Surprise Your Taste Buds with Sunchokes

On your next foray down the produce aisle, don’t overlook the wonderful sunchoke, aka Jerusalem Artichoke. These tubers look nothing like an artichoke and are easily mistaken for a strange potato! A native North American plant, sunchokes are a member of the sunflower family.

Low in calories and nutrient dense, sunchokes provide iron, potassium, thiamin (one of the B vitamins) and a good amount of fiber in a one-cup serving. The carbohydrate contained in sunchokes is inulin, which doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar, so it’s a great option for anyone concerned about diabetes or weight management. Sunchokes also contain vitamins, A, C, and E. The most unique nutrient found in sunchokes is known as prebiotics, a type of non-digestible carbohydrate found in many root vegetables. Food-based prebiotics enhance nutrient absorption and help maintain a healthy intestinal tract by promoting growth of “good” gut bacteria, which supports immunity.

Sunchokes have a nutty, mildly sweet flavor and are delightful to eat raw – shredded or sliced into a salad or sliced and served with raw carrots and other veggies. They can be cooked in a variety of ways and added to stir-fry dishes in lieu of water chestnuts. Their flavor is enhanced when lightly seasoned for sauteing or roasting. You can also puree sunchokes for soups.

Available year-round in the U.S., prime harvest time is October through early spring. Buy tubers that are firm, free of sprouts or bruises, with a smooth, clean surface making them easier to prepare.

 

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Got Sprouts? Health Benefits of Alfalfa

What makes a sprout so good for you?

Sprouting is the moment of greatest vitality in a plant’s life cycle, the phase in which the seed activates and makes its way through the topsoil and sprouts into the fresh air above. At this high point of metabolic and enzymatic changes, the sprout contains high levels of nutrients. And that’s what makes sprouts good for you, particularly Alfalfa.

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a legume that is also considered to be an herb. The leaves and seeds can be used fresh, or dried for supplements, and the sprouts are enjoyed with meals. It’s high in Vitamins A, C, and K and contains several B vitamins. A good source of dietary fiber, copper, magnesium, and iron, Alfalfa contains active plant compounds currently being evaluated for benefits in women’s health, managing high cholesterol, and effects on the nervous and cardiovascular systems.

When selecting sprouts, look for those that have been kept chilled in the produce section and choose organic when possible. The International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) seal on a product indicates the sprouts have been carefully grown and handled. Look for clean roots with a creamy white color. Buds should be attached to the stem. Sprouts should be odorless. Keep sprouts refrigerated and use within 2 days of the sell-by date on the package. Enjoy sprouts atop salads, sandwiches, or as a garnish for prepared entrees.

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Why is Nutrient Assessment Important?

How are your cells doing today? Don’t know? Then a Nutrient Assessment might be in order.

Here’s the truth of it: If your body is missing – or even short on – key vitamins and minerals, your cells will not perform at optimal level. This can affect your daily energy, quality of sleep, mental and physical performance at work, school, or sports and can lead to complex health problems.

Nutrient deficiency can occur for reasons other than the presence of an active illness, including:

  • Inadequate intake in the diet
  • Poor absorption in your digestive tract
  • Problems at the cellular level, preventing proper use of the nutrient
  • Loss of nutrients through intense exercise or long-term stress
  • Insufficient cofactors or enzymes needed to properly utilize the nutrient

And that’s why a Nutrient Assessment is important. In naturopathic medicine, specialized tests are available to assess nutrient status. These tests are also known as Functional Nutrient Assessment, Nutrient Status Testing, or Micronutrient Testing. Using samples of blood, stool, urine, or hair, these tests evaluate how well your body absorbs and utilizes each nutrient assessed, along with the amount and functional availability of vitamins, mineral, and antioxidants in your cells. They help identify the nutritional supplements needed to achieve and maintain good health and lower your risk for serious illness.

Even if you feel your best, a baseline nutrient analysis is good to for two important reasons:

  • A healthy baseline provides a point of comparison for times when you become ill and need to assess what’s going on with your body and what it needs to recover.
  • Some nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies don’t manifest in disease for a long time, even years. Having a baseline and periodic testing can help detect problems early.

Ask your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor about the type of nutrient testing that is most appropriate for you.

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The Red Bell of the Ball!

Crisp, sweet red bell peppers are versatile and packed with nutrients. They’re loaded with the antioxidants Vitamin C and A, which support immunity and help the body fight free radicals – molecules implicated in inflammation and many disease processes. That beautiful red color is attributed to the nutrient lycopene, another antioxidant. Vitamin B6 and folate – nutrients that support red blood cells – are also found in these crimson beauties. Making red bells a regular part of your diet can help protect against chronic illnesses such as heart disease, joint disease, and cancer.

Red bells are actually the fully ripe version of green bell peppers. With the exception of very cold winters, they’re available year-round in most places. Choose peppers with deep color, taut skin, and fresh-looking stems. Peppers should be firm and heavy for their size (indicating they are well hydrated). They add flavor to sandwiches, stir-fry, salads, soups, stews, sauces, and are also delicious raw.

You may have heard that peppers are a part of the nightshade family of vegetables and aren’t a good food choice for some people. Nightshades (including potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes), are so named because they grow best in shady areas and some bloom at night. For most people, nightshades are a healthy choice, but for others, they can trigger a reaction similar to that seen with soy or dairy. If you’re concerned about this, consult your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor for dietary testing and guidance.

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The Power of Pecans

Whether you call ’em PEE-can or PEH-kahn, they are one of the most sought after nuts around the globe. A cousin of the walnut, pecans are the only major tree nut native to North America. People love pecans for their versatility: They add a sweet, nutty goodness to breads and cereals, stuffing and spreads, salads and side dishes, entrees and desserts. At the same time, they bring a lot of nutrition to the table.

Pecans contain healthy, monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, as well as antioxidants that support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol, HDL. Packed with fiber, pecans support healthy digestion and colon health. Some research shows that diets consisting of pecans (and other healthy nuts) can support a healthy body weight and even help people lose weight. Pecans are a good source of vitamins and minerals that support overall health, including B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, vitamins E and A, zinc, iron, and folate.

Your family can enjoy the natural, nutty sweetness of pecans as a snack (plain or roasted), sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal, or sautéed with savory seasonings such as curry powder, sea salt, or paprika. Consider baking with pecans—from cookies to cheesecake and even homemade ice cream.

When purchasing pecans, fresh is best and organic is even better. Look for pecans in the bulk foods section at a grocer that regularly “turns the stock.” Store pecans, and all nuts, in an airtight package away from heat, preferably in the fridge to retain nutrient content.

 

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