Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spice It Up With Cinnamon

Myth or Fact? Cinnamon Has Health Benefits

FACT. Cinnamon is a unique and flavorful seasoning, exotic to the taste buds. But besides being a perfect enhancer to some great dishes, cinnamon is also good for you! Cinnamon has lots of healthy attributes besides being able to give your palate something to smile about.

One of the first human studies on cinnamon was published in 2003 in a medical journal called Diabetes Care. Sixty people with type 2 diabetes took 1,3, or 6 grams of cinnamon in pill form daily, an amount roughly equivalent to ¼ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. After 40 days, all 3 amounts of cinnamon reduced fasting blood sugars and the bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol.

Besides reducing blood sugar and lowering bad cholesterol, many studies have revealed other potential health benefits of cinnamon:

  1. Cinnamon acts as a natural preservative for food
  2. Is a good source of manganese, iron and calcium
  3. May aid in treating some bacterial infections
  4. May help reduce inflammation

Cinnamon often gets a bad rap… because cinnamon buns, cinnamon toast or pumpkin pie are the foods that may come to mind. But cinnamon can be included in our daily diet in a much more healthy way. The best part of cinnamon is that it’s easy to add to foods you already eat. All you need is a ½ teaspoon a day.

Try these tricks to get some more spice in your life:

  1. Add some cinnamon to hot oatmeal or cold fiber cereal
  2. Mix some into 1 tbsp of peanut butter and spread onto celery sticks
  3. Stir some into plain yogurt
  4. Sprinkle some over baked sweet potatoes or carrots
  5. Add some to a store-bought rub to go on grilled chicken
Sprinkle some straight into your coffee, skim latte or skim cappuccino

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are frozen fruits and vegetables less healthy than fresh fruits and vegetables?

I am happy to report that this is a Myth. Common sense might lead us to believe that fresh fruits and vegetables would be far more nutritious than their frozen counterparts. Although this is generally accepted, did you know that fresh produce is picked, boxed, often transported over long distances and then left to sit on store shelves for up to several weeks? The time lapse between picking fresh produce and purchasing them at a store can often cause them to lose some of their nutritional value as they are exposed to light and air. Both taste and texture may also be diminished.

Before getting to the freezer, frozen fruits and vegetables are first picked, they are quickly blanched (cooked for a short time in boiling water or steamed) and immediately frozen and packaged, generally when nutrient levels are at their highest. So frozen fruits and vegetables are processed at their peak, in terms of freshness, and nutrition. This means that the vitamins and nutrients are preserved until the next time the package is opened.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) both report that nutrients in produce are generally NOT lost during freezing (and canning) and they provide the same essential nutrients and health benefits as fresh. Another bonus of going frozen is that it’s often less expensive than their fresh counterparts. Though fresh fruits and veggies may be more visually appealing and taste better, they don’t last as long in your fridge and may not be the most nutritious.

At the end of the day, any fruits and vegetables are better than none at all. Just remember:
  • Buy fresh produce in season and buy local when possible
  • Buy non-seasonal produce frozen (if possible)
  • Even using canned fruits and veggies without added salt or sugar is also a good choice
Here are some great ways to include fruits and veggies into your daily routine:

Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables (choose a wide range of colors!) in the fresh and frozen form
  • Keep a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter and in the office
  • Have some cut-up vegetables in the refrigerator at all times for easy snacking
  • Add fresh or frozen fruit to your breakfast meal in cereal, oatmeal or yogurt
  • Choose fruit for dessert (frozen grapes anyone?!)
  • Add a mix of frozen vegetables when you prepare soups, sauces and casseroles