Friday, March 26, 2010

Chew Your Way Against Diabetes: Power Foods to Keep Glucose Low

If you have diabetes and you're told about the things you can't eat, chances are high you'll be obsessing over foods you're not allowed to eat. Stop it. It won't do you any good and may make your blood glucose levels skyrocket. Instead, turn your attention to these food items. They taste good and help you manage your diabetes as well.

Flaxseed is best known as a source of fiber and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which your body converts to omega-3s EPA and DHA. Several studies have found a link between increased ALA intake and lower odds of heart disease, heart attack, and other cardiovascular issues. These magic seeds also show promise for lowering cholesterol and blood sugar.

Berries are nature's candy - but unlike sugary confections from the checkout aisle, they're loaded with fiber and antioxidants called polyphenols which can lower blood sugar.

An ounce of these healthy nuts delivers almost 2g of fiber plus 2.6 g of ALA, the omega-3 precursor. These are great for snacking and have the added benefit of lowering your blood sugar levels.

Tip: Top oatmeal with these and add shaved dark chocolate for indulgence.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Shiitake Mushrooms - Why They're Good For You

Are you the type to turn your nose up on organic or weird-looking mushrooms like shiitake? If so, then you're missing a lot in terms of nutrients. Not only are shiitakes the tastiest of mushrooms, but they are actually loaded with nutrients that are really good for you.

Cultivated for more than 1,000 years, these meaty, tender Chinese mushrooms have long served as both food and medicine. They owe their reputation as immunity boosters to a type of carbohydrate called beta-glucans. Unlike other immunity nutrients, beta-glucans don't create or regulate cells within your immune system. Instead, they act as a kind of decoy, boosting your body's immune response. When you eat shiitakes, your immune system reacts as if a harmful substance is present and kicks into high gear to protect you. In a 2004 animal study of swine influenza virus, the group given beta-glucans before infection developed a much milder case of the flu than those untreated. While the swine flu virus study was not the same strain as the human H1N1 virus, the results show promise for beta-glucans' ability to prevent and treat the flu.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Another Kind of Broccoli

There's a gentler, milder, but no less nutritious broccoli in town. If you are not fond of florets, broccoli rabe is the perfect green alternative to traditional cruciferous broccoli. A staple in the Italian kitchen, broccoli rabe is the perfect  counterpoint to starchy, sweet, and spicy foods like pasta and garlic, and it makes as much of an impact on your health as it does on your palate.

The big thing with broccoli rabe is its cancer-preventing potential. Like all members of the cabbage family, it's a rich source of glucosinolates, which your body converts to cancer-fighting sulforophanes and indoles. Studies show that these compounds are particularly effective against stomach, lung, and colon cancers, and promising research hints at protective effects against breast and prostate cancers as well. The deep green color also indicates a healthy dose of B vitamins, Vitamin C, iron, and calcium.

To buy and prepare broccoli rabe, they're best during colder months, especially during Fall. Smaller-leaved plants are younger and therefore milder and more tender than larger-leaved varieties. They are excellent steamed, blanched, and sauteed in garlic with a bit of soy sauce.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pump It Up With Papaya

When you want something tropic, go for something other than mango or coconuts. While the two are certainly popular, there are tastier tropical fruits around. One of them is papaya. Papaya, sometimes referred to as pawpaw, does more than stimulate the taste buds.

Ripe papayas contain nearly a three-day supply of vitamin C and a significant amount of vitamins E and A (the latter generally comes in the form of beta-carotene, which contributes to the oblong fruit's bright color). These powerful antioxidants are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, some cancers, and the chronic ailments related to aging. Papayas may also help improve skin, strengthen nails and hair, and, when applied topically, fade freckles.

Choose slightly soft papayas with reddish-orange skin. Yellowish fruit will take several days to ripen. To speed the process, place the papaya in a paper bag with a banana and leave it on the counter. Green papayas, while delicious in Asian-style salads, have not developed this fruit's characteristic juicy flavor. Ripe papayas will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator. They are particularly good served during breakfast or mixed with milk in a smoothie.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bell Peppers: Why You Should Put Them On Everything

Bell peppers come in all sorts of colors from the usual reds and greens to yellows, oranges, and purples. Bell peppers are sweet, colorful, and crunchy, but these are not the only reasons to toss them into whatever salad or dish you are making. Bell peppers are among the most nutritious vegetables that you can get.

Red, yellow, and orange peppers get their color from plant pigments called carotenoids. These antioxidants are like sunscreen, protecting the ripening peppers from sun damage. Carotenoids also help improve immunity and fight heart disease and cancer. Orange peppers are also great sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.

Red peppers also supply abundant amounts of beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A, a nutrient crucial for night vision. Peppers are also rich in vitamin C. Just one small red, yellow, or orange pepper gives you up to three times your daily requirement of C. Vitamin C also protects against heart disease and stomach and colon cancers. It helps heal wounds. Peppers also provide vitamin B6, another immune-supporting nutrient that in addition helps your body use protein and fiber.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Go Nuts With Walnuts

Nuts have gotten bad rep over the years due to their high fat content. But something high in fat is not entirely evil, especially if it is high in good fat. Walnuts are a prime example of nuts that are high in good fat. These also aid in processing the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Without good fat, vitamins like vitamin A, E, and K will not be absorbed and used by the body.

Although walnuts boast heart-healthy oil like most nuts, they have an added edge. Most nut oil is monounsaturated, but walnuts primarily contain the polyunsaturated variety. In fact, they're the only nuts - and one of the few foods -- that offer significant amounts of a crucial type of polyunsaturated fat called alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid. ALA protects the heart in several ways: It improves your ratio of good to LDL bad cholesterol, and it reduces inflammation, helping to block the conversion of cholesterol into harmful, artery-clogging plaque. ALA also plays a significant role in the development of the brain and cognitive function; low levels of ALA have been associated with depression and other mood disorders.