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    Archive for the ‘spices’ Category

    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spiced Lentil & Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Dressing

    lentejas_-lensculirnarisI consider this a perfect year-round dish.

    In the cold winter months, the warm lentils and quinoa, along with the spices, make for a comforting dish.

    Once summer hits, I love this as a cold salad!

    This is also one of those meals that keeps you full for a very long time, as it combines heart-healthy fats, soluble fiber, and protein.

    Don’t be let the long steps fool you; this is a very simple recipe.  The lentils and dressing can both be prepared while the quinoa cooks.

    By the way, if you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like taking it out, using it, and cleaning it), you can always replace the dressing with some fresh avocado slices.  Even if you don’t have avocados handy, the lentil and quinoa combination in itself is delicious!

    YIELDS: 4 servings (1 cup quinoa + 1 cup lentils + 2 TBSP dressing)

    INGREDIENTS (Quinoa):

    2 cups quinoa
    4 cups water
    Pinch of salt

    INGREDIENTS (Spiced Lentils):

    2 TBSP olive oil
    1 cup onions, chopped
    1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    1/2 cup red pepper, diced
    1/4 cup green pepper, diced
    1 cup mushrooms, chopped
    2 T garlic, minced
    1/2 t cumin
    1/4 t cinnamon
    1/2 t curry powder
    1/3 t salt
    1/4 t paprika
    1/8 t black pepper
    1 cup dried lentils, rinsed (any color; if you can find sprouted dried lentils, even better!)
    3 cups water
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice

    INGREDIENTS (Avocado Dressing):

    1 large avocado, pitted
    2 t lime juice
    1 garlic clove
    2 t ginger
    1/4 t salt
    1/4 c water

    INSTRUCTIONS (Quinoa):

    In a small pot, combine quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer until all water evaporates.

    Fluff quinoa with fork.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Spiced Lentils):

    In a large pot, heat olive oil.  Once sufficiently hot, add onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic.

    Stir frequently over the course of 2 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Add spices.  Stir frequently for 2 more minutes.

    Add lentils and water, stir and bring to a boil.

    Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times.

    Turn off stovetop, uncover, add lemon juice, and stir one more time.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Avocado dressing):

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until evenly combined.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    538 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat
    450 milligrams sodium
    15 grams fiber
    18 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fats, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc

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    You Ask, I Answer: Garlic Powder

    320620bAre the health benefits associated with cooking with fresh garlic the same as when substituting garlic powder?

    — Guy Betterbid
    New York, NY

    Garlic powder offers some, but not all, of the health benefits associated with fresh garlic.

    A lot of garlic’s healthful properties come from its plentiful (and aromatic, to say the least) sulfur-containing compounds, many of which are lost when garlic is processed into powder.

    Two more important tidbits about garlic and health:

    1. Elephant garlic offers significantly lower levels of these sulfur-containing compounds
    2. Garlic cloves with green centers have also lost a good portion of their healthful properties (even more so if the actual bulb is sprouting those green shoots!)
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    Giveaway: Spice Up Your Life!

    ad_245I have teamed up with the generous folks at McCormick to help add zest and health to your cooking!

    I have five McCormick “Super Seven” spice packs to give out to Small Bites readers.

    Remember: spices are a wonderful — and delicious — way to reduce sodium and add healthy antioxidants and phytonutrients to your meals.

    The packs contain:

    • Oregano leaves (0.75 oz.)
    • Ground cinnamon (0.75 oz.)
    • Crushed red pepper (0.75 oz.)
    • Thyme leaves (0.37 oz.)
    • Curry powder (0.37 oz.)
    • Ground ginger (0.37 oz.)
    • Rosemary leaves (0.37 oz.)

    Not sure what spices go with which foods?  No need to worry — the packs also include a “30 Ways in 30 Days” super-swaps calendar that provides helpful suggestions for the different spices.

    If you’d like to enter this giveaway, please follow the instructions below.  Good luck!

    1.    Re-Tweet any Small Bites blog post in this format: “RT @andybellatti (write whatever you want here) (Link to post here)”

    • Example: “RT @andybellatti Are tree nuts healthier than peanuts? http://smallbites.andybellatti.com/?p=4837”  Note: You can shrink (or TinyURL) the link to save space.

    2.  Re-Tweets in any other format are not eligible for this giveaway.
    3.  Only one entry per Twitter account.
    4.  Re-Tweets sent until Friday, February 12, 2010 at 11:59 PM (Eastern time) are eligible for this giveaway.
    5.   Winners will be selected at random and notified (via Twitter) by me on Monday, February 15, 2010.
    6.   Giveaway is only open to individuals living in any of the 50 states and Puerto Rico.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrition and Cancer Risk

    10_foods_berries_raychel_deppeWhat foods reduce the risk of cancer the most?

    — Ronald (Last name unknown)
    (Location unknown)

    In terms of overall cancer risk, it is pretty clear that diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices appear to have a more protective effect than those high in red meat and dairy products.

    FYI: many people — nutritionists included — often forget the power of consistent intakes of herbs and spices, all of which are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants.

    That is not to say, of course, that cancer can be prevented simply by eating healthy, since other factors like stress, pollution, and genetics play a prominent role as well.

    Also, I am not stating that meat or dairy cause cancer.  As I have explained in previous posts, part of the dilemma with nutrition research lies in determining if a certain diet increases cancer risk because of what it is high in or because of what it offers little of.

    What is absolutely obvious, though, is that phytonutrients and biochemical compounds (like flavonoids and antioxidants) play crucial roles in cancer risk reduction, and diets low in plant foods offer much lower amounts of these compounds.

    I consider the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research two top-notch sources for information regarding nutrition and cancer.  Here are some of their conclusions based on reviews of thousands of large-scale long-term clinical studies:

    • Non-starchy vegetables are most helpful in reducing risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and stomach cancers
    • Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, etc.)  have been found to be most effective against stomach cancers
    • There is also substantial evidence of garlic having a protective effect against colorectal cancer
    • Fruits (this includes avocados!) are implicated in risk-reduction of mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancers
    • Nuts and seeds have a protective effect against prostate cancer

    As you may suspect, one rather frustrating issue — at least for me — with large-scale nutrition research studies (the ones that receive significant funding and often make significant discoveries) is that, understandably, they tend to focus on commonly-consumed foods.  It makes sense; after all, it’s most helpeful to determine what effect mainstream dietary patterns have on health, since those literally affect tens of millions of individuals.

    However, this means that a lot of wonderful, but not as commonly consumed, foods chock-full of nutrition (think quinoa, maca, ginger, cumin, wild rice, goji berries, tempeh, kale, hemp seeds, etc.) are barely investigated.  Heck, even sweet potatoes have largely been ignored.

    It’s clear these foods have health-promoting properties and offer plenty of nutrition, but I wish there were more clinical studies looking at their effect on health.

    In conclusion, though, you can never go wrong with whole, minimally processed foods.

    Keep in mind my “dartboard” visual:

    • The center circle is for foods you want to eat on a daily basis.  This circle should be mainly made up of minimally processed plant-based foods.
    • The second outer circle is for foods that can be enjoyed four or five times a month.
    • The third outer circle is for foods that are best consumed no more than once or twice a month

    PS: One of my absolute biggest pet-peeves is rankings of healthy foods.  I consider articles or television segments which state that an apple is healthier than an orange, which in turn is healthier than a banana a complete joke.  The fact that a fruit has 10 percent more vitamin C than another does not make it superior (because, chances are, that other fruit contains unique phytonutrients).

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “Spicerack Special” Salad Dressing

    olive_oil_pour_spoutI came up with this recipe when I wanted more than just olive oil and vinegar but didn’t feel like chopping, slicing, or even getting the food processor dirty.

    This unique combination of ingredients hits the spot!

    The recipe calls for nutritional yeast, which can be purchased at local health food stores (or Whole Foods’ baking aisle).  I am partial to the Red-Star brand, which retails for $4.49 for a 5-ounce jar.  I use quite a bit of nutritional yeast in my cooking, and a jar lasts me approximately three or four months.

    In case the name turns you off, nutritional yeast has a unique and very tasty cheesy/nutty flavor profile.

    YIELDS: 4 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    Ground black pepper, to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until evenly mixed.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    140 calories
    2 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium

    Excellent Source of: Folic acid, monounsaturated fat, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12

    Good Source of: Selenium, vitamin E, zinc

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    Two Healthy and Tasty Pantry Must-Haves!

    748404287930Considering the nutritional horrors that are often consumed due to time constraints, I am always eager to share products I personally come across — and try out for myself — that make it possible to whip up tasty and healthy food in minutes.

    First up– Seeds of Change’s microwaveable rice pouches.

    Four of the six varieties are 100% whole grain:

    It gets better.  All varieties are already seasoned with organic spices and a variety of organic vegetables (not vegetable powders — REAL vegetables!).

    While many boxed and seasoned grain products contain ridiculous amounts of sodium (as much as 600 or 700 milligrams per serving), Seeds of Change gets brownie points for offering, at most, 380 milligrams per serving (the average sodium content of these four products is an outstanding 268 milligrams per serving).

    Each of these pouches also offers, on average, 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein.

    Next up — Tasty Bite’s Simmer Sauces.

    Need to quickly and effortlessly dress up beef, chicken, seafood, tofu, tempeh, seitan, or some stir-fried vegetables?  Look no further.

    These sauces use real food — as opposed to flavored chemicals — and a variety of spices to liven up your dish of choice.

    Consequently, each serving contains no more than a practically non-existent 45 milligrams of sodium (Two-thumbs-up-FYI: a serving is half the pouch, not a quarter of a teaspoon!).

    Even varieties like the pad-thai simmer sauce, which packs in several teaspoons of sugar, are fine if you are using half a pouch for a meal that serves three or four people.

    Go ahead and add these to your “I want something healthy and delicious… and I want it NOW” shelf.

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    Celebrities — They’re Just Like Us! They Follow Senseless Fad Diets!

    During a long wait at the doctor’s office today I picked up a recent issue of Us Weekly.

    Lo and behold, I came across this weight-loss piece.

    Turns out that former dancer Tracy Anderson — who now trains Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow; the three are pictured alongside this post — has created a “perfectly healthy” (her words, not mine) diet plan that promises a net loss of 20 pounds in just 6 weeks.

    Anderson claims that “signature strategy” helps women achieve the “teeny-tiny dancer type” body so many of them desire.

    Allow me to pull out my huge red flag.

    Anything that promises readers to achieve a dancer’s physique should make your BS detectors light up.

    Talk about unrealistic expectations! Dancers achieve their bodies through years of intense training.

    Let’s not forget, too, that the dance world has very high rates of eating disorders. That figure is not just about eating grilled salmon and steamed veggies for dinner every night.

    Someone carrying 50 extra pounds on their frame who does not exercise regularly should not be promised such an unrealistic result.

    Oh, but wait, that’s right — Anderson claims to have independently tested 100 women (what a conveniently round number!) over the past 5 years.

    Therefore she must know what she’s talking about, right? Wrong.

    Her “signature strategy” is nothing more than an alarmingly drastic caloric reduction (which we’ll get to in a bit).

    The plan strictly forbids processed foods, dairy, and spices. Red flag number TWO.

    Anderson, who as far as I know is not a registered dietitian and has not studied nutrition, claims that dairy and spices result in bloating and upset the digestive system, thereby resulting in fat storage.

    If she DID study nutrition, where did she get her degree? Bizarro University?

    Spices are wonderfully healthy — they offer a variety of nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

    Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence linking spices to bloating or fat storage.

    As for dairy, unless someone is lactose intolerant, I don’t see any reason for avoiding it, particularly fat-free dairy, which is a wonderful source of protein and calcium.

    The second week of the plan mostly eliminates snacks, leaving dieters with three paltry meals.

    One Wednesday, for instance, suggests:

    BREAKFAST

    1 cup nonfat rice milk
    1 poached egg

    LUNCH

    1 slice whole wheat toast
    2 strips veggie bacon
    1/2 cup tomatoes
    1/2 cup spinach

    DINNER

    3 – 5 oz. grilled seabass
    1/2 cup steamed spinach

    That adds up to approximately 850 calories! Well, yeah, you’re bound to lose weight when you basically starve yourself.

    Whatever happened to that “perfectly healthy” quote? This is anything but.

    As far as I’m concerned, anyone telling you to eat sushi rolls without soy sauce needs to have their head checked (not to mention, why is sushi part of a plan that only allows whole grains?).

    I know people do not turn to Us Weekly for the latest in health and nutrition research, but there needs to be some accountability here.

    A meal plan such as this one — very low in calories and nutrients — should not be glamorized. This is basically a semi-starvation diet with two big celebrity names attached.

    The three meals listed above contribute approximately 10 grams of fiber — less than half a day’s worth!

    That day’s worth of food only offers one serving of whole grains, very little vitamin E, not enough potassium, very little calcium, no Omega-3’s…. I could go on and on.

    As much as it often irritates me, I can accept the fact that celebrity mags will never shed the weight-loss pieces (they entice a lot of readers at the newsstand), but is too much to ask that they turn to respectable sources, like Registered Dietitians?

    Or, at the very least, do 2 minutes of fact checking on whatever meal plan is being offered?

    Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand were right — ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

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    All-Star of the Day: Cinnamon

    Although we often look to actual food for nutrition, don’t forget about spices – especially cinnamon!

    Ready for a surprise? Just one tablespoon of cinnamon (18 calories’ worth) adds 4 grams of fiber to your day (as much as a large apple), along with 56% of our daily manganese needs, 8% of the calcium we should be getting each day, and 13% of our recommended daily value of iron!

    (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend downing a tablespoon of cinnamon in one gulp, but rather sprinkling a teaspoon over two or three of the things you eat throughout the day).

    Isn’t that incredible? There are even more surprising health properties to this delicious condiment.

    Cinnamaldehyde – the compound responsible for the unmistakable taste of cinnamon – contains anti-inflammatory properties (great news for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis as well as when it comes to lowering the risk of developing blood clots).

    If you’re looking for a gastrointestinal champ, add cinnamon to some plain yogurt – the healthy bacteria in your colon will absolutely love it. Recent research suggests cinnamon is one of the best foods (not just spices, but foods) that help in the decrease of harmful intestinal bacteria and fungi.

    A 2003 study conducted in Pakistan by the United States Department of Agriculture (published in the December 2003 issues of Diabetes Care) even saw a noticeable decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels of subjects who just had half a teaspoon of cinnamon every day! Specifically, subjects lowered total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent, and LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 7 to 27 percent!

    When consumed in high amounts, cinnamon can be toxic, so don’t begin to measure out cinnamon in cups. Just one teaspoon a day is enough to see certain benefits.

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