The Finest Chefs

Category - Cooking and Eating Smart

Much Ado About Healthy Cooking

healthy cooking 101

If you’re trying to improve your health, one of the first things you can do is improve the way you cook your food. But when people talk about healthy cooking, it can sound a little intimidating and a little less than delicious.

But healthy cooking doesn’t have to be difficult or boring. With just a few small changes you can make a big difference in the health of you and your family. Once you get used to doing things a different way, it will become simple and easy.

Forgo Deep Frying

One of the easiest ways to lower the fat content of your food and boost your heart health is to skip frying foods. When you fry foods, you add a large amount of oil to your food. While fat is something that your body needs, it doesn’t need it in such high amounts.

Fat is full of extra calories, so the oil you’re adding to your food will sneak in many extra calories you don’t need if you’re working to eat healthy. In addition, most oils used for frying are not the healthiest kind for your heart.

Instead of deep frying your foods, there are a few different ways you can cook them. If you’ve never tried cooking with these methods, you’ll have to experiment to see which one works best for you.

Grilling

One of the healthiest ways to cook is to use your grill. There are several different types of grills. If you prefer to use outdoor grills, you can use charcoal or propane. Gas grilling is quicker, but doesn’t have the same flavor.

Grilling can also be done indoors. There are many indoor grill models available for purchase. Indoor grills won’t give you the smoky flavor that you get from outdoor grills. However, they help you to eliminate extra fat from cooking and allow you to cook foods quickly.

Baking and Broiling

Using your oven is another option. Old fashioned baking and broiling produces delicious food without having to add excess fat. Baking is the process of cooking your food evenly. When you broil food, you use only the top element of your oven.

With baking you get a constant temperature in the oven and your oven will cut off and on to keep that steady temperature. With broiling, the top element will stay on constantly. This can produce the same type of effect as grilling your food.

Broiling works well for cooking steaks and other types of meat. You’ll have to turn the pieces of meat over in order to get consistent cooking on both sides. You’ll also need a broiler pan that allows fat to drip through to the bottom away from your food.

Pan Frying

You can sauté your food in a pan as well. This is a type of frying, but you don’t need as much oil as you do with deep frying. For this type of frying you can usually use one or two tablespoons of oil as opposed to a quart of it.

You can also use the most heart healthy oils with pan frying. You’ll want to use oils that are monounsaturated. These oils actually help you to lower your cholesterol. Extra virgin olive oil is generally the best choice for heart health.

Steaming

Steaming is another powerful way to cook. This is especially good for cooking vegetables. You can purchase a special steamer that plugs into the wall or you can actually convert a pan into a steamer by inserting a special steaming basket.

With steaming, you’ll add a little water to the pan, then add the steaming basket. You’ll place your veggies on top of the basket. The water won’t actually cover the vegetables at all. You’ll then need to put a lid on the pot.

As you heat the water at the bottom of the pan, it creates steam that will surround the food and cook it. Steaming doesn’t take a long time and it’s one of the best ways you can cook to preserve the nutrients in your food.

Slow Cooker

One of the greatest tools you can purchase for your kitchen is a slow cooker. This is a healthy way to cook and can really be a timesaver in your life. With slow cookers you can add ingredients to the pot, set the temperature, and then walk away for hours.

This is especially helpful if you have a job outside of your home or just a very busy schedule. You can put healthy foods in to cook but then you can continue with your activities knowing that you’ll have a great meal for dinner.

The biggest complaint people have about slow cookers tends to be the cleanup. However, there are liners now you can place inside your slow cooker that make cleaning it much easier. You simply throw them away when you’re done.

Choosing Healthy Fats and Substitutions

Many times when people begin to work to cook and eat healthy foods, they try to eliminate fats from their diet. However, your body needs fats in order to function properly. You’ll need to understand the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats.
Unhealthy fats are those that are saturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. You find these fats in meats and dairy products. You also find them in lard. These are the fats that can clog your arteries and cause you to have heart problems.

Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. They’re healthier for the body and actually contribute to good heart health – especially monounsaturated fats. These fats come from plant sources. Some foods where you can find healthy fats include:

• Olive oil, safflower oil, soybean oil
• Flaxseed oil (can be added to food, but not used to cook)
• Avocados
• Bananas
• Nuts – almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, etc.

When you’re cooking, you’ll want to use these types of fats as much as possible. Adding nuts or avocado to a dish can boost the heart healthy fats. And they also add delicious flavor and boost the excitement of healthy meals.

When you’re baking, you can also make substitutions for fats. For example, if a cake or brownie recipe calls for oil you can substitute applesauce or carrot puree. These will give the same texture and moisture without the fat.

If you’re not ready to go completely away from the oil, try substituting half of the oil for applesauce. This will give you the best of both worlds. In many recipes, the oil can be cut in half without significantly changing the texture. You may want to experiment with our favorite recipes.

Eliminate Excess Sugars

Sugars are another area where people tend to have too much of a good thing. You need to have sugars in order for your brain to work. But the types of sugar that you eat can make a difference. Eliminating processed sugars can boost your healthy cooking.
Ingredients such as white granulated sugar, brown sugar, and powdered sugar can be tasty, but aren’t great choices for cooking healthy foods. Instead, you can try to have sweetness through more natural ingredients.

Honey and molasses are natural sources of sugar. Raw cane sugar is also a natural source of sugar. While these choices are natural and less processed than other types of sugar, you’ll still want to use them in limited quantities. A little goes a long way.

Even better is to get your sources of sweetness from fruits. They naturally contain sugar that can satisfy your sweet tooth while still delivering nutrients to your body. The sugar you get from strawberries, apples, or grapes provides satisfying sweetness and also delivers fiber and vitamins.

In addition to getting sugar from sweet foods, many people get a lot of sugar from the drinks they consume. Sugary sodas, sweet teas, and juices can give you a lot of calories without giving much in the way of nutrition. This is a great place to start eliminating sugars from your life.

Switch to water with lime or herbal teas that are flavored naturally. If you want to add sweetness, try a natural sweetener such as stevia to add that punch. Other calorie free sweeteners can be less healthy.

There are many dessert options using fruits and other healthy ingredients that can help you to get the sweetness you crave without sacrificing your health. As you eliminate sugar, you’ll get to a point where you really don’t crave it as much.

Lowering Your Sodium

Another considering with healthy cooking is lowering the amount of sodium, or salt, in your diet. Salt can cause problems with high blood pressure and bloating. While you need some salt in your diet for good health, most people get too much.

When shopping for ingredients, look for items labeled as “low sodium” or “sodium free.” This way you can control how much salt you add to your meals. When you do use salt, choose natural sea salt.

Add Flavor

For many people the idea of healthy cooking is synonymous with bland food. But if you’re going to cook healthy it’s critical that you enjoy what you’re eating. Otherwise you won’t be able to adopt these techniques long-term.

It’s important to make sure that while you’re eliminating unhealthy fats and sugars that you don’t forget to add flavor. Natural spices and herbs can be the best way to enhance the flavor of your food and can boost your health, too.

If you haven’t used many spices before, now is the time to add spice to your life. The following spices are critical to have in your pantry as you make the switch to healthy cooking:

• Cinnamon
• Garlic
• Pepper (black, red, white, cayenne)
• Nutmeg
• Paprika
• Salt-free seasoning
• Italian seasoning
• Basil

As you continue to cook, you’ll add more and more spices to your supply. But these are general spices that can get you started. You’ll also want to consider keeping fresh herbs on hand. Growing your own is the least expensive way to enjoy them.

As the season begins to end, you can chop up your herbs and freeze them in ice cube trays. This way you can continue to enjoy them year round. Some great herbs to get started with include the following:

• Parley
• Oregano
• Thyme
• Sage
• Cilantro
• Basil
• Rosemary

Adding fresh spices will make any dish more flavorful. Remember that healthy cooking doesn’t have to be boring and bland. The more flavor you add, the more you’ll enjoy what you’re eating. If you enjoy the food you eat when cooking healthy, you’ll be more likely to make a long-term change.

If you’re not familiar with cooking healthy, it can take some time to adjust. But as you add a new technique you’ll find that it can be easy and rewarding. As you cook more and more, you’ll begin to feel comfortable with experimenting with recipes – and unleashing your inner chef can also be a lot of fun.

Power Food For Power Workouts

fitness

Anyone committed to a workout regimen knows a sound nutritional diet is just as important for maintaining the optimal energy for power workouts.

Food Before Workouts

Goals: Retain Lean Muscle Mass and Energy
What To Eat: Complex carbs and a lean protein

Why?

Working out on an empty stomach can cause muscle loss because when you are hungry the body will go into starvation mode and therefore draw protein for energy from the muscles, instead of from the kidneys and liver where it is supposed to get it from.

This results in the loss of lean muscle mass, and this means a slower metabolism. Also, power workouts require a lot of energy, and when you don’t fuel your body with the proper sources, you will not have the energy to complete an intense workout.

In fact, if you’re on a serious workout regimen and want to make the most of your diet to produce results, forego meals high in fat and low in protein. These are not conducive to a power diet for power workout regimens and in fact will only weigh you down.

Food After Workouts

Goals: Restore Energy, Recovery and Repair

What To Eat: Protein with small portion of complex carbs

Why?

When you workout the body uses Glycogen in the muscle for energy. This depletion needs to be restored post workout and demands that you do so a soon as possible after exercise. In fact, various research has shown that the refill of muscle store is decreased by 50% when one waits two hours or more to eat following a workout.
A combination of protein and complex carbohydrates is required to restore energy, support high metabolism, and for muscle repair and recovery.

Power Food Options

The following are some great foods nourish the body with the right fuel it needs to retain energy, build lean muscle mass, burn fat and calories and build lean muscle mass.

PEANUTS

First, take the peanut. Many people consider peanuts “snack” food, and they perhaps should because of their high protein content, but the health benefits go beyond that of healthy snacking, especially for those who are workout enthusiasts.
The peanut is a protein packed dynamo product rich in monounsaturated fats, which are proven heart-healthy and therefore reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease when combined with a heart healthy workout regimen. When choosing peanut butter make sure it’s 100% pure without added sugar.

WHOLE GRAINS

Any powerhouse workout deserves whole grains for carbohydrates that replace the energy expended during a vigorous workout routine. Grains are packed with antioxidants, including, those that are not found in fruit and vegetables, and they also have loads of iron, fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E and magnesium.

You may hear the word “antioxidants” but have you ever considered what all the hype is really about?
Antioxidants strengthen your ability to fight infection and disease. The word is tossed around more than a football but when you stop to think of the free radicals that are everywhere in a world that is hardly germ free, a food source rich in antioxidants is worth growing a fond taste for.

Fortunately, whole grains cover an array of foods such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, couscous, even popcorn.
QUINOA

The nutrient composition of Quinoa earns the title of a “super food”. It is a complete protein, that’s loaded with essential amino acids. It is also higher in protein than barley, brown rice and other whole grains. It also contains valuable amounts of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

SEEDS

Since we’ve discussed peanuts and grains, naturally seeds must follow. Seeds, much like the aforementioned, are nature’s gift to those who indulge in a regular workout schedule. Perhaps considered more of a “snack” than a food entrée or even side dish, seeds should certainly become a part of anyone’s diet who likes to workout hard and long. Seeds are packed with essential vitamins and minerals to safeguard your body to help regulate the circulatory system and help to maintain strong bones and teeth and bowel regulation.

FRUIT

Next up, is fruit, and it’s no small wonder that fruit it is on the list of “powerhouse foods” for powerhouse workouts. From the time our lives begin, we’ve been reminded that fruit is “good for you.” And if you’ve never heard the word “phytochemicals” that is a word synonymous with antioxidants and fruit, which aid the body’s immune system.
Fruit is a phytochemical rich in so many important vitamins and minerals that the body needs to remain healthy such as calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B, C and D.

DARK CHOCOLATE

The next powerhouse food for the body to maintain a powerhouse workout regime, dark chocolate. Yes, rejoice, chocolate, but only dark chocolate is the one that is loaded with most of the health benefits referred to as flavonoids or flavonols, the main type found in cocoa, which, again, is considered a powerful antioxidant believed to help the body repair cells, aid in pulmonary and cardiovascular health while “fighting” free radicals, considered internal body pollutants.

Therefore, if you are maintaining a regular workout regimen, you can get your chocolate fix without the guilt.
Muscle Recovery

Another speculation regarding the above list of “powerhouse” foods is that they are plant based. Plant based foods help to fight inflammation caused from workout-over exertion, helping muscle recovery and to heal soreness.

Pre-Workout Meal Ideas

• Banana with peanut butter
• Black beans and brown rice
• Almonds and apple slices
• Grape Nuts cereal with skim milk and berries
• Hummus on whole grain toast

Post Workout Meal Ideas
• Protein energy bars
• Protein shakes with bananas, berries and hemp seeds
• Chicken breast with steamed vegetables or salad with olive oil and vinegar
• Tofu and steamed vegetables
• Quinoa with vegetables or with berries
• Pecans and fresh berries
• Whole grain or multi-grain toast with peanut butter
• Black beans and avocado

IN SUMMARY

The above information may be surprising but five of the most nutritious food sources, without the inclusion of meat in any way shape or form, are arguably the best for those who need powerhouse food to maintain a heavy workout regimen.
Again, peanuts, grains, fruits, seeds, and perhaps best of all raw dark chocolate all have something in common. They’re good for your heart, rich in complex carbohydrates, the bodies preferred natural fuel source, and loaded with antioxidants, too.

It would probably be a wise choice to include the above the next time you head out to shop for food that will help you keep your workout strong, along with a diet to match the rigor.

Planning Meals for Easy Healthy Cooking

healthy cooking

Healthy cooking is essential for your well being, but, when you are just coming back from work, exhausted, this is the last thing on your mind. If you feel like cooking is too time consuming for your busy schedule, you may feel like eating healthy is out of your league.

Another impediment that may prevent you from cooking healthy meals can be the lack of ingredients. If this happens often, you may have to so some planning ahead.

Cooking should not be a chore. There is no need to stress so much over it; if you focus on making good nutritious food for you and your family, you will see that it is not so difficult, after all.

Your health is very important, so you should not overlook healthy cooking altogether. All you need to do is to plan ahead, so you can have delicious and nutritious meals throughout the week.

A little bit of planning will take you a long way. First of all, you will not have to work as hard to cook. Secondly, you will be able to do a great service to your health, since you will have plenty of nutritious food to keep you going. Here are some great tips on how to plan your meals, without too much effort.

Stock your pantry. The first rule to planning ahead for healthy meals is to have plenty of healthy ingredients at your fingertips, foods that can be eaten as they are, or that can be cooked with minimum time and effort. Eggs, plenty of vegetables and fruits, spices and herbs, are all essential ingredients that are good to have around. When you feel the need for a snack, you just grab a fruit and you will be much healthier than if you were to eat fast food or snacks loaded with sugar and salt.

Stock your freezer. Some foods cannot be kept in the pantry, but they are stored well in the freezer. You can put veggies like carrots and broccoli in the freezer and use them as you need them. You can also freeze fruits to use them as desserts. The great thing about frozen foods is that you can store them for months without them getting spoiled.

Freeze large quantities of cooked food. During weekends, when you have more time at hand, cook your food in some larger pots, and what you do not eat, put in the freezer for later use. Stews, soups, and other foods resist well in the freezer, and you can consume them at a later date, when you do not have time to cook. This way, you will ensure plenty of healthy meals throughout the week, without the extra effort.

For instance, you can make a larger quantity of tomato sauce that you can use as base for many dishes. After the sauce is made, lower its temperature by placing the pot in an ice bath, then move it to plastic bags and stash them in the freezer. Another idea is to make fruit sorbet and stock in the freezer in the same manner. Whenever you want to eat something healthy and delicious, you will only need to take a bag out of the freezer and use it. Remember to label all the bags; although frozen foods can last for a long time, they may go through a process called freezer burn, when they are kept there for a lot of time.

Great ideas for quick snacks. Healthy foods do not always require a lot of energy to cook. For instance, you can take some veggies and combine them with a bit of mustard or yogurt, for some tasty snacks. Making more rice at one time is a good idea, too, because rice stores well. Hard boiled eggs can be consumed within one week, if they are kept in the refrigerator. Leftovers from fried chicken can be used for other meals, as well.

Just remember! You do not need to tire yourself over cooking every day of the week. All you need to do is to plan ahead and cook only when the time allows it. This way, you will enjoy plenty of healthy nutritious meals.

 

How to Replace White Flour in Your Diet

flour-eggs-white-bread-wheat-ears

Changing your diet is not an easy feat. Many people are trying to make healthy changes by replacing the foods they enjoy eating, but are not healthy for them, with others that are better for their overall being.

White flour is one of the most used ingredients in the foods we eat. Bread, cakes, baking goods and different types of gravy are all made with white flour.

The problem with white flour is that it is not as nutritious as you think. And it is also rich in calories. In case that you are thinking that eating a healthy sandwich, but made with white bread, is healthier than eating a slice of pizza, you are wrong. The bread in the sandwich alone basically sacrifices all the benefits from the other contents of the sandwich.

White flour has a wide array of disadvantages; it has a lot of carbs, it is not as nutritious as whole grain, it makes you fat, and your body cannot digest it very well. If you replace only white flour alone from your diet, you will get to enjoy great benefits.

Here are some ideas on how to replace white flour with other, much healthier alternatives.

Flour obtained from whole wheat

This type of flour can be used for baking and cooking with great success and it is healthier than white flour.

Almond flour

If you are on a gluten free diet, you should consider almond flour as a great alternative to white flour. It is especially used for baking, and it is not as rich in carbs as white flour.

With its help, you can make healthy pancakes, cookies and muffins. As you can see, you can enjoy some healthy treats, without worrying for your health.

Another great advantage of this type of flour is that it is also a bit sweet because of the almond flavor. This means that you will not have to add as much sugar to your baked goods as you would when using white flour, enhancing the benefits even more.

Barley flour

Barley flour can be used in many different ways. Essentially, it is a good substitute to white flour when you want to bake breads, as it makes your dough more malleable and also healthier. You can use barley flour to make gravy or for sweetening your sauces.

Just like almond flour, barley flour is a bit sweet, which makes it good for baking. However, you need to follow a little tip, if you do not want the barley flavor to come across as a bit too heavy. Roast the flour just before using, and you will not have such a problem to deal with.

Buckwheat flour

This is the best gluten free alternative, as it does not contain wheat at all. A strong flavor is one thing to keep in mind when using buckwheat flour. It is also very dense, so you need to use it in certain ways, to make sure that these do not become impediments.

It is alright to use this variety of flour for pancakes and pasta, but you should avoid using it as a sauce thickener, as it is much too dense. The flavor can be too overpowering and it may just ruin your recipes, so make sure to add other types of flours when you cook with it.

Chickpea flour

Another gluten free alternative to white flour, especially recommended for people suffering from the Celiac disease is chickpea flour, also known as garbanzo flour.

You can use this type of flour to make hummus, crepes, or flatbreads. It must be noted that it contains a lot of protein and calcium, which adds to its advantages.

Oat flour

A handy solution to white flour is oat flour. This natural alternative is found in many whole oat products.

You can choose from low gluten and gluten free varieties. You can use it with great success for making baking goods, such as cookies.

Keep in mind that gluten free does not stand for healthy always, so make your choices carefully.

A bit of gluten is alright to have in your diet every day, unless you suffer from Celiac disease. There are many other aspects of your diet to focus on, if you want to stay healthy. The most important rule of all is to maintain a healthy balance.

9 Amazing Benefits of Optimum Nutrition

optimum nutrition

It does not matter who you are, where you come from, or how you live, nutrition plays a key role in everyone’s life. The benefits of eating right are overwhelming; a diet change can alter someone’s entire life.

Many people ask the question, “What benefits can I expect if I start eating healthy?” Well, the list of the positive side effects of eating right is very long. The top ten benefits you can expect from proper nutrition are listed below, so read on to see what you have to gain.

Follow the Food Groups!

Before you see how healthy eating can benefit you; it is important to know what optimum nutrition looks like and why our body reacts in such a positive way to eating right. The truth of the matter is we need a variety of different foods in our diet; each one plays a special role and provides specific nutrients.

Examples of important nutrients:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Vitamins and Minerals
  • Fiber

USDA Recommended Daily Servings:

  • Meat Group: 2 to 3 servings (includes, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts)
  • Fruit Group: 2 to 4 servings
  • Bread and Cereal Group*: 6 to 11 servings (includes, pasta and rice)
  • Dairy Group: 2 to 3 servings
  • Vegetable Group: 3 to 5 servings

*Please note that the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group is best in the form of whole grains, as white starches are not the best choices for good health. Whole grains are good for heart health and healthy weight management as well, as opposed to the white varieties that tend to pack on the pounds.

Each one of these food groups plays a crucial role in the way your body works, same as fuel and oil for your car, it is a sensitive machine that needs all of the right components to keep running efficiently!

It’s also important to watch calorie intake and stay within the appropriate limits for your body and activity level to ensure good weight management.

The Benefits Of Proper Nutrition

1. Strong bones come from eating a diet rich in calcium: Foods rich in calcium come from the dairy group, and also from green vegetables, such as, spinach. If you are going to be getting your calcium from dairy products look for something with extra Vitamin D as it will help your body take in the calcium easier.

Calcium is also an essential nutrient to prevent Osteoporosis in women as they age, that is caused by weak bones that turn brittle. Make sure to choose low fat and nonfat dairy products, such as, cheese, milk and yogurt to maintain good heart health.

2. Weight control: As long as you are eating properly with a diet rich in lean proteins, low in fat and high in vegetables and staying active you will continue to maintain a healthy body weight.

3. Heart health: If you are concerned with heart health, as all of us should be, the optimum nutrition to that end is a diet that is rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruit and low in unhealthy fats. When your heart is healthy you can avoid heart disease, high cholesterol and premature death, the fact that heart attack is one of the leading causes of death in the United States makes it one of the most important reasons to eat right.

4. Healthier immune system: When you are eating right you are increasing your high-density lipoprotein, or as it is more commonly known as, good cholesterol. This helps boost the body’s immune system. Also, regular intake of all essential vitamins and minerals goes a long way to preventing various ailments, such as, the common cold.

5. Cancer prevention: There are many triggers for cancer; many of them can be associated with an unhealthy diet. Antioxidant rich foods play a significant role in preventing various cancers. Vitamin C that is found in a lot of fruits and vegetables, including, oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, and broccoli facilitate the prevention of the growth of cancer-causing nitrogen compounds. Additionally, berries, sweet potatoes and other antioxidant rich foods help with cancer prevention as well.

Also, foods rich in Vitamin E, such as, peanuts, almonds and various seeds have been shown through various research data to reduce the risk of stomach, colon, lung, liver, and various other cancer diseases.

6. Good nutrition improves the mood: The truth is that by eating healthy your brain is getting all of the nutrition it needs and your body is satisfied, and this improves your overall mood. Hunger is a major mood killer. Also, eating empty calorie foods, such as, cookies on the other hand, may give you a sugar rush, but when you crash you take your mood with you. Chocolate stimulates the production of endorphins in the brain and that greatly improves mood.

7. Brain health: Your brain is one of the most important parts of your body and should be cared for at all times. If you eat properly, you will be fighting off the chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. There are also brain healthy foods, like, walnuts and salmon that can help to maintain optimal memory levels. Dark chocolate provides powerful antioxidant properties, and caffeine that promotes concentration and focus.

8. Good nutrition is good for digestion: Maintaining digestive health is another great benefit of eating a healthy diet. A diet rich in fiber helps with whole grains, and green leafy vegetables being your best sources along with drinking plenty of water each day will ensure that you will not experience the typical issues that can occur with the digestive tract.

9. Increased energy levels: When you eat right, your body is getting the fuel it needs to function properly. This means that all of your organs are working properly, and when everything is working properly, you just feel better and have more energy. Imagine how you feel after you eat a donut versus a salad, there is a noticeable difference when the food is nutritious versus empty sugar.

How to Make Veggie Recipes without Losing Flavor

vegetables

It is very important to have plenty of vegetables in your diet, because they are very good for your health. Many of them are known to play an active role in fighting cancer, heart conditions and diabetes, some of the most widespread deadly diseases in the modern world.

Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and various nutrients, which is why they are a great energy source. There is even more; when you eat plenty of veggies, it will show on the outside, making you look younger and more beautiful.

Unfortunately, eating vegetables is seen as a burden, something that one must strive to do just to get the health benefits.

Of course, what these people do not know is that veggies can be great tasting, too. With the ideas offered in this article, they will be able to make good delicious recipes that they will love.

Veggies can be boiled, roasted, grilled, fried and so on. You just need to learn which cooking methods and recipes are best for keeping and enhancing flavor.

With the help of the following guide, you, too, will be able to cook healthy meals with vegetables.

Never overcook your vegetables. Let them cook until you notice them turning their colors from their bright hues to darker ones. This simple rule will help you keep your veggies succulent and tasty.

Let’s start learning about the best ways to cook your veggies in order to obtain heavenly tastes:

Why steaming is better than boiling

Many people choose to boil their vegetables, because it is easy and convenient. You just need to fill a pot with water, throw the veggies inside and let them boil. In case you want your recipe to be tastier, you need to add a pinch of salt and plenty of spice that work well with your veggies.

The problem with boiling is that it is not the best way to cook vegetables. When you boil vegetables, they lose some of their nutrients. Even more, they become less tasty than in their raw form. All in all, boiling is not the healthier, nor the tastiest method to cook veggies, especially if you want to combine taste with health benefits.

Instead of boiling, choose steaming. This method guarantees that the veggies you cook will retain all the nutrients inside, and you will notice how they taste much better when cooked in this manner. A little salt, garlic and spices, are enough to make a very tasty dish that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy.

Steaming is not a complicated method of cooking. What you need is a good steamer for your kitchen, or a steaming basket to place over your pot when you cook vegetables. Various recipes are also available to make your steamed vegetables taste better.

Advantages of baking

Depending on the vegetables you like eating, you will discover that there are some that maintain a lot of their antioxidants, and nutrients when you bake them. They are also tastier. This category includes asparagus, peppers, broccoli and eggplants.
If you want to cook Brussels sprouts, choose roasting as cooking method, and you will obtain a delicious meal.

Stir frying

Also knows as sautéing, this method is healthy and delivers delicious results. The key to stir frying is to keep the veggies moving in the frying pan, while maintaining a high temperature. This is a very easy and fast cooking method. You will notice how your veggies will manage to retain most nutrients and vitamins, as well as their taste.

Stir frying is considered the least invasive method when it comes to maintaining flavor. If anything, it can even enhance it, and it is considered, for good reasons, a better cooking way than steaming or boiling. Adding spices and herbs makes for great, delicious meals.

The key to good stir frying is to be there all the time and stir the veggies so they do not get burned. If this happens, you can say goodbye to the great taste, and the healthy benefits that come with it.

Using the microwave
Using your microwave to cook veggies is efficient and fast. Also, it should be kept in mind that your veggies will not lose their natural nutrients, which means that you can enjoy tasty healthy meals cooked with the microwave.

 

The Debate on Organic Eating

organic food

Organic food has come from sitting on shelves of only selective stores to be available at most supermarkets. What has fueled this journey? Is it the genuine benefits of organic produce, or the aggressive market policy?

Have the health conscious people in their eagerness to find a healthier alternative overvalued the virtues of organic food items? In this article, we are going to look at the phenomenon from different perspectives.

What Is Organic Food?

In order to measure accurately the merits of organic foods, it is important to understand what the word “organic” means. “Organic” is the word that is used for describing produce that has been grown using certain agriculture practices.

The standard and conditions that have to be met before marketing a product as organic are set by different authorities all over the world. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a certification program that requires products and produce to meet strict standards before they can be labeled and marketed as organic.

What Are The Benefits? Is Organic Food Better For Health?

A practice that is potentially important for the consumers is the prohibition on use of all artificial pesticides. However, use of natural pesticides and fungicides is allowed.

Some people do have revolting thoughts when they realize that the healthy apple they are about to eat is full artificial chemicals that might be dangerous. Hence, they opt for organic apples.

Now the question arises, is the organic apple free from pesticide residues?

In addition, are the residues in the conventional apple harmful if they are under the maximum limits set by the regulating authorities?

Even if it’s not, some people might still prefer it because of the misconception that “natural” is safer. This is not necessarily true; ingesting “natural” pesticide residues can also have negative consequences.

Some of the natural pesticides also have a greater negative impact on environment than their artificial counterpart.
Another point that needs to be taken into consideration is that a farmer might have to use several different natural pesticides to have the same effect of a single artificial pesticide.

Does this mean that organic farming is a scam?

No, it does not.

The basic idea behind organic farming is a novel one. However, just because a product is labeled as organic, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better.

The benefits will depend on the farmer.

A farmer might have tried effective alternative methods to control pests, and the produce might actually be better in terms of harmful residues.

What Studies Have Shown

Some studies have shown that organic foods do indeed have lower pesticides residues. However, the residue levels in both organic and conventional produce were lower than the maximum permissible limit set by the authorities.

As of now, the possible health benefits of even lower residues levels in organic produce are unknown and unverified.

The Nutritional Profile Of Organic Foods

What about the nutritional profile of organic foods? Do they offer any extra nutrients?

Studies are divided on this, some have shown that they do, others didn’t come to the same conclusion. However, the difference in most nutrients overall was only marginal.

Therefore, even if they do, the positive impact of those extra nutrients will be minor, if at all.

Another misconception that some people have is that organic produce will not contain harmful microbes. This is not true.

Organically grown produce has the same percentage of contamination as conventional produce. In fact, some studies have shown that there is an additional risk of contamination in organic produce.

Therefore, don’t be casual while handling organic produce. Use the same caution you have would used for the conventional produce.

Arguments For Organic Produce

• Many nutritionists, one famous one, Ellie Krieger from the Food Network, recommend organic produce.

• Many people belong to special organic coops that are ran by farmers for locals in the neighborhoods and these are spreading in popularity.

• Major supermarkets are beginning to offer organic produce sections more and more.

• And, if you have ever bit into an unwashed fruit or vegetable, the bitterness that you get as compared to when it’s washed is quite noticeable, so, those pesticides do make a difference in taste.

• Many experts and consumers are convinced that organic is just plain better for health.

Arguments Against Organic

• Considering the issue from different topics, the conclusion is that there is insufficient evidence to claim confidently that organic is better.

• It also costs more.

• We do need better farming methods, but organic farming is not the ideal solution, and conventional farming is not truly the evil it is portrayed to be.

Bottom Line

A method that takes the best from both the worlds to maximize yield without the use of possibly dangerous substances, artificial or natural, is what is required.

In the end, the individual must choose, and go with what they believe is right for themselves and their families.

Superfood Quinoa and Its Nutritional Benefits

Quinoa

What Is It?

A quick search on the internet reveals several facts of this grain crop which is grown primarily for its edible seeds.

Simply put, Quinoa, a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) is a pseudo cereal (that is their seeds can be ground into flour and consumed) rather than a true cereal, as it is not a member of the true grass family.

It is also closely related to species such as beetroot, spinach and tumbleweed which have shrub like growth.

Where Does It Grow?

It originated in the Andean region of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, where it was domesticated 3,000 to 4,000 years ago for human consumption and found its place into the humble Indian household (albeit being an upper middle class commodity).

It gained popularity and has been cultivated away from natural distribution in places like the United States, Australia and Japan to name a few.

What are the nutritional benefits?

Essential Amino Acids

Quinoa seeds contain essential amino acids like lysine and acceptable quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. A study showed that deficiency of essential amino acids leads to symptoms of nervousness, exhaustion, and dizziness to a greater or lesser extent and moderate consumption of Quinoa can help avoid such symptoms.

Anti-Inflammatory

Quinoa consists of a unique combination of anti-inflammatory compounds that show to an extent the decreased risk of inflammation-related problems (including obesity) when animals under study are fed quinoa on a daily basis.

The list of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in quinoa is now known to include:

  • Polysaccharides like arabinans and rhamnogalacturonans
  • Hydroxycinnamic and hydroxybenzoic acids
  • Flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol which are found in concentrated levels often higher than those of high flavonoid berries like cranberry or ligonberry
  • Saponins including molecules derived from oleanic acid, hederagenin and serjanic acid.
  • Small amounts of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), are also provided by quinoa.

Gluten Free

It is high in protein and lacks gluten which is good news for those who suffer from Celiac disease which is an autoimmune disease attacking the small intestine due to the presence of gluten for which the only remedy is maintaining a gluten free diet. While scientists are yet to confirm whether oats are a gluten free food, it is safe to say that Quinoa, like amaranth, is gluten free and good for your health as it is considered easy to digest. Because of these characteristics, it is being considered a possible crop for long-duration human occupied space flights undertaken by NASA.

Super Food

The nutrient composition of Quinoa is favorable compared with common cereals earning the Quinoa grain the title of being called a “super food”.

Nutritional evaluations indicate that quinoa is a source of complete protein, that is, it contains all the essential amino acids required in a human diet in correct proportions.

Other similar pseudo grains derived from seeds are similar in complete protein levels; buckwheat is 18% protein compared to 14% for Quinoa; Amaranth, a related species to Quinoa, ranges from 12 to 17.5%.

High In Protein

The protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice (Indian rice) and oats.  In comparison to cereal grasses like wheat, quinoa is higher in fat content and can provide valuable amounts of heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated fat (in the form of oleic acid).

High In Fiber

The grain is additionally a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.

Vegan Friendly and Good For Those Who Are Lactose Intolerant

It is also a source of calcium, and thus, is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.

Exactly How Does One Consume Quinoa?

The grain may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value, provided that the grains are rinsed thoroughly to remove any saponin that contains an unpalatable bitterness which in turn aids during cultivation as it wards off birds reducing the need for protecting it.

The seeds are in general cooked the same way as rice and can be used in a wide range of dishes.

The good news is processes of boiling, simmering, and steaming quinoa do not appear to significantly compromise the quality of quinoa’s fatty acids, allowing us to enjoy its cooked texture and flavor while maintaining this nutrient benefit.

The leaves are eaten as a leaf vegetable, much like amaranth, but the commercial availability of quinoa greens is limited. In some forms the seeds are softened making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

What Makes Quinoa Special?

While it may be called a “Pseudo-cereal” there is nothing fake about the health benefits of Quinoa. In fact, The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially declared that the year 2013 be recognized as “The International Year of the Quinoa.”

What Carbs Are Good for Cooking Healthy Meals?

carbohydrates

You may have heard plenty of times how important is to cut on carbohydrates, if you want to lose weight and have a healthier diet. However, doing so is not that easy. Carbs are found in many foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, so getting rid of carbs means to give up on the many health advantages these foods have. What conclusion can be drawn from this?

Getting rid of carbohydrates for good from your diet is not a healthy choice. Actually, while the advice to ‘cut down on carbs’ is right, it does not say to eliminate carbs completely. In fact, if you were to try a diet with zero carbs, you will severely increase your risk of mortality. Maintaining a healthy percentage of your diet in carbs is recommended by the most prestigious healthy organizations. An intake of 45%-75% in your daily diet is their recommendation.

Carbs are not all created equal. While, indeed, there are some that are bad for your health, others are not that bad. By learning which one belongs to each category, you will know more about how to choose the healthy carbs.

Carbs in a nutshell

Carbs come in many different shapes and sizes. While they are all hydrates of carbon, some are simple – monosaccharides and disaccharides – while others are complex – oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

Simple carbs are found in glucose, sucrose and fructose. Sugar also contains carbs. The problem with simple carbs is that they do not have a high nutritious value, so consuming a lot of them will be bad for your health. Even more, they will not stave off your hunger, so you will not gain anything from them.

Complex carbs, on the other hand, contain fiber and starch. They can be found in broccoli, sweet potatoes, beans and grains.

Because the body takes a while to break them down, they do not cause you the same sugar rush as simple carbs do.

How to differentiate between good and bad carbs

The above categorization in simple and complex carbs may lead you to think that the first are evil, while the latter are good. However, this is not how things are. For instance, white bread may be rich in complex carbs, but this does not make it good for you. Fruits contain plenty of simple carbs, but, in the same time they are a great source of vitamins, minerals and other great nutrients for your body.

At this point, you may think that it is really complicated to tell the good carbs from the bad ones. Fret not; the following guide will make your job easier.

One of the simplest rules to keep in mind is that good carbs also have fiber, so this difference will tell you each and every time how to choose correctly.

Bad carbs

Among all the carbs, sugar is the worst kind, particularly the refined white sugar. Rich in sucrose, it is obtained from cane and beet root. While its sweet taste makes it loved by anyone, from children to adults, it does not have any nutritional value. Use unrefined sugar, if you must, or, even best honey, because these alternatives are much healthier. All the products with a high content of sugar should be eliminated from your diet if you want to live healthy. Artificial sweeteners and purees obtained from fruits are, also, better alternatives.

Other sources of bad carbs are sweets, candies, soda and potatoes.

Good carbs

Whole grains

Refined grains are stripped of all the vitamins and minerals they have, so it is best to choose whole grains instead for breads and pastas. The latter also make the body consume more energy to digest them and they do not cause sugar rush.

The color is not as important as you think. Make sure that you always read the labels, so that you are not tricked into believing that you are purchasing whole grains when you are actually not doing so.

Among the best whole grains you can find, add to your list whole wheat, whole grain pasta, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, wild and brown rice.

Vegetables

Veggies are great for your health. They have a lot of fiber and they are also rich in various vitamins and minerals. Leafy vegetables are the best you can find, but it is difficult to find them all year round. By eating plenty of vegetables you will live a healthier, longer life.

Vegetables high in fiber include broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts

Fruits

Never consume fruit juice from commercial sources, as this is usually loaded with sugar. Make your own fruit juice at home, and use dried fruits to add a bit of natural good sugar. Raisins and other varieties are also rich in vitamins and minerals.

Fruits high in fiber include apples, mango, guava, bananas, raspberries, oranges, persimmon and pumpkin.

Nuts and legumes

Beans of various kinds and legumes are rich in protein and fiber. They are great for your digestive system and they are also a good ally for regulating sugar levels in your blood.

Legumes and beans are usually found all year round because they store well and they are also cheap. Just grab some delicious recipes and make some great meals for you and your family to enjoy all the benefits offered by these nutritious foods.

Rich in leptin, a special substance that let your brain know you are full, they are great appetite suppressants. Green peas, for instance, are a great choice for any meal.

When you go shopping, do not forget to buy any kind of beans, and lentils, because they are rich in fiber and other nutrients.

Add some nuts to your diet, too, so you can get the necessary intake of carbs, but without loading on the bad kind. Almonds are delicious and great to have in any diet, but so are pecans, peanuts, walnuts and pistachios.

Most Important Things to Know about How to Cook Healthy Food

Women Cooking

A lot of people think that cooking healthy may affect the final result and the taste of their food, which prevents them from starting to eat healthier, and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.

Big question: will it taste as good?

Ingredients like oils, cheese and creams may make the foods you eat more palatable, but they are far from being good for your health.

This is why you worry that if you eat healthier, you will not get to enjoy the great taste of the foods you really like. However, since you are decided to try healthy cooking, there are certain things you need to know.

So, it is a very important decision that you need to take. You are new to this, and you have no idea where to start. You are afraid that you may end up taking the wrong decisions, and you do not know how everything will work out for you in the end. Taking such a big step can mean a lot of things, and it is the unknown that frightens you most.

Do not be afraid. Healthy eating is not rocket science and there are plenty of things you can do to take steps in the right direction. Such doubts are normal and there are plenty of other people who have taken the same road, and they are now at its end, enjoying all the benefits of a healthier life. The following guide on the most important things to know about healthy cooking will help you get started.

Alternatives to cooking with oils

Cooking with oil is not a healthy choice in general, although there are oils that are healthier than others. The problem is that most Americans get more than one third of their intake of calories from fats, which leads to an important incidence of heart conditions among them.

For a healthy diet, you need to reduce this percentage from 34% to 20%. A simple, yet effective strategy to do that is by reducing the intake of oils in your food. Deep frying should be avoided. Replace fried foods with other cooking methods, such as roasting, baking or boiling, which are much healthier. Stir frying is alright, as long as you do not use too much oil.

The importance of fats

Fats are not necessarily bad for your health, and a bit of fat in your diet is needed, because of the essential role these fats play in your diet. For instance, the human body is not capable of producing fatty acids, so they must be acquired from food. These are good fats, unlike trans fats and saturated fats, which are, indeed, responsible for the high risk of heart conditions in the US.

You should not strive for a fat free diet, as this can lead to other health related problems. 7% of your calorie intake should come from healthy fats, while the rest should be, indeed, greatly reduced.

Healthy cooking is not different from any other kind of cooking          

There is a major misconception that healthy cooking requires more time than any other kind of cooking. This is not true; actually, you only need to learn a few new things, and you will be good to go.

Boiling, grilling and baking are healthy cooking methods. These are not time consuming methods from your part, even if they, indeed, involve slow cooking time. You just need to put all the ingredients, according to the recipe, in a pot, and then just let it cook on its own, while you can do other things.

The most important fats that are good for your health

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are good for your health. You can obtain these fats from consuming more nuts of all kinds, olives, tofu, seeds, and fatty fish, with a high content of healthy fatty acids (herring, tuna, trout, salmon and sardines, among others).

How to improve the taste of foods that usually go well with cheese, oil or cream?

Taste is, of course, an issue. Fats give food a special tasty flavor, and you may think that it is difficult to find a replacement. However, this is not how things are. Instead of fats, you can use herbs and spices. These do not have any calories, but they make any food taste much better, while also providing you with some great health benefits.

Oregano, basil, mint, rosemary are all herbs that can greatly improve the taste of your food. What you can do, for instance, when you are cooking meat, is to let it marinate in a mix of herbs and spices before cooking. This method makes the meat more tender, and easier to digest, besides making it extra tasty. A little lemon juice, vinegar and the spices you like best are enough for a great marinade. The trick is to let it marinate overnight, so that all the flavors are absorbed by the meat.

Cooking vegetables

The main problem with vegetables is that they must be cooked in a certain way, so they do not lose their most important nutrients. Boiling and steaming are the most recommended methods of cooking vegetables to avoid loss of nutrients.

Tomatoes and other veggies, like carrots, actually can enhance the nutrient content of a meal, when cooked, because they add to the mix, by releasing some of these nutrients in the water used for cooking.

Raw vegetables are most recommended for a healthy diet. But, if this is not an option for you, you can always cook them, and get the best of them.

What pans to choose for best cooking?

Non sticking pans are the best choice, because you do not have to add oil when cooking. You can make perfectly healthy scrambled eggs, but there are many other recipes that you can try. Another option is represented by Hard Anodized cookware. Baking sheets and special trays are also a good recommendation. Grilling can be done with utensils you have around the house.

Choosing the best foods when shopping at the supermarket

Eliminate all processed foods from your list. Aim for organic, as often as possible. Since you are at the supermarket, take your time to read the labels, this will help you stay clear of additional fat, sugar, salt and other preservatives.

The farmer’s market is always a good alternative to the supermarket, because this is where you will find plenty of organic, healthy foods available.

Here you will be able to shop for organic eggs, meat, veggies and spices. Since farmers use fewer pesticides, their produce is much healthier than what you can find elsewhere.

Alternatives to packaged foods

Packaged foods are a bad choice, because they are loaded with preservatives to prolong their shelf life. If you like jams or sauces, try making them yourself, and keep them in the freezer. They will taste better and they will be much healthier.

Dieting is about reducing the number of calories you eat every day. By eating healthy, you do this in a natural way, without starving yourself.

Slow cooking helps you combine various ingredients, such as meats, veggies, herbs and spices. This healthier way of eating will also help you shed pounds from your waist.

Making dips without the fat

If you like dips, there are ways to replace mayonnaise and fat sour cream with healthier alternatives, such as non fat yogurt and mayonnaise obtained from olive oil or canola oil.

Fried chicken can be healthy

You can make delicious fried chicken by baking it in the oven. Coat the meat beforehand with bread crumbs which will absorb the fat. You will obtain crunchy, great tasting meat. Another option for coating is to use Shake and Bake.