Flax Seed Uses and Health Benefits

Photo credit: Dvortygirl CC-BY-SA-3.0

Flax seed has been a widely grown crop for thousands of years, and it is believed that it was one of the first plants that humans domesticated and farmed. The flax plant is one of the most versatile in the world, capable of being made into fabrics (especially linen), paints, fishing nets, dyes, soap, medicine, and all sorts of other things. The seeds produce an oil known as linseed oil or flaxseed oil.

Linseed oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils. In addition to being used in food, it has also been used as a finish and polish for wood and painted surfaces, in putty and caulk, and perhaps most notably in linoleum, which many people wrongly believe is made from man-made materials. Linoleum is actually wood or cork dust on canvas, overlaid with solidified linseed oil, making an all-natural floor covering that is especially suitable for people with allergies. Wood is also treated with linseed oil when making bats for some sports, including cricket.

The popularity of linseed oil for food preparation has been steadily growing again, because people have been paying more attention to the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seed contains an abundance of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-derived omega-3 essential fatty acid. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ALA may help reduce systemic inflammation that often leads to various chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure. Flax seed also contains fiber-rich lignans, which have antioxidant and phytoestrogenic properties in the body. Lignans possess anti-cancer properties as well.

References:

University of Maryland Medical Center

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/alphalinolenic-acid

 

 

 

3 Healthy & Delicious Fruit Desserts That Will Have Your Kids Begging For More

Photo credit: Vegan Feast Catering [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When you think of the word “dessert” what comes to mind?

More than likely you immediately think of pies, cakes, cookies – all the unhealthy things that most people associate with the word desserts. But did you know there are healthier versions available? And healthier doesn’t mean boring and bland! Things like fruit desserts can be healthy, full of flavor and a great way to help ensure that you and your family are getting more fruits in your daily diet!

What exactly do these desserts have to do with getting more fruits into your daily diet?

First, if you have a hard time getting picky eaters to snack on plain fruit, these desserts offer a delicious flavorful alternative to eating it plain. Sometimes all it takes to get a picky kid to eat fruit is to add it to something else and label it a dessert. After all, what kid doesn’t like dessert? And two, sometimes eating fruit is just plain ole boring and fruit desserts add enough variety and more flavor to ‘spice’ things up.

Want to try it on your own kids? Here are three quick and easy fruit desserts that are healthy and packed full of flavor and are sure to have your family asking for more! And best of all, you can give them more knowing it’s healthy and helping them get more of the vitamins and minerals they need that fruit provides.

Fruit Dessert Recipes

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
(Makes about 4 servings)

1/2 cup sugar
1 package (16 ounces) unsweetened strawberries
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

In a food processor, add the sugar and strawberries. Pulse until chopped coarsely. Slowly add the yogurt and lemon juice with the food processor still running. Process until smooth and serve immediately.

Banana Bites

1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 large bananas
Coconut flakes

Tear a decent sized peace of wax paper off and put on counter top (or working surface). Cut bananas into bit sized chunks. Heat the peanut butter and chocolate chips in microwave (about 1 minute). Dip banana pieces until well coated. Sprinkle coconut flakes on them and let harden (about 1 hour).

Broiled Pineapple

1/2 lb. pineapple
Nonstick cooking spray

While preheating oven, coat broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray. Core pineapple and cut wedges lengthwise to make 8 spears. Put pineapple spears on broiler pan and cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tender. You can even serve this with a dollop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

As you can see, from the three recipes shared, fruit desserts are a quick and easy way to ensure that you and your family are adding more fruits to your diet. Another way, not mentioned in the recipes above, to make a fruit dessert is as simple as putting some berries in a bowl and adding some cool whip on top.

 

7 Tasty Snacks That Are Healthy Too

The word “snack” often conjures up images of potato chips, candy bars, soda, and other high-calorie snacks. Snacks don’t have to be filled with fat and sugar to satisfy your hunger. Fruit, nuts and grains are nature’s delicious, healthy snacks. Natural snacks travel just as well as convenience foods, such as a bag of chips. Take them to the office, on your walk and keep some in your car for those long waits in rush-hour traffic.

Trail mix isn’t just for hikers and campers! It’s a delicious mix of fruit, seeds and nuts filled with energy-restoring nutrients and natural sugars. You can mix your own or buy ready-to-eat mixes. Try to find dried fruits and nuts that are free from preservatives. Select natural seeds and nuts instead of the roasted, flavored variety. You can mix almonds, walnuts, cashews, dried banana slices, apricots, raisins, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries for a healthy, snack flavor explosion.

Cheese is a great snack to take the edge off your hunger without adding too many extra calories to your diet. Try a slice of brie on a fresh slice of apple for a deliciously sweet, healthy snack. Try a variety of cheeses to find your favorite. Cut small cubes of different cheeses, such as cheddar, muenster, and Swiss, and place them in a plastic bag. Enjoy with whole grain baked crackers. Avoid processed cheese, such as the individually wrapped slices.

Fresh berries are loaded with nutrients and beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants attach to and remove harmful free radicals that can cause cell damage. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are delicious alone or mixed with natural fruit juice for a tasty, healthy fruit salad. Bananas travel well in your purse, briefcase or backpack for a quick snack on the run or at your desk.

If you want a more substantial snack between lunch and dinner, try apple slices (or celery sticks) with peanut butter. Pack some apple slices and a travel-size container of peanut butter or place some peanut butter into a small plastic container. Spread the peanut butter on the apple slices or scoop up the tasty, protein rich peanut butter using the apple slice. Apples are rich in vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Peanut butter provides extra fiber.

Eating healthier snacks does not mean you have to sacrifice flavor and texture. Create a delicious dip by layering black beans, guacamole and low-fat or fat-free sour cream for a low-fat, healthy snack filled with flavor. Shred some low-fat cheddar cheese on top for extra taste without adding too many extra calories. Scoop the dip with low-fat baked tortilla chips.

Potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Baked potato skins can be a healthy, tasty snack if you avoid loading them up with high-calorie, high-fat toppings. Top baked potato skins with low-fat cheese, low-fat or fat-free sour cream, tomatoes, chives or even olives. Three or four potato skins will satisfy your snack craving and hold you over until dinner time.

Even potato chips can be a healthy snack. You can make your own healthy potato chips by frying thinly sliced potatoes in olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and you have a delicious, healthy snack. If you don’t have time to make your own, select baked, not fried, potato chips. Your local health food store probably carries a natural potato chip without preservatives or additives.

 

Add More Whole Foods to Your Diet

Photo credit: Public Domain via Wikimedia CommonsThe phrase “whole foods” refers to foods that are raw, unprocessed or as close to nature as possible. Whole foods include whole grains, whole raw fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed chicken and meats. It is easier to improve your diet by replacing processed foods with natural, whole foods than you might think. Whole foods are generally lower in calories and carbohydrates than highly processed foods such as frozen dinners and fast food. Switching from processed to whole foods means meal preparation will take a little more planning, but your health and your waist line will thank you.

Add more whole foods to your regular diet by replacing highly processed white flour with whole grains. Instead of white bread, choose whole wheat, oat and bran breads. Opt for fresh or frozen whole fruits and vegetables instead of canned. The canning process includes cooking and adding preservatives. Many canned fruits and vegetables have added sugar or sodium. The canning process also removes beneficial phytochemicals and nutrients that your body needs for good health. Buy fresh or frozen as opposed to canned vegetables and fruits, so that you can enjoy all the benefits of eating vegetables.

Pass by the convenience foods, such as frozen macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and frozen meatloaf in the freezer section. These foods are usually high in calories, carbohydrates and are loaded with sodium and preservatives. Fresh, skinless chicken breasts baked or grilled with whole wheat rolls, fresh vegetables or a salad makes an excellent whole food dinner. Forget the instant mashed potatoes that are loaded with preservatives and other chemicals. Choosing long grain and wild rice as a side dish is another way to add whole foods to your diet.

Beans, rice and legumes can replace high-calorie side dishes, such as macaroni and cheese and instant mashed potatoes. As for potatoes, they are an excellent whole food. If you don’t have time to peel, cook and whip your own potatoes, a baked (sweet) potato is just as delicious and takes less preparation time. Top your baked potato with low-fat sour cream and some fresh chopped green onions for delicious side dish. Many supermarkets offer fresh fish and other seafood. Select local fish or fish that is flown in daily. Fresh fish can be a little more expensive than the fish in the freezer, but one taste of fresh grilled perch or shrimp will convince you it’s worth the price. A salad with a mixture of lettuces, spinach, radishes, carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes is the perfect way to start any whole foods meal.

Many of the preservatives we consume come from snack foods and sodas. Rather than potato chips and snack crackers, satisfy your snack urge with fresh sliced apples, bananas, grapes and berries. You can also enjoy raisins, nuts and other dried fruits. Keep some banana and apple chips in your desk for a quick, naturally sweet snack. Blend up a berry smoothie with fresh berries, ice and 100 percent fruit juice for a refreshing whole foods treat. Keep a bowl of fresh apples, oranges, and bananas on the counter for a healthy, quick after work or after school snack. Tea, especially green tea, is a refreshing alternative to sugary soda. Toss the cold breakfast cereals and fill your pantry with whole grain cereals instead. Whole oats, wheat germ and quinoa are healthy, whole food breakfast choices. Add fresh fruit for extra flavor and nutrients. Avoid using processed sugar. Sweeten your morning oats with honey or natural maple syrup.

 

Feel Better With These Five Healthy Foods

Photo credit: Jack Dykinga, U.S. Department of Agriculture [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With so many food choices, how do you know whether the foods you are eating are not only contributing to your nutritional needs, but are also playing a role in how you feel? The food you eat has a direct impact on your health. Some foods have specific health benefits, such as improving your skin and hair or helping ease digestive problems. Many of the foods you eat every day not only fuel your body, they help to alleviate health conditions. Fresh foods with few or no preservatives are best for your body. There are lots of choices, but here are five delicious foods that can help improve your health.

Chicken is a healthy food that contains not only protein but a number of essential vitamins and trace elements. Chicken is a good source of the B vitamins, B12, B6, and B3. People who have low energy despite eating carbohydrates may not be getting enough vitamin B. Vitamin B doesn’t give you energy, but helps your body extract energy from the carbohydrates and protein that you eat. In addition to helping your body extract energy from carbs, the nutrients in chicken can help your body maintain healthy red blood cells and avoid anemia.

How many times did your mother tell you to eat your broccoli? There’s a good reason she encouraged you to eat green foods, such as broccoli and spinach. Broccoli and spinach are rich in iron, and vitamins A, C, and vitamin E. These vitamins help improve blood health and boost your immune system. Raw vegetables provide the best source of these nutrients, but you can benefit from cooked vegetables too. Avoid overcooking vegetables. Overcooking can break down the nutrients making them unusable by your cells. Steaming vegetables brings out the flavor without destroying important nutrients.

Bananas are quite possibly the most perfect snack. They are naturally sweet, smooth in texture and rich in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 affects mood and can help you have a sense of well-being. Bananas are great alone, in fruit salads or in smoothies and shakes. Try some sliced bananas in a bowl of plain low-fat yogurt. Slice up some bananas on whole grain cereal with low-fat milk for a delicious, nutritious breakfast or anytime snack. The natural sugar in bananas also boosts your energy level.

Those with a sweet tooth will be happy to hear that dark chocolate has health benefits besides improving mood and satisfying a sugar craving. Tryptophan and magnesium are beneficial trace elements found in dark chocolate that can help you feel calm and improve your mood. Dark chocolate can help to lower cholesterol, which reduces your risk of developing heart disease and coronary artery disease.

You have probably heard a lot about the benefits of eating whole grains. It’s all true. Whole grains, such as whole wheat and oats, contain a trace element called selenium, which can help alleviate the symptoms associated with depression. They are also loaded with fiber to help you feel fuller for longer and improve digestion. Switching from processed flours to whole grains does not mean you will be eating cardboard. Whole grains breads and muffins are delicious alone or with natural fruit spreads.

 

 

The 5 Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there has been a dramatic increase in chronic diseases and other health problems worldwide. In fact, WHO projects that by 2020 chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide. Therefore, a greater emphasis has been placed on practicing healthier lifestyle habits, such as choosing more nutritious foods, getting daily exercise, and managing stress. There are lots of healthy food choices available, but these 5 healthiest foods will get you off to a great start on your health journey.

Vegetables:  You probably remember your parents saying, “eat your veggies!” Well, your parents were right. Vegetables contain a plethora оf vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients аnd dietary fibers, whісh offer numerous health benefits. Experts recommend аt lеаѕt five servings оf vegetables every day to keep our immune system strong, so we can have a better chance at keeping illnesses and diseases at bay. All vegetables are excellent for your health. Spinach, for example, is chock full of calcium, vitamin A аnd C, magnesium, riboflavin, and iron, giving your skin and hair a nice, healthy glow. Steamed broccoli is another nutrient-rich veggie that provides lots of potassium, fiber, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and so much more. Eating plenty of leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, arugula and collard greens, is especially advantageous because they are nutritional powerhouses filled with chlorophyll, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. They are most nutritious when lightly steamed or raw.

Fruits:  Studies have found thаt people whо eat fruits regularly are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease. Amоng thе different types оf fruits, thе two healthiest fruits that you should include in your diet аrе berries аnd citrus fruits. Berries, such as raspberries, strawberries аnd blueberries, аrе high іn disease- fighting antioxidants that help to protect our cells from free radical damage. Berries can help improve memory function, too. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes, provide a rich source of vitamin C, fiber, phytochemicals аnd flavonoids. Consumption оf thеѕе fruits may also lower cholesterol, high blood pressure, improve heart health, аnd may prevent thе development оf colon аnd stomach cancer. You don’t have to stick to just berries аnd citrus fruits either. Othеr fruits like red grapes, apples, apricots, plums, and papaya are also very beneficial to your health.

Whоle Grains:  Whоle grains include foods like oatmeal, millet, quinoa, barley and wild rice. Most whole grain foods are abundant in fiber, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium, to name a few. Regular consumption of whole grains can help reduce your risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The dietary fiber in whole grains will also help you feel full faster and longer, as well as help prevent constipation and aid digestion.

Nuts:  Anоthеr food having аn important place оn thіѕ list іѕ nuts. Nuts, еѕресіаllу almonds аnd walnuts, provide аn excellent source оf protein and omega-3 fatty acids. According to Mayo Clinic, people who eat nuts can lower their bad cholesterol, or LDL’s, thus improve overall heart health.   Thеу аlѕо possess vitamins B аnd E, monounsaturated fats, calcium, potassium аnd fiber. Try a handful of nuts as a between meal snack to help curb your appetite until the next meal.

Yogurt: Yogurt contains healthy bacteria, called probiotics, which can benefit your health by enhancing your digestive and immune system wellness. Yogurt is also rich in calcium and vitamin D, both essential for bone health. And, according to a study published in the January 2005 issue of the “International Journal of Obesity,” yogurt may speed weight loss because of its fat-burning properties and low-calorie content. Therefore, it’s important to choose low-fat, low-sugar yogurt to reap the health benefits without packing on the pounds. Eating yogurt may also help treat certain intestinal infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and diarrhea, especially after receiving antibiotic treatment, according to Mayo Clinic.

Beachbody

 

Debunking Diet Myths

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It can be difficult for some people to lose weight. When they don’t reach their weight-loss goals as fast as they think they should, some may be willing to try just about anything to lose weight. There is no shortage of fad diets and myths that can actually harm your efforts to eat a healthy diet and lose weight. There are no quick fixes for weight loss. The healthiest, safest way to lose weight and get fit is exercise and a nutritious diet.
One myth that persists is that you have to eat a low-carbohydrate, zero fat diet to lose weight. A low-fat diet with healthy carbohydrates and heart healthy fats combined with exercise can help aid in your weight loss efforts. Calories are the real diet busters. To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Carbohydrates are an important part of your healthy diet. The USDA dietary guidelines suggests at least 1/2 of your food plate should contain fruits and vegetables, a little more than 1/4 of your plate should be whole grains and the final portion of your plate should be protein. The nutrients from all of these food groups are important for a healthy body. You have to reduce caloric intake and increase exercise to lose weight.

Some people still believe that skipping meals is a good way to lose weight. Skipping meals or fasting is not a good way to lose weight. When you skip meals, you will be more hungry and may over-eat at the next meal. Skipping lunch may cause you to eat more than you normally would at dinner. Skipping breakfast is a bad idea. Your body has been without food for hours while you were sleeping. Eating breakfast will replenish your nutrient-deprived body and jump-start your metabolism. Some people are able to lose weight by eating 3 small meals plus 2 healthy snacks throughout the day instead of 3 larger meals. It is also a myth that one type of food can help you lose weight. For example, grapefruit has been touted as a magic weight loss food because it is claimed to speed up the metabolism. Grapefruit is a healthy, vitamin-rich food, but eating a lot of grapefruit will not cause the fat to melt. Only a healthy diet and exercise really works. 

Another popular myth is that you have to give up all the foods and drinks that you love if you are going to lose weight. Again, weight loss requires burning more calories than you take in through your food. You can still have a piece of cake or a soda occasionally. Lasting weight loss requires a commitment to lifestyle changes that include exercise, plenty of sleep and a nutritious diet. Reduce the calories you ingest from sweets and sugary drinks to help reduce your total caloric intake. Include more fiber and whole grains in your diet to help reduce the overall number of calories in your diet. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day to lose weight and get fit.