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?

beetroot-2686023_1920

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.

vegetable-2485059_1920

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.

beetroot-1383758_1920

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.

beetroot-juice-2512474_1920

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.

Advertisements

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.

fence-posts-2331414_1920

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.

fall-2468139_1920

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.

path-1031114_1920

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.

pumpkin-1031292_1920

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.

sunflower-94187_1920

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!

photoeditor_20170917_123028

 

edited sunbutter cookie card

 

All-Canadian Energy Bites

Oh Canada! We’re celebrating 150 years today. In honour of Canada and for Canada Day I created this recipe, drawing inspiration from several traditional Canadian sourced ingredients to celebrate the “tastes of Canada”.

canada-2026425_1280

Being a natural source of energy and providing many important nutrients make these little treats the perfect little snack any time of day. However, I particularly enjoy having them to refuel after a good workout.

photoeditor_20170701_161631 - Copy

Maple Syrup is one of the most classically Canadian ingredients ever! Canada is the world’s foremost producer of maple syrup and most of that comes from Quebec. The process of making maple syrup is quite intensive which is why it is rather expensive and should be valued even more. Maple syrup is a natural source of energy and sweetener. In addition to its unique flavour, it is also a source of antioxidants which contribute to overall health. A little goes a long way though that’s for sure!

Flax Seeds are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega 3s as well as fibre.

Sunflower Seeds are grown on the Canadian prairies. They have many nutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper and zinc and they are one of the best sources of Vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants.

Walnuts are found throughout Ontario and there are many different varieties of nut trees grown in Ontario. Walnuts are a source of protein and healthy fats including important anti-inflammatory omega 3s.

Dates are an exception to the theme here, as they aren’t native to Canada, but they are another great natural source of energy as well as a good source of fibre and minerals like potassium and iron which are important for both general health and exercise performance like potassium and iron.

photoeditor_20170701_161326

Enjoy the flavours of Canada and have a Happy Canada Day!

All Canadian Energy Bites

Peas Pack a Powerful Nutritional Punch!

Small and delicate but not to be underestimated, peas are a signature food for springtime. Don’t be deceived by their small size. Peas offer a powerful nutrition punch!

In Ancient Egypt peas were stored in the tombs of pharaohs and mummies because the Egyptians thought them valuable for sustain them on their journey through the afterlife.

There are a few different varieties of fresh peas. These include green peas, snow peas and sugar snap peas

peas-16803_1920

Peas are low in fat and high in fibre. They offer a good amount of protein and some valuable nutrients including Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K. Vitamin K is particularly important although often found in green leafy vegetables it is involved in wound healing and maintaining blood vessels as well as contributing to bone health by assisting with bone formation thus strengthening bones which may help prevent fractures and the risks associated with osteoporosis. Different varieties have slightly different nutritional compositions. Green peas provide more riboflavin, niacin and zinc than snow peas but snow peas offer more Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, lutein and zinc.

textures-1938301_1920

Fresh peas are available from June to July. Always refrigerate your fresh peas to preserve their freshness. Wash peas well. You may have to shell your peas before using if eating green peas. Snow peas and Sugar snap peas do not need to be shelled but you should remove their tips at both ends before you eat them.

Meal Ideas for Fresh Peas

There are so many ways you can use peas to power-up your diet and make your meals more interesting! They are easy to add into many different recipes like soups, salads, pasta sauces or served on their own as a side dish. You don’t need much – one serving of peas is only 1/2 cup (125 mL).

  • Fresh sugar snap peas or snow peas make great healthy portable snack foods. Serve with hummus for extra flavour.
  • Make snow peas part of the vegetable mix for a stir-fry.
  • Steam fresh peas for 1-2 minutes. They make a simple but satisfying side to meats and fish. Be careful not to overcook your peas or else you will have mushy peas.

 

Note: Fresh is best where peas are concerned. Frozen peas are better than canned peas though because the retain more of their flavour and nutrients than canned peas. You can substitute frozen peas for fresh.

peas-390679_1920

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Strawberries and rhubarb are one of my favourite combinations! The sweetness of the berries and the tartness of the rhubarb are the perfect match.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp is a timeless recipe. I look forward to making it every Spring when these two foods come into season. It’s a versatile recipe. You can serve it on its own – hot or cold. You can have it as a snack or serve as desert. It also makes a great snack any time of day – easy and quick to eat.

I took my own twist on recreating this classic recipe to empower-it-up, so to speak. Not only does this version taste amazing, it also has some extra nutritional nuggets to make you feel amazing for having some.

You can read up on all the cool things about strawberries and rhubarb in two previous posts.

Oats are a good source of dietary fibre which may improve blood cholesterol and help control blood sugar levels. Oats are also a whole grain and source of B Vitamins and Vitamin E.

Almonds provide extra protein and fibre as well as Vitamin E and heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids fatty acids.

Hemps seeds are my super special addition. These tiny little seeds are nutrition powerhouses, offering extra protein boost as well as a good dose of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Not to mention a delightful sweet nutty flavour.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (1)

Note: you can certainly use another type of flour for this. I chose coconut because I like that it adds a little extra sweetness and nuttiness. You could also substitute butter for the coconut oil in the recipe or a different sweetener for coconut sugar.

Meet the Superheroes in Your Diet

Super heroes are an important part of our culture. We all love our super-heroes. And for our bodies their superheroes are called antioxidants. The main function of antioxidants is to protect our cells from oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also improve immune function and help prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Oxidation is a natural process of life, it’s one of the contributors to aging. It is a reaction that occurs for various reasons, and results in the production of free-radicals.

The free radicals produced by oxidation are like the villains, they damage the cells of our bodies because they are what we call “unstable” meaning they are missing an important part of themselves – an electron (special sub atomic particle) from their outermost electron orbital. As a result, they are always looking to steal an electron from any innocent cell to complete their orbitol.

It follows that free radicals will produce more free radicals which will do more damage to our bodies. So it’s important we find ways to defend ourselves and stop the destruction before it goes too far. There are many reasons the free radicals get produced in the body, some of them you can avoid like smoking, others not so much like air pollution, sun exposure. EVEN exercise produces free radicals.

Your mission is to counteract the destruction caused by free radical production and save our cells by choosing foods which provide antioxidants to support our systems.

Super hero veggies

But where do we find antioxidants? Fruits and vegetables are the number one go to source for antioxidants. Eating the right number of servings of fruits and vegetables everyday is the best way to get your antioxidants. Other sources include: whole grains, nut and seeds, coffee, tea and even chocolate.

Here are some examples of nutrients that may function as antioxidants and where you can find them:

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is considered one of the, if not the greatest antioxidant.This is the primary function of the vitamin. Nuts and seeds (especially sunflower seeds!), vegetable oils and avocado are very high in vitamin E.

Vitamin C

Most fruits and vegetables, but especially citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, will give you Vitamin C. Where Vitamin C is concerned, fresher is better, and you don’t want to overcook your veggies because excessive heat and oxygen destroys Vitamin C.

grapefruit-1485881_1920

Vitamin A

Vitamin A has many functions and one may be to act as an antioxidant. Vitamin A is particularly important in keeping eyes and skin healthy. Find Vitamin A in meat, specifically liver, as well as dairy products and fish.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral that functions as an antioxidant. Brazil nuts are very high in selenium. Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans and grains products also provide selenium.

brazil-nut-638972_1920

Carotenoids

Carotenoids are a group of compounds that act as antioxidants. They include beta-carotene, lycopene (found in tomoatoes), lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are pigments which give colour to many fruits and vegetables dark green, orange, yellow and red. Beta-carotene is a carotenoid may have additional benefits because it is converted to Vitamin A, another antioxidant, in the body.

Flavonoids

Flavonoids are another group of compounds, many of which have been shown to have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids are found mainly in berries (especially dark coloured ones like blueberries), onions, apples as well as cocoa (think chocolate!) tea (particularly green tea) and wine.

Antioxidant Supplements

There are many supplemental forms of all of these nutrients available. However, as long as you follow an adequate, balanced and nutritious diet and have all the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, in every colour, you should have no trouble meeting your body’s antioxidant needs and therefore not require supplementation. More research is needed into the validity of antioxidant supplementation. You can have too much of a good thing and some antioxidants, like the fat soluble vitamins A & E can be toxic if you exceed the recommended amount.

kapow-1601675_1920

Why are Strawberries Red?

Petite, plump and juicy … that’s the making of a perfect strawberry. Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in North America, with over 70 varieties being grown. There is nothing quite like local fresh strawberries in season. Strawberries are available from June to July, on the edge between spring and summer. Looking for a fun activity and an excuse to enjoy some beautiful weather? Go strawberry picking!

Rich in nutritional benefits, strawberries offer a good amount of dietary fibre and potassium. What’s more, they actually offer more Vitamin C than any other berry! They are low in calories and make one of the best snack foods not only because of their nutritional value but also because how easy they are to transport and consume.

strawberries-829271_1920

Generally, the first thing that draws us to pick one strawberry over another is its deep red ruby colour. Strawberries should also be firm, plump and well-shaped with fresh—looking green leafy caps. Give the strawberries a “sniff-test” to see if they have a nice sweet smell to them, that’s another factor to determine which strawberries to buy. Size is not a key determining factor when choosing strawberries. Always check your strawberries carefully before buying them. Examine the package from all angles, not just picking one up and taking it because the berries on top look good; you want to see if you can that none of the fruit hiding below the surface or at the bottom has gone bad. If you get home and find there are some mashed or bad berries discard them immediately.

Store your strawberries intact (with caps on), unwashed, in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them. Rinse gently, drain, and remove the stems before you use them.

You can make use of your strawberries in so many simple and different ways: enjoy them as they are, cook with them, bake with them, make jam with them, add them to muffins, make yogurt parfaits and smoothies. They make a great addition to a spring-themed salad, to say nothing of all the strawberry deserts that are out there! One of my favourite uses has to be chocolate covered strawberries. The possibilities are endless!

yogurt-1442034_1920

So what does make a strawberry red? Strawberries contain a molecule called anthocyanidin which is the anthocyanin precursor. Anthocyanins are an important kind of antioxidant, and they are also responsible for giving red fruits their colour. Anthocyanidin however is colourless. When the anthocyadin reacts with a sugar molecule to become anthocyanin, the antioxidant, it becomes red. This explains why unripe strawberries are unsweet and colourless and the riper the strawberries the redder in colour it will be. The ripening process is key to the colour change. We infer that to find the best berries look for the deepest, darkest red berry to get optimum taste and nutrition.

Enjoy strawberry season!

strawberry-629180_1920

 

 

Almond Cranberry Coconut Bars Recipe

This recipe came into being less than a week ago but what a success it has been already!

At only 100 calories and being gluten-free, dairy-free and all natural there’s so many good things about these little bars. What I’m still amazed by is how incredibly easy and fast they are to make. Literally, they are almost effortless to prepare and there’s no baking or cooking required.

Want to know more? Check out what makes these facts about the ingredients in these bars and why they are a real “empowering eat”.

Almonds are a key feature ingredients. Almonds are a super food, they are a source of many nutrients such as protein, heart healthy mono-unsaturated acids and Vitamin E, one of the most potent antioxidants.

Flax seeds are a functional food (offer bonus nutritional benefits beyond food energy) and are a good source fibre, Omega-3 fatty acids, which may lower the risk of heart disease, and phytonutrients which may lower the risk of developing some forms of cancer. Find out more about flax seed here.

Coconut has become very popular recently. While there’s not a ton of research on all the benefits of coconut, it is still a versatile ingredient and adds very nicely to the flavour and texture of these bars.

Cranberries are another superfood source of antioxidants as well as vitamin C and fibre.

Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices and for good reason. With high antioxidant properties. It also has effects on stabilizing blood sugar levels which is good if you want something that gives you long-lasting stable energy levels.

Honey is a natural sweetener and one of the oldest sweeteners ever used. You could substitute agave for honey if you wanted to in the recipe to make these bars vegan.

better bars

For serving, you can make and take these bars with you on busy days to keep you fueled. They also make a big hit for desert at parties and events.

You can also cut up the bars and freeze them individually. They will keep for longer and stay fresher this way.

Enjoy!

Cranberry Almond Bars

Feature Food of the Week – Asparagus

There’s always a sigh of relief when the first crop of Asparagus comes in because that means spring really is here!

Asparagus is certainly a unique looking vegetable with it’s long thin stalks and fgreen-asparagus-1331460_1920unny spiky leaves. it’s been called the “aristocrat of the vegetable” for it’s regal appearance as well as its popularity with the nobility, from Roman emperors to King Louis XIV to name a few.

Asparagus is available in three colours: green, purple and white. The season for asparagus is brilliant and brief – it’s only available May and June – so make sure you try some while it’s here!

Nutritionally, asparagus is low in calories and offers high amount of fibre, iron, vitamin C, vitamin A and B vitamins. Folate in particular is a very important B vitamin found in asparagus.

When buying asparagus, look for stalks that are straight and crisp with tips that are tight and green/purple.

You should eat your asparagus as soon as you can but you can store for up to three days in the refrigerator if you have to. To preserve freshness, wrap the ends of the asparagus in a wet paper towel and cover with plastic warp or place stalks in a glass of water.

Quick Tip: Make sure you snap off the woody end of your asparagus before you cook it! Just hold it at the end and bend until it breaks off.

green-1283756_1920

Roasting and steaming are two great ways to cook asparagus. Steam asparagus for about 5 to 10 minutes. The time will depend on how thick the asparagus is. Roast asparagus for 12 – 15 minutes in at 425 F . I love how with roasted asparagus the tips become just a little bit crispy. Blanching is another method where you cook asparagus for 3-4 min in boiling water, then drain and run the asparagus under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Roasted asparagus goes really well as a simple side to meats such as chicken, turkey and steak. Asparagus pairs well with other vegetables in medleys. You can make it an addition to pasta dishes or in a stir-fry.

asparagus-2169305_1920