Rhonda: Hello, everyone. Today my guest is Dr. Satchin Panda, who is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, where he studies the body's internal circadian clock, what regulates their circadian clock, and in turn, how this affects a wide variety of processes including our metabolism, our sleeping patterns, and how active we are, and so much more.
Satchin, considering that every single living organism on the planet Earth has this internal biological clock, their circadian clock, can you explain to people who've never heard what a circadian clock is, what it is and why it's so important?
Satchin: Yes, so all lives on this planet evolve under a rotating Earth. So that means for 12 hours, approximately 12 hours they had access to light and for another 12 hours they were in darkness. So, that environment, that changing environment put a tremendous pressure for them to come up with a timing mechanism so that they can anticipate when it's going to be evening or when it's going to be morning so that they can time their activity and sleep accordingly. So that's why almost every organism on this planet have this internal clock that help them anticipate time.
And why this is important is if you think about a diurnal organism, an animal that's active during the daytime, the animal has to anticipate when evening is going to come so that he can rush back to the cave or somewhere, some hiding place. So similarly, just before the dawn, this animal has to wake up before even light hits, and then go out and get the first grub. So that's why there is this tremendous pressure to have this biological clock or internal timing to essentially anticipate what is going to happen.
So for most people, we know when we go to bed, maybe after six to eight hours, we wake up. So our clock actually tells us, "Yes, it's going to be morning. Get up now." So similarly, almost every part of our body has clocks that help us to anticipate when the food is gonna come or when we are supposed to run, when we are supposed to take rest. So, what we are learning is almost every organ in our body has a clock and it helps this organ to be at peak performance, peak activity, at certain time of the day, and then to rest and rejuvenate at the other time of the day.
Rhonda: So, is this internal biological clock, the circadian clock, it's not something that we're just immediately born with, right? It's not something that just...
Satchin: Yes. So when we are born, we, kind of…when babies are born, they actually don't have this daily 24 hours rhythm in activity or sleep. They don't to bed for six or seven hours. So what we suspect is although they have a clock, those clocks are not wired together. And at the same time, babies also need a lot of food, because that's their growth phase. So, during the first maybe four to six months, the babies wake up in every three to four hours, cry, eat a little bit, and go back to sleep, and then wake up again, and do that.
Then after 8 to 12 weeks, they actually begin to have some kind of consolidated sleep. So they go to sleep and wake up at the right time, wake up after a few hours, but it's not tied to light-dark cycle. So they kind of drift. So that's the phase many parents may not notice because we now live in a very artificial environment, but that's the time when there is a clock but it's not tied to outside light and dark cycle. So around six months of age, that's when the whole development process and the clock is functional, it's tied to light-dark cycle, it's wired properly, so the babies go to bed, hopefully, in the evening and then sleep for nine to ten hours, wake up. So when we are born we do have clocks, but they are not connected together until about four to six months of age.
Rhonda: Oh, interesting. And you mentioned...so there's, there's clocks in all of our organs and there's different…your work, you've done a lot of research on what regulates these different clocks.
Rhonda: There's a master regulator clock, and there's other clocks in different organs. Maybe you can explain. I read somewhere that something between 10% to 15% of the entire protein-coding human genome is actually regulated by these circadian clocks, and anywhere between around, like, 40% to 50% of those genes are actually involved in metabolism.
Rhonda: So, there's, there's a wide variety of processes that are regulated by these clocks.
Rhonda: Maybe can you explain a little bit about the central master clock and...
Rhonda: ...what regulates that?
Satchin: [laughs] Yeah. So this is a field of study that is actually not driven by a disease but pure curiosity. So for a long time, people thought that there might be a master clock in the brain because we always connect circadian clock to sleep-wake cycle. And fortunately, there was actually a master clock. And in fact, almost 40, 45 years ago, people who are working on different parts of the brain…because at that time, 40 years ago, people thought that different parts of the brain regulate different behavior. So they are defined like cubic millimeter area of brain that regulates something.
So we're systemically taking out parts of the brain in mouse, rodents, and different larger rodents, and then figure out that when they hit this small part of the brain called suprachiasmatic nucleus, so that means we know that our eyes send optic nerves that crisscross and there is a part of the brain called optic chiasma, so it's above the optic chiasma. So that's why suprachiasmatic nucleus. So that's...
Rhonda: Say that 10 times fast. [laughs]
Satchin: Yes [laughs]. Suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN, it's composed of around, say, 100,000 neurons, I guess, in humans, really small, maybe one millimeter by one millimeter. That's the size of this brain part. If you remove that brain part in a hamster, then this hamster doesn't, will not have any sense of time and go to sleep at random time and will wake up after two or three hours and it continues. But what is most exciting is if we take SCN from another hamster and transplant, it's like a brain transplant experiment, then this hamster will get all the rhythms back.
That's the earliest example of neural transplant transferring behavior from one animal to another animal. And that essentially established that there is part of the brain that accesses master circadian oscillator or circadian clock because it orchestrates this daily rhythm in waking up and going to sleep. And just imagine, only when we are awake, we eat, or we exercise. So that's why all other organs related to eating, for example, our gut, our liver, our fat, all of them are driven by this feeding behavior. Similarly, our muscle is driven by when we run. So that's how the SCN acts as the master circadian oscillator. So if we damage the SCN then we lose all circadian rhythm.
So what happens in some of the neurodegenerative disease, like very advanced stage of Alzheimer's disease dementia, if the SCN, this part of the brain is affected, then people lose their sense of time in terms of when they go to bed or when they stay awake. So this presents slowly, they turn into a state where they don't have a sense of day or night. They stay awake throughout the night and may be sleepy throughout the day. So that's why this master clock is so much important for our health.
Rhonda: And that might also have a feed-forward loop because then, you know, if your master clock is thrown off and you're awake when you're supposed to be sleeping and sleeping when you're supposed to be awake, that's also been shown to affect hippocampus and long-term potentiation. So, you know, you've got this, sort of feed-forward loop. But specifically with regards to the, the master clock, light is what regulates this master.
Cabbage has a long history of use both as a food and a medicine. Prior to the discovery of Vitamin C, sauerkraut (a dish made from fermented cabbage) was treasured by Dutch sailors, who consumed it during extended exploration voyages as they knew it would prevent scurvy. Researchers have observed that cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, are included among the vegetables that contain the largest concentrations of glucosinolate phytonutrients, compounds that are well established to increase the liver's ability to produce enzymes that neutralize potentially toxic substances. Cabbage is an ideal food to add to your life, not only because it is high in nutrients, but also because it is low in calories, making it great for weight control: one cup of cabbage contains only 44 calories.
If you enjoy cabbage, be sure to include it as one the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis in order to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1 1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy cabbage and other vegetables from the cruciferous family 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
In order to select the freshest cabbage with the best taste, look for heads that are firm, heavy for their size, and dense with shiny, crisp, colorful leaves free of cracks, bruises, and blemishes. By selecting the freshest cabbage, you will also enjoy cabbage with the best taste and a better chance of high nutritional value. Red cabbage has much more flavor and six times more antioxidants than green cabbage. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown varieties when possible.
Avoid purchasing cabbage that has severe damage to the outer leaves as this is suggestive of worm damage or decay that may reside in the inner core as well. There should be only a few outer loose leaves attached to the stem. If not, it may be an indication of undesirable texture and taste. Avoid buying precut cabbage, either halved or shredded, since once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its valuable vitamin C content, and glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) is converted to sulforaphane (a highly reactive isothiocyanate that has been observed to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation by activating the Nrf2 transcription factor).
It is encouraged to consume kale as soon as possible after purchasing it for the most flavor and nutritional benefits. The longer you keep it the more nutrients you lose. Prevent cabbage from turning yellow, losing its sweet flavor and nutrients, and becoming limp and bitter. To keep it fresh, store cabbage no more than 10 days.
Many factors affect the shelf life of cabbage. Respiration rate is one of them. Cabbage continues to respire (break down sugars and release carbon dioxide) even after being harvested. Reducing the storage temperature reduces the respiration rate. Store cabbage within a airtight container in the refrigerator.
While whole-head cabbage can be stored for 2 weeks, a partly cut cabbage should be tightly covered and kept for no more than 3-5 days. Red and green cabbage will keep for about 2 weeks if stored properly, while Savoy cabbage will keep for about 1 week.
Rinse under cold running water before removing the thick fibrous outer leaves and cut the cabbage into quarters. No need to rinse after cutting because the interior of cabbage has never been exposed to the outside environment.
Cutting cabbage into slices of equal thickness will help it cook more evenly. Because thinly sliced cabbage cooks more quickly, it is recommended to cut cabbage into 1/8-inch slices. Before slicing it, first quarter it and remove the core to make the process easier. Let slices sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking to bring out their hidden flavor and nutritional benefits for maximum enjoyment. Since phytonutrients in the cabbage react with carbon steel and the leaves turn black, use a stainless steel knife to cut.
Cabbage is a hearty vegetable, which should be cooked just long enough to soften its fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Because cabbage is such a valuable food that can make a fantastic contribution to our health, it is important to cook it properly and preserve it's panoply of nutrients. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in cabbage.
The most nutritious way to cook cabbage is to sauté it for only 5 minutes. Use exact cooking times, and avoid using high heat. Vegetables, such as cabbage, can continue to cook if they are left in the pan after the heat is turned off. Therefore it is suggested to immediately remove cabbage from the pan to prevent overcooking.
Mateljan, G. (2018). Cabbage. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=19 [Accessed 5 May 2018].
Mercola, J. (2018). What is Cabbage Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: https://foodfacts.mercola.com/cabbage.html [Accessed 5 May 2018].
Although botanically classified as a fruit, avocados are typically considered vegetables from a culinary perspective. Avocados are native to Central and South America and have been cultivated since 8,000 BC. Avocados have a smooth, buttery texture and rich, distinctive flavor, and can be enjoyed in a number of ways.
Avocados are a nutrient-dense source of heart-healthy monosaturated fats, like those found in olive oil. Monosaturated fats have been observed as a staple of the Mediterranean diet, which features monosaturated-fat-rich foods such as olives, and nuts. Other healthy fats contained within avocados include phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, both of which have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is slightly soft but should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. If the avocado has a slight neck, rather than being rounded on top, it may have ripened a bit more on the tree and have a richer flavor. A firmer, less mature, green fruit can be ripened at home and may be less likely to have bruises, depending on how it was handled during harvest and transport. The average California Hass avocado weighs between 165-170 grams (about 6 ounces) and has a pebbled dark green or black skin.
As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown avocado when possible. According to EWG's analysis of tests, however, avocados are listed on the Clean Fifteen, a list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues. Avocados have been rated as one of the safest commercial crops in terms of pesticide application, and their thick skin protects the inner fruit from pesticides. Therefore, selecting conventionally produced avocados isn't entirely inimical to one's health, although it doesn't support ethical farming practices.
A firm avocado will ripen in a paper bag or in a fruit basket at room temperature within a two days or so. As the fruit ripens, the skin will turn darker. However, it is not recommended to rely exclusively on color to determine the ripeness of an avocado. Hold the avocado very gently in your palm and begin to press very gently against its surface. A ripe avocado will yield to very gentle pressure, without feeling squishy.
Avocados should not be refrigerated until they are ripe, or unless you are storing a large quantity of them for a period of time. Once ripe, they can be kept refrigerated for up to a week. Loss of some nutrients in avocado—for example, its vitamin C content—is likely to be slowed down through refrigeration. If you are refrigerating a whole avocado, it is best to keep it whole and not slice it in order to avoid browning that occurs when the flesh is exposed to air.
If you have used a portion of a ripe avocado, it is best to store the remainder in the refrigerator. Store in a sealed and reusable glass container. Sprinkling the exposed surface(s) with lemon juice will help to prevent the browning that can occur when the flesh comes in contact with oxygen in the air.
Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Next, take each of the avocado halves and slice lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. The use the "nick and peel" method to peel the avocado. Just take your thumb and index finger to grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, in exactly the same way that you would peel a banana. The final result will be a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh that is richest in carotenoid antioxidants.
You can prevent the natural darkening of the avocado flesh that occurs with exposure to air by sprinkling with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
Avocado should be included as an ingredient in its raw, unheated form. There simply cannot be a better way to preserve the health benefits made possible by avocado's unique fats. If you do plan to use avocado in a recipe that calls for heat, it is recommended that you use the lowest possible temperature and least amount of cooking time that will still work with your particular recipe. The purpose in making this recommendation is to help you minimize damage to avocado's unique fats.
Mateljan, G. (2018). Avocados. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=5 [Accessed 2 Apr. 2018].
Mercola.com. (2018). Avocados? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/avocado.html [Accessed 17 Oct. 2017].
Asparagus is considered nutrient-rich because it contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients. These include vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc, manganese, and selenium. Additionally, asparagus also contains valuable amounts of the omnipotent antioxidant glutathione as well as inulin, a unique type of polysaccharide that promotes digestive health. High in nutrients and low in calories, asparagus is an ideal food to consume.
Some people notice that their urine has a strong asparagus-like odor after eating this vegetables. Yet, this is not a dangerous side effect. The development of urine odor following consumption of asparagus is a far more complicated issue than expected. Researchers have failed to come up with any simple explanation of this asparagus and urine odor phenomenon.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
Researchers have identified nearly 100 phytonutrient compounds in asparagus, including, but not limited to, the following compounds:
In order to select the freshest asparagus, look for spears that are firm with a bright green or purple color and tips that are closed. By selecting the freshest asparagus, you will also enjoy the best flavor and a better chance of high nutritional value. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown asparagus when possible.
Avoid asparagus with yellowish spears that appear to be on the verge of flowering and those with stems that are dried out and cracked at the base or are wrinkled and feel hallow; this usually indicates they are old and have begun to lose their nutritional value. Always check that the asparagus smells fresh and does not have a questionable odor.
Medium-sized asparagus is the best, as very thin spears can be easily overcooked, and very thick spears are woody, tough, and stringy and often require peeling and more time to prepare.
For the best flavor and nutrition, asparagus should be enjoyed soon after they are purchased. The longer you keep it the more nutrients you are likely to lose. Help prevent asparagus from becoming limp and losing its sweet flavor. It is not recommended to store it for longer than 3-4 days maximum.Wrapping the ends of the asparagus in a damp paper or cloth towel helps offset asparagus' very high respiration rate during refrigerator storage.
Many factors affect the shelf life of asparagus. A colder temperature will help minimize the rate of respiration and thereby help keep asparagus fresh for a longer period of time. Place asparagus in an airtight storage container and seal tightly, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Do not wash asparagus before refrigeration.
Asparagus is very easy to prepare. Clean the asparagus by rinsing well under cold running water before cutting.
Thin asparagus does not require peeling. Asparagus with thick stems requires extra work to prepare. The stems of thick asparagus require peeling because they are usually tough and stringy. In this case, peel the tough outer skin of the bottom portion of the stem with a vegetable peeler.
Cut or snap off the bottom of each individual stalk. The ends tend to break naturally where the woody portion of the spear ends and the tender part begins. This is usually where the color changes from off-white to green. Remove the bottom part of all of the asparagus stems at one time by cutting with a knife while the asparagus is still in a bunch. The tough woody ends can be used to make broth for soup. Thick asparagus stems should be sliced in half lengthwise. This provides greater surface area, which will help it cook more quickly. Spears should be uniform in size so that they will cook evenly.
Cutting off the woody ends and placing the spears in a glass of ice water for a few minutes before cooking can help make limp asparagus more crisp.
Asparagus is a delicate vegetable, which should be cooked just long enough to soften its fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in asparagus. The most nutritious way to cook asparagus is to sauté them for 3 minutes. Use exact cooking times, and avoid using high heat. Vegetables, such as asparagus, can continue to cook if they are left in the pan after the heat is turned off. Therefore it is suggested to immediately remove asparagus from the pan to prevent overcooking.
Mateljan, G. (2018). Asparagus. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=12 [Accessed 8 March. 2018].
Mercola, J. (2018). What is Asparagus Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: https://foodfacts.mercola.com/asparagus.html [Accessed 8 March 2018].
Like other cruciferous vegetables, kale is descendant of the wild cabbage, a plant thought to have originated in Asia and to have been brought to Europe by groups of Celtic wanderers. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have grown kale. Although most varieties of Kale have been grown for thousands of years, there are newer varieties, such as Lacinato Kale, with even more robust flavor.
A growing body of evidence confirms that cruciferous vegetables, like kale, contain the largest concentrations of health-promoting sulfur-containing phytonutrients that increase the body's ability to produce enzymes that neutralize potentially toxic substances. Kale is also rich in the powerful phytonutrient antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that protect the lens of the eye. Kale is an ideal food to add to your lifestyle not only because it is high in nutrients, but also because it is low on calories, making it great choice for weight control.
If you enjoy kale, be sure to include it as one the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis in order to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1 1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy kale and other vegetables from the cruciferous family 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
According to one study, among all the foods involved in the research, kale was shown to have the highest protective effect against bladder cancer (Radosavljević et al., 2005). Kale has a very impressive number of flavonoids, each with its own healthy job to do in your body, including 32 phenolic compounds and three hydroxycinnamic acids, which can help keep cholesterol levels within the normal range and scavenge harmful free radicals in your body (Nardini et al., 1995). Two of the most important flavonoids kale has in abundance are kaempferol and quercetin.
In order to select the freshest kale with the best taste, look for varieties that have firm, bright, deeply colored green leaves and moist hardy stems. Smaller leaves tend to be more tender and milder flavor that larger leaves. By selecting the best tasting kale, you will also enjoy kale with the highest nutritional value. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown varieties when possible.
It is encouraged to consume kale as soon as possible after purchasing it for the most flavor and nutritional benefits. Prevent kale from becoming limp, turning yellow, becoming bitter, and losing its sweet flavor and nutritional value. The longer it it stored, the more nutrients that are lost. It is not recommended to store kale for more than 5 days. Kale continues to respire (break down sugars and release carbon dioxide) even after being harvested. Reducing the storage temperature reduces the respiration rate. Store kale within a airtight container in the refrigerator.
Discard damaged and discolored leaves. Rinse kale under cold running water before cutting. To preserve nutrients, do not soak kale or its water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water.
When cutting kale, stack the leaves, cutting the leafy portion into 1/8-inch slices or as thin as possible. Save the stems after the leafy portion ends for soup. Thinly slicing kale will help it cook more quickly. After cutting, let sit for 5 minutes before cooking.
Kale is a hearty vegetable, which should be cooked just long enough to soften its fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Because kale is such a valuable food that can make a fantastic contribution to our health, it is important to cook it properly and preserve it's panoply of nutrients. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in kale. It should be noted that the effectiveness of several antioxidants and vitamins in kale are diminished when cooked (Sikora and Bodziarczyk, 2012).
The most nutritious way to cook kale is a quick-steam at roughly 212 F for only 5 minutes. Use exact cooking times, and avoid using high heat to get water to a rapid boil and full steam. Vegetables, such as kale, can continue to cook if they are left in the pot after the heat is turned off. Therefore it is suggested to immediately remove kale from the pot to prevent overcooking.
Mateljan, G. (2018). Kale. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=38 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].
Mercola, J. (2018). What is Kale Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: https://foodfacts.mercola.com/kale.html [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].
Nardini, M., D'Aquino, M., Tomassi, G., Gentili, V., Di Felice, M. and Scaccini, C. (1995). Inhibition of human low-density lipoprotein oxidation by caffeic acid and other hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 19(5), pp.541-552. https://doi.org/10.1016/0891-5849(95)00052-Y
Radosavljević, V., Janković, S., Marinković, J. and Dokić, M. (2005). Diet and Bladder Cancer: A Case–Control Study. International Urology and Nephrology, 37(2), pp.283-289. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11255-004-4710-8
Sikora, E. and Bodziarczyk, I. (2012). Composition and antioxidant activity of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala) raw and cooked. Acta Scientiarum Polonorum Technologia Alimentaria, [online] 11(3), pp.239-48. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22744944 [Accessed 18 Feb. 2018].
The nutrient richness of green beans is partially a reflection of the wealth of antioxidant carotenoid phytonutrients - including lutein, beta-carotene, violaxanthin, and neoxanthin - that they contain. They are also a concentrated source of vitamin K, which is essential for bone mineralization. They are also a particularly helpful food for providing us with the mineral silicon, important for bone health and healthy formation of connective tissue.
Green beans are one of only a few varieties of beans that are typically eaten fresh. Commonly referred to as string beans, green beans are delicious are versatile - great as a side dish or incorporated into a salad.
One concern of green beans is that they are a concentrated source of oxalates, which when accumulated may place the kidneys, of certain individuals, at risk of calcium oxalate kidney stone formation due to supersaturation of urine with calcium oxalate salts.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
Researchers have discovered that flavonoids to play an important role in the prevention of diseases like cancer and heart disease, while offering a wide range of pharmacological benefits, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, neuroprotective, and antidiabetic effects, to name a few (M. Calderon-Montano et al., 2011). Emphasizing the "green" in green beans, another study shows that green and yellow vegetables may lower the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis (Adams et al., 2006).
Selecting Green Beans
In order to select the most flavorful green beans, look for the ones that are sold loose so you can sort through them and select the best quality beans. The freshest beans feel smooth, have a vibrant green color, are firm, and "snap" when bent. To ensure uniform cooking, aim to select green beans of similar size. Seeking the freshest green beans will increase the likelihood of higher nutritional content. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown green beans when possible.
Avoid green beans that have brown spots or areas that are soft, bruised, wrinkled, or have tough skin. Beans that are beginning to turn yellow are no longer fresh.
If you are unable to obtain fresh green beans, many valuable nutrients can still be obtained from green beans that have been frozen or canned. Fresh green beans are ideal.
Storing Green Beans
For the best flavor and nutrition, green beans should be enjoyed soon after they are purchased. Prevent them from becoming limp and yellow. The longer you keep them the more nutrients and flavor you are likely to lose. It is not recommended to store green beans for longer than 7 days. Many factors affect the shelf life of green beans. A colder temperature will help minimize the rate of respiration and thereby help keep green beans fresh for a longer period of time. Place green beans in an airtight storage bag and wrap the bag tightly, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Do not wash green beans before refrigeration.
If you do not have access to fresh green beans on a year-round basis, and you desire to freeze green beans, it is recommended to first steam them for 2-3 minutes. Remove them from heat and let them cool thoroughly before placing them in freezer bags and storing them in your freezer. Green beans are able to retain many of the valuable nutrients for 3-6 months after freezing.
Preparing Green Beans
Green beans should be properly cleaned and cut to help ensure they will have the best flavor. Rinse well in a colander under running water after cutting off the end that was attached to stem. It is preferred to cut of the end that is attached to the stem. Take a handful of beans and align the ends that were attached by to the stems by tapping them into alignment with the knife and removing them with one cut.
Cooking Green Beans
To maximize the nutritional benefits, green beans should be cooked just long enough to soften its fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in green beans. The most nutritious way to cook green beans is a quick-steam at roughly 212 F for only 7 minutes. Use exact cooking times, and avoid using high heat to get water to a rapid boil and full steam. Vegetables, such as green beans, can continue to cook if they are left in the pot after the heat is turned off. Therefore it is suggested to immediately remove green beans from the pot to prevent overcooking.
Adams, M., Golden, D., Chen, H., Register, T. and Gugger, E. (2006). A Diet Rich in Green and Yellow Vegetables Inhibits Atherosclerosis in Mice. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(7), pp.1886-1889. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.7.1886
M. Calderon-Montano, J., Burgos-Moron, E., Perez-Guerrero, C. and Lopez-Lazaro, M. (2011). A Review on the Dietary Flavonoid Kaempferol. Mini-Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry, 11(4), pp.298-344. https://doi.org/10.2174/138955711795305335
Mateljan, G. (2017). Green Beans [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=134 [Accessed 29 Jan. 2018].
Mercola.com. (2017). What Are Green Beans Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/green-beans.html [Accessed 29 Jan. 2018].
The ancient Egyptians believed garlic was not only bestowed with sacred qualities but enhanced endurance and strength. Throughout the millennia, garlic has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Its unique taste and aroma is like no other.
Garlic is considered a superfood because in addition to it being a rich source of many vitamins and minerals, it also contains unique sulfur compounds that contribute to its health benefits. These include thiosulfinates (such as allicin), sulfoxides (such as alliin), and dithiins (such as ajoene), phytonutrients that have antioxidant, heart-healthy, and anti-microbial properties.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
Researchers administered raw extracts of garlic to rodents and observed significantly reduced levels in cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. Raw garlic has a profound affect on these levels, compared to boiled garlic. These results suggest that garlic may play an important role in preventing atherosclerosis (Thomson, Al-Qattan, Bordia, & Ali, 2006).
Selected the most flavorful garlic by looking for bulbs that are plump. Gently squeeze the bulb between your fingers; fresh garlic will feel firm with no trace of dampness. Selecting large cloves helps to make peeling easier. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown garlic when possible.
Avoid garlic that is soft, shriveled, and moldy or has begun to sprout. These may be indications of decay that will cause excess waste and inferior flavor and texture.
Although garlic in flake, powder, or paste form may be more conventient, you will find that it has less flavor (it also has lost some of its health-promoting nutrients).
For the best flavor and nutrition, garlic should be enjoyed soon after it is purchased. The best way to store garlic is in an uncovered or loosely covered container in a cool dark place away from heat and bright light. This will help minimize its respiration rate and help keep garlic fresh for a longer period of time. Do not refrigerate garlic since moisture in the refrigerator will cause garlic to spoil. Refrigerating garlic causes it to soften and sprout, producing a bitter taste. Be sure to inspect the bulb frequently and remove any cloves that appear to be dried out or moldy. Once you break the head of the garlic and use some of the cloves, its shelf life becomes greatly reduced, and it will last only up to two weeks.
The first step to using garlic is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is place the bulb on a cutting board and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This is cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.
Do throw away sprouted garlic. If you don't want to use the sprouts, you can cut them off and just use the clove.
If you see spots on the surface of the cloves, it is best to cut them off as they will have a bitter flavor. If you don't mind the bitterness, go ahead and use them as they are.
Garlic is an important seasoning that adds aroma to your food and extra flavor and nutrition to your meal. Garlic is most pungent when eaten raw and milder when quickly cooked. For those individuals who cannot tolerate raw garlic, it is recommended to added chopped garlic to your vegetables while they are cooking. To help preserve flavor and nutrition, add garlic towards the end of the cooking process.
Both flavor and nutrition can diminish as garlic cooks. Too much heat for too long will reduce the activity of the health-promoting sulfur compounds that have formed when you let the garlic sit for up to 5-10 minutes before cooking (Mukherjee et al., 2009).
Bianchini, F. and Vainio, H. (2001). Allium Vegetables and Organosulfur Compounds: Do They Help Prevent Cancer?. Environmental Health Perspectives, 109(9), pp.893-902. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11673117
Goncagul, G. and Ayaz, E. (2010). Antimicrobial Effect of Garlic (Allium sativum). Recent Patents on Anti-Infective Drug Discovery, 5(1), pp.91-93. https://doi.org/10.2174/157489110790112536
Mateljan, G. (2017). Garlic. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=60 [Accessed 2 Dec. 2018].
Mercola.com. (2017). What Is Garlic Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/garlic.html [Accessed 2 Dec. 2018].
Mukherjee, S., Lekli, I., Goswami, S. and Das, D. (2009). Freshly Crushed Garlic is a Superior Cardioprotective Agent than Processed Garlic. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 57(15), pp.7137-7144. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf901301w
Thomson, M., Al-Qattan, K. K., Bordia, T., & Ali, M. (2006). Including garlic in the diet may help lower blood glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides. The Journal of Nutrition, 136(3), 800–802. Retrieved from http://jn.nutrition.org/content/136/3/800S.full
For thousands of years, the therapeutic value of Shiitake mushrooms has been prized in Asian cultures as a symbol of longevity. An excellent source of copper, selenium, and pantothenic acid, this fungi has been observed to carry many unique health-promoting compounds that may responsible for many of claimed health benefits. These compounds include eritadenine, a cholesterol-lowering compound, and lentinan, an immune-stimulating phytonutrient.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
Selecting Shiitake Mushrooms
Select the freshest Shiitake mushrooms by looking for the ones that are firm, plump, clean, and dry. Look for caps with a darker color because they have a richer flavor, yet this is also an indication that they have already been stored for a longer period of time and should be used as soon as possible. By selecting the freshest Shiitake mushrooms, you will also enjoy mushrooms with the best taste and a better chance of high nutritional value. Avoid Shiitake mushrooms that are wrinkled or have wet slimy spots.
Storing Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are very perishable and do not store well. For the most flavor and nutrients, enjoy your Shiitake mushrooms soon after purchasing them. The longer you keep them the more nutrients you lose. Prevent them from becoming soft, limp, or wet. It is not recommended to store Shiitake mushrooms longer than 5 days. A colder temperature will help minimize the rate of respiration and thereby help keep Shiitake mushrooms fresh for a longer period of time. Do not wash Shiitake mushrooms before refrigeration.
Preparing Shiitake Mushrooms
The best way to clean Shiitake mushrooms is to wipe but not wash them. Mushrooms are very porous and will quickly absorb water and become soggy if washed. The best was to clean Shiitake mushrooms, without sacrificing their texture and taste, is to clean them without water. Either use a mushroom brush or simply wipe them with a damp towel. To cut Shiitake mushrooms, lay them upside down and cut off the stem, and then slice.
Cooking Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are delicate. It is advised to cook them just long enough to soften their fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in Shiitake mushrooms. For optimal results, the most nutritious way to cook Shiitake mushrooms is to sauté them for only 7 minutes.
Mateljan, G. (2017). Shiitake Mushrooms. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?dbid=122&tname=foodspice [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
Mercola.com. (2017). What Are Shiitake Mushrooms Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/shiitake-mushrooms.html [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
Yaki, K. (2012). [Liver protective effect of Lentinula edodes mycelia(LEM)]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho, 39(7), 1099-102.
Buckwheat is actually not a true grain but a fruit seed that is related to rhubarb. Energizing and nutritious, it is gluten free and has a unique flavor that is stronger than any other grain.
The flavonoid phytonutrients found in buckwheat, such as quercetin and kaempferol, provide powerful antioxidant protection against damage from free radicals. Buckwheat is also a very good source of manganese, a trace mineral necessary to help protect the mitochondria from free-radical scavenging.
Buckwheat can be eaten by people who have celiac disease. This intestinal disease is associated with sensitivity to grains or other foods that contain the protein gluten. Thus, buckwheat can be substituted for gluten-containing grains, such as wheat or rye.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
When selecting buckwheat in bulk, make sure that the bins containing the buckwheat are covered and that the store has a good product turnover to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing buckwheat in bulk or in a packaged container, it is important that no evidence of moisture is present. Buckwheat products like soba noodles often contain wheat, so be sure to read the labels carefully if you are trying to eliminate wheat from your diet. It is recommended to select organically grown buckwheat when possible.
Place buckwheat in an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place. Buckwheat flour should always be stored in the refrigerator, while other buckwheat products should be kept refrigerated if you live in a warm climate or during periods of warmer weather. Stored properly , whole buckwheat can last for 6 months, while the flour will keep fresh for 3 months.
To ensure the best flavor, before cooking buckwheat, rinse it thoroughly under running water, then remove any dirt or debris you may find.
Buckwheat is a favorite side dish that complements almost any meal and also makes a great breakfast cereal. The most nutritious way to cook buckwheat is to use a water to buckwheat ratio of 2 to 1. But if you want your buckwheat to take on more of a porridge-like texture you can use more water (up to 6 parts to 1 part buckwheat) and cook it until the grain becomes very soft.
Mateljan, G. (2017). Buckwheat. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=11 [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
Leeks are nutrient-rich. They contain the flavonoid kaempferol, which has repeatedly been shown to help protect our blood vessel linings from damage, including damage by overly reactive oxygen molecules. Leeks also contain an impressive amount of antioxidant polyphenols. Often overlooked, leeks have a high concentration of the B vitamin foltate, which is present in leeks in one of its bioactive forms (5-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5MTHF). Similar to onions, garlic, shallots, and other allium vegetables, leeks also contain health-protective sulfur-containing phytonutrients. To receive these benefits, research suggests including at least one serving of an allium vegetable in your meal plan everyday.
Although leeks are available throughout the year, they are in season from the fall through the early part of spring when their concentration of nutrients and flavor are highest, and their cost is usually the lowest.
Leeks are considered to have a small amount of oxalates, which when accumulated may place the kidneys, of certain individuals, at risk of calcium oxalate kidney stone formation due to supersaturation of urine with calcium oxalate salts.
Nutrient and Health Benefits
Search for leeks that are firm and straight with dark green leaves and long white necks. They should be between 1/2 and 1 inch in diameter. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown leeks when possible.
Preventing leeks from becoming limp and yellow will help protect nutrients and preserve flavor. Leeks will remain fresh for 1-2 weeks when properly stored.
Properly clean and cut leeks to help ensure they will have the best flavor. After they are cut in half lengthwise, fan out the leeks and rinse again. Do not wash leeks before refrigeration because exposure to water will encourage leeks to spoil.
Similar to onions, leeks are one of the most important seasonings, adding both aroma and nutrition to your meal. It is recommended to cook them just long enough to soften their fibers for better digestion and overall greater enjoyment. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in leeks. For optimal results, the most nutritious way to cook leeks is to sauté them for only 7 minutes.
Mateljan, G. (2017). Leeks. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=26 [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
Mercola, J. (2017). What Are Leeks Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/leeks.html [Accessed 4 Nov. 2017].
Calorie for calorie, leafy green vegetables like spinach, provide more nutrients than many other groups. Spinach is nearly at the top of the list for one of the most nutrient-rich foods.
Spinach is an excellent source of iron, compared to meats, is very low in calories and virtually fat free. It is an excellent source of phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which provide antioxidant protection. Spinach also contains over a dozen different flavonoid phytonutrients that function as anti-inflammatory compounds.
One concern of spinach is that it is a concentrated source of oxalates, which when accumulated may place the kidneys, of certain individuals, at risk of calcium oxalate kidney stone formation due to supersaturation of urine with calcium oxalate salts.
Nutrient and Health Benefits
Choose spinach that has vibrant deep green leaves and stems with no signs of yellowing. The leaves should look fresh and tender, and not be wilted or bruised. Avoid those that have a slimy coating as this is an indication of decay. Spinach, being on the dirty dozen, retains a significant amount of pesticide residue. Therefore, as with all vegetables, it is recommended to select certified organically grown spinach when possible.
Do not wash spinach before storing as the exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place spinach in a plastic storage bag and wrap the bag tightly around the spinach, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. Place in refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to 5 days. Avoid storing cooked spinach as it will not keep very well.
Spinach should be washed very well since the leaves and stems tend to collect sand and soil. Before washing, trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Place the spinach in a large bowl of tepid water and swish the leaves around with your hands as this will allow any dirt to become dislodged. Remove the leaves from the water, empty the bowl, refill with clean water and repeat this process until no dirt remains in the water. Spinach sold in bags has been pre-washed and only needs to be rinsed. If you are going to use it in a salad, dry it using a salad spinner or by shaking it in a colander.
Spinach is only one of three vegetables that is recommended to boil in order to free up acids and allow them to leach into the boiling water; this brings out a sweeter taste from the spinach. Discard the boiling water after cooking; do not drink it or use it for stock because of its acid content. Use a large pot (3 quart) with lots of water and bring to a rapid boil. Add spinach to the boiling water. Bring water back to boil and boil for 1 minute. Remove spinach from pot, press out liquid with a fork and place in a bowl.
Mateljan, G. (2017). Spinach. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=43 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2017].
Mercola.com. (2017). What Is Spinach Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/spinach.html [Accessed 17 Oct. 2017].
Broccoli is synonymous with health. A large, growing body of evidence indicates that cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, have phenomenal health-promoting properties. To receive these health properties, it is recommended to consume broccoli on a regular basis. At a minimum, include 1-2 cups of cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week. Even better from a health standpoint, it is recommended to consume 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables 4-5 times per week.
Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous (Brassica) family of vegetables that also includes cauliflower, kale, collard greens, cabbage, mustard greens, bok choy, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, and many more.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
For best taste, select the freshest broccoli and search for tightly closed floret clusters. Avoid broccoli with florets that are not compact or uniformly colored. They should not be yellow, bruised, or have yellow blossoms; these are indications that they are overly mature. Dark green Broccoli contains more chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, while purple-hued heads of broccoli contain higher concentrations of flavonoids. Search for firm stalks and stems and attached vibrant leaves. Do not purchase broccoli with stalks that are too wide, woody or hollow. As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown broccoli when possible.
It is encouraged to consume broccoli as soon as possible after purchasing it for the most flavor and nutritional benefits. The longer it it stored, the more nutrients that are lost. It is not recommended to store broccoli for more than 7 days. Broccoli continues to respire (break down sugars and release carbon dioxide) even after being harvested. Reducing the storage temperature reduces the respiration rate.
Before cutting broccoli, rinse under cold running water. To minimize potential loss of nutrients, do not soak broccoli or the water-soluble nutrients will leach into the water. Never cut broccoli before washing. Upon cutting broccoli stems as close to the florets as possible, let them sit 5-10 minutes before cooking to bring out more flavor. The stems and leaves can either be enjoyed or saved for soup broth.
To maximize the nutritional benefits, broccoli should be cooked just long enough to soften its fibers. Researchers have well established that improper cooking, too much heat and long cooking times, can easily damage many nutrients present in broccoli. The most nutritious way to cook broccoli is a quick-steam at roughly 212 F for only 4 minutes. Use exact cooking times, and avoid using high heat to get water to a rapid boil and full steam. The stems will be required to cook 2 minutes longer due to fibrous structure. Vegetables, such as broccoli, can continue to cook if they are left in the pot after the heat is turned off. Therefore it is suggested to immediately remove broccoli from the pot to prevent overcooking.
Mateljan, G. (2017). Broccoli. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=9 [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
Mercola.com. (2017). What Is Broccoli Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/broccoli.html [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
The fourth most widely cultivated "vegetable" in the world, the cucumber, related to both the melon and squash families, is technically a fruit. With its mild, refreshing flavor that mixes so well with other garden offerings, cucumbers are actually 90% water, but still manage to provide many valuable health benefits.
Scientifically known as Cucumis sativus, commercial production of cucumbers is usually divided into two types:
Seedless cucumber varieties are attained through a natural parthenogenesis process, which allows them to produce without pollenization. While seedless cucumbers are popular in the marketplace, the seeds do contain a number of valuable nutrients that are sometimes absent in the rest of the fruit.
Nutrients and Health Benefits
Cucumbers provide a unique combination of nutrients. At the top of the phytonutrient list for cucumbers are its cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids. These three types of phytonutrients found in cucumbers provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. Specific phytonutrients provided by cucumbers include:
Together, it has been observed that, the nutrients present in cucumbers are able to:
Since cucumbers can be very sensitive to heat, it is advised to choose those that are displayed in refrigerated cases in the market. Cucumbers should be firm, rounded at their edges, and their color should be a bright medium to dark green. Avoid cucumbers that are yellow, puffy, have sunken water-soaked areas, or are wrinkled at their tips.
As with all vegetables, it is recommended to select organically grown varieties when possible. Repeated research studies on organic foods as a group show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic foods, including cucumbers. In many cases, you may be able to find a local organic grower who sells cucumbers but has not applied for formal organic certification either through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or through a state agency. However, if you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown cucumbers is very likely to be cucumbers that display the USDA organic logo.
Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.
Whenever food is stored, four basic factors affect its nutrient composition:
Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids are good examples of nutrients highly susceptible to heat, and for this reason, their loss from food is very likely to be slowed down through refrigeration.
If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, place it in a tightly sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumber should be used within one or two days.
Rinse cucumbers under cold running water and scrub with a natural bristle brush before slicing. There are many ways to cut cucumbers, depending on how you will be serving them. Peel cucumbers if they are not organically grown. Cut off and discard ends. Cut the cucumber widthwise to achieve the desired thickness. Cucumbers are sometimes salted to draw out excess liquid. Salting cucumbers is not recommended because they become limp and overly salty.
Kumar, D., Kumar, S., Singh, J., Narender, Rashmi, Vashistha, B. and Singh, N. (2010). Free Radical Scavenging and Analgesic Activities of Cucumis sativus L. Fruit Extract. Journal of Young Pharmacists, 2(4), pp.365-368. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-1483.71627
Lee, D., Iwanski, G. and Thoennissen, N. (2010). Cucurbitacin: Ancient Compound Shedding New Light on Cancer Treatment. The Scientific World JOURNAL, 10, pp.413-418. https://doi.org/10.1100/tsw.2010.44
Mateljan, G. (2017). Cucumbers. [online] Whfoods.com. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=42 [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].
Mercola, J. (2017). What Are Cucumbers Good For? - Mercola.com. [online] Mercola.com. Available at: http://foodfacts.mercola.com/cucumber.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2017].
Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts
Broccoli sprouts, a cruciferous vegetable, have recently become popular after researchers discovered that they abundant in sulforaphane, a phytochemical with tremendous health benefits. Researchers have observed that sulforaphane:
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