Nutrition Spotlight: Farro, An Ancient Grain

Have you heard of farro? It is an ancient grain that is part of the wheat family. Farro, when cooked, is a dense and chewy grain with a nutty flavor.

image from pbs.org
image from pbs.org

Farro can be added to salads, eaten on its own as a side, or baked into bread. It packs a nutritional punch. It is a great source of complex carbohydrate (great fuel for athletes!) meaning it takes the body longer to digest, keeps blood sugar levels stable and lowers cholesterol.

Other health benefits of farro include:

High in fiber

Farro contains more fiber than other complex grains, like quinoa and brown rice. Fiber is important in maintaining bowel health and assists in weight management because it keeps you full.

Great source of protein

One cup of cooked farro contains 8 grams of protein, which is important to help rebuild muscle after intense workouts. Combine farro with lentils or beans for a dish with a complete source of protein.

Contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

Farro contains vitamin B3, also called Niacin, which aids in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It is also a great source of important minerals such as iron, zinc and magnesium. Farro also contains lignans, polyphenolic compounds that may prevent cancer.

How to cook farro

You can find farro pre-cooked in packages in stores like Target. However, you can also buy it dry and cook it yourself on the stove. Simmer one cup of farro in two cups of broth or water for 45 minutes to one hour.

Check out these recipes featuring farro:

Warm Farro Salad

Farro bowl with crispy salmon & toasted sesame spinach

Farro with mushrooms

One-pan farro with tomatoes

Farro and herb pilaf with sausage, mushrooms & spinach

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How to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Last month I had an blog post published in the Healthy Professor’s Times Union Blog called Don’t Fear the Squash. It’s about the health benefits of squash and some cooking tips. Check it out !

Squash is one of my favorite sides on Thanksgiving. But so is the pie! And this time of year is when it’s tough for many people to keep up with their healthy habits, myself included. It seems like there are cookies and pies everywhere and avoiding them gets harder and harder.

Here are some small tips to make it a little easier to get through the holidays.

Choose healthier sides

One year for thanksgiving I made a healthier version of the classic green bean casserole with fresh green beans. You could also make a green salad and load your plate up with fresh vegetables, along with smaller helpings of the more unhealthy sides. Vegetables provide fiber  that will fill you up, along with important vitamins and minerals.

Don’t drink your calories

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If you still want to enjoy adult beverages on Thanksgiving, opt for a cocktail made with calorie-free seltzer, rather than a sugary juice or soda. You could also choose a slice of pie over a heavy beer, since you don’t always have pumpkin pie–you can have beer any time of year!

Participate in a Turkey Trot

Many towns have annual Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving morning with many different distances. Getting out and being active is great any day, but even better on a day when you will probably be eating and sitting more than usual. It’s also a fun tradition to start with your family!

Remember, being healthy is a journey–you can still enjoy the pie, but it’s the small things that add up over time that produce results! Nobody is perfect 100% of the time, but small changes can make a difference. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

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Nutrition Spotlight: Tart Cherry Juice

One of my favorite drinks is Cheribundi Tart Cherry Juice. I’ve been drinking it for years and it’s a staple in my diet, especially during marathon training! Tart cherries are said to have anti-inflammatory properties, which make tart cherry juice a great drink for post-run (and post-hike!) recovery.

Tart cherries contain beneficial nutrients such as:

Anthocyanins

These are plant colorants that are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors found in many fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, and flowers. Studies show that anthocyanins protect against liver injuries; reduce blood pressure; improve eyesight; contain anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties; and stop of spread of human cancer cells.1

Phenolic Acids

These are a type of phytochemical called a polyphenol. Phenolic acids are easily absorbed through the walls of your intestines, and may be beneficial to your health. They work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage from free-radical oxidation reactions. They also may act as an anti-inflammatory when consumed regularly. 2

Flavanols and Flavonols

Studies show that consumption of foods containing these compounds may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 3

Check out Cheribundi the next time you are the grocery store. My favorite way to drink it is in my Tart Cherry Blast Recovery Protein Smoothie!

Sources

  1. Konczak I, Zhang W. Anthocyanins—More Than Nature’s Colours. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2004;2004(5):239-240. doi:10.1155/S1110724304407013.
  2. Liu RH. “Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action.” J Nutr. 2004 Dec;134(12 Suppl):3479S-3485S.
  3. Erdman J, et. al. Effects of cocoa flavanols on risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Asia Pc J Clin Nutr. 2008. 17(S1):284-28.

Disclaimer: I was sent tart cherry juice for review on this blog–all opinions and views on the topic are my own. I don’t post about a product unless scientific evidence backs up their health claims.

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Nutrition Spotlight: Shelled Hemp Seeds

Today I’m starting a new feature on my blog, a food and nutrition series. Every week I will post about an interesting nutrition topic that hopefully some of you may find useful!

Today’s post is about a food that is fairly new to the market.  You may have seen them popping up in grocery stores recently-raw shelled hemp seeds (or hemp hearts)! I found them at Trader Joe’s a few months ago and keep a bag in my fridge to add to my salads. They add a unique nutty flavor and also pack a nutritional punch. They can also be added to smoothies, yogurt, cereal or added to recipes.

53779-raw-shelled-hemp-seed

Hemp hearts are taken from the hemp seed and look like this:

hemp-seeds

Shelled hemp hearts contain 10 grams of plant-based protein per 30 gram, or 3 tbsp, serving. Hemp is a good protein alternative for vegetarians and vegans, and you can often find hemp protein powder in the grocery store.

It also contains 10 grams of Omegas per serving. One of the crucial Omega-3 fatty acids found in hemp hearts is alpha-linolenic acid (or ALA), which can be found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds. ALA plays an important role in brain function and may reduce the risk of heart disease. Research shows that omega-3s may also reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis (source).

Hemp seeds (with the shell) are also a rich source of minerals such as magnesium, zinc and iron, and are a good source of fiber.

So if you are looking for something new to add flavor and boost nutrition to your salad, smoothie or yogurt, why not try adding a tablespoon of hemp seeds?

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Fresh Blenders – Apples – Product Review

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Fresh Blenders, a company that sells bagged fruit for smoothies. Some of the fruit they sell include apples and pears. They sent me two huge bags of apples, both sweet and tart, to try out in my smoothies. Apples are one of my favorite snacks. In fact, I eat one every single day. They really pack a nutritional punch!

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  • Vitamin C – apples contain this powerful natural antioxidant that prevents damage caused by free radicals, as well as boosting the body’s resistance against infectious agents.
  • B-complex vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B-6) – these vitamins are key in maintaining red blood cells and the nervous system in good health.
  • Dietary fiber – apple skin contains fiber. The British National Health Service says that a diet high in fiber can help prevent the development of certain diseases and may help prevent the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood from rising. It can also promote weight loss because it keeps you full!
  • Phytonutrients – apples are rich in polyphenolic compounds. These phytonutrients help protect the body from the detrimental effects of free radicals.
  • Minerals such as calcium & phosphorus, which are important for bone health; and potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267290.php)

A little bit about the apples from their website:

Stemilt grows the best Washington apples in the best orchard locations. Here, we grow classic apple varieties like Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious, and new, up-and-coming varieties.

They sent me a bag of the Fujis and a bag of the Granny Smith. I immediately opened the bag and tried a Fuji, it was crisp and sweet! According to Stemilt,

Fresh Fuji Apples

Fuji apples were developed in the late 1930s by growers at the Tohoku Research Station in Morioka, Japan. Fuji apples are a cross between two classic American apple varieties – Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Janet. This variety is often misspelled as Fugi apples.

The Fuji apple variety was introduced to the United States in the 1960s. Fans of sweet apples adore Fuji because with 15-18% Brix, or sugar levels, it is the sweetest apple around! Fuji apples are also great storing apples, and because of that, are available year-round!

I really liked that the bag stood up in the fridge, making more room for other food on the shelf. These apples were good (but maybe not as good as our NYS apples in the Fall–but I’m biased 😉 ) But since it actually isn’t fall here now, our apples leave little to be desired, so these Washington apples were a great substitute!

They were so good, I ate one every day and unfortunately never had a chance to make a smoothie with them. But in case you want to try a fresh blender apple in a smoothie, here is a recipe from their website:

N0 Dairy Very Berry Smoothie

A refreshing, subtly sweet, dairy-free fruit smoothie that delivers nutritionally where traditional “milkshakes” lack… packed with good-for-you antioxidant properties. Stemilt Fresh Blenders Sweet Apples are the perfect partner to a bevy of berries and luscious almond-milk-based, dairy-free “yogurt.” A touch of honey and a snippet of fresh basil add all the natural sweetness necessary for a pleasingly crisp “milkshake-like” morning beverage.

Ingredients

  • 1 Stemilt Fresh Blenders Sweet Apple, cored and quartered
  • 1 cup ice cubes
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 6 large fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 3 to 5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup (or less, as preferred for consistency) unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1, 6-ounce container dairy-free, plain cultured almond milk “yogurt” (like So Delicious)

Directions

Add apple, ice, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, basil, honey, almond milk, and dairy-free “yogurt” to pitcher of high-speed electric blender (one suitable for crushing ice and handling firm textures). Blend on high (or use “smoothie” option, if applicable) for approximately 1 minute. (If necessary, stop machine intermittently to scrape down sides or press ingredients down to remove any air pockets that might impede blending.) Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

Per Serving: Calories 229.2 (11.8% from fat); Fat 3.0g (sat 0.0g, poly 0.2g, mono 0g); Protein 4.8g; Carbohydrates 48.9g; Fiber 12.2g; Sugar 30.0g; Cholesterol 0.0mg; Potassium 213.8mg; Sodium 128.4mg.

Recipe from Stimelt Fresh Blenders. For the locals, fresh blenders are now available at Price Chopper!

Disclaimer: The company sent me apples free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

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