All the Colors of the Rainbow – Grapes

purple-grapes-vineyard-napa-valley-napa-vineyard-45209This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Grapes

September and October are when grapes are at their peak season and these tiny, colorful fruits can be enjoyed in many forms – juices, jams and, of course, wines – but eating fresh is the best way to get the most nutrients.

Grapes on the Vine
Grapes on the Vine

Grapes were originally cultivated in the Middle East as far back as 8,000 years ago for one main purpose – you guessed it – making wine. Brought from Spain to North America almost 300 years ago, there was some debate about the use of this wild, purple berry (yes, it’s a berry – related to blueberries!) as a good candidate for fine wine. Europeans deemed the native North American grapes unsuitable for this purpose so they introduced a new type from their home. And not coincidentally, Spain is the number one producer of wines today.

grapes-690977_640Grapes are famous for their properties in promoting heart health – they help prevent blood clots. Eating grapes can reduce stress and depression, which is also very good for the heart! Grape seeds are edible as well and grape seed oil contains antioxidants. Other exceptional health boosts provided by this small, nutrient-rich fruit are: 

  • High in Vitamins A, B, C and K
  • Reduces heart attack risk and high blood pressure
  • Helps treat asthma, indigestion, migraine and fatigue
  • Fights kidney disease
  • Promotes eye health

Whether you enjoy grapes fresh from the vine in bunches or in a glass as a juice or wine, the benefits of this dark, purple fruit will be apparent in your overall health. And this week’s Easy Friday Lunch combines grapes with another Fall favorite, apples, in a protein- and nutrient-rich salad.

Resources:

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/8-healthy-facts-about-grapes#1

http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-grapes/

http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=whfkitqa&dbid=75

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grape

http://www.sun-world.com/grapes-nutrition/health-benefits

Cooking tip

Grapes are part of any diet because they are so tasty and healthy! To get the maximum amount of nutrients from this fruit, enjoy them fresh and not cooked. Cooking and baking will zap most of the phytonutrients.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Blue Carrots

Blue CarrotsThis post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Carrots, Potatoes, and Corn of a different shade

Everyone is familiar with orange carrots, gold potatoes, and yellow corn but these famous vegetables come in dark blue colors as well. They carry the same nutritional benefits but their deep blue color means they have more antioxidants.

A little history…

Blue Carrots – As it turns out, carrots were indigo before the 17th century, and the orange or white varieties were considered unusual. Dutch farmers created a hybrid of the orange, white, and purple plants that resulted in the dark orange vegetables we see today.  The new carrot had a sweeter taste and was plumper thereby making it more desirable as a food choice. Still, orange on the inside, the old variety is making resurgence due to the health properties related to its darker blue coloring.

5607198402_5f2db29966_oBlue Potatoes – Sometimes formally known as Adirondack Blue, Purple Majesty or Cream of the Crop, this potato is both blue inside and out and makes a colorful, and healthy, addition to your dinner table. You may be seeing more of this dark blue variety in local supermarkets because the health benefits are similar to those of blueberries, grapes, and red cabbage.

Blue Corn – Blue corn chips have been stacked next to your favorite snack chips or in an upscale Mexican restaurant for years but this vegetable also boasts great health benefits in its plain state. Also known as Hopi maize, blue corn has a rich history in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. This variety of corn has a sweet, nutty taste, is a complete protein and it is a good source of niacin.

Other vitamins and minerals present in these vegetables include potassium, selenium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Dark blue varieties of these common vegetables also contain Vitamins A, B, and C.


Blue corn, potatoes, and carrots provide your diet with disease-fighting benefits, which are:

  • Lowering blood sugar and cholesterol
  • Reducing heart attack risk
  • Fighting certain cancers
  • Promoting eye health
  • Preventing inflammation
  • Supporting healthy digestion

3737956928_7e57e7ce34_oThough these blue foods may not be the everyday varieties you are used to, they still pack many health benefits and are worth trying. This week’s Easy Friday Lunch is a traditional vegetable soup but feel free to be adventurous and use these new blue foods to make the recipe more nutritious and a little daring.

Resources:

http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/healthy_eating/eat-a-rainbow/anthocyanins-blue-purple-food.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_corn

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/04/carrots-used-to-be-purple-before-the-17th-century/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrot

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/surprising-health-benefits-purple-carrots

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adirondack_Blue_potato

http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/nutrition/fruits-veggies/purple-potatoes.php

Cooking tip

Nature does not provide us with truly blue vegetables but a few show us that blue can be seen in varying degrees: blue carrots, blue potatoes, and blue corn. Used as a natural dye, wash these veggies thoroughly or boil for a few minutes to remove some of the pigment prior to adding to soups or breads.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Blueberries

This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Blueberries

1-1248158243hym9Harvesting and preserving blueberries began in America but soon the world knew of their great qualities. This tiny indigo berry originated in North American where Native Americans referred to it as “star fruit” because of the five points on a blueberry blossom. Even though its roots are in America, the berry struck out for Europe in the 1930s where it made a social call to Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands. From there its reputation for being supremely delicious and healthy spread throughout Europe and into Asia then further to South America and Australia. Blueberries are cousins to the cranberry and distantly related to the azalea bush (but don’t try the azaleas in a smoothie!).

PattsBlueberriesThis dark purple fruit can be frozen, dried or preserved easily and still retain many of its healthful benefits. Recognized by its dusky blue pigment, this coloring indicates a high level of antioxidants which blueberries have more of than any other fruit or vegetable. At 80 calories per cup, it’s a good choice to help with the prevention of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Blueberries are high in Vitamin C and are fiber-rich. Other exceptional health boosts provided by this tiny berry are:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces heart attack risk
  • Increases brain function
  • Controls blood sugar
  • Protects against memory loss

blueberry-873784_960_720Blueberries have been a staple in North American diets for centuries because of their wonderful taste and only recently due to their exceptional health benefits. You can enjoy them for breakfast (in a smoothie or muffin) or as a dessert (blueberry cobbler or flavorful sorbet) but they also provide a great compliment to leafy greens. Get ready to prepare your Easy Friday Lunch using this delicious power-packed fruit.

Resources:

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/why-you-should-be-eating-more-blueberries-and-raspberries/

http://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-recipes/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/12/blueberry-health-facts-benefits_n_5568690.html

http://www.2020site.org/fun-facts/Blueberry-Fun-Facts.html

http://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=53C6D001-3993-CEFE-4ABC-A9171704C26A

Cooking tip

You probably have a ton of blueberries since late summer is the height of blueberry season. You will need to freeze the berries as soon as you get them. Either rinse (be sure to pat dry) immediately or simply put them in plastic bags and rinse them just before you use them. These will keep for 6 months so you have plenty of time to enjoy a taste of summer when snow’s on the ground!

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Kale

kale1This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Kale

Any way you want to cook or eat kale, this vegetable packs a punch of nutrition. In recent years, kale has been at the center of a great PR campaign but as it turns out, it popularity isn’t a recent thing. During World War II, this vegetable was a recommended plant for Victory Gardens since it provided nutrients that the American diet was missing due to rationing.

kale-523889_640Kale is a cousin of wild cabbage and this vegetable was the most common green leafy in Europe. However, kale’s origins go back to Ancient Greece where the forest green veggie was flat-leaved, not its curly, darker counterpart seen today. Trade with Russia in the 19th century brought kale to North America and it became popular because it could be grown well into winter.

Some very important vitamins and minerals are packed into the 33 calories in one cup of kale such as Vitamins A, K, C and calcium. This dark green leafy has become well known for reducing inflammation and is full of antioxidants, all leading to lowering cancer risk. Fiber and protein can also be listed among this green vegetable’s good qualities. Other nutritional benefits are:

  • Improves and protects eye site
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Aids in digestion of fats
  • Helps with weight loss

5279419_origKale may still have a good public relations team now but it will be on the top of everyone’s healthy shopping list for a long while. Check out the delicious, and nutritious, Easy Friday Lunch including this week’s most popular super food vegetable.

Resources:

https://experiencelife.com/article/how-to-cook-kale/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kale

https://authoritynutrition.com/50-super-healthy-foods/

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-proven-benefits-of-kale/

Cooking tip

You’ve bought one of the healthiest greens available! Now to make the best of it, use these four great tips to make kale taste its best: 1) wash just prior to cooking to keep it fresh longer, 2) remove the thick stems in the middle by holding the stem and removing leaves, 3) blanch the greens to reduce bitterness and 4) slow cook (or braise) kale in water or broth to tenderize the leaves.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Kiwi

This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Kiwi

Red_kiwi_fruit_slicesThe juicy, green fruit of the kiwi, though a little tricky to pull away from the skin, makes a great addition to sweet or savory dishes, dressings and mixed drinks or smoothies. It is one of the most versatile and nutrient-rich fruits to grace your table.

Not only is this tiny green fruit an international traveler but it went through a name change during its world tour! The story of its name begins with a bird – the kiwi, in fact. Kiwifruit being the super delicious green and black seed-speckled fruit was named for its similarity to New Zealand’s national bird (which is small, brown and fuzzy, too). Kiwifruit began life known as the Chinese Gooseberry and resided in northern China. Later missionaries introduced the tropical lime green fruit to New Zealand. The island was able farm then export these “berries” but not without a serious name change. Due the high taxes placed on berries leaving the country, the former berry became known as a kiwi or kiwifruit after its resemblance to its namesake.

Hardy-Kiwi-Comparison-3This little oval fruit has around 61 calories and boasts five times more Vitamin C than an orange. It also adds a healthy dose of Vitamin K (1 cup = 90% of daily allowance!) to your diet. Along with Vitamins A, B and E, this tiny powerhouse fruit contains potassium, lots of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients benefit you by:

 

  • Being an immune booster
  • Helping blood clot after a cut or scrape
  • Improving skin, bone and tooth health
  • Balancing electrolytes to help with blood pressure
  • Keeping your system running smoothly
  • Reducing inflammation and heart disease risk

kiwi-fruit-999848Such a fun name for such a nutritionally dense fruit! Check out the Easy Friday Lunch that includes fiber rich black beans and a kiwi salsa to add some kick to your lunch and give you energy to start your weekend!

Resources:

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=41

http://www.alwaysorderdessert.com/2009/11/how-to-peel-kiwi-video-tutorial.html

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/271232.php

http://www.healthsomeness.com/smoothie-recipes/k-for-kiwifruit/

http://foodfacts.mercola.com/kiwi.html

Cooking tip

Getting juicy green fruit from a kiwi can be tricky but try this tip!

Peel a kiwi fruit by cutting off both ends then insert a large spoon between the skin and the fruit. Move the spoon inside the skin and around the fruit, and then pop out the green midsection. Now the kiwi is ready to eat without the fuzzy outer layer!

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Squash

Yellow_squash_with_green_spots_on_the_skinThis post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Squash

You know its summer when you see this bright yellow vegetable in your garden, farmer’s market or grocery! Thriving in mild weather, but at its peak during the summer, this yellow squash is known by a few names: straight-neck squash, yellow summer squash and most often, yellow squash. Believed to have originated in North America, yellow summer squash is a relative of zucchini and pumpkin and is often interchangeable in recipes with its green similarly sized cousin. Summer squash’s versatility made it a favorite of Columbus and even won the vegetable a trip to Spain where it began a world tour and later became included in the cuisines of various countries on the Spanish trading routes.

Summer SquashYellow squash weighs in at around 18 calories a cup and pairs well with meats, fish or grains. This vegetable contains a sizable portion of carbohydrates and fiber both of which get you closer to the recommended daily servings for a healthy diet. With a huge antioxidant and mineral boost, squash is a good source of Vitamin C, beta carotene, Vitamin B and manganese that help to:

  • Slow aging and regenerate cells (feeling younger already!)
  • Decrease risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Prevent anemia
  • Reduce inflammation and arthritis
  • Improve vision
  • Maintain healthy brain and nerve functions

squash-23841281804141I6nDWhether you like this brilliantly colored summer vegetable on the grill, in a stew, sautéed or steamed, eating it can enhance not only your meal but also your health. Add in some seasonal herbs and enjoy the nutrition and flavor boosts. Check out our Easy Friday Lunch and get you ready for the easiest steaming recipe of the summer!

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straightneck_squash

http://www.livestrong.com/article/349229-the-nutritional-value-of-yellow-squash/

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=62

 

Cooking tip

Use herbs to get the most flavor out of this season’s prettiest yellow vegetable – summer squash! For grilling, sprinkle on dill and oregano; then use rosemary and basil when sautéing or making stews.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Lemons

Meyer_LemonThis post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Lemons

Aside from making your water taste wonderful, lemons can be used in so many different ways to improve your health and well-being. This bright, yellow fruit is quite a chameleon in the culinary world as it shows up as a condiment and flavor enhancer (think grilled salmon!), in main dishes (Chicken Piccata) and most notably in desserts (lemon meringue pie). Not only do lemons play well with all types of fruits, vegetables and meats but they aid in digestion. So eat lemons any way you like!

Lemons_(5216703003)Lemons are thought to have had their start in India but this exceptional fruit soon made its way to Europe by way of Italy (lemon gelato, anyone?) in the mid-15th century. Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to the Americas and the fruit became widely farmed in Florida and California by the 19th century.

This bright, flavorful fruit contains not only high levels of Vitamin C but also pectin (most famous for making jellies gel) which is a good source of fiber. By acting as a digestive aid, pectin slows the rate of sugar absorption therefore blood sugar is more stable and this may help with weight loss. Lemons have additional nutrients including potassium, B vitamins and calcium and other benefits include:

  • Detoxifying the liver and kidneys by flushing stored water (no more bloat!)
  • Lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Improving skin health
  • Boosting mood and increasing concentration (try lemon-scented oils!)
  • Aiding in iron absorption

5483243968_d186fb1af7_bSuch a small fruit packs such a large amount of nutrients and with all those great qualities – lemons should be part of your daily diet. Jumpstart your day and your digestion with lemon juice in your water then check back here for this week’s Easy Friday Lunch which will include a burst of flavor from your new favorite fruit!

Resources:

https://draxe.com/benefits-of-lemon-water/

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/16-benefits-lemon-you-may-not-know-about.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon

https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/lemons/

https://draxe.com/pectin/

Cooking tip

Add lemon to your water to boost your Vitamin C which will help inflammation, aid in digestion and add energy. It also makes the water taste wonderful – so you’ll drink more of it! Add some ice and lemon slices and you have a spa treatment in a glass.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Sweet Potatoes

NCI5_POTATO
NCI5_POTATO

This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Sweet Potatoes

You are probably most familiar with those sweet potato casseroles that show up during the holidays smothered with butter, sugar and nuts. Well, there are many healthier ways to enjoy this vegetable powerhouse.

customer_service_101_back-01Sweet potatoes began their history in South America and were traded with the inhabitants of the Polynesian Islands. The vegetable thrived in the islands due to it being a reliable crop that would survive hurricane season. From there this vegetable traveled into Japan, Asia and New Zealand and become a staple in the cuisines of those areas. The orange-centered tuber then migrated from South America north into the United States in the mid-20th century. However, this nutrient-rich vegetable fell out of favor during the 20th century, new information about the vitamins and mineral it provides along with the popularity of certain eating plans has brought it back into the mainstream. It was even awarded The World Food Prize in 2016 because of its high nutrition value!

With a bright orange color, sweet potatoes are best known for Vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene) and potassium. These tubers rival carrots for Vitamin A and bananas for having the most potassium. This super food packs nutrients which help to:

  • Improve vision
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Provide antioxidants for healthy skin
  • Increase muscle strength

sweet-potatoes-742283_960_720The holidays are just around the corner, but you don’t have to wait until then to enjoy this nutrient packed orange vegetable! Check back here and get ready to pick out some sweet potatoes for your Easy Friday Lunch!

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2016/06/world-food-prize–why-sweet-potato-color-matters/

Cooking tip

Know the best way to get all those nutrients from a sweet potato? Bake? Fry? You guess it, they need to be boiled! This method brings out more vitamins and minerals and lowers the glycemic index (which means these veggies will not mess with your blood sugar levels!) Healthy soup, anyone?

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Mangos

This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Mangos

Mango with section on a white background
Mango with section on a white background

Decide if you want to use fresh pre-cut or frozen mangos and look for recipes to add a burst of orange color to your healthy diet.

Mangos are the national fruit of India, Pakistan and the Philippines but are a native of South Asia and commonly grown in tropical climates. Since mangos are a fragile fruit, their cultivation in Florida and California has been limited, most of the produce we use in the U.S. comes from Mexico and Central America. Even though this fruit is grown and harvested in hot climates, it is known to have cooling properties for the body (mango ice cream anyone?).

mango1As with most tropical fruits, mangos have a lot of Vitamin C and a one cup serving (about 100 calories) also contains 35% of Vitamin A which is an antioxidant and aids with vision. Around 10% of probiotic fiber can be found in this orange fruit. Nutrients such as copper and magnesium, which provide enzymes, and potassium to balance sodium, share their health benefits with Vitamin B for energy. The juicy orange center of this fruit also benefits a healthy diet by:

  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Improving skin
  • Promoting eye health
  • Alkalizing the body (reducing acidity and inflammation)
  • Improving digestion
  • Boosting immune system

mang03Sharing a basket of mangos is considered a gesture of friendship so make friends with your diet and add this wonderful fruit. Look for our Easy Friday Lunch post featuring a great chicken recipe enhanced with mangos to cool you off during the heat of midday!

 

Resources:

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-health-benefits-of-mangos.html

https://healthimpactnews.com/2013/17-reasons-why-you-need-a-mango-every-day/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mango

Cooking tip

Mangos are a clingstone fruit (where the seed clings to the meat of the fruit) and they require a special slicing method so for convenience buy pre-cut or frozen.

All the Colors of the Rainbow – Radishes

Radijs_voos_(Raphanus_sativus_subsp._sativus)

This post is part of a new series for Bekah’s Bites. We will be sharing nutrition tips about colorful fruits and vegetables. Think about rainbow colors when you choose your produce because those bright shades not only mean better flavor, it means they contain healthy nutrients.

Radishes

Pull this colorful red vegetable from storage and get them ready use them in your healthy recipes!

The small root vegetable we all find so familiar today is quite a world traveler with several varieties appearing in India, China and Asia. The ones we see most often were cultivated by Greek and Roman agriculturalists then found their way to Europe and are commonly known as the European Radish. Being quite hardy, this cold weather vegetable is fast growing and is easily harvested with few issues with soil or pests.  Which is great for us because this root’s robustness adds so many health benefits to our diets!

healthy-vegetables-restaurant-nature3.5 ounces (or almost half a cup) has 16 calories and can provide 25% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin C. Other nutrients packed into this tiny root vegetable range from iron and potassium to vitamins A, B and calcium. Radishes contain fiber which helps in maintaining a healthy weight. Paired with the fiber, radishes are also natural diuretics and both together will keep your digestive system functioning properly. This mild, peppery vegetable also has a high water content, eases inflammation and provides a cooling effect to the body. Other benefits include:

  • Cell repair and productions
  • Controls blood sugar
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Relieves congestion and help with respiratory issues
  • Assist with liver function

food-radishes-vegatablesA tiny vegetable that packs so many nutrients certainly needs to be added to your grocery list! Look for our Friday Lunch recipe featuring an easy radish slaw that will go with all of your favorite sandwiches.


Cooking tip

Be sure to buy small radishes, larger sizes tend to be hollow or spongy. Once purchased, wash them well and store them in a plastic baggies with a paper towel at the bottom, this will keep them fresh for about a week.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radish

http://www.happydieter.net/health-benefits-of-radish/

http://foodfacts.mercola.com/radish.html