Category Archives: Nutrition

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe 101 – The Basics

Cantaloupe (Muskmelon) 101 – The Basics

About Cantaloupe
The fruit we commonly call a “cantaloupe” in the United States is actually a type of muskmelon (Cucumis melo var reticulatus). Muskmelons have an outer skin (or rind) covered with what appears to be a “netting” or an orderly mosaic pattern. Sometimes they will have some ribbing, or lines running from end to end, like the seams on a basketball. However, the ribbing is usually not heavy nor deep.

True cantaloupes (Cucumis melo var cantalupensis) do not have extensive, orderly netting on the outer surface, and they have well-defined, deeply grooved ribs. True cantaloupes are grown almost exclusively in other parts of the world, especially in the Mediterranean region.

In this article, for the sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion (at least in the United States), muskmelons will be referred to as cantaloupes.

Cantaloupes are members of the cucurbit family of plants (Cucurbitaceae). This family also includes cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes, gourds, and many types of melons, including watermelon and honeydew melons. Since members of this plant family can easily cross-pollinate, there are many different hybrid melons available.

Cantaloupes grow on low vines and have orange, sweet flesh, with seeds in the center. The fruit is best when eaten fresh and in season, when it is picked ripe. This delicious fruit is often eaten as a snack, breakfast, side dish, or dessert. In many cultures, the edible cantaloupe seeds are often dried and enjoyed as a snack food.

Historians are not certain where the cantaloupe originated. However, melons are often found growing wild in Africa, which leads some to believe they may have originated there. However, they may also have had their origins in parts of Asia, India, or China.

Today, China is the world’s largest producer of melons (which includes cantaloupe). Within the United States, California is the largest producer of cantaloupes, growing over half of all the supply. California is followed by Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, and Texas in production. Despite the production of cantaloupes in the United States, in 2010, the country purchased over 935 million pounds of cantaloupes from Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Cantaloupe is an excellent source of Vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids) and Vitamin C. It also has a good supply of potassium, fiber, Vitamin B1, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, magnesium, copper, Vitamin K, manganese, and zinc. It also contains a wide array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, including carotenoids, lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, luteolin, and more. The edible seeds of cantaloupe also provide a measurable amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha-linolenic acid. These important health-promoting compounds, together with the vitamins and minerals found in cantaloupes, makes them an excellent food to include in your diet. Cantaloupe is full of water and electrolytes, so enjoying some cantaloupe can help to keep you hydrated while balancing your body fluids. One cup of fresh cantaloupe cubes has 144 calories.

Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Support. Cantaloupe’s nutritional strength lies in its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. The levels of these nutrients may be a bit lower than some other fruits, such as berries, but since the serving size of cantaloupe is often larger than other fruits, they provide important, health-promoting benefits attributed to these nutrients.

Individuals who eat a lot of cantaloupe and other fruit, have been found to have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome. This condition stems from underlying chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that leads to high blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure along with too much body fat. Since cantaloupe offers an array of antioxidants that help prevent oxidative stress and reduce inflammation, individuals who eat a lot of cantaloupes have lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the bloodstream. CRP is a widely used marker to assess levels of inflammation in the body.

Heart Disease Prevention. The fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C found in cantaloupe are important nutrients for heart health. Potassium helps to lower high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Fiber helps to reduce levels of LDL (low-density-lipoprotein) cholesterol, which helps to reduce the risk for heart disease. It also helps to keep blood pressure in check. Many heart-related problems start out with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. If you want to help lower your risk of metabolic syndrome and related chronic issues, including heart and cardiovascular problems, enjoy cantaloupe and other fruit in your diet as often as you can.

Diabetes Help and Prevention. In animal studies, researchers have shown that cantaloupe phytonutrients can improve insulin and blood sugar metabolism. Cantaloupe extracts have been shown to reduce oxidative stress in the kidneys of animals with diabetes. They have also been shown to improve insulin resistance in diabetic animals.

Cantaloupe has a low glycemic load score of 4. This means it is digested slowly and won’t cause a spike in blood sugar.

Eye Health. One cup of cantaloupe has 100 percent of the recommended intake of Vitamin A. It also has nearly 100 percent of the recommended intake of Vitamin C, the most important antioxidant in the body. If that’s not enough, cantaloupe also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two important antioxidants that give fruits and vegetables their yellow and red colors. When combined with Vitamin A, these antioxidants work together to play an important role in protecting your vision and eye health. In particular, they may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Reduced Cancer Risk. Not only can the antioxidants in cantaloupe fight inflammation, reduce oxidative stress, help with blood sugar management, and improve eye health, they can also help to reduce the risk of cancer. Specifically, the antioxidants found in cantaloupe combined with the fiber in the fruit, can help to lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Hydration. Many people go about their days while dehydrated, and they aren’t even aware of it. Mild dehydration can cause dizziness, headache, less urination, dry skin, dry mouth, and constipation. Severe dehydration can be serious and may lead to rapid heart rate, confusion, low blood pressure, shriveled skin, and even unconsciousness! Dehydration is also a risk factor for developing kidney stones, and makes the heart have to pump harder than it should.

Like many melons, cantaloupe has a high water content, being almost 90 percent water. Eating cantaloupe when you can, especially on a hot summer day, helps to keep you hydrated. When it’s available and you’re thirsty, take a drink of cantaloupe! At the same time, the naturally-occurring sugars in the melon will help to give you an energy boost.

How to Select a Cantaloupe
Choose a cantaloupe that is heavy for its size, firm, and a golden-beige color under the outer netting. There should be little to no green color on the rind. Try tapping on the cantaloupe and listen as you tap. If the sound is dull and deep, it’s an indication that the melon is ripe. If the sound is higher in pitch and sounds hollow, the cantaloupe is probably not ripe. Also, press gently with your thumb on the top (stem end, where the vine was attached) of the cantaloupe. If it gives way very slightly, then good. If the spot gives way substantially, to the point of feeling soft or even squishy, the cantaloupe is probably overripe. While you have it in your hands, check the melon all over to make sure there are no bruises or damage anywhere.

Another way to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe is to smell the stem end or the bottom blossom end of the melon. Get up front and close with a melon and take a deep sniff. If it smells like a sweet, fresh, fragrant cantaloupe, then it is. If it has little to no smell, then it’s not a ripe melon and will have little flavor. If the fragrance is very strong, then the melon may be overripe and not your best choice. Try again with another melon until you find one that smells good and opt for that one.

Try to avoid soft, overripe melons, since they are past their prime and will not last long. They may even be starting to spoil. For the best flavor, try to find one that is ripe.

Cantaloupes will not continue to ripen after having been picked, so it is best to find a good, ripe melon while you’re at the store. They will, however, continue to age after harvest, getting softer and juicier. However, that process will only happen at room temperature. Once you cut into your melon, it must be refrigerated, which will slow down any further softening that might happen.

How to Store a Cantaloupe
Ripe, whole, unwashed, and uncut cantaloupe should be stored in the refrigerator for the longest life. If left out, they will continue to age by softening up and getting juicier. Keep it at room temperature for up to three days, if you want it to age some. Refrigerate your unwashed, whole melon if it is at its peak and you want to prevent further aging. Be sure to use it within 5 days.

Once cut, a store-bought cantaloupe will usually keep for 3 to 5 days. It should be wrapped airtight in plastic wrap or cut and stored in an airtight container. Always store cut melons in the refrigerator. However, how long it keeps will depend upon how old it is, or how long since it was harvested. Typically, a freshly picked cantaloupe should keep for up to 2 weeks. However, store-bought melons were not freshly picked so they should be used up as soon as possible.

If your cut melon begins to smell a bit alcohol-like, it has started to ferment and is going bad. It is best to discard it at that point.

How to Prepare a Cantaloupe
Preparing a cantaloupe is easy, but a couple steps are important. Simply rinse off your melon to remove any dirt or debris from the surface. It is important to scrub the outer rind under running water with a brush to help remove any bacteria that may be lingering on the surface. (Cantaloupes are a common fruit associated with foodborne illness because of the potential bacteria harbored within the netting on the surface. Scrubbing with a brush can help to remove those unhealthful bacteria.) Cut the melon in half (either lengthwise or crosswise), scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then slice or cut the melon as desired. If preferred, a melon baller can also be used to scoop out the flesh. Cut the flesh from the rind and serve as needed.

How to Freeze Cantaloupe
Freezing cantaloupe couldn’t be any easier. Simply prepare your cantaloupe as needed by washing, removing the seeds and the rind, and cutting the flesh into desired size pieces. Place your cantaloupe pieces in a freezer bag or airtight container. Close it up and label with the date. Store it in the freezer and use it within one year.

Note that your frozen cantaloupe will have a softer texture once it is thawed. It will not be the best option for a fresh fruit salad. However, it would work well for smoothies, blended into a beverage, or puréed for some other application.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Cantaloupe
* It’s important to know that you should wash off the outer surface of your cantaloupe before cutting into it. Bacteria can linger within the netting on the surface and can cause foodborne illness when carried into the cantaloupe with a knife. So rinse it well under running water while scrubbing the surface with a brush. Then cut your cantaloupe accordingly and be sure to wash the knife and all counter and cutting board surfaces afterwards.

* Try a refreshing cantaloupe beverage on a warm day. Blend until smooth 5 cups of cantaloupe chunks, 4 cups of water, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice. Add some fresh herbs such as mint or basil, if you want. Sweeten it a bit with a little honey or other sweetener, if needed. Then enjoy!

* Try a cantaloupe fruit smoothie! Blend until smooth 1 cup of cantaloupe chunks, 10 strawberries (fresh or frozen), 1 banana, yogurt for creaminess (optional), and a little milk of choice or water to thin it to the consistency you want. Enjoy!

* Make some easy cantaloupe strawberry popsicles for a refreshing treat on a hot summer day! Blend cantaloupe until it is smooth. Separately, puree or blend strawberries until they are smooth. In a popsicle mold, alternate filling it with the two fruit purees. Add a stick and freeze. Enjoy them within two months.

* For something fun and decorative for a party, serve a mixture of fresh melon and other fruits, like mixed berries and grapes, in cantaloupe halves. Slice a cantaloupe lengthwise, from end to end. Scoop out the seeds, then using a melon baller, scoop out the pulp, leaving the rind intact. To make it fancy, cut a zig-zag pattern along the edge of both hollowed out cantaloupe halves. Then, prepare the other fruit and toss all the fruit in a large bowl. Scoop the fruit mixture into the melon halves and place them on the table so people can serve themselves from the melon bowls. Sprinkle a little dried coconut on top for extra flavor and a decorative garnish. Place a few mint leaves to one side in each half for a little pop of color.

* Alternate melon cubes and other fruit on skewers. Cantaloupe cubes, grapes, strawberries, and even your favorite cheese on a skewer would be colorful and delicious. Serve it with vanilla yogurt as a dip and enjoy!

* Make a simple refreshing beverage by blending cantaloupe with orange juice. Add a touch of sweetener and a couple ice cubes, if desired.

* Try another refreshing beverage for a hot summer day by combining freshly made cantaloupe juice with sparkling water. Add a few ice cubes, top with a mint leaf, and enjoy!

* Make a cantaloupe parfait! In a tall glass, alternate layers of cantaloupe cubes, mixed berries, and banana slices with vanilla yogurt. Top with toasted chopped walnuts, granola, or sliced almonds and enjoy!

* Cantaloupes release ethylene gas, which causes fruits and some vegetables to ripen faster. If you are storing your cantaloupe on the kitchen counter for a few days, keep it away from other fruits and vegetables that may react to the gas, unless you want those other foods to ripen faster.

* If you have cantaloupe that is ripening too fast and you won’t be able to eat it all, puree the melon and freeze it. The puree can later be included in smoothies, beverages, or similar recipes.

* Store cantaloupes unwashed. If you wash one in advance of cutting it, the added moisture to the surface can invite mold to form. Wash it off just before you’re about to cut it.

* Many cultures dry cantaloupe seeds and enjoy them as a snack. You can do this too by simply roasting them at a low temperature. Scoop out the seeds from your freshly cut cantaloupe. Place the seeds in a strainer and rinse them under cold running water while gently pressing the seeds against the strainer to help release the pulp. Drain them well, remove the pulp, then place the washed seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast them at 160-170°F (about 75°C) for 15 to 20 minutes. Roasting them for a short time at a low temperature helps to minimize damage to the healthy oils in the seeds.

* Make an easy cold fruit soup. Blend until smooth some cantaloupe with soft, peeled peaches. Add a touch of lemon and honey to taste and serve.

* Top cantaloupe slices with your favorite yogurt and some chopped mint leaves.

* If you have a recipe calling for cantaloupe and you can’t get one or don’t have enough, the following types of melons may be used as substitutes: Persian, Crenshaw, Santa Claus, Honeydew, Casaba, or Ambrosia melons.

* If you have a need for dried cantaloupe and don’t have any, the following may be used as a substitute: dried mango, papaya, peaches, or nectarines.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Cantaloupe
Basil, cilantro, cinnamon, lemongrass, mint, nutmeg, pepper (black and white), salt, sorrel, vanilla

Foods That Go Well with Cantaloupe
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Nuts and nut butters (in general), pork (prosciutto or pancetta)

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, chiles, cucumbers, garlic, ginger, onions (esp. red), tomatoes

Fruits: Bananas, berries (i.e., blackberries, blueberries, raspberries), citrus fruits, coconut, dates, figs, grapes, mangoes, melons (all other types), nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, raisins

Grains and Grain Products: Rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy Products: Buttermilk, cheese (i.e., blue, cottage), coconut milk, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, honey, maple syrup, oil (esp. olive), rum, vinegar (esp. balsamic), wine (esp. sparkling, sweet)

Cantaloupes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Desserts, ices and granitas, salads (i.e., fruit), salsas, sorbets, soups (i.e., fruit)

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Cantaloupe
Add cantaloupe to any of the following combinations…

Agave Nectar + Ginger
Basil + Black Pepper + Blue Cheese
Berries + Lemon
Chiles + Cilantro + Garlic + Lime + Onions
Ginger + Lime + Orange
Honey + Lime
Honey + Vanilla + Yogurt
Lemon + Mint
Lime + Mint
Mango + Papaya

Recipe Links
Tomato and Cantaloupe Salad https://thishealthytable.com/blog/the-simplest-salad-tomatoes-cantaloupe/

Summer Cantaloupe and Tomato Salad https://minimalistbaker.com/summer-tomato-cantaloupe-salad/#wprm-recipe-container-35273

20 Cantaloupe Recipes for Refreshing Meals https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/cantaloupe-recipes/

Cantaloupe Agua Fresca https://drivemehungry.com/cantaloupe-agua-fresca/#recipe

Cantaloupe Cucumber Salad https://thishealthytable.com/blog/cantaloupe-cucumber-salad/

Melon Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime, and Mint Dressing https://www.cookingclassy.com/melon-pineapple-fruit-salad-honey-lime-mint-dressing/#jump-to-recipe

Cantaloupe Salsa https://www.wickedspatula.com/cantaloupe-salsa/

Spiced Cantaloupe Tea Loaf https://www.jocooks.com/recipes/spiced-cantaloupe-tea-loaf/

Cantaloupe Recipes https://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/cantaloupe

23 Cantaloupe Recipes Ripe for Summer Melon Season https://www.epicurious.com/ingredients/sweet-and-savory-cantaloupe-recipes-gallery

6 Amazing Cantaloupe Recipes for a Sweet Summer https://wholefully.com/cantaloupe-recipes/

7 Fresh, New California Cantaloupe Recipes https://californiacantaloupes.com/7-fresh-new-california-cantaloupe-recipes/

Honey-Melon Salad with Basil https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-melon-salad-with-basil/

Grilled Cantaloupe with Almonds and Feta https://www.savoryonline.com/recipes/167220/grilled-cantaloupe-with-almonds-and-feta

30 Cantaloupe Recipes That Are Ripe for Melon Season https://www.purewow.com/food/cantaloupe-recipes

Cantaloupe-Mint Sorbet https://www.purewow.com/recipes/cantaloupe-mint-sorbet

Cantaloupe and Mozzarella Caprese Salad https://www.foodiecrush.com/cantaloupe-and-mozzarella-caprese-salad/#recipe

Roasted Cantaloupe Salad https://brooklynfarmgirl.com/roasted-cantaloupe-salad/

Savory Cantaloupe Salad https://www.honeyandbirch.com/savory-cantaloupe-salad/

The Joy Kitchen’s Roasted Cantaloupe https://food52.com/recipes/23737-the-joy-kitchen-s-roasted-cantaloupe?clickref=1101liVDYdqC&utm_source=partnerize&utm_medium=affiliate

Cantaloupe Salad with Basil, Fresh Mozzarella, and Onions https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-cantaloupe-salad-with-basil-fresh-mozarella-onions-174384

Resources
https://drivemehungry.com/cantaloupe-agua-fresca/#recipe

https://wholefully.com/cantaloupe-recipes/

https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/top-10-ways-to-enjoy-cantaloupe/

https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=17#descr

https://www.thespruceeats.com/picking-ripe-cantaloupe-2356029

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/cantaloupe-health-benefits

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/169092/wt1/1

https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cantaloupe

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-of-cantaloupe#water

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.

Limes

Limes 101 – The Basics

Limes 101 – The Basics

About Limes
Limes are a small, green citrus fruit, Citrus aurantifolia. The skin and flesh are often green, but some varieties will have a yellowish or even orange color. The fruit is oval to round in shape with a diameter usually between one and two inches. Limes can either be sour or sweet. Sweet limes are not easily found in the United States. The sweet variety lacks citric acid, so the juice is sweeter in flavor. Sour limes, which are commonly found in the United States are acidic with a tart flavor. They have a higher sugar and citric acid content than lemons.

There are two main types of limes: the Mexican lime and the Persian lime. Mexican limes may also be called Key or West Indian limes. Persian limes may also be called Tahitian or Bearss limes. The Persian limes are the most common variety found in grocery stores in the United States. They are known for their mild, acidic flavor.

Limes grow on trees in tropical and subtropical climates. They are believed to be native to Southeast Asia. Arabian traders brought lime trees from Asia to Egypt and Northern Africa around the 10th century. Arabian Moors carried them to Spain in the 13th century. From there, they were carried throughout southern Europe during the Crusades.

Limes were brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus on his second trip in 1493 where they were then planted in many Caribbean countries. Centuries later, explorers learned that the Vitamin C-rich limes could be used to prevent the deadly disease scurvy. When they started eating limes on their long voyages, they were given the nickname “limeys,” a term that we are still familiar with today. Limes were introduced to the United States in the 16th century when Spanish explorers carried West Indies limes to the Florida Keys, which introduced North America to “Key limes.” Spanish missionaries attempted to plant lime trees in California, but learned the climate was not right for the trees. At that time, limes were in demand by the miners and explorers during the California Gold Rush. Since they could not be grown locally, limes began to be imported from Tahiti and Mexico during the mid-19th century. Today, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States (mostly in Arizona and Florida) are among the leading commercial producers of limes.

Both the zest and juice of limes are most often used in fresh applications. The juice is a natural tenderizer for meats and is often used in marinades, and is sometimes drizzled over a dish as a finishing flavor. The juice is often used in salsa and guacamole, not only as a flavoring agent, but also as an anti-browning agent for avocado. Lime is also used in dressings, sauces, baked goods, desserts, beverages, jams, jellies, marmalades, syrups, pickles, garnishes for cocktails, and paired with meats, beans, and vegetables.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
Limes are an excellent source of Vitamin C and a good source of folate. They also provide a little Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, and calcium. Also, like many fruits and vegetables, limes contain important flavonoid compounds with strong antioxidant properties.

Antioxidant Properties. Both lemons and limes are high in Vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants found in nature. It is one of the main antioxidants found in food and it is the main water-soluble antioxidant in the human body. Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals that it comes into contact with, both inside and outside cells. Free radicals damage healthy cells and cause inflammation in the body. Adequate Vitamin C has been shown to be helpful in reducing some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Free radicals can also damage blood vessels, making cholesterol more likely to build up in artery walls. With that, Vitamin C can be helpful in preventing the development and progression of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Research has clearly shown that eating vegetables and fruits high in Vitamin C is associated with a lower risk of death from all causes including heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Vitamin C is also critical for a strong immune system and has been shown to be very useful in fighting infections like colds, flus, and recurrent ear infections.

Anti-Cancer Effects. Limes are high in the flavonoid antioxidants called flavonol glycosides, including many kaempferol-related molecules. These factors have been shown to stop cell division in many types of cancer.

Citrus fruits, including limes also contain citrus limonoids. These compounds have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach, and colon. Also, limonoids have been found to remain in blood plasma longer than other natural anti-carcinogenic compounds. That’s all the more reason to include citrus fruits of all types in the diet on a regular basis!

Antibacterial Effects. The same flavonoids that have anti-cancer effects also have been found to have antibiotic effects. In several villages in West Africa where cholera epidemics have occurred, inclusion of lime juice during the main meal of the day was found to be protective against cholera, a disease triggered by the bacteria Vibrio cholera. Researchers have found that the addition of lime juice to a sauce eaten with rice was found to have strong protective effect against cholera.

Helps Protect Against Kidney Stones. Eating citrus fruits on a regular basis has been shown to help keep kidney stones at bay. The citric acid in lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits deters the formation of kidney stones.

How to Select Limes
Select limes that are firm and heavy for their size, and that are free of decay and mold. The skin should be glossy and a deep green color. Limes turn more yellow as they ripen, but their flavor is best when they are green.  They are usually available year-round, but are most plentiful from mid-Spring through mid-Fall.

How to Store Limes
Limes may be kept at room temperature, away from sunlight for 1 to 2 weeks. They may also be stored in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for several weeks. If you have limes that need to be used up and it’s not convenient for you to use them at the moment, zest them and squeeze the juice and preserve them for later. See “How to Preserve Limes” for instructions on how to save the juice and zest for later.

To store cut limes, place the pieces in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 2 days.

How to Prepare Fresh Limes
Always wash your lime well before using it. The surface may have dirt, bacteria, or chemical residues on it, which should be washed off first. If you want to use lime zest, zest the lime first before cutting it. When zesting, be sure to use only the outermost area of the peel. Avoid zesting the white pith underneath the surface, since that can be bitter. Once the lime is zested, feel free to cut the lime any way it will be needed for your recipe…halved, sliced crosswise, or sliced into wedges. Most limes do not have seeds, so they should be easily ready to enjoy with simple cutting.

How to Preserve Limes
Lime juice and lime zest can be stored for later use. Place freshly squeezed lime juice in ice cube trays, freeze, then transfer the frozen cubes to an airtight container or freezer bag, stored in the freezer. For best flavor, use within ­­­3 to 4 months. It will be edible beyond that, but the flavor may dwindle.

Fresh lime zest may be dried and stored in an airtight glass container in a cool, dry place. When dried, use about 1/3 dried zest vs the amount of fresh zest called for in a recipe. For best flavor, use within 1 year.

Fresh lime zest may also be frozen for later use. Simply wash, then zest the lime. Spread the zest out on a parchment paper-lined tray and place that in the freezer. When the zest is frozen, transfer it to an airtight freezer container and return it to the freezer. Use frozen zest within 6 months. Frozen zest may be used while frozen; it is not necessary to thaw it first. However, to compensate for the frozen bits of zest, over measure just a bit when using a recipe that calls for fresh zest. For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of fresh lime zest, measure up to 1-1/2 teaspoons of frozen zest.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Limes
* The typical lime found in most grocery stores is actually a Persian lime. Key limes are smaller and have a more concentrated lime flavor.

* Try drying lime zest to make a powder that can be sprinkled on dishes like a spice.

* For an interesting dessert or breakfast accompaniment, try cutting some fresh fruit of choice, like a banana. Top it with yogurt then sprinkle with a little lime zest.

* Instead of lemon, add a slice of lime to water, for refreshing lime water.

* When zesting, use a sharp microplane zester and scrape the lime over the sharp edges of the zester. Remove only the top layer of the fruit. Stop and rotate the lime when you reach the white pith underneath because it is bitter.

* If you want to use both the juice and zest of any fruit, zest first and juice second. It’s much easier that way!

* Try squeezing a wedge of lime over your favorite taco.

* Combine some lime juice with sugar, seltzer water, and ice to make a refreshing limeade.

* Add a little lime juice to Mexican rice and serve with extra lime wedges.

* Squeeze a little lime juice into a floral tea, like hibiscus tea.

* Make a marinade for baked salmon with lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

* To get the most juice from a lime, juice it when it is at room temperature. Also, roll it under the palm of your hand on a hard surface, such as the kitchen counter before juicing. If your lime has been in the refrigerator, it can be quickly warmed up by placing it in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes before using it.

* Be sure to rinse off your lime before cutting it to remove any dirt or bacteria that may be lingering on the surface. If it is cut without being washed first, the knife will carry anything undesirable inside the fruit, which could contaminate the lime.

* If a recipe calls for lime and you don’t have any, you could substitute any of the following (even though the flavors may be somewhat different): Key lime, lemon, Meyer lemon, orange, grapefruit, pummelo.

* 1 pound of Persian limes = 6 to 8 medium limes = 1/2 to 2/3 cup (125 to 150 mL) juice

* One medium Persian lime will yield 1 to 3 tablespoons of juice, and 1 to 2 teaspoons of zest.

* Try an easy side dish for supper by combining cooked rice with green peas, scallions, pumpkin seeds, lime juice and a little lime zest.

* To help keep avocado from turning dark, squeeze a little lime juice onto your cut avocado, then enjoy!

* When cooking deep leafy greens, such as collards, kale, turnip greens, or mustard greens, drizzle them with a little lime juice at the end to help counter any bitterness left in the greens.

Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Limes
Basil, chili powder, cilantro, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mint, mustard powder, oregano, rosemary, tarragon, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Limes
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Almonds, beef, chicken, macadamia nuts, nuts (in general), peanuts, pork, seafood, sesame seeds, tofu

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, chiles, cucumbers, jicama, lettuce (all types), mushrooms, onions, scallions, shallots, squash (winter), tomatillos, tomatoes

Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries (in general), blackberries, coconut (and other tropical fruits), grapes, guavas, lemons, lychees, mangoes, melons (all types), oranges, papayas, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon

Grains and Grain Products: Corn, graham crackers, noodles (i.e., Asian, rice), quinoa, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese, coconut milk, yogurt

Other Foods: Caramel, hoisin, honey, mayonnaise, oil (esp. grapeseed, olive, sesame, sunflower seed), rum, soy sauce, sugar, tapioca, tequila, vinegar (i.e., champagne, rice, sherry)

Limes have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Baked goods (i.e., pies, tarts), beverages (i.e., limeade, margaritas, mojitos), guacamole, Indian cuisine, marinades, Mexican cuisine, Pacific Rim cuisines, pies, puddings (i.e., rice pudding), rice dishes, salad dressings, salads (i.e., fruit salads), salsas, sauces, soups, Southeast Asian cuisines, tarts, Thai cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine

Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Limes
Add limes to any of the following combinations…

Avocado + Romaine Lettuce
Chipotle Chiles + Corn
Cilantro + Cumin
Cilantro + Garlic + Oil
Coconut + Graham Crackers
Ginger + Honey
Ginger + Mint
Mint + Scallions
Mushrooms + Sesame

Recipe Links
20 Lime Recipes That Make the Most of This Humble Citrus https://www.marthastewart.com/274397/lime-recipes

20 Tangy Lime Recipes to Make Your Mouth Pucker https://www.thespruceeats.com/best-lime-recipes-4687533

Avocado Lime Salad Dressing https://www.thespruceeats.com/avocado-lime-salad-dressing-3947533

Delicious French Lime Sorbet https://www.thespruceeats.com/lime-sorbet-recipe-1375784

Copycat Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice https://www.thespruceeats.com/copycat-chipotle-cilantro-lime-rice-recipe-5097502

Cilantro Lime Grilled Tofu https://www.thespruceeats.com/cilantro-lime-grilled-tofu-3378393

Lime Coconut Bars https://www.thespruceeats.com/lime-coconut-bars-4129207

Easy Lime Agave Salad Dressing https://www.thespruceeats.com/easy-lime-agave-salad-dressing-3377598

Cilantro Lime Salmon https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/cilantro-lime-salmon-3355689

Shrimp Ceviche https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/shrimp-ceviche-recipe-2125172

Grilled Fish Tacos with Lime Slaw https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/grilled-fish-tacos-with-lime-slaw-8658545

Pico de Gallo https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/pico-de-gallo-recipe-2122359

Lime Crema https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/guy-fieri/lime-crema-3562831

Watermelon and Mint “Agua Fresca” (Fresh Fruit-Blended Water) https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/marcela-valladolid/watermelon-and-mint-agua-fresca-fresh-fruit-blended-water-recipe-1949524

Chipotle’s Cilantro Lime Rice https://www.skinnytaste.com/chipotle-cilantro-lime-rice-4-pts/#recipe

21 Lime Recipes That Are Full of Flavor https://insanelygoodrecipes.com/lime-recipes/

Cilantro Lime Quinoa https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/cilantro-lime-quinoa/#wprm-recipe-container-40278

Cilantro Lime Dressing https://www.loveandlemons.com/cilantro-lime-dressing/#wprm-recipe-container-43188

Classic Pico de Gallo https://cookieandkate.com/classic-pico-de-gallo-recipe/#tasty-recipes-30827-jump-target

Vegan Key Lime Pie https://lovingitvegan.com/vegan-key-lime-pie/

Creamy Lime Pie Bars https://minimalistbaker.com/creamy-lime-pie-bars/

28 Insanely Flavorful Ways to Cook with Lime https://www.delish.com/cooking/g3997/lime-recipes/

Flash-Cooked Greens with Garlic and Lime https://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/flash-cooked-greens-with-garlic-and-lime/

Chili Lime Collard Greens http://www.builicious.com/2016/04/01/chili-lime-collard-greens/#recipe

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=27#descr

https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/united-states-lime-market

https://foodsguy.com/freeze-lime-juice/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/have-fresh-citrus-zest-anytime-1136409

https://foodtasia.com/dried-lemon-peel/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/recipes/trick-to-zesting-lemons-better

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050325185404.htm

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

https://tools.myfooddata.com/nutrition-comparison/168155/wt1/1

https://gardenine.com/types-of-lime-trees-fruits/

https://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Limes_851.php

https://leafyplace.com/types-of-limes/

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.

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.

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

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10604207/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11684388/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10193582/

https://www.clinicaleducation.org/resources/reviews/vitamin-a-the-key-to-a-tolerant-immune-system/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/96/5/1179S/4577133

https://www.healthline.com/health/beta-carotene-benefits#benefits

https://www.healthline.com/health/beta-carotene-benefits#foods-sources

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-a-retinol

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/vitamin-deficiency-dependency-and-toxicity/vitamin-a-deficiency

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

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6049112/

https://askthescientists.com/food-preparation/

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/cooked-vs-raw-betacarotene-9187.html

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106968683

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12742542/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/beta-carotene

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11375434/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/252758

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31389093/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5917548/

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/vitamin-a-deficiency/

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.

Berries

Anthocyanins 101

Anthocyanins 101

What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are a very large group of water-soluble colored pigments found in various plants, especially flowers and fruits. They are also found in the leaves, stems, and roots of assorted other plants, including foods.

Anthocyanins are types of flavonoids that are formed when their related compounds, anthocyanidins, are coupled with sugars. Sugars can bind at different places on the anthocyanidin molecule. With assorted types of sugars and different binding sites available, many different types of anthocyanins may be formed. In fact, over 600 different anthocyanins have been identified in plants.

The color and stability of the pigment is affected by pH, light, temperature, and its own structure. Acidic conditions make the pigments red, whereas alkaline conditions turn them blue. Diversity of anthocyanins is further increased by the chemical combination of sugars with organic acids. So, from the various potential molecular combinations, the different types of anthocyanins are vast.

Anthocyanins have a variety of functions for the plants that contain them. They serve as antioxidants, protectants from UV-light, and defense mechanisms. They are also used in pollination and reproduction. The colors help attract pollinators, such as bees and hummingbirds. Some anthocyanins also protect plants against some destructive larvae.

Anthocyanins are what makes many foods red, purple, or blue. The amount of anthocyanin found in a food is generally proportional to the depth of color of the skin of the food. The compounds are found mostly in the skin, except for some fruits such as red berries and cherries, which also contain anthocyanins in their flesh.

Plants containing these compounds have been traditionally used as medicine, and natural food colorants, and dyes. More recent research has uncovered various important health properties of these colorful compounds.

Health Benefits of Anthocyanins
Anthocyanins have been found to have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, improve eye and neurological health, and also provide protection against various diseases. Some anthocyanin-rich foods, such as black carrots, red cabbage, and purple potatoes have been considered as functional foods, and are often eaten for the prevention of specific diseases. Anthocyanins have been shown to help ward off diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and inflammation.

Antioxidant Effects. Most of the health benefits of anthocyanins are attributed to their antioxidant effects. Antioxidants are critical for health by neutralizing harmful free radical molecules. Free radical molecules are generated in the body through normal metabolism, and also when we’re exposed to toxins of any sort, infections, high blood sugar levels, alcohol, cigarette smoke, excessive or intense exercise, radiation, and more. They are missing an electron and are very unstable. In an effort to gain stability, a free radical will steal an electron from a nearby molecule making themselves stable, while damaging the other molecule in the process. That “robbed” molecule then becomes a free radical, and the process continues until an antioxidant comes along. The antioxidant is able to “donate” an electron to the unstable molecule without itself becoming unstable and turning into a free radical. An antioxidant stops the damaging process.

Free radicals can serve important functions that are essential for health. For instance, immune cells use free radicals to fight infections, destroying viruses, bacteria, and damaged body cells along the way. Then, antioxidants are used to neutralize the free radicals, stopping further damage in the body. The body strives to maintain a balance of free radicals and antioxidants. When free radicals outnumber antioxidants, it leads to a state of oxidative stress, which invites disease.

Excessive free radicals in the body can damage DNA, cell membranes, and other parts of cells. They have been linked to many illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye diseases, atherosclerosis, senile dementia, asthma, inflammatory joint disease, and more. Antioxidants stop harmful free radical molecules by the means detailed above. Antioxidants are critical in the body for health and well-being.

The body makes its own antioxidants. However, since the body needs so many antioxidants, it’s also important to obtain them from foods to help the body in its neutralizing efforts. Antioxidants may also be obtained from various foods (especially plant foods), certain vitamins (such as Vitamins C, E, and the Vitamin A precursor, beta-carotene), and minerals (such as zinc and selenium). It is important to note that it is best to obtain antioxidants from food sources, rather than taking very high dosages of supplements because in some cases, such high dosages may actually promote oxidative stress and the formation of free radicals. Foods that are high in antioxidants should be included as a regular part of the diet to help ward off many diseases.

Cardiovascular Disease. Researchers have found that anthocyanins help to relax blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure. They also help to prevent excessive blood clotting. Anthocyanins have also been found to improve the blood lipid profiles of healthy subjects by increasing the formation of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), while decreasing the formation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). Anthocyanins have also been found to lower the risk of non-fatal myocardial infarction (heart attacks). So, including anthocyanin-rich foods in the diet can be an important part of helping to ward off heart disease.

Anticancer Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to suppress tumor growth, inflammation, and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels that feed tumors). Such effects have been seen in the deterrence of esophageal, breast, colon, and prostate cancers, as well as leukemia.

Antidiabetic Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to increase insulin sensitivity (reducing insulin resistance), thereby reducing blood sugar levels. The improved lipid profiles, enhanced antioxidant capacity, and reduced insulin resistance promoted by anthocyanins all work together to help ward off Type 2 diabetes. Anthocyanins have also been found to improve kidney function by reducing oxidative stress, lipotoxicity (the accumulation of fats in non-fatty tissue such as the kidneys, liver, heart and skeletal muscle), and angiogenesis in the kidneys of diabetics, helping to protect them from the damaging effects of diabetes.

Visual Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to improve the visual function in patients with glaucoma. They have also been found to improve blood flow to the eyes without increasing intraocular pressure. In another research project, anthocyanins reduced inflammation in photoreceptor cells, helping to improve their functioning. Anthocyanins have been found to improve dark adaptation, so this may be helpful in people with poor night vision. They have also been found to prevent the formation of cataracts in diabetic subjects.

Antimicrobial Properties. Researchers found that anthocyanins protected cell walls from damage due to invasive microbes. Antibacterial activity was demonstrated against a variety of gram-negative bacteria, including Escherichia choli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Aeromonas hydrophilia, and Listeria innocua. Therefore, anthocyanins can help to protect us from the diseases caused by these harmful bacteria.

Antiobesity Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to slow weight gain and suppress the formation of fatty tissue, while improving the lipid profiles of obese subjects. Researchers also found that anthocyanins reduced blood and urine glucose concentrations in obese subject. So, if you are striving to lose weight, it would be in your interest to include as many anthocyanin-rich foods in your diet as possible.

Neuroprotective Effects. Anthocyanins have been found to protect against inflammation and degeneration of nerve fibers in mouse models and cell studies. These effects offer protection against Alzheimer’s Disease by preserving memory and synaptic nerve transmission function. The enhanced antioxidant effects of anthocyanins were found to provide extra protection against free radical damage and oxidative stress, improving the functioning of nerve pathways. Anthocyanins were also found to provide protective activity by suppressing dopamine-producing cell death commonly found in Parkinson’s disease.

Foods That Contain Anthocyanins
Deeply colored foods with red, purple or blue hues contain anthocyanins. They are particularly high in berries (such as elderberries, chokeberries, bilberries, black raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries).

Anthocyanins are also found in black currants, black olives, goji berries, red cabbage, black plums, cherries, red and black grapes, strawberries, red raspberries, cranberries, black rice, wild rice, purple corn, red onions, red radishes, pomegranates, purple cauliflower, blood oranges, rhubarb, black beans, eggplant, black or purple carrots, and other foods in lesser amounts.

Although they have high nutritional value in their own way, grapefruits, nectarines, peaches, apples and pears contain some, but not appreciable amounts of anthocyanins.

How to Protect Anthocyanins in Foods
Fresh vs Frozen. Researchers have found that anthocyanins in fresh food degrade relatively quickly after being harvested. When fresh and frozen foods were analyzed, they found that frozen foods, such as berries, contained higher amounts of anthocyanins than their fresh counterparts that spent three to ten days in refrigeration after harvest. Since foods are usually processed and frozen quickly after being harvested, if you want to obtain the highest level of anthocyanins in berries, unless you are picking your own or purchase them freshly harvested at a farm market, frozen berries may be a better choice.

Cooking. In a meta-analysis study published in 2014 in Food Research International, researchers compared the anthocyanin levels in foods that were cooked with various methods, including pressure boiling, pressure steaming, conventional steaming, microwaving, and baking. They found that foods cooked with moist heat methods tended to lose the most anthocyanins. The greatest loss of anthocyanins occurred when foods were pressure-steamed.

Dry-heat methods of cooking, such as microwaving and baking, tended to increase the concentration of anthocyanins in the foods tested. Anthocyanins were increased the most when foods were microwaved.

Based on the results of the above studies, if you must cook a food that is high in anthocyanins, baking or microwaving the food may be your best options for preserving as many anthocyanins as possible. When consuming fresh anthocyanin-rich foods, such as berries, use them as quickly as you can after purchase. When consuming frozen foods such as berries, to obtain the most anthocyanins, use them frozen, or allow them to thaw naturally or very briefly in the microwave.


Resources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5613902/

https://www.healthline.com/health/gram-positive#vs-gram-negative

https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/articles/jafc54_4069-4075.pdf

http://www.food-info.net/uk/colour/anthocyanin.htm

https://pediaa.com/difference-between-anthocyanin-and-anthocyanidin/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-antioxidants

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/antioxidants-explained#free-radicals

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7619452/

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Anthocyanin-contents-in-foods-of-plant-origin_tbl2_44609005

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7278599/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055

https://drannwellness.com/foods-highest-in-anthocyanins-in-order-from-most-to-less/

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/what-are-anthocyanins-and-why-are-purple-foods-so-healthy

https://content.iospress.com/download/journal-of-berry-research/jbr022?id=journal-of-berry-research%2Fjbr022

https://www.tuscany-diet.net/2014/05/06/anthocyanins-fruits-vegetables-cereals/

https://foodandnutrition.org/november-december-2016/colorful-truth-anthocyanins/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996914004074

https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress#effects

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf104724k

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0570178314000025

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11853511/

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrients-purple-cauliflower-5633.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815309/


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.

Glass Jars

Glass 101 – Why Switch From Plastic to Glass Food Jars or Containers AND Ways to Use Them

From Plastic to Glass Food Containers
Why Switch, and Ways to Use Them


Why switch to glass food containers?

There is a growing trend with people moving away from using plastic in the kitchen. This includes plastic wrap, plastic bags, plastic utensils, and plastic containers for storing, freezing, heating food, and eating. There are many reasons for this trend including:

* The desire to be more earth-friendly with less waste. Plastic waste is littering the planet in insurmountable amounts. Switching to glass helps to reduce potential plastic waste and is ultimately recyclable, even when broken. Also, the production and reuse of glass products creates less pollution in the environment than does the production of plastics.

* Avoiding chemicals that may be in or released from plastics that could leach into foods. Plastics are made from assorted chemicals, some of which are endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. These chemicals can affect the brain, hormone system, reproductive system, and may also increase the risk of getting cancer. Furthermore, many such chemicals have not been completely tested for their health effects. Research has shown that some of these chemicals can leach into foods and beverages, in addition to possibly contaminating air, creating hazardous dust, and getting onto our hands. Glass does not leach chemicals into food or liquids, nor into the air or surfaces it comes in contact with.

* Durability. Glass lasts longer than plastic, unless of course, it gets broken. Also, plastic containers can melt or get warped when in contact with hot food, whereas most glass can tolerate hot to warm food without being damaged. Also, plastic wears out, becomes scratched or cracked, and breaks down much faster than glass, possibly causing chemicals to leach into the contents of the plastic container.

* Functionality. Glass has more potential uses than plastic containers, and may be reused indefinitely. Plastic containers wear out over time and may develop odors, scratches, a greasy film, and/or cracks.

* Glass is easier to clean. It will not absorb grease nor stain like plastic.

* Odor control.  Glass does not absorb odors, whereas plastic can.

* Glass is microwavable.  Most glass may be used in the microwave, whereas most plastics should not be microwaved. When plastic containers are microwaved, they may soften or melt. Also, the heat from the contents may cause plastic containers to leach chemicals into the contents of the container.

* Oven use. Most glass intended for kitchen use may be used in the oven, whereas plastic may not be used in the oven.

* Flavor. Glass preserves flavor better than plastic and won’t impart its own flavor into food, like plastic can, especially with prolonged storage.

* Glass containers are reusable for a much longer time than plastic containers. When purchasing items like tomato sauce, pickles, jelly, jam, beverages, nut butters, or anything that may be packaged in a glass jar or container, opt for glass packaging rather than plastic, if possible. It will help to reduce waste and the glass containers can be reused at home for many different purposes in the kitchen and around the house.

Uses for Glass Jars and Containers

There are many ways to reuse cleaned out food jars of all sizes and shapes, in addition to using canning mason jars for applications other than preserving food. For instance, glass jars can be used in any of the following creative ways:

* Sort and store assorted hardware such as nuts, bolts, screws and nails in separate jars.

* Store vegetables cut in advance for salads or meal preparation in jars.

* Use a lidded jar as a beverage glass at home or “to go.”

* Use a glass jar for drinking a smoothie at home or “to go.”

* Store small craft or sewing items such as pins, buttons, ribbons, or small tools in a jar.

* Use a jar as a pencil holder. Place pencils, pens, crayons, and/or markers in a jar on a desk.

* Store paper clips in a jar.

* Package your own prepared foods such as a “to-go” lunch in a jar.

* Make (and serve) a layered salad in a jar.

* Store leftover liquid items in a jar in the refrigerator. Examples include soups, sauces, beverages, or baby formula.

* Store leftover foods such as cooked rice, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cooked beans, tuna salad, cut fruit, etc. in a jar.

* Store pre-measured baking ingredients in jars. When you want to measure ingredients in advance to shorten meal prep time, measure baking ingredients in advance and store them in clean, dry food jars.

* Use a jar as a simple vase for cut flowers or a decorative floral arrangement with artificial flowers.

* Use a glass jar as a small vessel for rooting plant cuttings.

* Store extra dried herbs or spices in small glass jars with lids.

* Store extra dry foods such as beans, rice, pasta, flour, nuts, and seeds in jars.

* Store and mix homemade salad dressing in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.

* Use a jar as a container for homemade cake, brownie, bar, quick bread, and cookie mixes. Decorate the jar and give it as a gift.

* Make a homemade luminary in a jar.

* Make homemade candles in jars. Decorate and give them as gifts.

* Make a homemade terrarium in a decorative jar.

* Make and store homemade cosmetics in small jars with tight-fitting lids.

* Pack a homemade first-aid kit in a small jar for traveling.

* Store extra matches in a jar for safe keeping.

* Make painted or decorated jars for gift giving.

* Make a decorative, colorful sand art in a jar for your home or gifting.

* Make a decorative holder for a tea light with a pretty jar.

* Make flavored oils or vinegars in jars.

* Make overnight oats in a jar.

* Make a mini planter (such as for one flower bulb) with a decorative jar.

* Make a citronella candle in a jar for keeping mosquitoes away when you’re outside on a summer evening. Simply put the lid on the jar when it’s not being used.

* Store cotton balls and cotton swabs in a jar in the bathroom.

*  Use a glass jar for an easy piggy bank for saving extra change at the end of the day.

* Make a homemade, reusable soap dispenser by putting a pump in the top of a glass jar.

* Freeze food in jars, such as chopped bell peppers or onions, leftover soup in individual servings, or easy to-go lunches made in advance.

* Store extra garden seeds in the freezer in a glass jar.

* Make a decorative table centerpiece with a pretty jar.

* Store extra hair care items such as hair ties, bows, bobby pins and hair barrettes in jars.

* Use a jar as a toothbrush holder in the bathroom.

* Store extra combs in a glass jar.

* Use a small jar as a toothpick holder.

* Decorate a small glass jar to be used as a small planter for succulents.

* Make and serve a parfait in a tall jar.

* Carry “to go” snacks in a jar.

* Store makeup brushes in a jar.

* Store extra granola in a jar so it keeps fresh.

* Make a bug catching jar for children.

* Store extra candy in a jar after the bag/container is opened.

* Organize extra pantry items by placing dry food in jars, especially after the original packaging has been opened.

* Marinate meat in a jar. It would be much easier to clean than a plastic bag, or would save trashing the bag after it was used.

* Store painting supplies in jars. Larger jars can be used for storing paint brushes. Smaller jars can be used to store small amounts of extra paint.

* Display small vacation souvenirs in a jar for a decorative memoir.

The uses for glass jars of any size and shape are only limited to your imagination. So, start saving them when any store-bought food item is finished and you’ll have enough containers for all sorts of uses before you know it!

 

Resources

https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/blog/tempered-vs-borosilicate-glass/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/best-glass-storage-containers-4154183

https://healthy-cookware.com/why-glass-food-storage-containers-are-better-than-plastic/

https://www.amazon.com/Piece-Glass-Food-Storage-Container/dp/B01IU416YG

https://www.walmart.com/ip/1790-Glass-Food-Storage-Containers-with-Lids-Glass-Meal-Prep-Containers-Airtight-Glass-Lunch-Boxes-BPA-Free-FDA-Approved-Leak-Proof/921652275

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076HZFG41?th=1

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Oblong-Baking-Dishes-BPA-Free/dp/B08BS692GS/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=glass+bakeware&qid=1622758294&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyUUFTQ0VYREtRWElaJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNDAyODEyMVpWTFpYQVg4Ujk0NSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMjQ1MTM0SDVNUUdPUjVXNlo3JndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

https://www.amazon.com/OXO-Grips-Freezer-Oven-Baking/dp/B019FHD0FK/ref=sr_1_12?dchild=1&keywords=glass+bakeware&qid=1622758418&sr=8-12

https://www.nontoxicliving.tips/blog/why-choose-glass-over-plastic

https://www.ruralsprout.com/reuse-glass-jars/

https://www.forgerecycling.co.uk/blog/reuse-glass-jar/

https://www.sonshinekitchen.com/24-ways-to-reuse-glass-jars/

https://mindfulofthehome.com/reuse-glass-jars/