December 2nd, 2012 - Jill Ettinger
New research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that the smells of certain aromatic essential oils may have immediate short-term benefits on helping to reduce the risk of certain types of cardiovascular diseases.
Read More:Essential Oils Show Heart-Health Benefits
October 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Nutrition labels and symbols would best benefit shoppers if they appeared on the front of food packages and focused on calories, saturated fat, trans fat and sodium—the top four overconsumed nutrients, according to a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).
The not-so-fab four are strongly associated with many of America’s health woes, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
The IOM recognizes that packages have limited space, so its expert committee believes information on cholesterol, fiber, added sugars, vitamins and other nutrients that are listed on Nutrition Facts panels (right) can remain on the back.
Read More:Front of Food Packages Should Highlight Calories, Fats, Sodium Levels
August 27th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Organic watermelon is a nutritional best bet, with more than 1,200 varieties available for savvy snacking. Farmers in 44 states grow these juicy members of the Cucurbitaceae plant family, with Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona leading the pack.
Here are 10 reasons to head to the summer produce aisle.
1. Get your vitamins—naturally
A 2-cup serving of watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins A and C:
- Vitamin A is critical for optimal eye health. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains 25% of your daily requirement.
- Vitamin C helps bolster the immune system. A 2-cup serving of watermelon contains 30% of your daily requirement.
2. Potassium is your BFF
Potassium helps maintain water balance. If your potassium level is low, you may experience muscle cramps.
A 2-cup serving of watermelon provides 270 mg potassium: 8% of your daily requirement. A watermelon is also more than 90% water, so a few cups will help you stay hydrated.
3. Watermelon is heart-healthy
Watermelon contains amino acids that help maintain healthy arteries and blood flow.
“With its naturally sweet taste, watermelon can be a wonderful way to get more fruit into a sensible low-saturated-fat, low-cholesterol diet,” says Maureen Storey, PhD, former director of the Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy at the University of Maryland.
4. It helps protect you against cancer
Red-fleshed watermelon contains high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps reduce cancer risk. A 1.5-cup serving contains 14 to 15 mg lycopene, according to plant physiologist Penelope Perkins-Veazie, PhD, a professor at the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University. The redder the watermelon, the more lycopene it offers.
5. Pour me a drink
Because of its high water content, watermelon is a perfect addition to drinks like Watermelon Lemonade (right) and Three-Melon Smoothie.
As with our story on making lemon-flavored ice cubes, you can create watermelon ice cubes (above) by pureeing the melon’s flesh and freezing it in ice cube trays.
6. Watermelon is kid-friendly
Few children will turn down a slice of juicy watermelon, so make it a part of their regular fruit and veggie intake. Be creative in the kitchen. Let your kids use a melon baller to form watermelon spheres.
7. Baby, you can drive my car
Place cubes of melon in travel containers for hydration and a nutritional boost during long car trips. Bring napkins!
8. Watermelon shines at organic picnics
Dishes like Watermelon Salad with Thai Basil and Feta will please your adult guests, while Watermelon and Tomato Salad and Poppy Seed Fruit Salad will appeal to both children and adults.
Labor Day is almost here. Make an Americana Basket (above) for backyard barbecues and potlucks.
9. Get thee to a farmers’ market
Buy locally grown organic produce to support family farmers. Willie Nelson will thank you.
Not sure where your local farmers’ market is located? Local Harvest will solve this problem in a jiff.
10. Grow your own
Kits like Ecosource’s Organic Grow Your Own Seedling Starter Kits are great gift items, and they make the job easy. More advanced gardeners can pick up a copy of Amy Goldman’s Melons for the Passionate Grower.
Photos: Jermaine Justice, Wyscan, kokopinto, nsaplayer, Chris Breeze, ccharmon, xlorddashx, National Watermelon Promotion Board, McCormick, Suddenly Salad
Follow me on Twitter: @BarbGoesOrganic
Read More:10 Reasons to Buy Organic Watermelon
August 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Summer bequeaths us an abundance of fresh, juicy, organic blueberries, which you can easily find at natural and organic food stores, mainstream supermarkets, farmers’ markets and roadside stands.
Here are 8 reasons to go blue:
- Blueberries represent America at her finest. Only three fruits are native to North America: blueberries, cranberries and Concord grapes. The first colonists adopted the Native American practice of picking fresh blueberries in the summer and drying them for winter consumption.
- They’re at their seasonal peak. Fresh blueberries are available for almost 8 months in the United States and Canada. The North American harvest runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest in mid-May through August.
- They’re a nutritional powerhouse. A half-cup serving has only 40 calories and provides 2 g fiber and 10% of your daily vitamin C requirement. Blueberries are also high in antioxidants that help fight cancer and protect your skin.
- They’re easy to buy. When shopping, look for berries that are dry, firm, plump, purple-blue to blue-black, well-shaped and smooth-skinned. Be sure to avoid containers with juice stains, which often indicate blueberries are crushed and/or moldy. Eat blueberries within a week of purchase.
- They’re a low-maintenance fruit. Buy ’em and rinse ’em. They don’t need to be peeled, cored, sliced or stemmed.
- They’re easy to freeze for winter enjoyment. Buy them in season. Then, place unwashed, completely dry berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pop the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once blueberries are frozen, transfer them to freezer containers. They’ll last 10 months to 1 year.
- They’re an ideal breakfast food. Boost your breakfast’s heart-protective benefits by adding blueberries to oatmeal, cold cereal, pancakes and smoothies.
- They’re extremely versatile. Add a new recipe to your repertoire, such as American Fruit Basket, Blueberry & Red Onion Compote, Poppy Seed Fruit Salad and Triple Berry Granola Crisp.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council
Read More:8 Reasons to Buy Organic Blueberries
June 7th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
What would you rather drink? Milk from a cow chained up in a barn eating slop through a hole, or a cow allowed to graze in a field?
Hopefully you picked the latter. Lots of organic farmers believe food from free range livestock is better and healthier – they’re probably right!
And now a new study says milk from grass-fed cows is healthier for the heart than conventionally produced milk.
Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers found milk from cows allowed to graze contain more conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, than cows fed processed grains.
CLA is an unsaturated fat that can protect the heart.
Given this health effect, the scientists suggest more attention should be paid to feeding practices for cows.
Milk from a cow allowed to graze – like they naturally do – just sounds better, especially since some feedlots, in an attempt to cut costs, mix rejected M&Ms and potato chips with their cows’ regular cud.
M&M’s? Does that mean they make chocolate milk?
Image credit: ib economics weblog
Read More:Grass-Fed Cows Make More Heart Healthy Milk
May 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
You should eat fish at least twice a week, according to the American Heart Association. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease.
But concerns over mercury toxicity have prompted many consumers to avoid the fish counter. Luckily, resources like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector allow you to make safe, healthful meal decisions.
Pacific vs. Atlantic
Pacific halibut, caught along the West Coast from California to Alaska, is an eco-best choice. Alaska, in fact, is home to 75% of the halibut caught in the United States.
Fresh, wild Pacific halibut is usually available between March and November. Frozen halibut roasts, fillets and steaks are available year-round.
Atlantic halibut is another story. It’s an eco-worst choice, as it contains unsafe levels of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxic industrial chemicals.
The Price Factor
Pacific halibut is one of my favorite fish selections because it’s firm and flaky in texture, mild-tasting and extremely versatile. You can grill, bake, roast and sauté it, as several of our blog recipes prove:
Halibut fillets, however, can be expensive. On my latest shopping trip, I blanched at the price: $20 per pound.
Feeling frugal, I opted for sustainable Alaskan cod, which has been on sale over the last month for $6 to $8 per pound at local markets. Another firm fish, it can replace halibut in any of the recipes cited above.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Ocean Friendly Cuisine: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the World’s Finest Chefs
Photo courtesy of Robert Hsiao
Read More:Sustainable Halibut: Yes to Pacific, No to Atlantic
March 23rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Switching from refined to whole grains is one of the best health moves you can make in your organic diet, as the latter offers great taste, variety and a host of health benefits.
“Whole grains may help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, so they are beneficial for everyone,” says registered dietitian and chef Michele Powers. “For people managing conditions such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol, research shows that choosing whole grains is a simple lifestyle change that makes a big impact.”
Here are eight ways to bring whole-grain rice to the dinner table, courtesy of Uncle Ben’s:
- Substitute. Instead of pasta, add whole-grain rice to soup or casseroles.
- Salad Spin. Use whole-grain rice in marinated grain salads.
- Stuff Your Vegetables. Use whole-grain rice as a base for stuffed vegetables: bell peppers, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, eggplant, tomatoes and artichokes. (Tune in Friday for a great recipe.)
- Combine Food Groups. Add whole-grain rice to homemade meatballs for extra flavor and fiber.
- Lower the Fat. To make a lower-fat quiche, substitute cooked brown rice for the pie crust.
- Create a Pilaf. Cook brown rice in low-sodium broth, and add toasted nuts and dried fruit.
- Mix-and-Match. Mix brown and white rice to introduce your children to whole grains.
- Make a Whole-Grain Dessert. Add whole-grain rice to puddings for a tasty dessert.
Read More:8 Ways to Enjoy Heart-Healthy Whole Grains
February 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
We generally think of organic watermelon as a summertime snack, but this juicy treat is available year-round.
It may surprise you to learn that watermelon is a vegetable because it’s part of the cucumber and squash family—a classification that remains controversial.
Composed of 92% water and 8% sugar, watermelon has long been recognized as a weight watcher’s BFF. A half-cup serving of diced watermelon has only 25 calories and meets 10% of your daily vitamin C requirement.
Some of the latest research shows watermelon contains high concentrations of lycopene, an antioxidant that may help reduce cancer risk. In addition, a 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture study cited watermelon’s role in cardiovascular health, with amino acids that help maintain arteries and blood flow.
There are more than 50 U.S. watermelon varieties, available with red, orange or yellow flesh. The four most popular categories are:
- AllSweet: 20–25 pounds, red flesh, oblong shape, dark green rind (with or without stripes); best served “as-is,” simply sliced and eaten
- Ice-Box: 5–15 pounds, red or yellow flesh, round shape, dark or light green rind; great for cooking/recipes
- Seedless: 10–25 pounds, red or yellow flesh, oval to round shape, light green rind with dark green stripes; ideal for beverages and sorbets
- Yellow Flesh: 10–30 pounds, yellow to bright-orange flesh, oblong to long shape, light green rind with mottled stripes; use in kebobs and garnishes
One of the newest pairings on restaurant menus is watermelon and cheese, a trend borrowed from Mediterranean cuisine. Tune in tomorrow and Saturday for two such delectable recipes.
In the meantime, enjoy these recipes from our organic blog:
Photo courtesy of the National Watermelon Promotion Board
Read More:Help Your Heart with Watermelon
November 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The holiday season may be known for indulgence, but there’s some good news on the cholesterol front.
Between 1999 and 2006, the prevalence of U.S. adults with high levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) decreased by about one-third, according to a study published in the Nov. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Overall, high LDL levels decreased from 31.5% in 1999–2000 to 21.2% in 2005–2006, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the numbers remain less heartening for those with heart disease, stroke and diabetes: a drop from 69.4% to 58.9% over the same period.
And there’s another caveat: A high percentage of adults are not being screened or treated for high cholesterol levels. Screening deficiencies may occur because there’s a lack of consensus on the age at which testing should begin.
“The current guidelines are overly complicated, and a simplified risk-based approach is supported by the current data,” note J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH, and Thomas A. Gaziano, MD, MSc, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in an accompanying JAMA editorial.
Read More:“Bad” Cholesterol Levels Drop
May 21st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Recently updated statistics from the American Heart Association (AHA) reveal 80 million Americans—almost 27% of us—suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease (most frequently, high blood pressure).
Heart-healthy cooking is critical in a country that worships fast food. The good news? It’s not as difficult as some readers may think. You needn’t give up most of your favorite natural/organic foods or feel deprived.
Roger Blumenthal, MD, a professor of cardiology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and coauthor of The Betty Crocker Healthy Heart Cookbook, offers 10 tips:
- Get an oil change. Switch to mono- and polyunsaturated oils for eating and cooking. Canola, soybean and olive oils are heart-healthy choices.
- Go fish. Gradually increase fish consumption to at least twice a week, per AHA guidelines. Try new recipes to determine which ones are keepers. (Tune in tomorrow for a special recipe from the cookbook, Graham-Crusted Fish Fillets.)
- Color your menu. Add veggies to rice, pasta and small portions of pizza. Leave fruit on the counter for quick snacks. Add dried fruit to breakfast oatmeal. Serve fresh fruit for dessert.
- Greens are golden. Eat a salad with dinner. Include vegetables and legumes like cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli and green beans.
- Think your drink. Drink water, herbal teas and unsweetened flavored waters.
- Tap the moo machine. Drink skim milk daily (adults and kids).
- Go with the grains. Include whole-grain cereal, bread, oatmeal, barley and brown rice in menus.
- Green-light some red meat. As long as your overall diet is low in saturated fat, small lean cuts of meat served with heart-friendly foods are OK occasionally.
- Give good fats a hand. Snack on a handful of walnuts, almonds or avocado slices. They contain monounsaturated fat, which is good for your heart.
- Hold the bottom line. If you really want it, you can eat it—in moderation. Small amounts of butter are OK from time to time. Serve ice cream for special occasions, but otherwise reach for yogurt.
Read More:10 Tips for Heart-Healthy Organic Eating