward off constipation because of their high fiber content.  In one study, 21 people ate 7 dates a day for 21 days and experienced an increase in bowel movements when compared to when they did not eat dates.

Improved Blood Sugar Control. Despite their high sugar content, the fiber in dates helps to slow digestion, aiding in preventing large spikes in blood sugar levels after being eaten. Dates are known to have a low glycemic index, which reflects this benefit. So, if you enjoy something sweet once in a while, indulging in a few dates, especially after a meal, should not cause a large spike in blood sugar. This benefit may be helpful in the management of diabetes.

High in Antioxidants. Dates are especially high in important antioxidants that help to protect us from cellular damage caused by free radical molecules. Such damage causes inflammation and raises our risk for many diseases including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and more. Three powerful types of antioxidants found in dates include flavonoids, carotenoids, and phenolic acid.

Flavonoids help to reduce inflammation and may reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and some types of cancer. Carotenoids have been proven to promote heart health, and may reduce the risk of eye diseases such as macular degeneration. Like the flavonoids, phenolic acid is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and may help to lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Brain Health. Dates may help to improve our brain function. Researchers have found dates to be helpful in lowering inflammatory markers in the brain. Such markers (like interleukin 6) are associated with a greater risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. The benefits of dates to brain health have been attributed to their content of antioxidants (including flavonoids) that reduce inflammation.

Also, animal studies have shown that dates are helpful in reducing the activity of amyloid beta proteins which can form plaque in the brain. Plaque is known to disrupt communication between brain cells, which can lead to the death of brain cells and Alzheimer’s disease.

One animal study found that mice fed food mixed with dates had significantly better memory and learning ability, and exhibited less stress-related behaviors when compared with mice that were not fed the dates.

Pregnancy and Labor Benefits. Dates have been studied for their possible ability to ease labor in pregnant women. Researchers found that eating dates during the last few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and reduce the need for induced labor. Dates may also be helpful for reducing labor time.  In one study, 69 women who ate 6 dates a day for 4 weeks before their due dates were 20 percent more likely to go into labor naturally and experienced significantly shorter labor times than those who did not eat the dates. The results were confirmed by at least two other research studies. Researchers speculate that the benefits of dates were due to compounds in the fruit that bind to oxytocin receptors, mimicking the effects of oxytocin in the body. Oxytocin is what promotes labor contractions during childbirth.

Also, dates contain tannins, which have been shown to help promote labor contractions. Dates are also a good source of natural sugars and calories which are needed to maintain energy levels during labor and delivery.

Excellent Natural Sweetener. Dates are high in fructose, a type of natural sugar found in fruit. This gives dates their exceptional sweetness and caramel-like flavor. Dates make an excellent healthy substitute for processed white sugar because of their nutritional profile and antioxidant content. Date paste can be substituted for processed sugar on a 1:1 ratio. In other words, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of granulated sugar, you could substitute ½ cup of date paste with comparable results. See this website for instructions on making date paste as a sugar replacement:  https://www.veggiesdontbite.com/date-paste-goodbye-refined-sugar/#recipe

Selecting Dates
Dates are usually found in packages in the dried food section of most grocery stores. These are usually the Deglet Noor variety. Dates may also be found in the produce section of some stores. Many times, those in the produce department are the Medjool variety. For fresh dates (usually Medjool dates), check that they are tender and not hard when squeezed. They should look plump despite their wrinkles. As dates age, they will develop crystals of sugar on their surfaces. So, if you see a whitish coating on the skin of the dates, it’s most likely crystalized sugar and not mold. There is no harm in this, but it does indicate that the dates are not as fresh as they could be. Expect your dates to be wrinkled, as this naturally happens as they dry.

Storing Dates
Storing dates in the refrigerator will help to extend their shelf life. Since the refrigerator is a very dry environment, be sure to put your dates in an airtight container to help prevent moisture loss. Vacuum sealing them is another option. Store your vacuum sealed container in the refrigerator.

Deglet Noor dates are considered to be dried dates. They may be stored in an airtight container in the pantry, away from direct sunlight, and any heat source. However, they may also be stored in the refrigerator for extended shelf life.

Medjool dates are considered to be “fresh” since they have a higher moisture content than Deglet Noor dates. It is highly recommended that they be stored in an airtight (or vacuum sealed) container in the refrigerator or freezer for extended life. It is important to note that if you opt to store your Medjool dates in the freezer, they should be used within six weeks after having been thawed.

Preparing Dates
Basically, there is no preparation needed to consume these delicious fruits. At most, the pits will need to be removed if you purchased dates that were not pitted. Simply pull or cut them open and pull out the pits. Then use your dates as needed.

Fresh vs Dried
In parts of the world where dates are grown, fresh dates have a short season of only a few weeks. They are yellow and almost round with a mild flavor, and are crisp like an apple. At this stage they are considered to be unripe and are known as khalal, or “yellow crunchy dates.” At this stage, their moisture content is around 80 percent. Khalal dates will not be found in most American grocery stores because they would spoil too fast when being shipped long distance. Dates are grown in some warm climate areas of the United States. Fresh dates may be available in grocery stores located close to the growers.

The next stage in the life of a date is the “rutab” stage. At this point, they are considered to be fully ripe and have a light brown color. They are soft and will melt in your mouth. Their caramel flavor is like nature’s candy. Like dates in the khalal stage, their shelf life is short. However, when kept frozen, they can last for up to two years. At this stage, their moisture content ranges from 50 to 70 percent. Dates at this stage are still labeled as “fresh.”

The next stage, tamr, is when dates are dry. This is the type of date we typically see in American grocery stores. These dates are usually picked at this point. Their skin is wrinkled and the color has turned dark brown. At this point, they have a prolonged shelf life of 18 to 24 months. They have a moisture content of 10 percent or less.

Medjool Dates:  Medjool dates are considered to be a “fresh” fruit since they are harvested and packaged with little processing. In that respect, they are “fresh.” However, since they are allowed to dry naturally on the date palm tree until they are in the tamr stage, they are actually a dried fruit (albeit naturally dried on the tree). They are not physically nor chemically treated in any way. So, you could say they are a fresh, dry fruit. They have a very sweet and rich, caramel-like flavor, and a soft, creamy yet chewy texture. They are truly nature’s candy.

Deglet Noor Dates: Deglet Noor dates are considered to be “semi-dry” and are sometimes described as having a slight crunch, yet they are still pliable. Since Deglet Noor dates are drier and tougher than Medjool dates, they are the preferred variety used for making date sugar.

Flavor and Texture Comparison
Medjool Dates: Medjool dates have a rich, chewy and sticky texture, similar to that of caramel. They are very sweet because of their high fructose content. They almost melt in your mouth. Medjool dates have become known as the “king of dates” or the “crown jewel of dates” because of their excellent flavor, chewy yet soft consistency, large size, and availability.

Deglet Noor Dates: Deglet Noor dates have a firm, fairly thick flesh. Their flavor is sweet and the texture is slightly pithy. They are not as sweet as Medjool dates.

Pit vs No Pit
Deglet Noor Dates: Most Deglet Noor dates come packaged with the pit having already been removed.

Medjool Dates: Medjool dates may be found both pitted and with the pits still intact. So, if you have a preference, it is important to read the label carefully to be sure you’re getting what you need at the moment.

What is the white stuff on dates?
The white coating you may see on dates is actually sugar that has made its way to the surface of the fruit and is crystalizing. It is perfectly fine to eat. If you prefer to remove the sugar coating, the date(s) can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and heated in the microwave for 5 seconds. The sugar will be absorbed back into the fruit.

Uses in Cooking
Medjool Dates: Many recipes, especially for smoothies, call for adding one or two Medjool dates. Their sticky consistency and sweet flavor makes them a great substitute for other high-sugar options, such as syrups, caramels, or caramelized sugars. Medjool dates are also exceptional when added to unbaked energy balls, since they will give a fudgy texture to them.

Deglet Noor Dates: Since Deglet Noor dates do not break down as easily as do the Medjool dates, they work well for toppings and adding texture to baked goods, such as fruit and nut bars. They are often used for making date sugar.

Cost Comparison
Medjool Dates: Medjool dates are usually more expensive than Deglet Noor dates. This is because the process of growing and harvesting Medjool dates is more labor-intensive than the Deglet Noor dates. Medjool dates are left to ripen on the tree, which takes longer and results in a richer tasting fruit. Also, since they are somewhat delicate, they are picked individually, rather than in clusters, making their harvest very labor-intensive. Hence, the cost of production is higher than Deglet Noor dates.

Deglet Noor Dates: Deglet Noor dates are picked early and ripened thereafter. Clusters of fruit on branches may be harvested at once, or individual fruit may be harvested, depending on how they are to be marketed and their stage of growth. Either way, harvesting and processing Deglet Noor dates is less labor-intensive than Medjool dates, so they can be sold a cheaper price.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Dates
* For a simple snack, split a Medjool date and add a spoonful of your favorite nut butter. Enjoy!

* Split Medjool dates and stuff them with a small chunk of dark chocolate. Enjoy as it is, or place it under a broiler for 1 minute…just long enough for the chocolate to start to melt (but not completely). Enjoy!

* For some extra sweetness, add some chopped dates to your favorite fruit or vegetable salad.

* If you have a recipe that calls for dates and you don’t have enough, you could possibly substitute figs, raisins, cherries, cranberries, or dried apricots. Yes, the substitutes may change the flavor profile of your dish, but they would serve as potential substitutes.

* Since Medjool dates are soft, they can easily be blended into smoothies for added sweetness.

* If you need some added sweetness in a sandwich, chopped Medjool dates would work well since they are soft and almost melt in your mouth when chewed. Example: Add chopped dates to a nut butter sandwich instead of jelly or jam.

* Since Deglet Noor dates are drier and a little tougher than Medjool dates, they can easily be chopped without becoming mushy. This property makes them good additions to bakery items like breads, cakes, and cookies. After being baked, they still maintain some of their texture, giving a slight chewiness to the baked food.

* Very few people are allergic to dates. So, if you are one with a lot of food allergies, this should be one food you can eat. Check with your health care provider if you’re not sure.

* Deglet Noor dates are almost always sold as pitted dates. Medjool dates are sold pitted, but more often with the pit still inside. So, when using Medjool dates, be sure to remove the pit if it has not already been removed by the producer. You don’t want to be responsible for someone breaking a tooth on something you served!

* Medjool dates can be stuffed with both sweet or savory fillings. Try dates stuffed with marzipan, candied orange or lemon peel, tahini, goat or blue cheese, bacon, or nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, or pistachios.

* Chopped dates can add a special flavor and texture to pasta or rice dishes, or even savory meat dishes.

* The white coating you may see on dates is actually sugar that has made its way to the surface of the fruit and is crystalizing. It is perfectly fine to eat. If you prefer to remove the sugar coating, the date(s) can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and heated in the microwave for 5 seconds. The sugar will be absorbed back into the fruit.

* Try using dates to sweeten sauces, marinades, salad dressings, and even your morning oatmeal.

* For a simple treat or dessert, simply combine some orange slices and chopped dates in a bowl. Sprinkle with toasted almond slices and enjoy!

* Try a delicious chocolate date smoothie! Blend 2 dates with 1 cup milk of your choice. Blend until the dates are well broken up and incorporated into the milk. Add 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 tablespoon nut butter of choice. Add a pinch of cinnamon and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

* Since dates are so sticky, they make excellent binders in baked goods, like cookies, bars, and energy balls or bites.

* If your dates have become dry and hard, soak them for 5 minutes in hot water. They will soften up and can be used in a number of ways. The soaking water will be somewhat sweet, so it can be added to anything that calls for a little added liquid and sweetener.

* If you need a liquid sweetener, why not make date syrup? Finely chop 1 pound of Medjool dates. Simmer the chopped dates in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and allow the mixture to cool for 30 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and process until very smooth, for at least 1 minute. Strain in a nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth. Twist the cloth or bag to remove as much moisture as possible. Taste the liquid. If it is not sweet enough for your needs or if you want it a little thicker, place it in a sauce pan and simmer it over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until your desired results are achieved. Allow it to cool, and store extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Be sure to use it within a few weeks.

* If you need date paste for a recipe and don’t have any, you can make your own. Simply place some Medjool dates in a food processor and process until smooth. Store any extra date paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use it within 2 weeks.

* Date sugar is now available in many grocery stores. It is simply finely ground up dried dates. If you’re looking for a natural sweetener to use in place of processed sugar, this may do the job. Note that it will impart a caramel-like flavor to foods. Also, since date sugar is just ground up dates, it still contains the fiber naturally found in the fruit. Therefore, it won’t all dissolve in liquids like granulated or brown sugar would. So, date sugar may add a bit of “grit” when used in hot liquids and some baked goods.

* Date sugar is not the same thing as “date palm sugar” or “palm sugar.” Date palm sugar and palm sugar are made in a similar way as cane sugar. The date palm tree sap is boiled down until the sap is dry and crystalized. It will not have the same nutritional value as date sugar.

* To chop dates without having a sticky, gooey mess on your knife, either spray the knife with nonstock cooking spray, or lightly coat the knife blade with just a little oil of choice. This can be done by moistening a paper towel with oil, then rubbing the knife blade with the oiled paper towel.

* If you want to remove the skin from dates, place them in hot water for 1 to 5 minutes, depending on how hard and dry they are. Allow them to soak until the dates start to soften. Remove them from the water and remove the softened skin and pit, if necessary. Peeled dates are excellent for making smooth date paste, a silky-smooth mousse, or any other application where soft, smooth dates would be needed.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Dates
Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, parsley, salt, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Dates
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, bacon, flax seeds, nuts (in general), peanuts and peanut butter, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pork, poultry, prosciutto, sesame seeds, tahini, tofu, walnuts

Vegetables: Cabbage (esp. red), carrots, onions (esp. caramelized), parsnips, squash (winter)

Fruits: Apples (dried and fresh) and apple juice, apricots, bananas, cherries, coconut, cranberries, lemon, orange (fresh, zest, and juice), pears and pear juice, pumpkin, tamarind

Grains and Grain Products: Amaranth, bran, oat flour, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (esp. blue, cream, feta, Parmesan), cream, mascarpone, milk (dairy or non-dairy), yogurt

Other Foods: Bourbon, brandy, caramel, chocolate (white or dark), coffee, honey, maple syrup, miso, oil (esp. olive), rum, sugar (any type), toffee, vinegar (esp. balsamic)

Dates have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
North African cuisine, baked goods (i.e., breads, cakes, muffins, pie crusts, scones), confections (i.e., truffles), desserts, granola, Middle Eastern cuisine, puddings, salad dressings, smoothies, soups, spreads

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Dates
Add dates to any of the following combinations…

Almond Milk/Almonds + Bananas [Optional: + Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Vanilla]
Apples + Cinnamon + Coconut + Nutmeg + Orange Zest + Pecans
Apples + Cinnamon + Oatmeal
Apricots + Ginger
Balsamic Vinegar + Blue Cheese
Bananas + Coconut [In Muesli]
Bananas + Oats
Chocolate + Walnuts
Coconut + Nuts
Coconut + Orange
Dark Chocolate
Lemon + Oatmeal
Nuts (i.e., Walnuts) + Oats + Sweetener (i.e., Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup)
Orange + Sesame Seeds
Parmesan Cheese + Walnuts or Almonds
Peanuts + Vanilla
Roasted Salted Almonds
Soft Cheese [As a Stuffing for Dates]
Tahini + Sea Salt [Drizzle Dates with Tahini and Sprinkle Lightly with Salt]

Recipe Links
Easy Homemade Larabars https://www.liveeatlearn.com/homemade-larabars/

No Cook Chocolate Vegan Fudge https://www.liveeatlearn.com/chocolate-vegan-fudge/

Salted Date Caramel https://www.liveeatlearn.com/salted-date-caramel/

Medjool Date Power Balls https://www.naturaldelights.com/recipes/medjool-date-power-balls

Cranberry Pecan Bars https://tasty.co/recipe/cranberry-pecan-bars

Cashew Coconut Bars https://tasty.co/recipe/cashew-coconut-bars

Raw Vegan Breakfast Ice Cream Cake http://thecolorfulkitchen.com/2014/09/01/raw-vegan-breakfast-ice-cream-cake/

2-Layer No-Bake Peanut Butter Brownie Bars https://minimalistbaker.com/2-layer-no-bake-peanut-butter-brownie-bars/#wprm-recipe-container-36167

Peanut Butter Eggs https://minimalistbaker.com/peanut-butter-eggs/#wprm-recipe-container-36247

Apple Pie Larabars https://mywholefoodlife.com/2013/04/21/apple-pie-larabars/

Banana Date Smoothie https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-banana-date-smoothie-207636#post-recipe-11032

Kale and Quinoa Salad with Dates, Almonds, and Citrus Dressing https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-kale-quinoa-salad-with-citrus-dressing-healthy-lunch-recipes-from-the-kitchn-199341#post-recipe-11221

Kumquat Tarts with Almond-Date Crust https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-kumquat-tarts-with-almond-date-crust-165785#post-recipe-10477

Vegan Chocolate-Date Smoothie https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-vegan-chocolate-date-smoothie-242817#post-recipe-11796

How to Make Date Caramels https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-vegan-caramels-244025#post-recipe-9750

Creamy Orange-Date Smoothie https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-creamy-orange-date-smoothie-239262

How to Make Date Syrup https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-date-syrup-243951#post-recipe-11226

How to Make Old Fashioned Date Bars https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-old-fashioned-date-bars-243991#post-recipe-11783

Chocolate Date-Nut Lollipops https://www.vegkitchen.com/chocolate-date-nut-lollipops/

Nutty Cashew Dates https://www.vegkitchen.com/nutty-cashew-dates/

Date-Nut Truffles https://www.vegkitchen.com/lauras-date-nut-truffles/

Date-Pecan Bars https://www.vegkitchen.com/date-pecan-bars/

Healthy No Bake Date Bar Recipe https://www.superhealthykids.com/recipes/healthy-no-bake-snack-bars/


Resources
https://www.thekitchn.com/pair-dates-with-these-7-foods-for-a-delicious-snack-244015

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/171726-168191/wt9-wt1/1-1

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/health-benefits-dates

https://getrezbar.com/blogs/news/medjool-dates-vs-normal-dates-what-you-should-know

https://mywellbeingjournal.com/2018/11/07/whats-the-difference-medjool-dates-vs-pitted-dates/

https://deliciouslydates.com/f/what-is-the-difference-between-fresh-and-dry-dates

https://www.eatingbirdfood.com/medjool-dates/

https://woodspurfarms.com/medjool-and-pitted-dates/

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Deglet_Noor_Dates_11768.php

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/medjool_dates_1002.php

https://deliciouslydates.com/f/tips-to-keep-dates-fresh-for-a-long-time

http://kianzarrinco.com/product/deglet-noor-dates/

https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-orange-almond-date-saladrecipes-from-the-kitchn-168307#post-recipe-10493

https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-creamy-orange-date-smoothie-239262#post-recipe-9637

https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-date-syrup-243951#post-recipe-11226

https://www.latimes.com/recipe/date-and-lemon-bars-with-sesame

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2021-10-07/recipes-for-dates-and-how-best-to-cook-with-them

https://www.vegkitchen.com/4-great-tips-for-using-dates/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-dates#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7

https://www.cronometer.com

https://www.thekitchn.com/whats-date-sugar-and-how-do-you-use-it-243959

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Chia Seeds

Chia Seeds 101 – The Basics

Chia Seeds 101 – The Basics

About Chia Seeds
Chia seeds come from a flowering plant in the mint family, Salvia hispanica. It is native to parts of Mexico and Guatemala. The seeds have been used as a staple source of nutrition dating back to ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, and it was cultivated as far back as 3500 B.C. Today, chia seeds are primarily grown in Mexico and Central America, as well as several other Latin American countries and Australia. They have become a commercially popular health food in the last decade or so. They can be found in black and white varieties.  Any brown seeds that you see for sale were not fully matured when harvested and will be undesirable in flavor and have a lesser nutritional value than the fully matured seeds.

Chia seeds have a very subtle flavor, so taste is not what they are prized for. Instead, their texture and nutritional value are what attracts people to chia seeds. They have the ability to absorb many times their dry weight in liquid, making them miniature tapioca-like balls, thickening any liquid they are in.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Chia seeds pack a strong nutritional punch, with the black and white seeds being the same in nutritional value. They are high in fiber, protein (with a good balance of essential amino acids), Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin K, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. They also contain zinc, niacin, potassium, selenium, copper, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, and folate. They are naturally gluten-free and non-GMO. They are also high in antioxidants, which help to preserve the fatty acids within the seeds and provide valuable health benefits when we eat them. Two tablespoons of chia seeds supply about 140 calories.

Weight Control. The soluble fiber in chia seeds absorbs a lot of water and expands in the stomach, which increases fullness and slows the absorption of food. Also, the high-quality protein in chia seeds helps to reduce appetite and ultimately food intake.

In 2017, a study reported in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice, demonstrated that eating chia seeds for breakfast increased satiety and reduced food intake (in the short-term).

Another study reported in 2017 in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, found that chia seeds helped to promote weight loss in obese individuals with Type 2 diabetes who were on a reduced-calorie diet.

Researchers in these studies concluded that adding chia seeds to the diet alone is unlikely to induce weight loss, but experts agree they can be a useful addition to a weight loss diet and lifestyle.

High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Gram for gram, chia seeds have more Omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. However, it’s important to note that we would normally eat more salmon in one serving than we would chia seeds. Nevertheless, chia seeds do contain a lot of Omega-3 fatty acids. Milled chia seeds will release more of these essential fatty acids than whole chia seeds, since we do not break them down well in the digestive process.

Lower Risk of Heart Disease. Since chia seeds are high in fiber (especially soluble fiber), protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, they may reduce the risk of heart disease. Research studies have shown that chia seeds can reduce triglycerides, inflammation, and insulin resistance, and may also raise HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, all leading to a lower risk for heart disease. A few studies have also shown that chia seeds reduced blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. Overall, chia seeds appear to benefit heart health, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle and diet.

Bone Health. Chia seeds are high in nutrients that support bone health, including calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and protein. In fact, one ounce of chia seeds provides 18% of the recommended dietary intake of calcium. This makes chia seeds an excellent source of calcium.

It is important to note that chia seeds contain phytic acid, which can bind to the calcium and other minerals within the seed, inhibiting their absorption. Soaking the seeds before eating them will release the phytic acid, allowing those minerals to be utilized by the body. Also, considering the fact that the soluble fiber in chia seeds will soak up a LOT of liquid, it is advisable to soak them first rather than eating them dry, to prevent dehydration or a choking hazard.

Stabilized Blood Sugar Levels. Blood sugar levels can tend to rise after a meal, depending upon the food eaten. Such spikes can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. Animal and human research studies have found that chia seeds may improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control by stabilizing blood sugar levels after meals, reducing the risk of disease.

Possible Inflammation Reduction. Inflammation is a normal and necessary response to injury or infection. However, chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Some lifestyle habits can increase our risk for chronic inflammation, such as smoking, inactivity, and a poor diet. On the contrary, other lifestyle habits can reduce the risk for chronic inflammation, with dietary choices being one of them. A study published in a 2007 issue of the journal Diabetes Care showed that subjects with diabetes eating 37 grams (about 2-1/2 tablespoons) of chia seeds a day for three months had reduced inflammatory markers (hs-CRP) by 40%. The control subjects in the study experienced no benefit when fed wheat bran. However, other studies with obese subjects did not show such promising results. So, the data are preliminary but do suggest that chia seeds may have beneficial effects on chronic inflammation.

Note of Caution: Omega-3 fats may have blood-thinning effects. People who take blood thinning medications should consult their doctors before adding large amounts of chia seeds to their diet. Their prothrombin time may need to be monitored for a while.

 

How to Select Chia Seeds
When shopping for chia seeds, choose seeds that are either speckled black or white. Avoid those that are uniformly brown, which indicates the seeds didn’t mature properly. Brown seeds will be bitter and have fewer nutritional benefits.

How to Store Chia Seeds
Store chia seeds in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator is ideal. When kept cool and dry, they should keep for several years. If you have room, storing them in the freezer will give them the longest life.

How to Prepare
Chia seeds need no special treatment. They are ready to use straight from the container they came in.

Some resources say they may be eaten dry, sprinkled on salads or puddings. However, since they soak up a lot of liquid, be sure you consume plenty of liquid if you do opt to eat them dry, so you don’t become dehydrated or cause a choking hazard. Otherwise, to avoid possible issues from eating dry chia seeds, it’s best to soak them with plenty of liquid first before eating them.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Chia Seeds
* Chia seeds do not have to be ground for digestive reasons, like flax seeds do, so they are easy to include in the diet without special treatment.

* Chia seeds can be added to porridge, pudding, smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, and baked goods.

* Chia seeds may be eaten raw, but they should be soaked first to allow their soluble fiber to soak up liquid, and also allow the phytic acid to be broken down.

* Chia seeds may be used to thicken sauces, gravies, or soups.

* To make an egg substitute, simply combine 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Stir, and allow them to sit for about 5 minutes or until a gel is formed. This replaces one egg in baked items like cupcakes, muffins, or cookies.

* Make easy chia pudding. Simply mix ¼ cup of seeds in one cup of liquid, such as nut or oat milk and/or fruit juice. Allow the mixture to rest at least 15 minutes, until it is no longer watery, but more of a “pudding” texture. Chia seeds don’t have much flavor, so many people add spices of choice, and chopped fruit, nuts, chocolate chips, or other toppings. The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

* Chia seeds may be eaten whole or ground. However, recent studies show that we may absorb more nutrients from ground chia seeds than whole ones.

* Try grinding chia seeds and add into breadcrumbs when making meatballs or breading meats, poultry, vegetables, or other foods.

* Try adding chia seeds to your favorite pancake mix.

* Since chia seeds absorb liquid, forming a gel in the process, they can be used in place of pectin when making jam.

* Try mixing some chia seeds in your favorite dip.

* Try adding chia seeds to homemade crackers.

* Try freezing your favorite chia pudding, making it into an ice cream.

* It is noteworthy that Omega-3 fats may have blood-thinning effects. People who take blood thinning medications should consult their doctors before adding large amounts of chia seeds to their diet. Their prothrombin time may need to be monitored for a while.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Chia Seeds
Cinnamon, ginger, mint, nutmeg, sage, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Chia Seeds
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (esp. black), flax seeds, meats, fish, and poultry (in a breading or crust), nuts (in general), nut butters (in general), tofu

Vegetables: Kale, maca, squash (winter, esp. spaghetti)

Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries (of all types), coconut, dates, lemon, lime, mango, pears, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Baked goods, cereals (breakfast), oats, oatmeal, oat bran

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Coconut milk, coconut butter, milk (in general), cashew milk, hemp seed milk, yogurt and frozen yogurt

Other Foods: Carob, chocolate, cocoa, honey, maple syrup, sugar (all types)

Chia seeds have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., biscuits, breads, cakes, cookies, muffins), chili (vegetarian), drinks (i.e., limeade), granola, meatballs, porridge, puddings, salads, smoothies, soups, veggie burgers

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Chia Seeds
Add chia seeds to any of the following combinations…

Almond Milk + Apples + Buckwheat + Cinnamon
Cashews + Coconut + Dates
Cocoa + Honey + Silken Tofu + Vanilla
Ginger + Pears + Almond Milk

Recipe Links
Blueberry-Chia Ice Pops https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/blueberry-chia-ice-pops

Chia Pudding with Dried Apricots and Pineapple https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chia-pudding-dried-apricots-pineapple

Blueberry-Chia Seed Jam https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/blueberry-chia-seed-jam

Pomegranate-Chia Seed Yogurt Parfait https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pomegranate-chia-seed-yogurt-parfait

Lemon Chia No-Bake Slice https://thechiaco.com/us/lemon-chia-no-bake-slice/

Nut Free Oat Slice https://thechiaco.com/us/nut-free-oat-slice/

Three-Ingredient Chia Pudding https://feelgoodfoodie.net/recipe/3-ingredient-chia-pudding/#wprm-recipe-container-5591

26 Chia Recipes That Don’t Just Involve Pudding https://www.bonappetit.com/gallery/chia-seed-recipes

32 No-Brainer Chia Seed Pudding Recipes https://greatist.com/eat/chia-seed-pudding-recipes

25 Recipes to Get Some Chia in Your Day—Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner https://www.brit.co/living/healthy-eating/chia-recipes/

Overnight Chocolate Chia Pudding https://minimalistbaker.com/overnight-chocolate-chia-seed-pudding/


Resources
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28989578/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28089080/

https://www.lifehack.org/596479/exposed-get-the-most-out-of-chia-seeds-by-soaking-them

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20087375/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23778782/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17686832/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19628108/

https://theprettybee.com/chia-egg/#wprm-recipe-container-20215

https://cronometer.com/

https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/chia-seeds

https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20141021/use-chia-seeds-with-caution-researcher-warns

https://www.swansonvitamins.com/blog/chia-seeds/?DFA=1&UTM_Medium=PaidSearch&UTM_Source=GOOGLE&UTM_Campaign=SWAN_National_Gen_Search_NonBrnd_DSA_All+Webpages+DSA+-+Blog&UTM_Content=DYNAMIC+SEARCH+ADS&SourceCode=INTLBVDNA&gclid=CjwKCAjwz_WGBhA1EiwAUAxIcYohGjGlMKACPDo5pX1LDjnGMM05Cc95FgKD38qk5GGtNzXvwPXb6BoCAfAQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/chia-seeds/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-eat-chia-seeds#TOC_TITLE_HDR_36

https://www.worldofchia.com/chia/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chia-vs-flax#TOC_TITLE_HDR_9

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

 

About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Beta-Carotene Rich Food

Beta-Carotene 101

Beta-Carotene 101

What is Beta-Carotene?
Beta-carotene is a type of carotenoid found in many foods. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants, algae, and some bacteria. There are over 600 different types of carotenoids, with beta-carotene being one of the more common examples. About fifty carotenoids can be converted into vitamin A. The major carotenoids in humans are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Beta-carotene is yellow to orange to red in color and gives many fruits and vegetables their characteristic bright colors ranging from green to orange, red, and purple. Examples include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, broccoli, butternut squash, and apricots. The color of beta-carotene in dark green vegetables is masked by the chlorophyll in the plants.

Beta-carotene serves as a provitamin (or precursor) to Vitamin A in the body. This means that the body uses beta-carotene to make Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an important fat-soluble vitamin with a variety of functions in the body. Provitamin A (in the form of carotenoids, with beta-carotene being one of them) is only found in plants, whereas preformed Vitamin A (a group of retinoids) is found in animal foods such as dairy products, fish oils, eggs, and meat (especially liver). The Vitamin A your body makes from beta-carotene does not accumulate in the body to toxic levels, whereas preformed Vitamin A from animal sources can.

All carotenoids, including beta-carotene, serve as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants are critical molecules that help to protect us from harmful free-radicals by neutralizing them, stopping their damaging chain reactions. This helps to protect us from developing a number of chronic diseases and health issues, ranging from cognitive decline to cancer.

Health Benefits of Beta-Carotene
As mentioned above, Vitamin A (that we can make from beta-carotene) has a number of important functions in the body. It helps cells reproduce correctly, is essential for good vision, helps ward off cancer, protects our brain health, and is needed for proper development of an embryo and fetus during pregnancy. It also helps keep the skin and mucous membranes that line various cavities of the body healthy. Vitamin A also plays a role in growth, bone formation, reproduction, wound healing, and the functioning of our immune system.

Vision. Vitamin A is critical for good vision. It is a component of rhodopsin, a protein that allows the eye to see in low-light environments. It is well established that a deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to night blindness.

Vitamin A is also important for proper functioning of the cornea, the protective outer layer of the eye. When Vitamin A is deficient, eyes produce too little moisture to stay lubricated. Prolonged deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to xerophthalmia, the leading cause of blindness among the world’s children in developing countries, many of which die within a year of losing their sight. In this preventable condition, the eyes become very dry, damaging the cornea and retina, eventually making the eyes themselves very crusty and unable to function. Simply ensuring adequate intake of Vitamin A or beta-carotene-rich foods prevents these serious eye problems and possible death, especially among children.

Furthermore, research shows that those who eat a diet rich in beta-carotene (or Vitamin A) are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, and have a lower risk of developing cataracts.

Immunity, Pregnancy Outcome, and Children. Vitamin A deficiency impairs immunity by hindering normal reproduction of mucosal cells. These cells line cavities and openings of the body, including all parts of the digestive tract including the mouth, and also the nose, sinuses, bronchial tubes and lungs, vagina, urethra, and anus.  The mucosal cells form barriers helping to prevent infectious microbes from entering the body. When a Vitamin A deficient barrier is damaged by invading microbes, the function of our immune cells (specifically, neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells) is hindered. These cells function in innate immunity. Vitamin A is also needed for adaptive immunity, where the development of T-cells and B-cells are needed to recognize the same invading microbe in the future. In this function, Vitamin A deficiency reduces antibody-mediated responses, reducing our ability to fight the microbe in future infections.

Because of its role in the immune function, Vitamin A deficiency is believed to account for many deaths among infants, young children, and pregnant women around the world. The deficiency lowers the body’s ability to fight infections, leading to respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, slower growth rates and bone development in children, and a lowered rate of survival with serious illness. Simply eating more beta-carotene-rich foods can prevent such tragedies.

Antioxidant Protection. Beta-carotene, like all carotenoids, as an important antioxidant in the body. An antioxidant is a compound that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules, protecting the body from harmful free radical molecules. Free radicals damage the body by robing healthy cells of electrons. This damage can lead to a number of chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease. Antioxidants are capable of donating electrons to free radical molecules, stopping their destructive damage. In the process, antioxidants themselves are not damaged. Studies have shown that those who eat at least four servings a day of beta-carotene-rich fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.

Cancer. A number of research studies have shown an association between diets high in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, and a reduced incidence of many types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, lung, pancreas, colon, esophagus, cervix and skin (melanoma). The antioxidant properties of carotenoids appear to be the reason for this effect. Also, researchers have found that beta-carotene can lower the rate of chronic diseases in addition to cancer. It is believed that beta-carotene enhances immune cell function, and this effect is especially seen in the elderly.

Healthy Skin.  Beta-carotene can help to boost the health of skin. This effect appears to be most likely due to its antioxidant properties. A study reported in the November 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that an optimal amount of antioxidant nutrients in the skin increases basal dermal defense against UV irradiation, supports longer-term protection, and contributes to overall maintenance of skin health and appearance. However, the researchers noted that dietary antioxidants such as beta-carotene or lycopene can offer some degree of sun protection, although it is lower than that of a typical sunscreen.

Vitamin A compounds (retinoids) regulate the growth and differentiation of many types of cells in the skin. Deficiency leads to abnormal keratinization. Keratinization is a process where cells are filled with keratin, which is a type of protein filament that forms tough, resistant structures such as hair and nails. Keratin also helps to provide structure to and contributes to the function of soft tissues, such as skin and mucosal membranes. Deficiency of Vitamin A leads to abnormal epithelial keratinization, which can show up as dry, scaly, tough skin, and hindered wound healing of damaged tissue.

Cognitive Decline. Researchers have shown that those who have a long-term high beta-carotene intake are far less likely to develop cognitive decline then those who did not consume a lot of beta-carotene. Oxidative stress is believed to be a key factor in cognitive decline. The antioxidant properties of beta-carotene, when ingested in high amounts over time, appear to help prevent the deterioration of brain function, including memory. Antioxidants, like beta-carotene may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Vitamin A Deficiency
Symptoms of a serious deficiency of Vitamin A include dry eyes (which can lead to xerophthalmia, a condition where the eyes become completely dried and thickened, leading to irreversible blindness), night blindness, diarrhea, skin problems, and impaired immunity. Vitamin A deficiency may also contribute to impaired immune function (leading to gastrointestinal and/or respiratory tract infections), poor pregnancy outcomes, and slow growth and bone formation in children.

Keratinization of the skin can occur in Vitamin A deficiency. Keratin is used by the body to form hair and nails (and feathers in birds). When keratinization of the skin occurs, the skin can develop thick, tough, dry, and scaly areas. Examples include the development of corns and calloses. Keratinization can also occur in mucous membranes in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts from a severe Vitamin A deficiency.

Should You Take Vitamin A Supplements?
Vitamin A supplements may contain only provitamin A (such as beta-carotene), preformed Vitamin A (usually retinyl palmitate, from animal foods or from fish oils), or a combination of both.

Hypervitaminosis A (Vitamin A Toxicity). Hypervitaminosis A is a condition where a person has too much Vitamin A in their body. This can happen when a person takes too many (preformed) Vitamin A supplements or uses some acne creams over a long period of time.

A wide range of symptoms can be indicative of hypervitaminosis A. If a person has taken a large dose of preformed Vitamin A in a short period of time, symptoms of Vitamin A toxicity can include irritability, drowsiness, nausea, abdominal pain, a feeling of pressure on the brain, and vomiting.

Symptoms of chronic Vitamin A toxicity, where a person has taken preformed Vitamin A over a long period of time where it slowly accumulated in the body include mouth ulcers, bone swelling, cracked fingernails, bone pain, loss of appetite, cracks in the corners of the mouth, vision problems, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to sunlight, skin problems (rough, dry, peeling, or itchy skin), jaundice, hair loss, confusion, or respiratory infection.

Taking large supplemental doses of beta-carotene is generally not recommended. Even though large doses are not known to be toxic to the general public, they can be harmful to specific groups of people, including smokers. Smokers who take high doses of beta-carotene supplements have been found to be at a greater risk of developing fatal lung cancer. This same precaution also applies to individuals who have been exposed to asbestos, or who consume excessive alcohol. In such cases, beta-carotene supplements have been linked not only to lung cancer, but also heart and liver disease. Other than the serious risk to these groups of individuals, taking long-term large supplemental doses of beta-carotene may cause the skin to turn orange-yellow. However, this can be corrected by simply discontinuing the supplements.

A study reported in the February 1999 issue of Free Radical Research found that the greatest antioxidant protection associated with beta-carotene and lycopene (a type of carotenoid found in tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruits, and papayas), was at the concentration found in foods. When greater amounts (as would occur from supplementation) of these compounds were tested, researchers found the antioxidant protection was quickly lost and may have actually increased DNA damage, taking on a prooxidant effect. Similar effects were found when testing the protection of cellular membranes. This suggests that supplementation with individual carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, significantly raises blood and tissue levels with little to no benefit, and may actually be harmful.

Conversely, some studies such as research reported in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that some individuals do not adequately convert beta-carotene from foods into the active form of Vitamin A. This may be due to inadequate enzymes necessary for the conversion, lack of adequate fat intake when beta-carotene is consumed, or a simultaneous zinc deficiency, since zinc is necessary for beta-carotene uptake and its conversion into the active form of Vitamin A.

If a person is not receiving adequate Vitamin A or beta-carotene in their diet, or for some reason cannot adequately convert beta-carotene to active Vitamin A, the Council for Responsible Nutrition considered supplements of 10,000 IU daily of preformed Vitamin A (retinol) to be generally safe. Those who routinely eat liver or organ meats may be getting enough from their diet and should use caution when considering Vitamin A supplements.

Foods That Contain Beta-Carotene
Foods that are rich in color are usually high in beta-carotene. Some examples include dark leafy greens (such as kale, collards, turnip greens, mustard greens, arugula, and spinach), sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, butternut squash, cantaloupe, red and yellow bell peppers, apricots, peas, papayas, plums, mangoes, raspberries, and romaine lettuce. Some herbs and spices also contain beta-carotene. Examples include paprika, cayenne, chili pepper, parsley, cilantro, marjoram, sage, and coriander.

Effects of Cooking on Beta-Carotene in Foods
There is a great debate on whether it’s better to eat fruits and vegetables raw or cooked. The true answer is not simple. It depends on which nutrient you’re talking about, which food you’re considering, and also which cooking method you’re using vs eating something raw. Carrots are well-known for their high beta-carotene content.  Whether they are cooked or raw, they supply plenty of beta-carotene. However, cooking carrots actually increases their beta-carotene content, especially when they are lightly boiled or steamed. This is because cooking opens the cell walls and releases more beta-carotene then when the carrot is raw. This same principal applies to raw vs cooked spinach and Swiss chard. Furthermore, we are able to absorb more of the beta-carotene from cooked carrots than we can from raw carrots, since the cell walls in carrots are softened when cooked, making them easier to digest. If you want to enjoy your carrots raw, chopping them well (and chewing them thoroughly) can help to break down the cell walls, releasing more of the beta-carotene then would be available if they were eaten whole.

Increasing Your Absorption of Beta-Carotene from Foods
A Little Fat Goes a Long Way.  Beta-carotene along with preformed Vitamin A, are both fat-soluble nutrients, meaning that they are absorbed along with fats in the digestive tract. Having a little fat in your meal with foods high in beta-carotene (or including a food in the meal that naturally contains some fat) can help to enhance the absorption of the nutrient. This was demonstrated in a study conducted at Iowa State University where graduate students were recruited to eat green salads with tomatoes. Various types of salad dressings were used, ranging from fat-free to traditional Italian dressing made with oil. Students had IV lines inserted so researchers could test blood before and after the meals. Results clearly showed that students who were given fat-free or low-fat salad dressings did not absorb the carotenoids as well as those who ate the traditional dressings.

Cooked vs Raw Foods.
As detailed in the section above (Effects of Cooking on Beta-Carotene in Foods), beta-carotene is better absorbed from foods that have been cooked or finely chopped. This is because beta-carotene is bound tightly within plant cells. Finely chopping or cooking helps to break down the cell walls, releasing the beta-carotene so it can be absorbed more easily during the digestive process. Whether you enjoy beta-carotene-rich foods cooked or raw, be sure to chew them well to further release the beta-carotene from the foods.

Zinc Status.   In the March 2003 issue of The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, an animal study was reported where subjects were fed the same diets, except for the levels of zinc. One diet was low in zinc, whereas the other contained adequate zinc. The findings demonstrated that a low intake or marginal deficiency of zinc resulted in decreased absorption of beta-carotene. The study suggested that adequate zinc status is an important factor in the absorption of beta-carotene. So, ensuring you have adequate zinc intake will help boost your absorption of the very important nutrient and antioxidant, beta-carotene.

Resources

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=BetaCarotene

https://www.healthline.com/health/carotenoids

https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/natural-food-sources-of-beta-carotene.php

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/beta-carotene

https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-beta-carotene#1

https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-a-palmitate#vitamin-a-palmitate-vs-vitamin-a

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322238

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326758#vitamins

https://www.who.int/data/nutrition/nlis/info/vitamin-a-deficiency

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https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/what-is-xerophthalmia


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Red Potatoes

Red Potatoes 101 – The Basics

Red Potatoes 101 – The Basics

About Red Potatoes
Botanically, red potatoes are classified as Solanum tuberosum. This is a broad category of plants including many different varieties belonging to the Solanaceae, or nightshade family. Tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers are among the plants that fall within this category. Red potatoes are sometimes called “new potatoes.” However, that term only refers to those potatoes that are harvested early and are small in size. That may or may not apply to red potatoes.

Red potatoes are small to medium in size, with a round or oval shape. The smooth skin is thin with a ruby to deep red color, with some light brown speckles, spots, and indentations. The flesh of red potatoes is crisp, white, and firm. Also, the flesh is lower in starch and has a higher moisture content than other potatoes. When cooked, these properties give red potatoes a waxy, dense texture with a mild flavor.

Red potatoes were first cultivated in the mountains of Peru. Spanish explorers took potatoes home with them and introduced them to Europe in the 1560s. The potatoes became popular and were carried across Europe, and eventually to the United States. Today, red potatoes are available year-round in most markets in South America, the United States, and in Europe.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Like other potatoes, red potatoes have nutritional value beyond what we would imagine. A baked red potato is high in Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin B1, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, calcium, and it even has some protein. For the most nutritional value, bake red potatoes with the skin on. Then, of course, eat the skin along with the flesh of the potato.

When comparing the nutritional aspects of 100 grams of fresh banana with 100 grams of baked red potato, the red potato surpasses the banana in potassium. That’s an interesting fact we don’t often hear about when looking for food sources of potassium!

As a “white” food, potatoes are often included with white bread and pasta and are “off the list” when people are trying to eat healthier. However, potatoes are filled with nutrients (as listed above) that promote health and wellness. Red potatoes are especially healthy to eat since we are more likely to eat their skins, which are full of fiber, B vitamins, iron and potassium.

The red color of the skin of red potatoes is due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments. Anthocyanins are strong antioxidants with many important health benefits. Red potatoes are also high in quercetin, a flavonoid with very strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Antioxidants. Free radicals are produced in the body through normal metabolism and also through other factors like smoking. Free radicals attack healthy cells making them more prone to disease. Antioxidants help to protect cells against free radicals by stopping their destructive chain reactions. Red potatoes are high in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and anthocyanins found in the red skin. Eating red potatoes on a routine basis can help to ward off serious diseases such as atherosclerosis, heart disease, cancer, and vision loss, among others. Furthermore, researchers have found that antioxidants function optimally when consumed packaged naturally in foods rather than when taken in supplement form. This is because they tend to work best in combination with other nutrients, plant chemicals, and even other antioxidants, as found in whole foods.

Lower Blood Pressure. Consider eating more red potatoes if you need to lower your blood pressure. One medium baked red potato supplies 943 milligrams of potassium. Potassium reduces the effects of sodium and may help to lower blood pressure, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Most Americans don’t meet the recommended 4,700 milligrams a day of potassium, so red potatoes can help meet that need. As stated earlier, when comparing gram per gram, baked red potatoes have more potassium than bananas.

Iron Absorption. It is well established that Vitamin C in a meal helps the body to absorb more iron from the foods in that meal. Since red potatoes contain both Vitamin C and iron, eating them can help to increase your iron status, helping to build the blood and ward off iron deficiency.

Heart Health. The fiber (in the skin), potassium, Vitamins C and B6, coupled with the lack of cholesterol in red potatoes all support heart health. Researchers in the NHANES study found that a higher intake of potassium along with a lower sodium intake reduced the risk of all-cause mortality along with heart disease. The high level of niacin in red potatoes helps to lower LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) cholesterol, the type of cholesterol we need to keep down to help prevent heart disease. Niacin also helps to support healthy skin and nerves. That’s all the more reason to enjoy red potatoes.

Brain and Nervous System Health. Vitamin B6 is important for maintaining our neurological health. It is used in creating chemicals in the brain including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This means that eating potatoes may help with the management of depression, stress, and possibly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Also, the ample carbohydrates in potatoes can help to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is the brain’s preferred food and is important for proper brain functioning. A 1995 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that modest increases in glucose can help to enhance learning and memory. The high potassium in potatoes helps ensure your brain gets enough blood, since it promotes the relaxation (widening) of blood vessels.

Immunity. All potatoes are high in Vitamin C, which is well-known for supporting a healthy immune system. One medium baked potato provides a substantial amount of this critical vitamin.

How to Select Red Potatoes
Choose potatoes that are firm, smooth, and without sprouts. Avoid those with wrinkled skins, soft dark areas, cuts, bruises or with green areas. Any green areas should be cut away before using potatoes.

How to Store Red Potatoes
Store red potatoes unwashed in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation. They should keep well for about two weeks. Do not store potatoes in the refrigerator. The cold temperature causes the starch in potatoes to convert to sugar, which will cause the potato to darken when cooked. Also, do not store potatoes near onions. Both vegetables release gases that can cause the other to age and decay faster than they normally would.

How to Prepare Red Potatoes
Gently scrub red potatoes under cool water with a vegetable brush. The skin of red potatoes is very thin, so it’s good to leave the skin on the potato, if possible, when preparing, cooking, and handling them. If needed, the skin can be removed with a vegetable peeler or paring knife.

Red potatoes may be cooked in many ways, but are especially delicious when cooked with moist heat. They may be boiled, steamed, sautéed, grilled, and roasted. They are excellent in potato salad since they hold their shape well when cooked. They can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, gratins, and salads. They can also be made into potato hash, scalloped potatoes, and mashed potatoes.

How to Preserve Red Potatoes
Like other potatoes, red potatoes can be preserved either through freezing or dehydrating. It is not a difficult process, but does take some time and effort. There is a growing trend to freeze vegetables without first blanching them. This should not be done with potatoes because they will turn dark in the process. This is very undesirable and will lead to results you won’t be happy with. So, if you have an overabundance of red potatoes, allow enough time to prepare them properly and in the long run, you’ll be glad you did!

Freezing Red Potatoes.  Wash, peel the potatoes, then dice or slice them, as desired, or leave them whole. As you are preparing your potatoes, place them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning dark. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the prepared potatoes into the boiling water and immediately set the timer for 3 minutes (for diced or sliced potatoes), or 5 minutes (for small whole potatoes) or 8 minutes (for larger whole red potatoes). The potatoes should be partially, but not completely cooked. When they feel “al dente” or just barely soft enough for a knife to poke through, they are ready. When the time is up, immediately transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water. Allow the potatoes to cool for about the amount of time they were in the hot water. Drain them well and spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place them in the freezer until frozen, then transfer the frozen potatoes to a freezer container or bag. For best quality, use them within 1 year.

Dehydrating Sliced Red Potatoes.   Dehydrating potatoes is not hard, but of course, does take some preparation and time. Wash and peel the potatoes. Slice them into 1/8 to ¼ inch thick slices. Place them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning dark. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the potatoes in the boiling water and boil them for about 5 minutes, until they are barely fork-tender. When the time is up, immediately transfer the potatoes to a bowl of ice water. Allow them to cool completely. Drain them well, then arrange them in a single layer on mesh drying trays. Set the dehydrator for 135°F, or the manufacturer’s recommended temperature for drying vegetables. Allow them to process until they feel dry, are crisp, and have no sign of moisture inside when broken open. This can take anywhere from 10 to 24 hours, depending upon how many potatoes are in the dehydrator, and the dehydrator itself. Once they are dry, allow them to cool, then transfer them to air-tight containers. Their shelf life will be prolonged if an oxygen absorber is placed in the container and as much air as possible removed from the container before storage. Mylar bags or glass mason jars work well for this application. Keep the potatoes in a cool, dry, dark environment. Dehydrated potatoes should keep well for 5 to 10 years.

Dehydrating Cubed Red Potatoes. Prepare potatoes as above (Dehydrating Sliced Red Potatoes), except cut them into ½-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the prepared potatoes and allow them to remain in the boiling water until they are barely fork-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Allow the potatoes to completely cool, then drain them. Spread them in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Set the temperature according to the manufacturer’s recommendations (usually 135°F), and allow them to process until they feel dry, are crisp, and have no sign of moisture inside when broken apart. This can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, depending upon how many potatoes you are drying and your dehydrator. When they are ready, allow them to cool, then transfer them to air-tight containers. For the longest shelf life, place an oxygen absorber inside the container and remove as much air as possible. Mylar bags or glass mason jars work especially well for preserving dehydrated food.  Store your containers in a cool, dry, dark environment. Dehydrated potatoes should keep well for 5 to 10 years.

Dehydrating Potatoes for Hash Browns. Potatoes for hash browns should be washed, then peeled. They can be left in large pieces and cooked about 2/3 of the way, until just barely fork-tender, then cooled and shredded. Or they may be shredded first, blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, then immediately transferred to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool completely. Drain them well to remove excess water. Spread the cooked, cooled, and shredded potatoes on a mesh dehydrator tray, breaking up any large clumps of potatoes. Set the dehydrator for the temperature recommended by the manufacturer (usually 135°F) and allow them to dry until crisp, translucent, and have no moisture inside when broken apart. This may take 3 hours or more, depending on the volume of potatoes and the dehydrator itself. When they are dried, remove them from the dehydrator trays to a shallow dish or baking tray to cool completely. If they are left on the dehydrator trays, they may stick as they cool down. Store them as you would other dehydrated foods, preferably in Mylar bags or glass jars with an oxygen absorber inside. Remove as much as air as possible for the longest shelf life. Store in a cool, dry, dark environment. Potatoes prepared in this way and stored properly can keep well for 5 to 10 years.

To Use Dehydrated Potatoes. For hash browns, soak the dehydrated shredded potatoes in hot water for 15 minutes, drain, and pan fry as usual.

Dried potato slices or cubes, may be added in their dry state to casseroles, soups, or stews. You will need to add extra fluid to recipes when adding them dehydrated. You could also rehydrate them first by placing them in a bowl and covering them with hot water. Allow them to rest for about 30 minutes or more, until they become rehydrated. Drain off any extra water and add them to recipes as needed.

Conversion Rate. As a general rule, dried potatoes will double in size once rehydrated. For example, 1 cup of dried potatoes will yield 2 cups when rehydrated.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Red Potatoes
* Red potatoes are high in moisture and low in starch. This combination makes them excellent for roasting, pan frying, and smashing.

* The skin of red potatoes is thin and tender, so they can easily be eaten. Save some time and add color to your dish by using unpeeled red potatoes.

* Red potatoes are an excellent salad potato because they hold their shape well when cooked.

* Try red potatoes in soups, stews, casseroles, and curries, or serve them baked or mashed.

* Red potatoes are excellent when diced and sautéed. Try including them in a breakfast hash.

* Do not store potatoes around onions. Both vegetables release gases that cause the other to age and decay faster than they normally would.

* When baking or roasting red potatoes, cook extras at the same time. Grate them and make hash brown potatoes with them in the next day or two. If that’s not convenient, grate them, then spread them on a tray and freeze them. When frozen, store them in an airtight container in the freezer for easy hash browns later.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Red Potatoes
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, chicory, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder and curry spices, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lavender, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard powder, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Red Potatoes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, cashews, chickpeas, eggs, green beans, lamb, lentils, meats (in general), peas (including split peas), pine nuts, pork, poultry, sausage, seafood, tahini, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chard, chiles, chives, eggplant, fennel, greens (all types), kale, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, parsnips, root vegetables (in general), rutabagas, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, watercress

Fruits: Coconut, lemon, olives

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, grains (in general), pasta, quinoa, spelt

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (esp. cheddar, goat, Gruyère, mozzarella, Parmesan, pecorino, Swiss), coconut cream, cream, crème fraiche, milk (dairy and non-dairy), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Mayonnaise, mustard (prepared), oil (esp. olive), pesto, stock, vinegar, wine (i.e., dry white)

Red potatoes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., breads, cakes), casseroles, curries, French cuisine, frittatas, gratins, Indian cuisine, omelets, potato cakes/pancakes, quiche, salads (i.e., egg, green salads, potato salads, cold or hot), skordalia, soups and bisques, stews, stuffed baked potatoes/twice-baked potatoes, tortillas

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Red Potatoes
Add red potatoes to any of the following combinations…

Butternut Squash + Sage
Cauliflower + Leeks
Cheddar Cheese + Chiles + Corn
Chives + Lemon + Olive Oil
Cider Vinegar + Dill + Horseradish + Olive Oil
Cream + Garlic + Thyme
Crème Fraiche + Dill
Dill + Olive Oil + Parsley + Milk of Choice [in mashed potatoes]
Fennel + Garlic + Leeks
Fennel + Lemon + Yogurt
Garlic + Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, sage)
Garlic + Lemon + Mustard
Garlic + Olive Oil
Garlic + Shallots + Tarragon + Vinegar
Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, thyme) + Lemon
Horseradish + Mustard + Scallions + Yogurt
Leeks + Nutmeg + Onions + Parsley

Recipe Links
Tonight It’s All Meat and Potatoes https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/can-eat-salad-tomorrow-tonight-meat-potatoes

Five Ingredient Crock Pot Rosemary Lemon Red Potatoes https://www.runninginaskirt.com/crock-pot-rosemary-lemon-red-potatoes/

Southwest Roasted Red Potato https://www.aberdeenskitchen.com/2016/05/southwest-roasted-potato-salad/

Smashed Potatoes https://www.simplejoy.com/italian-roasted-smashed-potatoes/#wprm-recipe-container-20848

Healthy No Mayo Potato Salad https://oursaltykitchen.com/no-mayo-potato-salad-basil-vinaigrette/

Potato Soup https://www.tipsfromatypicalmomblog.com/2010/01/potato-soup-recipe-machine-shed.html

Roasted Potato Cups with Loaded Guacamole https://www.shelikesfood.com/roasted-potato-cups-filled-loaded-guacamole-gfv/

Tamarind Chickpea Curry Recipe http://treataweek.blogspot.com/2007/05/tamarind-chickpea-curry-channa-bateta.html

Red Hasselback Potatoes https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/red-hasselback-potatoes-51230610

Warm Garlic Herb Red Potato Salad https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/warm-garlic-herb-red-potato-salad/

Ginger Turmeric Mashed Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/ginger-turmeric-mashed-potatoes/

Air Fryer Garlic Parmesan Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/air-fryer-garlic-parmesan-potatoes/

Thai Lettuce Cups with Red Curry Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/thai-lettuce-cups-red-curry-potatoes/

56 Ways to Use Red Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/red-potato-recipes/

Green Goddess Vegan Potato Salad https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/green-goddess-vegan-potato-salad/

Roasted Red Potatoes https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a29787990/roasted-red-potatoes-recipe/

15 Red Potato Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/red-potato-recipes/

67 Smashed, Mashed, and Roasted Red Potato Recipes to Transform the Baby Spud https://parade.com/1209630/felicialim/red-potato-recipes/

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Red Potatoes https://breadboozebacon.com/garlic-parmesan-roasted-red-potatoes/

 

Resources
https://cals.arizona.edu/fps/sites/cals.arizona.edu.fps/files/cotw/Red_Potato.pdf

https://specialtyproduce.com/produce/Red_Potatoes_2015.php

https://healthyfamilyproject.com/produce-tips/potatoes/

https://www.allrecipes.com/article/how-to-choose-the-right-potato-for-recipes/

https://www.potatogoodness.com/red-potatoes/

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/173944-170435/100g-100g/1-1

https://www.livestrong.com/article/417195-are-red-potatoes-healthy/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/280579#tips_for_eating_potatoes

https://healthfully.com/385187-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-red-potatoes.html

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/antioxidants/

https://www.finecooking.com/article/red-potatoes-5-ways

https://www.leaf.tv/articles/how-to-freeze-red-potatoes/

https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/drying/dehydrate-potatoes-for-various-uses-zbcz1507

https://www.gettystewart.com/dehydrating-potatoes/

https://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/assets/images/default/PDFs/rehydrate_chart.pdf

https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/ranking-types-of-potatoes-by-how-healthy-they-are

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6071262/

https://www.livescience.com/45838-potato-nutrition.html

Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. Bulletin 989. Athens, GA: Cooperative Extension Services, The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences/Athens.

MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. (2015) The Dehydrator Bible. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Russet Potatoes

Russet Potatoes 101 – The Basics

Russet Potatoes 101 – The Basics

About Russet Potatoes
Potatoes are one of the most beloved vegetables around the world. Many people think of them as comfort food. This sentiment probably carried into their scientific name, Solanum tuberosum, since “solanum” is derived from the Latin word meaning “soothing.” Their scientific name reflects the fact that potatoes belong to the Solanaceae family of plants, along with tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatillos.

There are about 100 varieties of edible potatoes, ranging in size, shape, color, starch content, and flavor. They are often classified as either “mature” (or larger) potatoes or “new” potatoes, that are harvested before maturity and are much smaller in size. Russet Burbank potatoes are among the most popular varieties of mature potatoes.

Russet potatoes are large and oblong with a thick, rough skin. They are often called Idaho potatoes because the state of Idaho leads in their production within the United States. However, only potatoes grown in Idaho may be advertised as Idaho potatoes. Russet potatoes are a high-starch potato, with a flesh that is white and dry. They are the ultimate baking or roasting potato, and make excellent mashed potatoes that are soft, light, and able to absorb a lot of liquid or other embellishments. Russets make wonderful French fries and creamy gratins. They make delicious puréed potato soup. However, their flesh does not hold up well when cooked, so they are not the best choice for most potato salads, or in cooked dishes where you need the potato to maintain its shape.

Potatoes originated in the Andes mountains in South America. It is estimated that potatoes were cultivated by those living in the region as far as 7,000 years ago. Since potatoes can be grown at high altitudes, they became a staple food in the area.

Potatoes were discovered by Spanish explorers, who carried them from South America to Europe in the early 16th century. Since potatoes were found to be high in Vitamin C, they were eventually used to feed Spanish sailors to prevent scurvy. It is believed that potatoes were first brought to the United States in the early 18th century by Irish immigrants. People were slow to adopt the Irish potato and large-scale cultivation did not start until the 19th century.

By the early 19th century, potatoes were grown throughout Northern Europe and were the main food in Ireland. In 1845 and 1846, a blight ruined most of the potato crop in Ireland, causing major devastation, known as the Irish Potato Famine. Almost 750,000 people died, and hundreds of thousands moved to other countries, including the United States, in search of sustenance.

Today, potatoes have grown to be one of the most popular foods throughout the world and the one food that Americans eat more than any other. Worldwide, the main potato producers are the Russian Federation, Poland, India, China, and the United States.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Potatoes are high in Vitamin B6, potassium, copper, Vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, pantothenic acid, protein, and fiber (if you eat the skin). It is important to note that many nutrients, especially minerals, are found in the skin of potatoes. If you want to get the most nutrients out of your potato, eat the peel along with the inner flesh.

Potatoes are an extremely popular food among many people around the world. Potatoes themselves are very healthful to eat. However, most people enjoy them fried (as French fries or potato chips) or loaded down with assorted fats, such as butter, margarine, sour cream, cheese, and/or bacon. This combination makes them a far unhealthier food than they should be. Eating them with lots of fat makes them a potential contributor to heart disease. Take away the fat and they can offer significant protection from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Furthermore, many people fear potatoes because of their high carbohydrate content. However, when eaten simply cooked with the skin, and without added fat, they are an extremely healthy food that provides many needed nutrients for good health. Also, carbohydrates in their natural, unrefined, unprocessed form (and without added fats) provide the body with its preferred form of fuel. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for the brain, heart, muscles, and internal organs such as the adrenal glands and liver. In addition to the valuable carbohydrates that potatoes offer, they also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. These include carotenoids, flavonoids, caffeic acid, and unique proteins, such as patatin, which exhibits activity against harmful free radical molecules.

Lower Blood Pressure Potential. At the Institute for Food Research, UK scientists identified blood pressure-lowering compounds in potatoes called kukoamines. This finding indicates that there are yet potentially many undiscovered health-promoting compounds in plant foods. Researchers also examined tomatoes, which are in the same botanical family as potatoes, and also found kukoamine compounds in tomatoes. With kukoamines being new in the scientific arena, scientists are now examining their stability during cooking and how much of these compounds are needed to impact health.

Vitamin B6…Building Your Cells and Nervous System, Providing Cardiovascular Protection, and Boosting Energy. Potatoes are known to be high in Vitamin B6, with one medium russet potato providing over one-third (36%) of the Daily Value of this important nutrient. Vitamin B6 is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions in the body. Enzymes enable chemical reactions to occur, so Vitamin B6 is active literally everywhere in the body. This includes building proteins, such as nucleic acids in the creation of our DNA. Proteins and nucleic acids are critical parts of new cell formation, so Vitamin B6 can affect all new cells in the body. This is one nutrient we surely don’t want to be deficient in, and potatoes can help to prevent that!

Vitamin B6 is also important in maintaining brain (neurological) activity. It is used in the creation of amines, which are neurotransmitters that the nervous system uses to transmit messages from one nerve to the next. Some neurotransmitters use Vitamin B6 for their production. This includes:

* Serotonin, which is important in avoiding depression.

* Melatonin, the hormone needed for a good night’s sleep.

* Epinephrine and norepinephrine, hormones that help us manage stress.

* GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid), which is needed for normal brain function.

Vitamin B6 is also used in methylation, a chemical process where methyl groups are transferred from one molecule to another. Many chemical processes in the body rely on methylation. For example, genes can be turned on or off through methylation, which is important in cancer prevention since the tumor suppressor gene can be turned on or off this way. Methyl groups may also be added to toxic substances, making them less toxic, encouraging their elimination from the body.

In cardiovascular health, methylation changes homocysteine, a potentially dangerous molecule, into benign substances. Without this conversion, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessel walls, inviting the progression of atherosclerosis. High homocysteine levels are associated with a much higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Eating foods rich in Vitamin B6 helps to keep homocysteine levels down, and such foods have been associated with overall lower rates of heart disease.

Vitamin B6 is also necessary for the breakdown of glycogen, the molecule that stores sugar in muscle cells and the liver. Adequate Vitamin B6 is very important for adequate athletic performance and endurance.

Fiber. One baked potato provides over 3 grams of fiber. However, remember that most of the fiber is in the skin. So, to receive this additional benefit from potatoes, be sure to also eat the peel. Doing this will help to keep your cholesterol levels in check, reduce the risk of colon cancer, and support healthy bowels in addition to preventing constipation.

How to Select Russet Potatoes
Choosing the right potato for your intended use is helpful for success in the kitchen. Russet potatoes are excellent as baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and French fries. They can be used in soups, stews, and casseroles. However, they do not hold their shape well when cooked, so they should be added during the last 20 minutes to soups and stews so they don’t overcook. Russets can be used in salads if they are not overcooked, and you don’t mind if they break apart easily.

When shopping for russet potatoes, look for ones that are firm and not spongy. Avoid those with eyes or dark spots, which indicates they are old. If you’re planning on making baked potatoes or fries, choosing potatoes that are about the same size will allow for the most even cooking times. Choosing potatoes individually rather than packed in plastic bags allows you to inspect each potato and reduces the chances of buying old or spoiled ones.

Also, avoid those with a greenish tint to the skin, which indicates they have been exposed to too much sunlight. Solanine is a chemical that may be in the greenish area of the potato. This chemical is produced to help protect the potato from insects and bacteria, but it is toxic to humans. Try to choose potatoes without any greenish tint in the skin. If you find that you have purchased greenish potatoes, cut that area away and discard it when you are preparing the potatoes. If there is a lot of green on any one potato, it may be best to throw that potato away. Cooking the potato will not destroy the solanine in it. Individuals may or may not react to any ingested solanine from potatoes. Various factors (like weight, age, and amount ingested) will affect how much, if at all, a person reacts to ingested solanine. The classic symptoms of solanine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, headaches and stomach pain. Relatively mild symptoms should resolve in about 24 hours. In extreme cases, severe effects, such as paralysis, convulsions, breathing problems, coma, and even death have been reported. So, when in doubt, throw it out!

How to Store Russet Potatoes
Potatoes keep the longest in a dry, dark, cool place. The ideal temperature is 45° to 50°F. It is best to remove them from the plastic bags they are sold in because they need air to help keep them from aging too fast. Do not refrigerate raw potatoes, which would cause the starch to convert to sugars, altering the flavor of the potato. Store potatoes away from onions, which release gases that cause potatoes to spoil faster.

How to Prepare Russet Potatoes
Depending upon how you intend to cook the potatoes, the skin may be left on or peeled away. Scrub the potatoes under running water and cut away any eyes or dark spots with a paring knife. If desired, peel the potatoes with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. To keep cut potatoes from turning dark, place cut potatoes in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to cook them. Adding a little lemon juice or vinegar to the water can help prevent them from turning dark, but it is not mandatory.

Once prepared as needed, Russet potatoes may be boiled, steamed, baked (and twice-baked), roasted, fried, sautéed, grilled, smashed, mashed, slow-cooked, hasselbacked, skewered, made into hash browns, tater tots, and latkes, and included in scalloped potato dishes, gratins, soups, hot or cold salads, quiches, pancakes, breads, frittatas, potato hash dishes, pierogis, gnocchi, and even dips. The question is…What CAN’T you do with russet potatoes?

How to Preserve Russet Potatoes
If you have too many russet potatoes and need to preserve them, there are a variety of ways this can be done. With whatever way you choose, potatoes should not be frozen when raw. Both the color and texture will change, and the quality will be undesirable when they are used thereafter.

* Freezing Whole COOKED Potatoes. Wash the potatoes well, and do not peel them. Drop them into a pot of boiling water. Allow them to cook until not quite done (a sharp knife inserted in the center will pierce the potato, but there will be some resistance). Remove the potatoes and immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Allow them to remain in the water until completely cooled. Place them on a large tray and transfer that to the freezer until the potatoes are frozen. Place them in a freezer bag or airtight container and return them to the freezer. For best results, use them within three months. When you are ready to use the potatoes, place them in the refrigerator overnight, for the easiest way to thaw them. Even if they are not completely thawed, they should be able to be cut at that point, if desired. Or finish cooking them as desired, allowing a little extra time for them to finish thawing during the cooking process, if needed. Since they were almost cooked before being frozen, recipe cooking time will need to be adjusted accordingly.

* Freezing COOKED Potatoes for Diced, Larger Chunks, or Hash Browns. First scrub your potatoes well. Bake them as desired, either in the oven, microwave, or other appliance you choose. Allow the potatoes to cool, then peel them. For hash browns, shred the cooked and cooled baked potato with a cheese grater, which should be very easy to do at this point. For diced or larger cut potatoes, cut them as desired. Spread the prepared potato pieces on a baking tray and place it in the freezer until the potatoes are completely frozen. Transfer them to freezer bags or air-tight containers and store them in the freezer for up to one year. When you are ready to use them, they can be used directly from the freezer. If thawing is preferred, place them in the refrigerator the night before so they can thaw. Use them as desired in any recipe that calls for COOKED potatoes, or cook them as you would hash browns. Since they are precooked, they will not take as long to cook as if they were raw.

* Freezing Prepared Mashed Potatoes. Simply prepare mashed potatoes as usual. Divide the batch into serving size portions, and dot with butter, if desired. Wrap each portion individually and lay them on a baking tray. Place that in the freezer until the potatoes are frozen, then transfer them to an air-tight container or bag. To use them, place them in the refrigerator the night before you plan to use them so they can thaw. They may be reheated in the microwave or in the oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until heated through. They may also be reheated in a slow cooker set on low heat for about 2 hours, or until they are completely warmed. The time will vary depending on the cooker itself, the amount of potatoes being heated, and whether they are completely frozen or partially thawed. Use frozen mashed potatoes within one month.

* Freezing Potato Soup. Use your favorite recipe to make potato soup. Enjoy some with a meal, then freeze the rest in an airtight container for later use. It is helpful to place your frozen potato soup in the refrigerator the night before you want to enjoy it, so it can start to thaw. Use the frozen soup within six months.

* Freezing BLANCHED Potatoes for Hash Browns, Wedges, Larger Chunks, or Fries. As always, scrub your potatoes well and peel them as needed for your intended use, then cut them as desired. Place the cut potato pieces in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to blanch them.

Hash Browns: Shred your washed potatoes, placing the small pieces in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to blanch them. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Transfer the potatoes to the boiling water. Immediately set your timer for 1 minute. When the timer is up, drain the potatoes and transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool completely, then drain them well. Spread the potato pieces on paper towels or a clean cloth so they can be patted dry. Transfer them to a freezer bag or (to keep them from freezing into one large lump) spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Place the tray in the freezer and allow the potato pieces to freeze completely. Transfer them to a freezer bag or container and return them to the freezer. Cook them as you would any store-bought frozen hash brown potatoes.

Wedges, Larger Chunks, or Fries: Cut your washed and peeled (if desired) potatoes into wedges, chunks, or long as for fries. Place them in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to blanch them. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Transfer the potatoes to the boiling water. Immediately set your timer for 2 or 3 minutes, depending on the size of the wedges or chunks. When the timer is up, drain the potatoes and transfer them to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool completely, then drain them well. Spread the potato chunks on paper towels or a clean cloth so they can be patted dry. Transfer them to a freezer bag or (to keep them from freezing into one large lump) spread them out on a parchment paper lined baking tray. Place the tray in the freezer and allow the potato pieces to freeze completely. Transfer them to a freezer bag or container and return them to the freezer. Bake, roast, or cook them as you would store-bought frozen potatoes.

* Dehydrating Potatoes. When dehydrating potatoes, they should be scrubbed well and peeled. They may be dried sliced, cubed, or grated.

Dehydrated Sliced Potatoes: Cut peeled potatoes crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick slices. A mandoline slicer helps to cut slices thinly and uniformly. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the sliced potatoes in the boiling water and immediately set a timer for 5 minutes. When the timer is up, transfer the potatoes to a bowl of cold water. Allow them to cool completely, then drain well. Place the slices in a single layer on mesh drying trays and dry at 130°F to 135°F, whichever temperature is recommended by the manufacturer of your dehydrator. Allow them to dry until the slices are crisp and have no sign of moisture inside when broken open. This usually takes 8 to 10 hours, but the time may vary depending upon the brand of your dehydrator and size of slices. Store in an airtight container, preferably a glass jar with as much air removed as possible. Placing an oxygen absorber inside the jar helps to retain freshness. If needed, dehydrated potato slices may be broken into smaller pieces for rehydrating and cooking.

Dehydrated Potato Cubes: Cut peeled potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the potato cubes in the boiling water and immediately set a timer for 10 minutes. When the time is up, transfer the potatoes to a bowl of cold water and allow them to cool completely. Drain well. Place the prepared potato cubes in a single layer on mesh drying trays and dry at 130°F to 135°F, whichever temperature is recommended by the manufacturer of your dehydrator. Allow them to dry until the cubes feel dry and crisp and have no sign of moisture inside when broken open. Be sure the potatoes are completely dry inside. They may feel firm on the outside when they still have some moisture inside. When in doubt, leave them in the dehydrator longer to prevent premature spoilage. Drying usually takes 12 to 16 hours, but the time may vary depending upon the brand of your dehydrator and the amount of potatoes being dried. Store in an airtight container, preferably a glass jar with as much air removed as possible. Placing an oxygen absorber inside the jar helps to retain freshness.

Dehydrated Grated Potatoes: Peel potatoes, and shred them on the coarse side of a box grater, or use the shredding plate of a food processor. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place the shredded potatoes in a heatproof colander or strainer and lower them into the boiling water. Immediately set a timer for 30 seconds. As soon as the time is up, remove the strainer from the boiling water and plunge the hot potatoes into a large bowl or pot of cold water. Allow them to cool completely. Remove the strainer and gently press the potatoes to squeeze out excess water. Spread the shredded potatoes on a fine-mesh drying tray and dry at 130°F to 135°F, whichever temperature is recommended by the manufacturer of your dehydrator. Allow them to dry for 2 to 3 hours (or until dry), stirring them occasionally to break up any clumps to ensure even drying. Allow them to dehydrate until they are dry, crisp, and translucent. Transfer the potatoes from the trays when they are still warm to a shallow dish or baking tray. If left to cool on the screens, they may stick. Transferring them to another dish or tray should prevent that problem. When they are cool, transfer the dehydrated shredded potatoes to an airtight container, preferably a glass jar with as much air removed as possible. Placing an oxygen absorber inside the jar helps to retain freshness.

* Labeling and Storing Dehydrated Foods. Be sure to label all containers of dehydrated foods with the date they were processed. Store dehydrated foods in a cool (the colder, the better), dry, dark place with good ventilation. When prepared properly, and airtight with an oxygen absorber and air removed from the container, dehydrated foods may keep from 1 year up to infinity, depending upon what type of food it is. Potatoes may keep up to 20 years. Yours may or may not last that long, as the longevity depends on the preparation, storage method, temperature, humidity, and light conditions. Generally, for best quality, using them within two or three years is a good rule of thumb.

*Rehydrating Dehydrated Potatoes. As a general rule, dehydrated potatoes will double to triple in size when rehydrated. Use that as a general guideline when determining how much to use in a recipe. Place your dehydrated potatoes into a bowl or container. Add enough boiling water to barely cover the potatoes. Allow them to rehydrate for about 15 minutes, or until fully rehydrated. Cook as desired.

If you plan to add your dehydrated potatoes to a cooked dish that contains liquid, like a soup or stew, they may be added to the pot without being rehydrated. However, it is important to note that they will absorb a lot of moisture during the cooking process, so recipes will need to be adjusted. With a soup or stew, you can simply add more liquid as needed while it cooks. When making a baked casserole using dehydrated potatoes, it would be best to rehydrate them first because it will be hard to judge how much extra liquid needs to be added to get the sauce consistency you want.

It is also important to note that many times, a rehydrated food may not regain the exact moisture level and texture of the original fresh food. Expect it to be slightly different. However, it should still be tender and palatable.

Also, consider rehydrating foods in a liquid other than plain water. Substituting vegetable broth or a combination of water and milk when rehydrating potatoes will give them enhanced flavor. However, whether to do that will depend on your intended use for the potatoes. Sometimes, a little experimentation to test the outcome is time well spent.

Best Uses for Russet Potatoes
Since russet potatoes are high in starch, they cook up soft and don’t hold their shape well. This makes them an excellent potato for creamy, fluffy mashed potatoes. They are also excellent as baked potatoes or twice-baked potatoes. They are also excellent for French fries since their interior would be tender while the outside becomes crispy.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Russet Potatoes
* Russet potatoes are perfect for “twice-baked” potatoes. Microwave or bake your potatoes as desired. Split them open and remove a little of the flesh. Fill the cavity with ingredients of your choice, then bake them at 375°F for about 10 minutes until everything is heated through. Enjoy!

* Combine leftover mashed potatoes with a little onion and diced bell pepper. Form into patties and pan fry for a fun appetizer or side dish with any meal.

* Add cooked potatoes to quiches, savory pies, omelets, soups, stews, and salads.

* Add raw potato chunks to stews and hearty soups for the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

* Russet potatoes are thick-skinned potatoes and hold up well when baked or fried.

* Russet potatoes are a high-starch potato. This is indicated by the creamy white liquid on the knife when they are cut. The more the residue, the higher the level of starch in the potato.

* Because russet potatoes are so high in starch, they are creamy and fluffy when mashed.

* Pan fry chopped baked potato with garlic and onions for part of breakfast or a tasty side dish with lunch or supper.

* Use leftover mashed or baked potatoes in potato pancakes or flatbreads.

* Sometimes when potatoes are cut and not yet cooked, they may develop a pinkish or brownish discoloration. This is from the starch reacting with oxygen in the air. Potatoes that become discolored are safe to eat, so don’t throw them out. The color usually disappears with cooking.

* When you are preparing potatoes, to keep cut potatoes from turning dark, place the cut pieces in a bowl of cold water until you are ready to cook them. Adding a little lemon juice or vinegar may also help, but is not mandatory. This brief soaking will also help to keep the potato from falling apart when it is cooked. To help retain as much of the water-soluble nutrients as possible, limit soaking to no more than two hours.

* When mashing potatoes, allow the cooked and drained potatoes to steam dry in the hot pot over very low heat for 1 or 2 minutes. This will remove any excess water so you have a drier, lighter mash.

* It is best not to store potatoes in the plastic bags they are sold in. They need air to keep them from aging too fast. Store them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place away from sunlight.

* When you don’t have much time to prepare a meal and you want some mashed potatoes, use dehydrated potato flakes. They can be prepared easily in very little time and with little effort. Just follow the directions on the package and you’ll have mashed potatoes in no time. Keep a box in your pantry so you’ll have them when needed. Important! Read the label when buying dried potato flakes to be sure it has only dehydrated potatoes and no other unwanted additives.

* If you decide to use frozen potatoes of any type in a recipe that calls for using raw potatoes, be sure to reduce the liquid called for in the recipe and the cooking time. Since frozen potatoes are already partially cooked, they will take less liquid and time to finish cooking than if raw potatoes were used. The adjustment to the amount of liquid and cooking time will depend on the recipe and size of the frozen potato pieces being used. When you’re not sure how much to adjust, start with small amounts and make adjustments as needed.

* One medium russet potato = 12 ounces = 2-1/4 cups diced (1/2 inch).

* One pound is about 2 small russet potatoes.

* If you are cooking and you don’t have enough russet potatoes available, you could substitute Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, or green plantains.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Russet Potatoes
Basil, bay leaf, capers, caraway seeds, cardamom, cayenne, celery seeds, chervil, chicory, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, curry spices, dill, fenugreek, garam masala, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lavender, lovage, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, sorrel, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Foods That Go Well with Russet Potatoes
Potatoes go with just about anything. They can be served on their own or included in just about any dish you can name, from breakfast to supper, appetizers to desserts, and from vegan to omnivore cuisines. Because of that, most people hardly need a list of foods that go with potatoes. However, if you are looking for some new ideas, hopefully this list will provide what you need!

Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, cashews, chicken, eggs, ham, lamb, lentils, peas, pine nuts, pork, poultry, seafood, tahini, turkey, walnuts

Vegetables: Arugula, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chard, chiles, chives, eggplant, greens (i.e., collards, mustard, salad, winter), kale, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, other root vegetables (in general), parsnips, rutabagas, scallions, shallots, spinach, squash (winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, truffles, turnips, watercress

Fruits: Avocado, coconut, lemons, olives

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, gnocchi, grains (in general), quinoa, spelt, pasta

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, buttermilk, cheese (all types), coconut milk and cream, cream, crème fraiche, milk (all types), sour cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Mayonnaise, mustard (prepared), pesto, stock, vinegar (i.e., champagne, sherry, white wine), wine (i.e., dry white)

Russet potatoes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., breads, cakes), casseroles, curries, egg dishes (frittatas, omelets, quiches, tortillas), French cuisine, gratins, Indian cuisine, potato cakes/pancakes, salads (i.e., egg, green, potato salad, hot or cold), skordalia, soups (i.e., leek, potato, sorrel, vegetable), stews, stuffed baked potatoes/twice-baked potatoes

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Russet Potatoes
Add russet potatoes to any of the following combinations…

Buttermilk + Chocolate + Cinnamon + Vanilla
Butternut Squash + Sage
Cauliflower + Leeks
Cheddar Cheese + Chiles + Corn
Cilantro + Coconut
Cream + Garlic + Thyme
Crème Fraiche + Dill
Fennel + Garlic + Leeks
Fennel + Lemon + Yogurt
Garlic + Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, sage)
Garlic + Lemon + Olive Oil + Parsley + Vinegar
Garlic + Lemon Zest + Parsley + Rosemary + Thyme
Garlic + Olive Oil
Garlic + Olive Oil + Walnuts
Gruyère Cheese + Winter Squash
Herbs (i.e., oregano, rosemary, thyme) + Lemon
Leeks + Parsley

Recipe Links
Mashed Potato Casserole https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/mashed-potato-casserole

Veggie Potato Fritters https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/veggie-potato-fritters/

Hash-Brown Breakfast Casserole https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/hash-brown-breakfast-casserole

Heirloom Bean Potato Cassoulet https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/heirloom-bean-potato-cassoulet

Potato-Ricotta Gnocchi with Marinara Sauce and Basil https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/potato-ricotta-gnocchi-with-marinara-sauce-and-basil

Roasted Russet Potatoes https://www.tablefortwoblog.com/our-favorite-way-to-roast-potatoes/

Rainbow Potato Pancakes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/rainbow-potato-pancakes/

Family Favorite Baked Fries https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/family-favorite-baked-fries/

Mediterranean Potato Half Shells https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/mediterranean-potato-half-shells/

Potato Toast with Creamy Avocado https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/potato-toast-with-creamy-avocado/

Festive Papas Tapas https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/festive-papas-tapas/

Easy Potato Skillet https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/easy-potato-skillet/

Quinoa Potato Cake https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/quinoa-potato-cake/

Easy Baked Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipes/easy-baked-potatoes/

21 Ways to Use Russet Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/russet-potato-recipes/

Favorite Loaded Breakfast Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/favorite-loaded-breakfast-potatoes/

Texas Garlic Mashed Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/texas-garlic-mashed-potatoes/

The Best Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/the-best-cheesy-scalloped-potatoes/

Scored Potatoes https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/scored-potatoes/

The 28 Best Potato Salad Recipes for Any Cookout Flavor https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/potato-salad-recipe-slideshow

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes https://anoregoncottage.com/slow-cooker-cheesy-garlic-scalloped-potatoes/

28 Recipes for Using Leftover Mashed Potatoes https://www.potatogoodness.com/recipe-category/leftover-mashed-potatoes/

20 Ways with Russet Potatoes https://www.allrecipes.com/gallery/russet-potato-recipes/?

 

Resources
https://www.finecooking.com/ingredient/russet-potatoes

https://www.potatogoodness.com/russet-potatoes/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=48#descr

https://producemadesimple.ca/potatoes-go-well/

https://producemadesimple.ca/potatoes/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/green-potatoes#TOC_TITLE_HDR_4

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-long-do-potatoes-last

https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/make-your-own-frozen-hashbrowns

https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/cooking-tips-tutorials/a36970244/can-you-freeze-mashed-potatoes/

https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/what-types-of-potatoes-are-best-for-which-recipes/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-to-freeze-potatoes

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-potatoes-healthy#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/170030/wt2/1

https://www.potatogoodness.com/potato-tips-tricks/

https://www.southernliving.com/veggies/potatoes/how-to-freeze-potatoes

https://www.superprepper.com/dehydrated-foods/

https://shop.honeyville.com/dehydrated-potato-slices.html

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

MacKenzie, Jennifer, Jay Nutt, and Don Mercer. (2015) The Dehydrator Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Kiwi Fruit

Kiwi Fruit 101 – The Basics

Kiwi Fruit 101 – The Basics

About Kiwi Fruit
Kiwis are small, oval fruits with brown fuzzy skin (some varieties have smooth skin without the fuzz). Inside, the flesh is semi-translucent green speckled with a few white veins and small black seeds. Kiwis are described as being sweet/sour, with notes of melon and/or strawberries, with a soft texture accented by tiny, crunchy seeds.

The most common species is Actinidia deliciosa, commonly known as Hayward kiwi. Interest in kiwi fruit is growing, so other species are becoming more widely available. Some are smooth-skinned varieties, the size of cherries, with flesh a golden yellow-green color. There are over 50 varieties of kiwi fruit.

Kiwis are native to China and were originally known as Yang Tao. They were carried to New Zealand from China by missionaries in the early 20th century. The first commercial plantings took place decades later. In 1960, they were renamed Chinese Gooseberries.

In 1961, Chinese Gooseberries first appeared at a restaurant in the United States where they were discovered by an American produce distributor who believed the U.S. market would be very receptive to this exotic fruit. She started the importation of these delicious fruits into the United States in 1962, but changed the name to kiwi fruit, in honor of the kiwi, the native bird of New Zealand, whose brown fuzzy coat resembled the skin of the fruit. Today, Italy, New Zealand, Chile, France, Japan, and the United States are among the leading commercial producers of kiwi fruit.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Kiwis are an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, a very good source of copper, and a good source of fiber, Vitamin E, potassium, and folate. Kiwis also contain some pantothenic acid and Vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, magnesium, manganese, and a little calcium. They are considered to have a low glycemic index, so they are not known to cause a large blood sugar rise after being eaten. There are 110 calories per 1-cup serving of kiwi fruit.

Antioxidant Protection. Kiwis are exceptionally high in Vitamin C, one of the primary water-soluble antioxidants in the body. It is known to neutralize harmful free radical molecules that damage cells, leading to inflammation and cancer. Adequate Vitamin C has been shown to help reduce the severity of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. It can also help prevent colon cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetic heart disease. It is well established that Vitamin C plays important roles in maintaining a healthy immune system, so it helps to prevent or lessen the severity of many infectious diseases. Researchers have clearly demonstrated that regular consumption of fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C is associated with a reduced risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Researchers have also found that phytonutrients in kiwis have the ability to protect DNA in the nucleus of human cells from oxygen-related damage. They have not identified exactly which compounds provided this benefit.

Protection from Respiratory Problems. Researchers have also found in a study with 6- and 7-year-old children in Italy that the more kiwi or citrus fruit the children ate, the less likely they were to have respiratory-related problems including wheezing, shortness of breath, or night coughing. Children who had asthma when the study began appeared to benefit the most, even in those who ate fruit only once or twice a week!

Protection from Macular Degeneration. Researchers have found that eating three or more servings of fruit per day may reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration, the main cause of vision loss in older adults. This study, as reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology involved over 110,000 subjects. Researchers evaluated participants’ consumption of fruits, vegetables, and the antioxidants Vitamins A, C, and E, and carotenoids, and compared that with the development of age-related macular degeneration. Food intake was recorded for 18 years for women, and 12 years for men. Interestingly, fruit intake (more than vegetable intake) was found to be the most protective against the severe form of the disease. Three or more servings of fruit a day was found to be the most protective. Since kiwi fruit is so high in Vitamin C, it is one to seriously consider eating on a regular basis, especially if you are at risk for age-related macular degeneration.

Cardiovascular Health. Enjoying a couple of kiwi fruit each day may significantly reduce your risk for blood clots while reducing the amount of fats (triglycerides) in your blood. This combined effect helps to protect cardiovascular health. Aspirin is often recommended to help reduce blood clotting, but can have unwanted side effects like stomach irritation and intestinal bleeding. However, the side effects of enjoying kiwi fruit on a regular basis are all beneficial. The high levels of Vitamin C, polyphenols, and potassium in kiwis work together to help protect the blood vessels and heart. In one study, volunteers who ate 2 to 3 kiwi fruit each day for 28 days reduced their platelet aggregation response (potential for blood clot formation) by 18% compared to controls who ate no kiwis. Also, triglyceride levels dropped by 15% in those who ate the kiwis, when compared to the controls. This is all the more reason to eat kiwi fruit on a regular basis!

Kiwis are also a very good source of fiber. Eating enough dietary fiber throughout the day can help to reduce high cholesterol levels, which in turn may reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Other Health Benefits. Fiber is also known for binding and removing toxins from the colon, which can help prevent colon cancer. Fiber-rich foods, like kiwi fruit, are a healthy way to keep blood sugar levels under control in diabetic patients. With kiwis having a low glycemic index, they should be safe for diabetics to consume. When in doubt, check with your healthcare provider before making changes to your diet.

How to Select Kiwi Fruit
When buying kiwis, hold them between your thumb and forefinger. Gently apply pressure. If it yields gently to pressure, it is ready to be eaten and will have the sweetest flavor. Those that are very soft, shriveled or have bruised or damp spots are overripe and will not be the best choice.

Kiwis that do not yield when you apply gentle pressure with your hand are not yet ready to be eaten. They will not have reached their peak of sweetness. They can be purchased and left to ripen for a few days to a week at room temperature. Monitor them daily and enjoy them when they are at their best…when they yield slightly to gentle pressure.

How to Store Kiwi Fruit
Store kiwis at room temperature if they need to ripen up some. Keep them away from sunlight or heat sources. If you want to speed up the ripening process, place them in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or pear. The ethylene gas released by the other fruit will hasten the ripening of your kiwis. Monitor them daily. When they give to slight pressure when held between your thumb and forefinger, they are ripe and ready to eat. If you need to keep them longer, transfer them to the refrigerator. Kiwis may also be cut in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

Ripe kiwis will keep for several days at room temperature, and up to four weeks in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare and Use a Kiwi
Kiwis are delicious no matter how they are eaten.

* They can be peeled with a paring knife, sliced, then enjoyed on their own or as part of a fruit or vegetable salad of your choice. If you are adding kiwi fruit to any salad, it’s best to enjoy it right away. Enzymes in cut kiwis act as a food tenderizer, which acts on the kiwi itself in addition to other foods. So, when adding kiwi to a salad, if you prepare the salad in advance, wait until the last minute to add your kiwi.

* Kiwis may also be cut in half and the flesh scooped out with a spoon.

* The skin of kiwis may also be eaten. They are full of nutrients and fiber, and are very thin so they are not hard to chew. If preferred, the outer fuzz can be rubbed off before eating.

* Kiwis may be cut up in advance and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

How to Preserve Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi fruit can be used to make jams, jellies, and preserves. Oregon State University Extension Service has some simple recipes for these ideas at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50832preservingkiwifruit.pdf

Kiwis may also be frozen, dehydrated, and made into chutney. Oregon State University Extension Service provides details on how to prepare kiwis in these ways at https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50832preservingkiwifruit.pdf

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Kiwi Fruit
* When stored at room temperature, kiwis will continue to sweeten.

* For a simple way to enjoy a kiwi, simply cut it in half around the middle, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Enjoy!

* Enjoy a kiwi parfait! Layer yogurt or pudding, chopped kiwi, and some granola. Add other fruit such as a banana, strawberries, blueberries, or grapes, if you want. Enjoy!

* Try a kiwi-mint slushie on a hot day. In a blender, add some ice, kiwis, frozen limeade, a little fresh mint, and some honey, sugar, or a date or two for sweetness. Blend for a refreshing treat.

* Try a kiwi smoothie by blending yogurt or your favorite milk, banana, kiwi, a handful of baby spinach leaves, and a couple ice cubes.

* Add kiwi slices to your favorite chia pudding.

* Try homemade kiwi juice. Blend three kiwis with up to 4 cups of water, 1 cup of ice, and some honey as desired. Blend briefly until smooth.

* Try kiwi-pineapple popsicles! Briefly blend 1-1/2 cups of pineapple juice with 4 peeled, cut kiwis. Add a little sugar or honey, if desired for added sweetness. Pour into popsicle molds, freeze, then enjoy!

* Add kiwi fruit to tossed green salads. If making the salad in advance, the kiwi may also be cut in advance, but store it in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator. Add it to the salad at the last minute when preparing it for serving.

* Make a simple dessert or snack by topping sliced kiwi fruit and strawberries with your favorite yogurt.

* Make a fruit chutney with chopped kiwi, orange, and pineapple. Serve as an accompaniment to chicken or fish.

* Try a fruit soup by blending kiwis with cantaloupe. Add yogurt for a creamy consistency.

* If a recipe calls for kiwis and you don’t have any or don’t have enough, you could substitute any of the following: gold kiwis, strawberries and gooseberries, dragon fruit (pitaya).

* Two whole kiwis = about ¾ cup chopped or sliced.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Kiwi Fruit
Basil, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, mint, rosemary, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Kiwi Fruit
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, cashews, chicken, fish, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), pistachios, poppy seeds, pork, seafood, walnuts

Vegetables: Celery, celery root, cucumbers, greens (esp. baby greens), jicama, kale, radishes, zucchini

Fruits: Apples, avocados, bananas, berries, cherries, citrus fruits, coconut, grapefruit, grapes, guava, lemons, limes, lychees, mangoes, melons (all types), oranges, papaya, passion fruit, peach, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranates, raspberries, star fruit, strawberries, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Cereals (breakfast)

Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Cream, cream cheese, ice cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Brown rice syrup, chocolate, honey, Kirsch, maple syrup, rum, sugar, vinegar (balsamic), wine (sparkling wine, i.e., Champagne, sweet)

Kiwis have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Desserts, drinks, kebabs, marinades, puddings, salad dressings, salads (esp. fruit), sorbets, tarts (fruit)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Kiwi Fruit
Add kiwis to any of the following combinations…

Bananas + Orange Juice
Bananas + Strawberries
Honey + Lime
Mint + Yogurt

Recipe Links
25 Best Kiwi Recipes https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/kiwi-recipes/

Kiwi and Lime Strawberry Salad https://www.thekitchenmagpie.com/strawberry-kiwi-lime-salad/#wprm-recipe-container-35558

Kiwi Cucumber Salad with Walnuts and Fresh Mint https://www.flavourandsavour.com/kiwi-cucumber-salad-with-walnuts-and-fresh-mint/#recipe

Kiwi Avocado and Tomato Salad with Kiwi Dressing https://saltedplains.com/kiwi-avocado-tomato-salad-recipe/

Winter Fruit Salad https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/winter-fruit-salad/#recipe

Kiwi Pineapple Salsa https://www.kimscravings.com/kiwi-pineapple-salsa-recipe/

Kiwi Lime Sorbet https://bromabakery.com/kiwi-lime-sorbet/

Prawn and Avocado Salad with Golden Kiwi https://thedevilwearssalad.com/prawn-avocado-kiwi-salad/

Fresh Fruit Platter Extraordinaire https://thedevilwearssalad.com/fresh-fruit-platter/#recipe

Resources
https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/top-10-ways-to-enjoy-kiwifruit/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=41&tname=foodspice#nutritionalprofile

https://extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/default/files/documents/8836/sp50832preservingkiwifruit.pdf

http://www.calharvest.com/kiwifreezing.html

https://thedevilwearssalad.com/what-goes-well-with-kiwi/

Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.


About Judi

Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.