Become Unbeatable … with Beets!

There is something stunning about the deep ruby red beet that creates a dramatic effect wherever and whenever it is presented. Beets don’t have to be red though, although that is probably the most common conceptualization of this vegetable; they also can be yellow or striped. Did you know that not only can the roots be eaten but you can also eat the leaves?

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So, what are the benefits of beets? With their deep colour it’s understandable why beets are a stellar source of many vitamins and minerals that are essential for good health and nutrition. As with other fruits and vegetables beets provide Vitamin C, a vitamin that also acts as an antioxidant. Folacin, a powerful B-vitamin with preventative effects for birth defects, cancer and heart disease. Potassium found in beets may contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Iron is another important mineral found in beets.

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When buying beets try and get ones that are equal in size so that they will cook evenly. Make sure your beets are firm and their skin is dry and there are no mushy parts. Keep your beets in a cool dry place, like the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a paper towel. If you are not going to eat the beet leaves you can chop off the stalks for easier storage.

Before cooking your beets scrub them well under running water to remove the dirt. Then dry them well with paper towels.

Beets have many different uses. You can roast them, boil them, steam them. They can be pickled (I’ve always have a thing for the little pickled salad beets!). You can shave them and add them to salads raw. Beets can be added to smoothies or beet root juice is also very popular. And of course they are the signature ingredient in Borscht – a traditional Eastern European soup.

If you can, try not to peel the beets before you cook them. Leaving the skins on preserves valuable nutrients, as well as the colour of the beets. It’s okay to leave the beet tops on and remove them after cooking.

A big question in preparing beets is “what to do about the red stains”? Beets will stain your hands if you handle them either raw or cooked. The simple solution is to wear gloves. Just get a thin pair of plastic gloves. Beets will also stain surfaces. Wood and marble are especially difficult to get stains out of. You can remove the skins of cooked beets with paper towels. Cover surfaces with parchment paper to prevent beet staining.

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Beets and Athletic Performance

One area of interest for beets in research is for their effects on athletic performance. Beets have been found to improve endurance and athletic performance. Beet root and beet root juice have been tested in various studies, such as this one in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which  found that consuming whole beetroots improved performance with increased running velocity and decreased ratings of perceived exertion. Beets provide these effects because they are a natural source of nitrates which increases nitric oxide bioavaiability which is important to exercise performance.

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FYI – Beets are red because of the red pigment “betacyanin”. Some people cannot properly metabolize betacyanin and it will pass through the digestion process unchanged and then be excreted. This is not something to be worried about.

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Fall in Love with Food Again

It’s been said: “September is the new January”. September is a popular time for making resolutions, getting back into a routine or starting new ones, going back to school … the list goes on. We are presented with a new season, a beginning and new energies to work with.

Changes start to become visible everywhere. Fall is special for so many reason, not only for the colours and the vigour of crisp, clear autumn days, but also because there are so many fantastic fall foods we have to enjoy. We’ll be exploring some of these in the weeks to come.

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At this time, many set goals around improving their health, nutrition and eating habits. It can be tempting to lean towards the latest fad, quick fix, diet plan or supplements – all of which there are many – drawn in with promises of extraordinary results with little to no effort. But in choosing a quick fix do we become destined to fall? A “diet” that is overly restrictive, excludes certain foods or entire food groups, and does not provide adequate energy and nutrients will ultimately do more detriment to health, happiness and well-being by crushing motivation and even hampering physical and mental performance.

It is often more challenging to follow strategies that are complex, demanding or overly restrictive. As such, we are setting ourselves up to fail and fall into despair. A spiral of negative emotions and eating habits and patterns can result; founded on fears and anxieties over what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. Food is tied to emotion in so many ways. When we feel like we have failed or fallen in our eating patterns we develop negative emotions and aversions to certain foods or to eating in general. This can lead to more serious health and well-being issues, as the many eating disorders that exist are proof.

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So now the question becomes how do we fall in love with food again?

Keep it simple. Food is meant to renew and empower. It serves us by providing energy and nourishment to create and do what we need to do.

How can you simplify your eating? Make a resolution to eat real food – and enjoy it too! Enjoy it in it’s purest form. The way it was gifted to us by nature.

The closer it is to that state when you take it from the earth the more natural it is. When you compare an apple to apple sauce to apple juice – you can see the progression of processing and which choice is most pure and closest to what nature intended.

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When was the last time you sat down and enjoyed a real meal? Do you have a favorite meal you haven’t made for a while?  If you don’t have one pick something new. Make a plan to eat at home plan to cook a meal from scratch. It’s a new season so time for new adventures! Is there a food you have always wanted to try but have not. What’s the reason? Why not now?

Have you enjoyed food that was picked fresh and grown in the soil close to where you live? Why not pay a visit to your local farmer’s market and get some real, fresh local goodies. There’s no better time to develop an understanding and appreciation for what is grown in your region than now with the bounty of the harvest season available to us. Eating local produce and products has a way of really connecting and grounding us.

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Happy first day of Fall everyone!

 

Sunbutter Crunch Cookies

It always seems that summer comes to a close far too soon! More and more there are signs that remind us daily that fall is on the way but then the sun comes back and it’s like summer never left! I love sunflowers (and sunflower seeds – but we’ll get to that later!). They are a joyous reminder of the long slow golden sunsets of late August and truly are one of the most radiant and resplendent of flowers.

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Sunflowers are a plant native to North America. Their cultivation and consumption have traveled an interesting and rather circuitous route from North America to touch Europe and Russia and back to the Americas again! You can read more about that here.

Now for the interesting part – why sunflower seeds are so spectacular!

One of the most important nutrients you will find in high amounts in sunflower seeds is Vitamin E – a tremendously powerful antioxidant. Vitamin E may help reduce the inflammatory processes which can lead to certain chronic diseases. In it’s role as an antioxidant, it has also been found to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, decreasing the buildup of up plaque in artery walls, which can lower the risk for coronary artery disease.

You will also get folate, a B-vitamin involved in functions with preventative effects for disorders, birth defects and heart disease, and Vitamin B6, needed for a lot of essential reactions in the body, many of which relate to energy production and metabolism.

Sunflower seeds are a nutrient dense source of some important minerals such as iron, magnesium, selenium and zinc.

  • Iron is an integral part of hemoglobin – the protein that carries oxygen in the blood. The iron in sunflower seeds is called “non-heme” (from non-animal sources) iron which is not as well absorbed and utilized as “heme” (from animal sources) but remember every little bit counts!
  • Magnesium works with calcium to help maintain healthy strong bones. It’s also important in several other functions such as the conversion of carbohydrates, fats and protein to energy and functioning of nerves and muscles.
  • Selenium is a trace mineral which may work as antioxidant with Vitamin E to protect the body from oxidative damage. Selenium is also needed for the functioning of the thyroid gland.
  • Zinc is involved in enzymatic reactions throughout the body, supporting the immune system by preventing colds as well as preventing the macular degeneration.

Sunflower seeds also provide good amounts of protein and fibre which help with satiety and weight management among many other important functions!

Linoleic acid, found in sunflower seeds, is an essential poly-unsaturated fatty acid. “Essential” means the body cannot create the compound on its own and therefore it must be consumed in the foods we eat. Linoleic acid is also important because as a precursor it is involved with blood clotting and blood pressure.

Clearly sunflower seeds are a force to be reckoned with!

I’ve had this idea for this recipe playing around in my head almost all summer. Now that craziness of July and August have subsided, with the international travel and world fitness expo convention over,  I’ve finally found time to bring this creation to life!

There’s a warmth and depth to these cookies – just like the sun. With these cookies you get a double dose of the goodness of sunflower seeds because the recipe has both sunflower seed butter and real sunflower seeds!

They are a great grab and go snack or perfect to stick into anyone’s packed lunch for nourishment any time of day. They would also go well with a hot cup of tea or a tea latte – perfect for a crisp autumn day!

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