Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

Leave a comment

15 Reasons to Love Sweet Potatoes

Michelle Schoffro Cook    December 12, 2013

The holidays are not the only time to break out the sweet potato recipes. Now there are 16 reasons to enjoy these terrific tubers all year round.

1.  Sweet potatoes are readily available, although stores often confuse sweet potatoes and yams and mislabel the two. Orange-colored sweet potatoes are often confused with yams although they are not even from the same family of plants or grown in the same locations. Sweet potatoes can have red, orange, yellow or even purple skin.  They can also have orange white or purple flesh, adding to the confusion between these two distinct tubers.

2.  As the name implies, sweet potatoes are sweet but they won’t cause blood sugar spikes and crashes linked with fatigue and weight gain. The natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy.

3.  Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, which helps with blood sugar regulation and keeping you regular as well.

4.  Sweet potatoes have fewer calories per serving than yams – around 86 calories per  seven tablespoons of mashed sweet potatoes (or 100 grams) compared to 118 for yams.

5.  Sweet potatoes are also slightly higher in protein than yams.  More importantly, the World Journal of Gastroenterology reported that sweet potato contains a protein that inhibits human colon and rectal cancers. The results were dose-dependent meaning that the higher the amount of sweet potato protein, the better the cancer-inhibiting effects.

6.  The high levels of vitamin B6 in sweet potatoes helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks.

7.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which most people know for its power to ward off cold and flu viruses.  Vitamin C is also essential for bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. Vitamin C also contributes to wound healing and produces collagen to keep skin youthful.  Vitamin C even improves our ability to cope with stress and protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.

8.  These nutritious tubers contain Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) to support our immune systems and overall health.  This vitamin is primarily made in our bodies when we are exposed to adequate sunlight and contributes to healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin teeth and thyroid gland.

9.  The iron content in sweet potatoes helps with energy levels, as well red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.

10.  Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that may be deficient in up to 80 percent of North Americans. Not only is magnesium considered the relaxation and anti-stress mineral, it is critical for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function.

11.  Potassium is an important electrolyte that helps regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Like the other electrolytes, potassium performs many essential functions, some of which include relaxing muscle contractions, reducing swelling, and protecting and controlling the activity of the kidneys.  Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of potassium.

12.  The rich orange color found in many sweet potatoes is a visual indication of the high levels of carotenoids that occur in these tubers.  Carotenoids help strengthen our eyesight and boost our immunity to disease; they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging. Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet.  Another study of women who had completed treatment for early stage breast cancer conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence.

13.  The carotenoid beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy eyes and skin. Beta carotene has also been studied for its ability to guard against different types of cancer.

14.  Recently researchers discovered a related group of nutrients in sweet potato called batatosides that have been found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.

15.  New research shows that cyanidins and peonidins found in sweet potatoes may be able to reduce the potential health risk posed by heavy metals.



Leave a comment

7 Fruits and Vegetables That Boost Your Immune System

With cold and flu season just around the corner, now it’s more important than ever to get your immune system in the best shape you can. Getting enough sleep and exercise, and keeping your stress level down, can really do a lot for your health. But having a right diet is just, if not more, important. Luckily, there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables out there that have immunity-boosting properties.

Tip: Look for foods that are rich in color — that’s a surefire sign that they’re also high in immunity-boosting antioxidants. Red, yellow, purple, blue, and orange fruits and vegetables really fit the bill here.

1. Sweet Potatoes.

And just in time for Thanksgiving! Sweet potatoes owe their orange hue to beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into Vitamin A, an essential nutrient for fighting against disease. Sweet potatoes are actually one of the best fresh sources of immunity-boosting properties out there.

2. Berries.

Packed with Vitamins C and E,berries truly are a nutritional powerhouse. Some of your best bests are common berries like raspberries and blueberries, as well as less common ones like acai and goji. Try eating berries with yogurt, another great-immunity boosting food.

3. Mushrooms.

Mushrooms are one of, if not the best, vegetarian foods for preventing and fighting disease. That’s because mushrooms help the maturation of your white blood cells, and, as some research suggest, might actually help them ward off disease better!

4. Carrots.

Though they probably won’t help you see in the dark, carrots might just help you ward off seasonal colds and flus. Like sweet potatoes, carrots are full of beta-carotene. For the best immune system-boosting results, stick to eating raw carrots.

5. Garlic.

People have been using garlic to ward of disease for thousands of years. And, more and more research suggest, it’s more than just folk medicine. One  prominent study (PDF) found that people who took garlic supplements got few cold symptoms, and, if they did get sick, they were ill for less time than the placebo group.

If you can handle it, try eating a clove of garlic every day. But it doesn’t just have to be the hard way — adding some minced garlic, fresh or cooked, is beneficial.

6. Kiwi.

Kiwifruit is a great natural source of vitamin E, a key nutrient for your immune system. Vitamin E helps protect your body from viral and bacterial infections. Though the jury is still out on whether or not vitamin C helps boost immunity, kiwifruit does have more of the stuff than most citrus fruits, including oranges!

7. Spinach.

Like kiwi, spinach is loaded with vitamin E. But that’s not all. Spinach really packs a huge nutritional punch. it has loads of beta-carotene, folate and vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals like copper and iron — all nutrients vital to maintaining a healthy immune system.

Katie Waldeck     November 23, 2013


Top 3 Superfoods for Increased Energy, Stamina and Power

By: Maddy Lucier     July 29, 2011

Eating quality calories at every meal can be difficult, but for athletes it’s necessary to do so as often as possible to reap maximum performance benefits on the field and in the weight room. Getting adequate amounts of protein is important for gaining lean mass, but it’s not the only nutrient needed to build up muscle tissue. Your body’s largest energy supply comes from carbohydrates.

The following three superfoods—so-called because of their carb content and remarkable nutritional properties—are great sources of energy and extremely easy to incorporate into your diet, either in a carb-loaded meal before a workout or in a post-workout snack.

With 39 grams of carbs per cup, quinoa should be considered a staple. Commonly considered a grain, it’s actually a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Quinoa is high in fiber [eight grams per cup], iron [important in oxygen production and flow to muscles], zinc, vitamin E, selenium and even protein—containing all of the amino acids essential for muscle growth. Its nut-like protein protects against muscle fatigue, containing particularly high levels of the amino acid lysine [required for tissue growth and repair], riboflavin [essential for proper energy production and sturdy metabolic function in brain and muscle cells] and magnesium [relaxes the blood vessels and promotes cardiovascular health]. Bonus: quinoa also has high levels of manganese—a key nutrient and antioxidant that helps your body synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol.

Like rice, quinoa is quick and easy to prepare, taking only 10 minutes on the stove; and it can be eaten by itself or mixed with vegetables. Tasty tip: once cooked, sprinkle parmesan or shredded mozzarella cheese on top. It also makes a great breakfast food, mixed with a little milk, nuts, fruit and/or cinnamon.

Sweet Potatoes
The best Thanksgiving carbohydrate to eat all year round, one sweet potato will fill your “orange food” quota for the week, delivering approximately 41 grams of carbs, depending on size. Packed with calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin C and vitamin E [one of the few fat-free sources of this vitamin], sweet potatoes have more beta carotene than any other fruit or vegetable. With a remarkably low glycemic index, they are digested and absorbed gradually for sustained energy throughout a workout.
To prepare, simply pierce the potato with a fork a few times and pop it into the microwave for three to five minutes. Or for sweet potato fries, cut the potato into thin slices; place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt; and roast them in the oven at 375 degrees for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, until browned.
Other dark orange vegetable standouts include pumpkin, carrots, butternut squash and orange bell peppers.

Berries pack an incredible amount of antioxidants in a small package, but watermelon, although it’s often overlooked, delivers more bang for your buck. Best eaten in its peak season of summer, watermelon is 92 percent water—great for hydrating and flushing impurities from the body—yet it supplies extensive amounts of nutrients, very few calories and 12 grams of carbs per medium slice. Possessing anti-inflammatory properties, watermelon has loads of antioxidants, as well as potassium, vitamins A, C and B. It’s most notable and concentrated nutrient, however, is the cartenoid lycopene, of which it contains 40 percent more than tomatoes. Lycopene is widely recognized as a cancer-fighting compound, and its antioxidant function helps protect cells [including muscle cells] from oxygen damage. Bonus: L-Citrulline in watermelon converts into another amino acid, L-arginine, which is partially responsible for increased blood flow and may play a role in making certain proteins and pumping them through the body.

source: stack.com

Leave a comment

7 Ways to Use Fresh Fall Produce

October 3, 2012     By Tina Hauper

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love everything about it—from the brightly-colored foliage to the smell of sweet cider donuts—it’s a season that brings me great joy. Once that slight chill in the air arrives, I immediately start to crave all of my favorite seasonal dishes. Farmers markets and my local grocery store are bursting with fresh produce right now, so warming up in the kitchen is that much more appealing. Here are some easy and delicious ideas to get creative with this season’s produce.
Butternut squash
Butternut squash is one of my favorite fall treats (yes, treats)! It’s naturally sweet (and loaded with vitamin A and potassium), so it’s delicious mixed into baked goods (butternut squash can be substituted in pretty much any recipe that calls for pumpkin), soups, pancakes, or eaten alone with maple syrup and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
These purple-red gems are packed with iron, folic acid, and fiber. Roast or saute them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, or toss them diced and raw in your favorite salad mixture.
Apples provide two kinds of fiber (soluble and insoluble) and a whole slew of antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage, so they’re both a satisfying and healthy food. Try sauteing sliced apples and serving them with chicken or pork, or chopping them tiny and adding them to whole-grain rice.
Sweet potatoes
Did you know a medium sweet potato provides more than 438% of the daily requirement of vitamin A, which is essential to eyes, skin, bones, and teeth? And sweet potatoes are delicious in so many ways. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this spud is the simplest way: Baked Sweet Potato Wedges.
Parsnips are a great root vegetable but might not be the first variety you reach for. Try them roasted, baked, mashed or as parsnip “fries.” Just preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and chop one pound of parsnips into “fries.” In a large plastic zipped baggie add parsnips, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Seal the bag and shake thoroughly to coat. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning fries every 10 minutes or so.
Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables available this time of year. It also has a number of anti-oxidant- and anti-inflammatory-related health benefits. Try raw, chopped kale tossed in olive oil as part of a salad, sauteed with red pepper flakes, or as kale chips (the perfect alternative to greasy potato chips).
Packed with vitamin C, and full of cancer-fighting phytonutrients, cauliflower is quite the versatile vegetable. You’ve probably eaten it raw, roasted, or steamed, but have you tried it mashed? Here’s a quick how to: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil with 2 garlic cloves. Add head of florets and cook until tender (10-12 minutes). Drain, return to pot, mix 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 cup milk. Mash until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.