Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strawberries, Health Benefits and Recipes

These berries, with their tempting looks and great taste, have secured their place in the list of favorites for ages. Strawberries, with their common scientific name Fragaria (there are different suffixes for different varieties, such as Fragaria Vesca for wild strawberry, Fragaria Orientalis for Eastern Strawberries etc.), are berries which grow in bushes.
They are extensively used in food stuffs ice-creams, jams, jellies, squashes, syrups, confectionaries, bakeries, chocolates and even medicines for their extraordinarily rich flavor, taste and color. They are also consumed fresh. We know that all fruits, particularly berries and those with exotic colors are rich in anti oxidants. Strawberries are no exceptions. In addition to anti oxidants, they have many other nutrients and can be efficiently used to prevent many diseases.

Here are the health benefits:
Eye Care: The primary reasons for almost all the problems of eyes are free radicals and deficiency of certain nutrients. With the growing age and lack of these protective nutrients, the harmful oxidants or free radicals cast heavy damage on our eyes, such as drying up of eyes, degeneration of optical nerves, Macular degeneration, vision defects and make them prone to infections too. The anti oxidants such as vitamin-C, Flavonoids, Phenolic Phytochemicals and Elagic Acid, present in strawberries can help avoid this situation to a great extent. One more factor is ocular pressure, i.e. the pressure of the eyes. Any disturbance in it is also harmful for the eyes. Here too, strawberries are helpful as they contain potassium, which help maintain right pressure.

Arthritis and Gout: The degeneration of muscles and tissues, drying up of the fluid which help mobility of the joints and accumulation of toxic substances and acids (such as uric acid) in the body are some of the ill effects of free radicals present in our body, which are primarily responsible for Arthritis and Gout. Strawberries, with their team of anti oxidants and detoxifiers, can effectively help push away such health hazards forever. It is a famous saying in India that a serving of any fruit a day will remove the rust from the joints. It is very true for strawberries.
Cancer: Vitamin-C, Folate and Anthocyanin, Quercetin and Kaempferol (few of the many Flavonoids in strawberries which possess excellent anti oxidant and anti carcinogenic properties) together form an excellent team to fight cancer and tumor. A daily intake of strawberries is seen to have remarkably brought down the growth of cancerous cells.
Brain Function: It is a very common observation that old people tend to lose their memory and control over their activities, limbs etc. This is because of aging of their brain and the nervous system. Actually, the free radicals, the agents very much responsible for aging, have a very adverse effect on these systems. Due to them, the brain tissues start degenerating and the nerves get weaker. Strawberries can help you out. The vitamin-C and the phytochemicals in them neutralize the effect of these oxidants and also rejuvenate the system. Strawberries are rich in iodine too, which is very helpful for proper functioning of the brain and nervous system.
High Blood Pressure: Strawberries are very good in potassium and magnesium content, both of which are very effective in lowering high blood pressure caused by sodium.
Heart Diseases: High fiber, Folate, no fats and high anti oxidants such as vitamin-C and those phytochemicals (Flavonoids) together form an ideal cardiac health pack, as they effectively reduce cholesterol. Some of the members of the vitamin-B family present in strawberries also strengthen the cardiac muscles and help better functioning of the heart.
Other Benefits: Folate is known to protect from birth-defects. Vitamin-C effectively prevents from infections and cold. The phytonutrients also have anti inflammatory properties.

Traditional Strawberry Sauce

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil. Add strawberries. Lower the heat and simmer 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the lemon juice and stir it into the sauce. Cook and stir about 3 minutes more, or just until the sauce becomes clear and slightly thick. Cool, then chill in the refrigerator.

Quick Strawberry Sauce

  • 2-1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cold water
Puree straw berries in a blender or food processor. Combine pureed berries, sugar and water in a saucepan, bring to boil. Cook 1 minute. Chill. (Yields 1-1/2 cups.)
These sauces can be used on ice cream, cheesecake, plain custard or yogurt, as well as pancakes and french toast.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fresh Raw Broccoli

Because of its impressive nutritional profile that includes beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and phytochemicals, specifically indoles and aromatic isothiocynates, broccoli and its kin may be responsible for boosting certain enzymes that help to detoxify the body. These enzymes help to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
Broccoli along with onions, carrots, and cabbage may also help to lower blood cholesterol. Researchers have found broccoli equally as effective as some cholesterol lowering drugs.

Look for compact crowns that have dark green, blue-green, or the purplish-green, tightly closed buds with dark green leaves that are strong and upright. Intense colors are a good indicator of hearty nutritional content. Yellow or yellowish-green broccoli heads and leaves indicate the vegetable is not fresh and has lost nutrients. Pass on the limp stalks and choose only sturdy, crisp, bright green stems.
Look carefully at the cut ends of the broccoli stalks and choose those that are completely closed. The stalks that have open cores on the bottom tend to be older, woodier, and tougher.
Allow 1/2 pound per serving. A medium bunch, about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, will serve 3 to 4 people.
Wrap your broccoli in a plastic bag or plastic wrap and refrigerate as soon after purchase as possible. Though this vegetable is a great keeper and will still look good several days later, it's best if used within three days after purchase.
Refrigeration is a good way to protect broccoli's nutrients, especially the vitamin C, which is easily lost if not kept cold. Quite often, broccoli is shipped to market in boxes packed with ice.
Another storage suggestion, though uncommon, is to submerge the stem portions of an entire bunch of broccoli into a wide-mouthed pitcher filled with ice water. Cover the broccoli crowns loosely with a plastic bag, and change the ice water daily. This unique method will keep the bunch fresh and crisp for a whole week.
Never wash broccoli before storing in the refrigerator. The excess moisture promotes mold.

Frozen broccoli contains about 35% more beta carotene than the fresh because the frozen packages consist mainly of the florets. Most of the beta carotene is stored in the florets. But don't jump too quickly. There's plenty of nutrition in those stems, such as extra calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C.
The darker colors of the florets, such as blue green, or purplish green contain more beta carotene and vitamin C than those with lighter greens.

Recipe Dip for Cooked Broccoli:
1/2 head broccoli
16 ounces fat free or low fat sour cream
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon basil  crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut broccoli into flowerets. Boil in 1 cup water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
 Place broccoli in blender with 1/4 cup of the sour cream. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down sides occasionally.
 Pour into bowl, mix in remaining sour cream, cheese, basil and salt.
 Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serve with assorted crackers, chips and fresh sliced vegetables, carrots, celery, and of course more raw broccoli!

 Makes 2 1/4 cups.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Avocado Salsa


 Lower Cholesterol:
Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a compound that has been shown to lower cholesterol levels. In one study, 45 volunteers experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for only one week.


Heart Health:
One cup of avocado has 23% of the recommended daily value of folate. Studies show that people who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower incidence of heart disease than those who don't. The vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, and glutathione in avocado are also great for your heart.

Stroke Prevention
The high levels of folate in avocado are also protective against strokes. People who eat diets rich in folate have a much lower risk of stroke than those who don't.

Avocado Salsa

3 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
Combine all ingredients, except feta cheese and avocado. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Add cheese and avocado just before serving.

How to Ripen and Avocado?
Place the avocado in a paper bag with an apple, banana, or tomato.
Fold the bag closed and leave it to sit on the counter overnight.
The ethylene gas in the other fruit will cause the avocado to ripen in about 24 hours.

Plastic Filled Christmas Ornaments

The skies the limit with imagination with these plastic filled Christmas ornaments! Using things I find around the house and outside t...