Tag Archives: almonds

Week 38: Superfoods

What are “superfoods?” There isn’t a real definition for this term, but they are understood to be foods which contain high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – the ones you need to add to your diet to boost your immune system, trim your waistline and start the year off right.

We are all familiar with vitamins and minerals. Antioxidants are molecules which protect the cells in the body from harmful free radicals. These free radicals come from sources such as cigarette smoke and alcohol, and are also produced naturally in the body during metabolism. Too many free radicals in the body can result in oxidative stress which, in turn, causes cell damage that can lead to age-related diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Here are 16 superfoods you should add to your diet:



These energy-rich snacks lower bad cholesterol, thanks to plant sterols, and benefit diabetics by lowering blood sugar. They’re also rich in amino acids, which bolster testosterone levels and muscle growth.



Apples contain a flavonoid called quercetin, an antioxidant that may reduce the risk of lung cancer. Quercetin also reduces swelling of all kinds, reduces the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate cancer.



The myriad of healthy fats and nutrients found in avocados – oleic acid, lutein, folate, vitamin E, monounsaturated fats and glutathione among them – keeps you satisfied and helps you absorb other nutrients. They can help protect your body from heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye and brain diseases.

 black beans

Black Beans

A cup of black beans packs 15 grams of protein, with none of the artery-clogging saturated fat found in meat. Plus, they’re full of heart-healthy fiber, antioxidants that help your arteries stay relaxed and pliable, and energy-boosting iron. Beans help raise levels of the hormone leptin which curbs appetite. They also deliver a powerful combination of B vitamins, calcium, potassium and folate. All of this good stuff will help maintain healthy brain, cell and skin function and even helps to reduce blood pressure and stroke risk.



Blueberries are full of phytonutrients that neutralize free radicals (agents that cause aging and cell damage). The antioxidants in these berries may also protect against cancer and reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. They improve memory by protecting your brain from inflammation and boosting communication between brain cells. Blueberries have the power to help prevent serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stomach ulcers and high blood pressure and can reduce “bad” cholesterol.


Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain phytonutrients that may suppress the growth of tumors and reduce cancer risk. One cup of this veggie powerhouse will supply you with your daily dose of immunity-boosting vitamin C and a large percentage of folic acid.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a good source of magnesium, a mineral your body uses for more than 300 chemical reactions (such as building bones and converting food to energy).


One cup has an amazing 22 grams of plant protein, as well as lots of fiber, folate and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.

Green Tea

Green tea has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat everything from headaches to depression. The leaves are supposedly richer in antioxidants than other types of tea because of the way they are processed. Green tea contains B vitamins, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins. Drinking green tea regularly is alleged to boost weight loss, reduce cholesterol, combat cardiovascular disease, and prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is low in calories, packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures. But Greek yogurt – which is strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick consistency—does have an undeniable edge. In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half.


Kale contains a type of phytonutrient that appears to lessen the occurrence of a wide variety of cancers, including breast and ovarian. Though scientists are still studying why this happens, they believe the phytonutrients in kale trigger the liver to produce enzymes that neutralize potentially cancer-causing substances.


Full of fiber, oats are a rich source of magnesium, potassium, and phytonutrients. They contain a special type of fiber that helps to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Magnesium works to regulate blood-sugar levels, and research suggests that eating whole-grain oats may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce by itself. These fatty acids reduce inflammation, improve circulation, increase the ratio of good to bad cholesterol, protect against macular degeneration, depression, cognitive decline and may slash cancer risk. Salmon is also a rich source of selenium, which helps prevent cell damage, and several B vitamins and vitamin D.


A half-cup provides more than five times your daily dose of vitamin K, which helps blood clot and builds strong bones.

Sweet Potatoes

Half of a large baked sweet potato delivers more than 450% of your daily dose of vitamin A, which protects your vision and your immune system. This tuber is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. In addition to countering the effects of secondhand smoke and preventing diabetes, sweet potatoes contain glutathione, an antioxidant that can enhance nutrient metabolism and immune-system health, as well as protect against Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, HIV, cancer, heart attack, and stroke.



Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant rarely found in other foods. Studies suggest that it could protect the skin against harmful UV rays, prevent certain cancers, and lower cholesterol. Plus, tomatoes contain high amounts of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.









Week 35: Nuts

mixed nuts

The word “nut” refers to any fruit which is a hard-shelled, edible kernel.  Nuts used for culinary purposes, however, also include “seeds” which are not botanically true nuts, and are described as “large, oily kernels found within a shell.”  I’ll discuss other seeds, like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds in a future post.


Nuts, including the wild almond, prickly water lily, acorns, pistachio and water chestnuts were a major part of the human diet 780,000 years ago. There is evidence that prehistoric humans developed an assortment of tools to crack open nuts during the Pleistocene period.


Nuts have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, weight control and lower cancer risk. They do contain a relatively large quantity of calories, however. But they offer unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, vitamins, and essential amino acids. Many nuts are good sources of vitamin E, vitamin B2, folate, fiber, and the essential minerals magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium.  They are most healthy in their raw unroasted form, as up to 15% of the fats are destroyed during the roasting process. Unroasted walnuts have twice as many antioxidants as other nuts or seeds. Nuts used for food, whether true nut or not, are among the most common food allergens.


Almonds – At traditional Italian weddings, five almonds signify five wishes for the bride and groom: health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and longevity. Almonds, which are edible seeds of drupe (or stone) fruits contain the most fiber and are richest in vitamin E. Twenty years of dietary data collected on over 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones. One ounce is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter. High almond consumption of almonds, however, can interfere with calcium absorption.

brazil nuts

Brazil nuts – Did you know that in Brazil, it is illegal to cut down a Brazil nut tree? Botanically, it is actually a seed. The Journal of Medicinal Food suggests that brazil nuts combined with soy can inhibit prostate cancer by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Just one Brazil nut contains 100% of the recommended daily amount of the mineral selenium, which may also help prevent bone cancer and breast cancer. High levels of selenium can be harmful, however, so stick to one serving a day.


Cashews – A few years ago when my husband and I were hiking in a rain forest in Belize, we saw cashews growing. They are actually seeds of a fruit, the cashew apple, and hang from the bottom of the fruit! Cashews are particularly rich in iron and zinc. Iron helps deliver oxygen to all of your cells, which can prevent anemia, and zinc is critical to immune health and healthy vision. Cashews are also a good source of magnesium: One ounce provides almost 25 percent of your daily need. Magnesium may help improve memory and protect against age-related memory loss, according to a study in the journal Neuron.  In Panama, the cashew fruit is cooked with water and sugar for a prolonged time to make a sweet, brown, paste-like dessert


Chestnuts – Chestnuts depart from the norm culinary nuts in that they have very little protein or fat, their calories coming chiefly from carbohydrates. They are the only nut which contains vitamin C, however. In Modena, Italy, they are soaked in wine before roasting and serving, and are traditionally eaten on Saint Simon’s Day in Tuscany. They are not to be confused with horse chestnuts which are inedible because they contain a toxic substance. How do you tell the difference? Horse chestnut trees have “palmate” leaves (multiple leaves on one stem that fan out like a palm), whereas edible sweet chestnut trees have individual alternate leaves. However, edible chestnuts always have a tassel or point on the nut—something that your finger can feel as a point, and the horse chestnut has no point—it is smooth and roundish all over.


Hazelnuts – During World War II, an Italian chocolate-maker named Ferrero couldn’t get enough cocoa, so he mixed in some ground hazelnuts instead. Then he made a soft and creamy version and Nutella was born! Hazelnuts are noted for their high level of monounsaturated fats which can improve cardiovascular health and control type 2 diabetes. They are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E which may prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, maintain healthy skin and reduce risk of dementia.


Macadamia nuts – The macadamia nut was discovered by British colonists in Australia in 1857.  William Herbert Purvis nurtured them and planted them as seedlings on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1882, where one of his original trees is still growing and producing fruit today. Macadamias are the white kernels of a follicle type fruit. A Pennsylvania State University study found that people who added macadamia nuts to their diets reduced their triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels by 10%.


Pecans – The pecan is the only major nut tree that grows naturally in North America. The name “pecan” is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.” Early Native American tribes used to produce a fermented intoxicating drink from pecans called “Powcohicora” (where the word “hickory” comes from).  A Journal of Nutrition study found that consuming pecans can lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 33%. The vitamin E found in pecans may delay progression of degenerative neurological diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.


Peanuts – Eating peanuts at particularly nerve-wracking points during NASA missions is a long standing tradition at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory that dates back to the Ranger program in 1964. Now they eat peanuts on launch days for good luck! Botanically, these “nuts” are small sized, underground fruit pods and are actually legumes. Peanuts contain high levels of a antioxidant that is thought to reduce the risk of stomach cancer and resveratrol, which helps protect against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and viral/fungal infections.

pine nuts

Pine nuts – The effects of pine nuts as an aphrodisiac were well known by the Greeks and Romans. Pliny mentioned them in his book The Loving Arts and a second-century medical practitioner recommended them mixed with honey to relieve “sexual woes.” We are most familiar with pine nuts as one of the ingredients in pesto, along with garlic, basil, and olive oil. Pine nuts are seeds from several varieties of coniferous trees. Pine nuts contain the essential omega-6 fatty acid which triggers the release of hunger-suppressant enzymes and recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing appetite.  They are the richest source of manganese, which helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals. Furthermore, pine nuts are one of gluten free tree nuts, and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free diets.


Pistachios – Greece has a long-standing tradition of treating pistachios as exclusively royal food. The pistachio honey cake that is famous for its combination of the nut with honey, is said to have originated in the Greek island of Aegina. Greeks celebrate National Pistachio Day with a festival each year. Pistachios are the seeds from a drupe or stone fruit like the almond. The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center researchers found that eating just two ounces of pistachios daily may reduce lung cancer risk because they contain an antioxidant that is a form of cancer-fighting vitamin E. They are rich in potassium, essential for healthy nervous system and muscles, and a good source of vitamin B6, which can improve your mood and fortify your immune system.


Walnuts – Walnuts have been linked to love and fertility throughout history and their reputation as an aphrodisiac dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. In addition to containing the most antioxidants of all nuts which help protect your body from the cellular damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging, walnuts are the richest in omega-3 fatty acids which fight inflammation.







Quinoa Salad with Honey Apple Cider Viniagrette


1 c. dried quinoa

1 1/2 c. water

1/2 c. whole almonds, unroasted and unsalted

1 c. dried cherries

1/2 c. sliced scallions

1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, chopped,

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped


1/2 c. olive oil

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. honey


Pour the water into a saucepan, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour in the quinoa, recover, and continue to simmer over low heat until the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Once cold, stir in the almonds, cherries, scallions, yellow bell pepper and cilantro.  Combine all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake to blend. Pour over quinoa, almonds, cherries and vegetables and toss lightly to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving. Serves 4-6.