Purple foods so good for heart, brain and health

You’ve probably heard that purple foods — from blueberries to purple versions of foods such as potatoes — are particularly good for your health, and you may have wondered what’s behind this effect. In fact, it literally is the purple color itself that’s good for you — the pigments that give foods their purple color are a family of potent antioxidants known as anthocyanins.

Studies have linked anthocyanins to lowered risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. They also appear to help control — and possibly prevent — obesity and diabetes, in part by inhibiting certain digestive enzymes and helping control levels of blood sugar. They are potent anti-inflammatories, and are therefore also likely to reduce the risk of most chronic diseases.

Think “purple”

So how can you boost your intake of these super-antioxidants? Primarily by eating deep red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables. This includes all berries, including strawberries, as well as other fruits including cherries, pomegranates and plums.

Some vegetables are only high in anthocyanins if you pick the variety with the right color: purple sweet potatoes, red onions and purple cabbage, for example. Other high-anthocyanin vegetables include beets and eggplant. In the case of eggplant, be sure not to throw away the skin, as that’s where most of the anthocyanins reside. The skin is also high in fiber, potassium and magnesium.

The skins of red and purple grapes are of course a good source of anthocyanins, which also makes red wine a good source of this antioxidant. Along with resveratrol (another powerful antioxidant), anthocyanins may be responsible for many of the remarkable health benefits of red wine.

All of the above are foods that are relatively easy to come by. But if you’re in the mood for something that’s less common in the US diet, there are some other anthocyanin-rich foods you can try. One of these is guava fruit, and particularly the blue-green peels. Another is black rice, or, if that’s too expensive, Kerala Red rice. Both of these are natural varieties of rice — not to be confused with genetically modified “Golden Rice.”

Can your bread be purple, too?

A new source of anthocyanins may also soon be making its way to a grocery store near you: “purple bread,” the invention of National University of Singapore food scientist Zhou Weibiao. Zhou extracted the anthocyanins from black rice and infused them into the bread flour. The final results were surprising.

“Despite its antioxidant capacity and associated health benefits, the knowledge of using anthocyanins as an ingredient in food products is very limited,” Zhou said.

Even though the bread is baked at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit), it retains 80 percent of the original antioxidant content of the flour. Remarkably, a chemical reaction between the anthocyanins and the starch also causes the carbohydrates in the bread to be absorbed 20 percent more slowly than usual, thus lowering the normally high glycemic index of white bread.

“If you want to enjoy the texture of white bread and slow down digestion, this is probably the best formula,” Zhou said. “And the color isn’t bad, either.”

Although CNN has hailed the bread as “the first superfood of the baked goods world,” such praise may be premature. For one thing, the bread is not yet commercially available. For another, it is still made from white flour, not whole wheat.

“The challenge was to see if we could change the formula of bread, without changing the smooth texture of white bread that people really love,” Zhou said.

“You are eating the same amount of starch and wheat flour, so the nutritional value is the same. The key idea here is slowing down the energy release, so you use those calories over a longer period of time.”

But really, did you expect any manufactured product to be able to replace good, old-fashioned fruits and vegetables?

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The activity of walking now called the ‘superfood’ of fitness

Physically pushing your body to its limit for even just a few minutes each week is one of the healthiest habitats you can practice when it comes to your exercise routine. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), or vigorous exercise performed in short bouts of time followed by brief periods of rest, is the most effective way to burn fat and boost your overall health, according to emerging research.

However, despite the widely understood health benefits of HIIT, Katy Bowman, a biomechanist based in Ventura, Calif., insists that walking is the new “superfood,” adding that one hour of intense exercise at the gym isn’t enough to offset the consequences of sitting for 10 hours.

Bowman, who authored the book Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, says walking is just as imperative as eating. She suggests there are movement nutrients similar to dietary nutrients.

“Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human,” said Bowman. “It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise.”

But is performing natural movements throughout the day really enough? A growing body of research says absolutely not.

Walking may be the “defining movement of a human,” but is it enough exercise to keep us healthy?

Compared with conventional aerobics and low-intensity exercise such as walking, high-intensity interval training releases the human growth hormone, or the “fitness hormone,” which scientists say is crucial for maintaining strength, health and longevity.

When healthy but inactive people exercised intensely, even for just a few minutes, the DNA molecules within their muscles undergo important chemical and structural changes, according to a 2012 study published in The Journal of Physiology.

High-intensity interval training genetically reprograms muscles for strength and positively affects genes responsible for burning fat, the study found. But weight loss isn’t the only benefit. Researchers found that HIIT leaves you feeling more energetic, improves your overall athletic performance (including increasing your speed), firms your skin (less wrinkles), boosts your sex drive and improves muscle tone.

High-intensity interval training is even beneficial for those with serious health problems; in fact, The New York Times reports that HIIT is being studied as a potential treatment that may be more effective than medication for people with chronic ailments.

For patients suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pulmonary disease, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, HIIT is extremely advantageous, as it may prevent or even reverse the damage caused by such ailments.

Scientist: “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.” Or can you?

“Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day,” Bowman said. “You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.”

Other scientists would disagree.

Not only do you reap the benefits of HIIT well after your workout is over, but your body is able to increase its ability to use oxygen and insulin. It also opens up your arteries, making them more elastic as oxygen-carrying blood flows more smoothly, reducing the risk of a vessel-blocking clot.

“Too many people think incorrectly that high-intensity exercise is only for athletes, that it’s a heart attack waiting to happen,” said Dr. Jonathan P. Little, a specialist in exercise physiology at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan.

Instead, research suggests that HIIT is more likely to reduce the risk of a heart attack, as well provide remarkable benefits for those suffering from diabetes.

“We’ve seen, for example, that interval training is remarkably effective at lowering glucose levels in people with diabetes,” said Little. “Just one session improves a person’s glucose level.”

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Gardening is more effective exercise than going to the gym: burns more calories… more rewarding and enjoyable

In addition to enhancing your life skills and boosting your food security, there is another major benefit of gardening, researchers have found: fitness.

Long-time gardeners have always know that putting plant and seed in the ground and then maintaining plants and crops as they grow is hard work. But chances are good that they weren’t aware of the health benefits of that work.

Medical researchers and doctors now say that a half an hour of digging, raking and pushing a lawn mower is just as good as going to a gym. Thirty minutes of digging burns 150 calories; raking burns 120 and pushing a mower burns 165, the UK’s Daily Mail reports.

Though a half-hour jog, on average, burns up to 240 calories, doctors are nonetheless attempting to encourage more people to take up lighter activities that can be woven into our daily lives – activities that also burn calories and boost fitness.

Because many people feel too intimidated by gyms and strenuous fitness exercise, experts are instead concentrating more on getting people to include more moderate activity and exercise daily that they are less likely to give up on over the long haul. Researchers are finding that moderate exercise like gardening and walking will also cut the risk of heart attack in half, adding as much as seven years to an average life span.

30 minutes a day is all that is required

“Gardening is great – it gets you outside, it helps build muscle and it burns calories,” Professor Naveed Sattar, an expert in metabolic medicine at Glasgow University, told the Daily Mail Online.

“The key thing is sustainability. The way to keep exercising is to something you love – such as gardening – or do something for a reason, such as walking or cycling to work,” he added.

Britain’s National Health Service recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, which includes activities like walking and gardening, or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise like running or playing soccer. In the U.S., the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition recommends 60 minutes of physical activity daily for children ages 6–17, and at least 30 minutes daily for adults.

In Britain, however, the NHS says that four of five people fail to reach their daily physical activity target, which has played a major role in contributing to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. The same is true in the U.S.

Toned forearms, thighs, behinds

The Daily Mail Online reported that the Royal Horticulture Society surveyed 2,000 people, asking about their experiences with the pastime. About 80 percent of respondents said that overall gardening definitely improved their fitness level, while 60 percent said they felt physically energized after gardening. In addition, 53 percent said their moods improved after a bout of gardening.

The society further noted that some 70 percent of respondents said gardening helped tone their forearms, while 52 percent said their thighs were toned, and about one-third said the activity toned their behinds. One-fifth of respondents said gardening was their primary form of exercise, which means that, for many people, it has had a major impact on them, health-wise (and there’s that food security angle, too).

“The evidence is that strenuous exercise gives you a bit more benefit, but not that much,” Sattar said. “And it comes at a cost, with a greater burden on the joints, and if you are moving from a sedentary lifestyle there is a risk of going straight in to strenuous exercise as there’s a strain on your heart.

“That’s why there’s a shift at the moment to focusing on light to moderate exercise, which can have a huge benefit and is easier to weave into your daily routine,” he added.

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Potato extract helps prevent weight gain

Potato extract may help prevent weight gain, according to a study conducted by researchers from McGill University and published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

“We were astonished by the results,” researcher Luis Agellon said. “We thought this can’t be right — in fact, we ran the experiment again using a different batch of extract prepared from potatoes grown in another season, just to be certain.”

The study was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Rich in polyphenols

For 10 weeks, the researchers fed mice a diet designed to produce obesity, high in fats and refined carbohydrates. As expected, the mice increased their weight by an average of 64 percent. However, mice fed a potato extract along with the obesity-promoting diet increased their weight by less than half as much, gaining only 28 percent.

The findings suggest that potato extract may be used to help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The researchers believe that the benefits of potato extract likely come from its high concentration of polyphenols, a family of plant chemicals being linked to many health benefits.

“In the famous French diet, considered to be very healthy, potatoes — not red wine — are the primary source of polyphenols,” lead author Stan Kubow said. “In North America, potatoes come third as a source of polyphenols — before the popular blueberries.”

“Potatoes have the advantage of being cheap to produce, and they’re already part of the basic diet in many countries,” Kubow said. “We chose a cultivated variety that is consumed in Canada and especially rich in polyphenols.”

The researchers hope to make the extract available as a dietary supplement or a cooking ingredient. They are now seeking food industry partners to fund clinical trials.

“The daily dose of extract comes from 30 potatoes,” Kubow said, “but of course we don’t advise anyone to eat 30 potatoes a day, as that would be an enormous number of calories.”

May produce weight loss

Evidence continues to emerge that, in spite of their reputation as a dieters’ bane, potatoes are not incompatible with weight loss.

“Some people have questioned the role of potatoes in a weight loss regimen because of the vegetable’s designation as a high glycemic index food,” said Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, lead researcher of a study into potatoes and weight loss published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in October 2014. The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California at Davis and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“However, the results of this study confirm what health professionals and nutrition experts have said for years: it is not about eliminating a certain food or food groups, rather, it is reducing calories that count,” Burton-Freeman said.

The researchers randomly assigned overweight adults either one of two reduced-calorie diets (high-glycemic-index or low-glycemic-index) or to a control group with no dietary restrictions. All three groups were instructed to consume five to seven servings of potatoes per week and were provided with both potatoes and healthy recipes for preparing them.

After 12 weeks, all three groups had lost weight, with no difference in the amount of weight loss between groups.

“There is no evidence that potatoes, when prepared in a healthful manner, contribute to weight gain,” Burton-Freeman said. “In fact, we are seeing that they can be part of a weight loss program.”

Aside from their potential weight-regulating benefits, potatoes are simply a nutritious food. When consumed with the skin, a medium-sized, 5.3 oz potato provides 45 percent of a person’s daily vitamin C needs, and more potassium than a banana.

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Five Ways One Has To Pay the Price for Obesity

Obesity causes poorer health, which in turn translates into higher medical and health care costs. For example, the obese are more likely to suffer from ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. On top of that, there are also other ways in which obese people have to, quite literally, pay the price for their size. A recent Newsweek article published in August 2008 has outlined five main ways in which obesity results in tangible financial costs.

Financial Costs of Obesity

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people being overweight, as well as the related health problems of obesity, put a significant economic strain on the US health care system.

Broadly speaking, being overweight or obese involves direct and indirect costs. The former includes preventive, diagnostic and treatment services, while the latter includes morbidity costs and mortality costs. Mortality costs measure the value of future income which is lost because of premature death, while morbidity costs take into account the value of income lost because of factors such as bed days, restricted activity, absenteeism, as well as decreased productivity.

Using data from the 1998 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and the National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) of 1996 and 1997, a study had found that medical costs relating to being overweight or obese formed 9.1% of the total medical expenditure in the US in 1998, a figure which could have been as much as US$78.5b. This translates to about US$92.6b in 2002 dollars. Medicaid and Medicare paid for about half of the amount.

Here are five ways in which obese people have to bear the financial consequences for their condition.

1. Higher Medical Costs

The most direct and obvious financial cost of being obese is, of course, higher medical costs. “The Fattening of America” by Eric Finkelstein and Laurie Zuckerman estimates that an overweight male’s annual medical cost is $170 more than one who is lighter, while the corresponding figure for females is $495.

In addition, hospitals incur higher costs in treating obese patients. For example, an oversized wheelchair can cost about $2,500, which is a whopping eight times the cost of a normal one. Also, an operating table which is sturdy enough to take the weight of a severely obese person can cost $30,000.

2. Lower Average Income

According to a study conducted at Stanford University, obese men and women earned an average income which was $3.41 per hour lower than their peers. This adds up to over $7,000 a year.

The income gap was found to be smaller when comparing young workers, although it gets bigger over time.

It is a possibility that this difference may be partly linked to higher health care costs – researchers said that employers have a tendency pay less to obese workers while footing their insurance bills. It could thus be a subconscious reaction by employers for having to pay higher insurance premiums for heavier employees.

3. Loss of Work Hours

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, an obese worker tends to lose, on average, about a week of work every year, because of health conditions which are related to them being overweight.

The Fattening of America estimates that a company with 1,000 workers loses about $285,000 every year due to obese workers, and that about 30 percent of this figure can be attributed to higher levels of absenteeism.

4. Use of More Gasoline

The heavier one is, the more gasoline one’s car or transport vehicle would have to use. In 2006, the journal The Engineering Economist published a study which stated that Americans used 938 million more gallons of fuel annually when compared to 1960, by virtue of their now bigger frames. Translated to concrete costs, this works out to about an additional gas expenditure of $3.55b per year.

5. Higher Cost of Air Travel

Then there are higher air travel costs. Budget airlines such as Southwest require passengers who are obese or who may need more than one seat to purchase a sufficient number of seats on the flight.

Further, just like for cars and ground vehicles, planes also have to burn more fuel to ferry heavier passengers. In the 1990s, the average weight of an American increased by 10 pounds. This, according to a 2004 CDC report, translated to $275m spent on an additional 350 million gallons of fuel needed to carry all that extra weight.

The Road Ahead – We Need to Cut Down on Obesity

Obesity in countries which consume a lot of fast food and processed foods is fast becoming an epidemic. Recently, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health reported that, unless the eating and exercise habits of Americans change, a staggering 86% of Americans will be overweight or obese come 2030. According to the CDC, over one third of adults in the US, or more than 72 million people, were obese in 2005 and 2006.

The numbers do not look good at all and it is clear things need to change.

Is obesity preventable, as well as “curable”, so to speak? There are, after all, some parties who believe that being overweight has its roots in bad genes, and thus nothing can be done about it.

Of course genes play a part. Obesity, like all health conditions, has a genetic element. Some people, for example, are more susceptible to cancer than others, while some are more prone to diabetes.

But to suggest that nothing can be done about being overweight or obese is not in line with the overall principles of natural health. In natural health, all diseases and conditions are grounded in nutritional / dietary and lifestyle factors, which include elements such as the presence of environmental toxins.

For example, if an obese person leaves pizzas, sodas, candy bars, potato chips, burgers and fries behind, and begins to undertake a diet full of raw fruits and vegetables, it is virtually guaranteed that he or she will lose weight. Throw in some daily exercise, and the effects are magnified.

Of course, if one has a bodily constitution which is of the heavier or bigger side, then one would have to work harder and exercise more commitment in keeping fit and trim. This applies to every aspect of life. Some people have to train harder to run as fast, some have to work harder for the same output in the office, while some people need more sleep.

If you are already overweight, doing your bit to cut down on your weight will go a long way in benefiting not just your health, but also your wallet.

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Sweet potato nutrition – six amazing facts you need to know

One of the most nutritious foods on the traditional Thanksgiving menu is the sweet potato. These orange-skinned root vegetables offer a host of health benefits (especially when cooked without the unnecessary sugar and marshmallows). If you want to raise health consciousness around the dinner table this holiday season, try throwing some of these six sweet potato facts into the conversation:

1. High nutritional value

A 7-ounce (1 cup) serving of sweet potatoes contains 65% of the minimum necessary daily amount of Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body: one serving of sweet potatoes can provide you with as much as 700% of the US RDA for Vitamin A. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates sweet potatoes as the number one most nutritious vegetable because they such are so nutritionally rich.

2. Low glycemic index

If you are unfamiliar with this term, the glycemic index indicates the impact a food substance has on blood sugar levels. A high glycemic index means blood sugar levels can spike. Diabetes and others who monitor their blood sugar levels seek to avoid foods with a high glycemic index or load. Sweet potatoes have a glycemic load of only 17. (By way of comparison, a white potato has an index of 29.)

3. Accessing sweet potatoes’ nutritional benefits is easy

To gain the maximum health benefits from eating sweet potatoes, avoid discarding their skins — much of their healing potential resides in this portion of the tubers. Also, following the common dieters’ fallacy of avoiding all fats reduces your ability to access sweet potatoes’ benefits: beta-carotene absorbs more thoroughly into the body when consumed with a small amount of fat. Recent research seems to indicate that steaming or boiling sweet potatoes rather than roasting them helps preserve their low glycemic index.

4. Good for your skin

Their high levels of Vitamin A and beta-carotene means sweet potatoes are a skin superfood. The substances on many pricey skin-care products like retinol and retinoic acid are actually derived from Vitamin A. Plus beta-carotene combats the free radicals which result skin aging.

5. Sweet potatoes are like yoga

Their high potassium content means sweet potatoes can alleviate muscle cramps which are often related to potassium deficiency. During times of stress, the body uses more potassium, so eating sweet potatoes can help protect you from the negative health effects of tension.

6. Easy to grow in your garden

Starting a vegetable garden is a great way both to reduce your grocery bill now, and to reduce your dependency on grocery stores for the long-term. Sweet potatoes make a good beginner’s garden crop. Although originally native to South America, this type of tuber only requires 100 frost-free days in order to grow, so you do not have to live in the tropics to harvest some of these nutritionally valuable tubers. Sweet potato plants have fewer diseases than other types of potatoes, and they are relatively undemanding plants, requiring little in the way of water or fertilizer.

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The true history of camu camu, nature’s most potent source of natural Vitamin C

A nutritiously dense superfruit from the Amazon rainforest, camu camu (Myrciaria dubia) is the most potent botanical source of Vitamin C in the world. With 30 to 50 times more vitamin C than an orange, ounce for ounce, this purple cherry-sized fruit has a sour taste, which is why the people of Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia where it grows, usually make it in to jams, jellies, drinks, and sweet treats such as ice cream or candy.

Local common names for camu camu include, “rumberry,” “guavaberry,” “cacari,” or “camu camu” in Brazil or Peru, “guayabo” in Colombia, and “guayabato” in Venezuela, though some of these may actually be different species. Grown from a tropical lowland tree that likes water, it is found in the western and central regions of the Amazon Basin, next to rivers and oxbow lakes, or in swamps and flood plains. It has small, white, sweet-smelling flowers and bushy foliage.

In addition to the high amount of vitamin C, camu camu has amino acids, beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and phosphorous as well as flavonoids and hydrolyzed tannins. It also has fiber and protein, giving it a wide variety of health benefits.

History of camu camu

The berries of the camu camu tree have been used by Amazonian Indians for hundreds of years. A highly nutritious food source rich in phytochemicals, it is also easily transportable. Traditional uses, besides food, include use as a pain reliever, treatment for infection, and to promote long life. Poultices were also made from the bark of the tree to treat rheumatism or as a topical treatment for wounds.

Rainforest peoples make camu camu into a hair tonic also, using it to repair split ends and restore shine, strength, vitality, and silky texture.
In the 1950s, the Ministry of Public Health of Peru conducted the first nutritional analysis of the native fruit, discovering its amazing vitamin C content. Almost overnight, camu camu became an indispensable fruit internationally.

Still, due to the difficult nature of harvesting from canoes during the wet season, it was the 1990s before it was widely exported as a viable commercial agro-forestry crop. In the last few decades, many camu camu trees have been planted as part of a reforestation program by the Peruvian government, with the idea that increasing the export market, conserving forest, and providing income for local peoples would be a win-win situation.

They also hope to keep it off the endangered species list, which is being caused by over-harvesting of wild camu camu. There are still some issues with this plan coming to fruition, such as the local people getting loans to get set up and effects on the different environmental areas. For example, camu camu is an important food source for the wildlife too, including the fish, and there is concern over pests and plant disease.

Modern uses of camu camu

In Japan, camu camu has become very popular. It is used as a component for multivitamins, energy drinks, sports drinks, and candies. Most countries outside the Amazon Basin use a dried powder made from the dehydrated juice of the fruit. The powder must not be heated or stored for more than a year to maintain its vitamin C potency.
South Americans have used camu camu successfully in treating Herpes Simplex, Shingles, and Eppstein-Barr viruses. The high vitamin C content helps to counteract the stress that causes flare-ups, and helps to reduce them quickly. It has no known side-effects or contraindications and can be used safely in combination with antidepressants and other prescriptions.
The phytonutrients of camu camu promote health and fight disease by building the immune system. Biological actions include the following properties: anti-inflammatory, astringent, antidepressant, and anti-viral. Some studies suggest it may relieve infertility in men, promote fertility in women, and relieve chronic diseases such as Crohn’s and Parkinson’s. Camu camu’s high amount of phytochemicals also indicates it can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and neutralize free radicals.

Most of the documented benefits of camu camu center around its high vitamin C content. Camu camu itself has not been widely studied, but those that are studying it are finding that its beneficial health properties extend far beyond just those of its vitamin C content.As with most nutrient-dense plants, there is much scientists don’t yet understand about not only the chemical constituents, but also their synergistic relationship, and how they work to fight disease and promote human health. Studies are ongoing.

Only recently available in the United States, you can find camu camu as an affordable supplement in some health food stores or online. It is often found in powder form to add to smoothies or a bottle of water.

Camu camu is a superfood. Superfoods, by definition, improve health and help you resist disease. The disease prevention benefits and high density nutrition of camu camu makes it a supplement worth adding to your diet.

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How to hide nutrition in your kids’ meals

Kids can be picky eaters. If your little ones balk at anything green, then you’re likely concerned that they’re not getting the nutrition they need. Camouflaging food takes a little kitchen finesse, but you’re covered with these proven tricks of the trade.

Reshape their Food

Do your children’s noses turn upward at the sight of fresh fruits and vegetables? Make them look twice with fun-shaped alternatives. Use a cookie cutter or knife to rework watermelon, apples, carrots and other nutrient-rich foods into shapes your children will love. Create entire figurines by using different shapes of fruits and veggies to assemble fun characters. Foods cut into fun shapes help them appear more inviting to youngsters, increasing the chance that those foods will end up in their mouths.

Be a Blender

Blend the nutrient-rich foods your kids usually snub into smoothies, popsicles and other fun treats. Apples, bananas and other fruits can easily be pureed into pulp and juices that can then be frozen into delicious popsicles. Blend a mixture of fruits, vegetables and protein powder into smoothies the youngsters will savor until the final drop. From veggie-rich sauces to nutrient-packed drinks, blending the foods your kids despise into meals they love is a cinch.

Substitute Ingredients

Do your children love macaroni and cheese? Give them what they love without the processed ingredients by making the meal from scratch at home. Whole wheat pasta, real cheese and whole milk blend to create delicious homemade mac and cheese that your kids are sure to prefer to the boxed stuff.

Begin replacing white bread with whole wheat versions and always opt for whole wheat pasta when making spaghetti. Small substitutions such as these accumulate to bring major nutritional improvements in no time at all.

Remake Sweets

When a child sees a cookie, they most often associate that cookie with being sweet and delicious. Little do they know that cookies can be both delicious and nutritious. Start replacing a portion of the fat content in cookies, cakes and other sweets with applesauce.

Fruit juices, natural sugars and other sweeteners are effective replacements for refined sugar. Zucchini and other nutrient-rich foods can even be shredded and added to your kids’ favorite baked goods without them being any the wiser.

Make it a Breakfast Affair

Breakfast is often when kids are the hungriest and groggiest. Capitalize on this time of day by hiding fruits and veggies in their favorite breakfast items. Whip up a batch of blueberry pancakes lathered with pure maple syrup (not the processed kind) or bake some whole wheat muffins.

As your kids chow down on their wholesome breakfasts, you’ll be smiling with ease knowing the day is starting out right. Those nutritious breakfasts will also feed the kids’ brains and will offer the energy needed to power through their days.

Getting your kids to eat nutrient-rich foods often requires a little kitchen know-how. From fun-shaped veggies to nutritious and delicious shakes, put your mind at ease by finding creative ways to fill little ones with the goodness they need.

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Add tomatoes to your diet for numerous health benefits

If you are a tomato lover, whether you chop them up for a salad, eat them whole as a juicy snack or cook them for a sauce recipe, you can be assured you are boosting your overall health in addition to enjoying their yummy goodness. Studies show that tomatoes fight the formation of free radicals (known to cause cancer, decrease your chances of getting prostate and colorectal cancer, and even reduce your blood pressure.

Let’s take a look at the many ways tomatoes can make you healthier.

Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants – and this is great news for health seekers!

Antioxidants are substances that inhibit oxidation, and this may prevent or delay some types of cell damage. What’s more, tomatoes are packed with them!

In a study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, it was found that “Regular consumption of tomatoes has been associated with decreased risk of chronic degenerative diseases. Epidemiological findings confirm the observed health effects are due to the presence of different antioxidant molecules such as carotenoids, particularly lycopene, ascorbic acid, vitamin E and phenol compounds, particularly flavonoids.”

Lycopene in tomatoes – another fantastic health booster

Tomatoes are super-rich in lycopene, a carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes – it is what gives them their beautiful, deep-red color. Lycopene is great for bone health, and can also play a crucial role in preventing prostate, lung and stomach cancers.

Enjoy some delicious tomatoes for help in lowering your blood pressure

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the American Heart Journal, it was demonstrated that short-term treatment with antioxidant-rich tomato extract can reduce blood pressure in patients with grade-1 hypertension!

Study participants first had a four-week placebo period, followed by an eight-week treatment period with tomato extract – 250 mg Lyc-O-Mato – and a four-week control period with placebo. The results? Systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased during the treatment period, while no changes in blood pressure were shown in the placebo periods.

So grab some yummy, juicy, delicious tomatoes and get cooking – it is for your health, after all!

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How to boost your nutrition intake and your health with smoothies

Depending on what you put in your smoothies, they can boost your daily nutrition and vitamin count considerably. Some smoothies contain foods loaded with health benefits, such as kale, flax and ingredients with omega-3 fatty acids that are highly recommended for good health.

Omega-3s don’t just come from fish

Nutritionists recommend you get omega-3s from fish, fish oils and supplements, but there are other sources. One is by drinking milk and eating dairy products made from the milk of cows that are fed only a grass diet. In addition to dairy products from grass fed cows, beef from cows that have been raised on the diet nature intended for them – grass – is also a solid source of omega-3s. Another source for omega-3s is walnuts. One smoothie recipe contains two kinds of fruit, almond milk, cranberry juice and walnut oil and is loaded with omega-3s. So, if you don’t like the taste of fish, there are other ways to get those same health benefits. A smoothie made with milk from grass fed cows or almond milk with a tablespoon of walnut oil added will be loaded with omega-3s.

Get your daily recommended servings of veggies

Other smoothie recipes are designed to help people get their recommended vegetable intake. If you have trouble eating all the vegetables that health experts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend we eat each day, which is three to five servings a day, you can get all of them in one smoothie. Even if you like the taste of vegetables, you may still have trouble eating all that is recommended, so a veggie smoothie is the way to go. One such recipe starts with a cup of filtered water, a carrot, a cucumber, a handful of spinach leaves, a slice of a beet, and a tomato. This one contains the entire rainbow color spectrum that is also recommended by nutritionists.

Veggie smoothies for those who don’t like vegetables

Kids and adults who don’t like the taste of vegetables can also get their recommended daily vegetable intake while disguising the taste of the vegetables with other ingredients. Some smoothie recipes of this type mix the vegetables with fruits and honey or other natural sweeteners, utilizing the Mary Poppins’ principle that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” These smoothies still pack a healthy load of vitamin power and get vegetables in the diets of those who simply refuse to eat them.

Breakfast smoothies when you’re on the go

Some people drink smoothies as a way to eat breakfast on the go, such as drinking from a travel mug in the car, on the bus or on the subway. Breakfast smoothies are a way to get someone to eat breakfast who isn’t particularly hungry in the morning, and doesn’t like to take time to eat anything. Nutrients contained in a breakfast smoothie made from milk (almond or milk from grass fed cows), a ripe banana, cocoa powder and peanut butter has everything you need for a healthy breakfast. Add a few ice cubes to the blender to make the consistency more like that of a milk shake.

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