‘Tis the Season … for Summer-Fresh Vegetables

Friday, August 30, 2013 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Quick Chicken and Spaghetti SkilletSummer-fresh vegetables are abundant whether home grown from your garden, gathered at a local farmer’s market or produce stand, or perhaps hand-picked at a “U–pick-it” farm! 

Freshly harvested and enjoyed at their peak quality, vegetables in season are nutritious, delicious, and typically cost less, too.   “Just picked” veggies enhance all kinds of recipes:  pasta salads and chilled soups, stir-fries and pasta dishes, pizza toppings and roasted veggie sandwiches.

 

 

What makes veggies so good for you?  As part of an overall healthful diet, veggies in all forms – fresh, frozen, canned -- are loaded with health benefits. They are:

  • Low in calories and fat … Vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat – and none have cholesterol -- so they may help lower calorie intake if eaten instead of higher-calorie foods. (Tip:  Frying and some sauces may undo these benefits.) 
  • Good sources of fiber … Fiber-rich vegetables help your digestive system work normally, help you feel full with fewer calories, and, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes as part of an overall healthy eating plan.
  • Packed with vitamins and minerals … Vegetables provide your body with many nutrients vital for health.  For example:
  • Potassium may help maintain a healthy blood pressure, may reduce the risk of kidney stones and may help decrease bone loss;
  • Folate not only helps your body form red blood cells, but for women during pregnancy, protects against some birth defects;
  • Vitamin A keeps your eyes and skin healthy and also helps protect you from infections; and
  • Vitamin C not only helps to heal cuts and wounds and keep your teeth and gums healthy, but also helps your body absorb iron from grains and other plant-based foods.
  • Rich in phytonutrients … The compounds in food that give vegetables their vibrant colors – red, orange, yellow, green, purple -- and unique flavors protect your health beyond nutrient basics.  The more colors, the better for you!
  • Reduced risk of some chronic diseases … Eating plenty of vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, and may protect against some cancers. 

What makes veggies perfect for everyday meals and snacks?  They’re simply good!  Plus, they’re:

  • versatile for all kinds of main dishes, side dishes, and more;  
  • colorful, making a meal more appealing and fun to eat;
  • varied with many different (new and familiar) veggies to keep your meals and snacks interesting;
  • convenient for a quick snack or meal; and
  • economical, delivering plenty of flavor, nutrition and enjoyment for your food dollar.

In fact, a new report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest shows that the average cost per serving of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables cost less or about the same as less health options, making them a nutritional bargain!

And what makes fresh-picked veggies superstars on the plate?  When picked at their peak and handled with care, a fast track -- from field to plate -- keeps fresh vegetables tastier, arguably with a slight nutritional edge.  For example, vine-ripened tomatoes are known to deliver more flavor; bright red bell peppers or crisp green beans may contain a bit more vitamin C when the journey to the table is short and cool.  (Both time and heat degrade vitamin C.)  And in season, veggies typically cost less.  Regardless, seasonal vegetables make any eating event more enticing.  When it comes to veggies, more matters!

 

For ways to make seasonal vegetables part of your meals and snacks, check these websites:  www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html  and

www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/100-calorie-comparison

For easy, delicious ways to incorporate veggies in your next pasta dish, visit the recipe section of our website, http://www.dreamfieldsfoods.com/healthy-pasta-recipes.

Herbs and Spices: More Reasons to Season

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

 

An herb is “the friend of physicians and the praise of cooks,” noted Charlemagne in his legendary 9th century response to an Anglo-Latin scholar. Fast forward to the 21st century and you’ll see a renewed interest in the potential health benefits of herbs and spices from both health and culinary experts -- and consumers, too. 

Emerging research indicates:  the reason to season may extend beyond the unique, pleasing flavors and visual appeal to a potential range of health benefits.  Among them:

 

  • Healthy eating patterns:  A sprinkle of this, a teaspoon of that ... spices and herbs help make nutrient-dense foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains and seafood) taste good!  Consider: cinnamon blended into mashed sweet potato, ginger tossed in a fruit salad, rosemary in savory Parsley-Rosemary Pesto over pasta, garlic and red pepper flakes adding spark to Clam Linguini or Penne Primavera! These touches of flavor can make healthy eating advice -- from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (ChooseMyPlate.gov, DASH diet, Mediterranean eating plan) and from an eating plan for diabetes -- easier to follow and more sustainable.

 

  • Diet quality:  Besides making nutrient-dense food more palatable, culinary spices and herbs boost flavor, allowing the cook to cut back on the salt, added sugars, and saturated fats, which are often used as flavor enhancers.  Bonus: As concentrated plant compounds, they have no nutritional liabilities!

 

  • Weight management:  Vegetables, fruits and seafood deliver nutrients with relatively few calories, making them a great choice for calorie-conscious consumers; prudent use of spices and herbs can make low-cal eating more pleasing.  Beyond that, research suggests that some may contribute satiety, or satisfaction, to mealtime.  Also note: Some may play a role in energy metabolism.

 

  • Antioxidant benefits:  While colorful fruits and vegetables score high for the antioxidant potential, a teaspoon of many herbs and spices is surprisingly high, too.  Among those topping the list:  cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, thyme and rosemary  ... with ginger and red pepper flakes (paprika) scoring high, too. Antioxidants are a handful of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that significantly slow or prevent oxidative damage to body cells.  As such, they may improve immune function and perhaps lower the risk for infection and cancer.

 

  • Inflammation:  Culinary herbs and spices may be linked to decreased chronic inflammation, a response that can increase the risk of some health conditions.  Also being studied, their role in promoting a healthy immune system.

 

  • Food Safety:   Certain herbs and spices may help reduce the bacterial growth in food, among them clove, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, and thyme -- although they can't substitute for safe food handling.  Those high in antioxidants, such as rosemary and oregano in marinades, may also reduce production of harmful compounds, formed when meats are grilled.

Come back next week to learn more about the possible health benefits of individual herbs and spices and how to incorporate them into your favorite pasta dishes.