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Apples: so much variety, so many benefits!

apples

Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith—these are just a small portion of the 7,500 varieties of apples grown around the world. Apples come in all shades of red, green and yellow. With so many different types out there, it may be challenging to decide which apples to buy, especially now that we are in the midst of apple season and plenty of fresh apples are available.

All types of apples are good sources of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with only slight variations in nutritional value. Below is a brief description of some of the most popular apples.

Red Delicious is probably the most recognized apple in this area. When you say ‘apple’ the Red Delicious is often what comes to mind. Red Delicious apples have the highest source of antioxidants and are great defenders against cellular damage.

Fuji apples are sweeter, crisper and have a longer shelf life compared to other varieties. In fact, when refrigerated properly, these apples can last up to a year without spoiling! In addition to their lengthy shelf life, these apples are high in potassium. Potassium is a mineral that acts as an electrolyte in the body and helps to regulate heart rhythm, blood pressure and muscle movements. Golden Delicious and Gala apples are also good sources of potassium.

Granny Smith apples are known for their crispness and tart flavor. While vitamin C is a nutrient found in most fruits and vegetables, Granny Smiths have particularly high levels. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, aids in wound healing and with repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.

Next time you are at the grocery store or farmer’s market, keep an eye out for the varieties of apples that are grown right here in Wisconsin! It is always a good idea to buy local products as they do not have to travel as far and are fresher in taste. Of the types listed above, Gala apples are most likely to be grown locally. Continue Reading »

Packing a safe lunch 101

safelunch

With another school year in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to write about food-safe school lunches. Many parents or kids make school lunches to take to school. Each day their lunches are packed with nutritious foods (I hope!) that are safely wrapped or packaged. Even so, the contents can leak or spill. You may be packing a nutritional lunch, but is it safe? Here are a few tips to keep your little one’s lunchbox clean and healthy.

Washing

  • Before handling any food that will be consumed, wash your hands.
  • Wash any surfaces and utensils you will be using to cut or prepare the food, including counters, cutting boards, plates, knives, etc.
  • Rinse fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, even ones that have tough rinds or skins that won’t be consumed. Dry before packing.
  • While it is preferable to wash soft fruits such as strawberries or blueberries just prior to consumption to avoid wilting, chances are your child will not have a chance to do so at school. To preserve as much of the fruit’s integrity and still provide safe foods for them to eat, wash these and then blot them dry immediately. Put in them in a dry, airtight container.
  • If your child’s lunch bag can be washed, do so on a weekly basis, or more frequently if you notice any stains or spills. If the bag cannot be washed, wipe it with a moist, clean disposable wipe or a disinfectant wipe. Then let it dry.

Continue Reading »

Back-to-school nutrition supplies

nutritionsupplies

Going back to school is a life event that brings a mixture of emotions for parents: relief that the erratic summer schedule is done, sadness at seeing their little ones start school for the first time or enter a new grade level, or pride in seeing their student reach milestones like high school or their first year of college.

My Facebook feed gets filled with school registration photos at this time of year, along with posts from parents stating how proud they are for beating the store rush and buying all of their school supplies a month ago. I was one of them, too. I also stocked up on healthy food items in preparation for packing my daughter’s lunch.

As you’re planning your student’s lunches, consider what would make for nutritious choices that she or he could consume in about 20 minutes that would also keep them full for a while. Below are my go-to choices for my daughter’s lunches this school year: Continue Reading »

Delicious and nutritious: corn – summer’s candy

corn

Zea mays. Maize. Maiz.

All of these terms refer to what we typically call corn. There is perhaps no other food that says ‘summer’ like fresh corn on the cob.

Aside from being delicious, corn has a very important role in the history of the Americas, especially in Mesoamerica, the region that is now known as Mexico and Central America. It was also an integral part of Native American history and cuisine. Although corn is not so much revered as a sacred food today, it is still common in our modern diet. American farmers grow about 40 percent of all corn that is consumed. Much of this comes from the ‘corn belt,’ the region made up of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and parts of Kansas, Missouri and the Dakotas.

Corn comes in varieties of yellow, white, red, pink, black, purple and blue. No matter what color it is, corn contains antioxidants such as carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Antioxidants are substances found in plant foods that help repair the cellular damage that occurs due to environmental pollutants and normal wear and tear of our bodies. They are in effect the “anti-rusting” agents for our cells.

Corn is also an excellent source of fiber, providing an estimated four to five grams of fiber per cup. In addition, it contains vitamins such as B1, B5 and folic acid and has about five to six grams of protein per cup.

Aside from being nutritious, corn is also versatile! It can be steamed and eaten right off the cob or grilled, roasted or included in soups and stews. It can top salads, be ground up and made into tortillas or creamed corn. It can be popped and enjoyed as a snack in the ever popular popcorn that we enjoy so much.

I enjoy eating corn on the cob with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper. How do you enjoy eating/preparing corn?

Tiny gardens: tips for planting container herbs

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Simon and Garfunkel sang a great song about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, but these herbs are also fabulous to grow and use in your meals. While many individuals do not have green space to grow a full-fledged garden, with a little time, effort and love many can be successful at growing container herbs.

Growing herbs such as basil, chives or cilantro in pots allows you to have them close at hand, perhaps right on the kitchen counter or on a window sill, patio or porch. Not only will these herbs provide you with ingredients for your foods, but they will also add greenery to your living space.

Below are a few tips to get you started on growing your container herbs.

  1. Light. Sun is crucial for growth. Most herbs originate from sunny regions and thus will need exposure to sun for at least eight hours a day. If growing the herbs inside, identify your south-facing window and place your containers to receive the most of the sun through that window. If planting outdoors, place in a sunny spot, protected from the wind.
  2. Seeds or plants? Despite the late arrival of spring, you might be better off starting your herb garden from plants. That means you may have to purchase small herb plants that are ready to go outside or be transplanted into a container for growing indoors. Starting from seeds is less expensive, and you can start seeds right in the pot you will be growing them in. However, these should be started two months in advance of spring, in full sun.
  3. Drainage. The container you will be growing your herbs in must have a nice size hole on the bottom so excess water can drain out. The last thing you need is water-drenched herb roots that will end up rotting. Continue Reading »

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