Here are a few tips about fruits and vegetables, taken from the Good Cooking Central website that may be helpful in your kitchen:

• STRAWBERRIES:

Strawberries contain the most vitamin C of the berry family. Strawberries should be a bright red shade when picked and the caps should be green and fresh looking. Fresh strawberries are usually available year round, but their peak period is from April to July. Green or yellow strawberries are unripe and will taste sour.

Strawberries are very perishable and should only be purchased a few days prior to use. Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold, and which have a shiny, deep red color and attached green caps. Medium-sized strawberries are often tastier than those that are excessively large. If buying strawberries in a prepackaged container, ensure that they are not packed too tightly which can cause them to become crushed and damaged, and that the container has no signs of stains or moisture which may indicate possible spoilage.

Before storing strawberries in the refrigerator, remove any that are moldy or damaged so that they will not contaminate others. Store berries unwashed and unhulled berries in their original container if possible, or spread them out on a plate covered with a paper towel, then cover with plastic wrap. Fresh strawberries will keep in the refrigerator only for one or two days. Strawberries stored at room temperature or exposed to sunlight for too long, will spoil easily.

To freeze strawberries, first gently wash them and pat them dry. Arrange strawberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer the berries to a sealed plastic bag and return them to the freezer. Frozen strawberries should keep for up to one year. Add a bit of lemon juice to the berries to help to preserve their color.

• SNAP BEANS:

With most beans, you eat only the seeds usually after they’ve been dried. Snap beans can be eaten pod and all. Until about a century ago, the pods had tough strings that one had to pull off before cooking but the snap beans you find in markets today are almost all stringless.

When buying green or yellow snap beans look for a fresh, bright appearance and good color. Choose young, tender beans with crisp, firm pods. Avoid buying beans that are wilted or have soft flabby bean pods, serious blemishes or decay.

• SWEET POTATOES:

Due to rapid spoilage, keep sweet potatoes fresh, by storing them in a dry, cool (55-60°) place at a temperature of about 55-60°. If stored in the refrigerator, they may develop a hard core and an “off” taste. Sweet potatoes will keep for a month or longer if stored at the proper temperature. At normal room temperature, they should be used within a week of purchase. Brush off any excess dirt before storing, but do not wash them until you are ready to cook them.

When preparing, wash sweet potatoes well. It is best to cook them whole whenever possible as most of the nutrients are next to the skin. Also, the skins are easier to remove after they have been cooked. Pierce the sweet potato skins with fork. Place potatoes in a pan and cook in an oven heated to 375° F for about 45 minutes or until tender. Cool potatoes slightly before removing skins. To cook sweet potatoes in a microwave, wash and pierce potatoes. Place them on a paper towel. For 2 medium sweet potatoes, cook on high for 5–9 minutes, or for 4 potatoes cook for 10–13 minutes.

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C, and are a good source of fiber.

• GRILLING FRUIT:

Apples: Core and peel 2 large apples and cut into quarters. Brush with melted butter and grill over indirect heat softened for approximately 45-55 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with brandy or rum and serve over ice cream for a special treat.

Bananas: Put whole ripe bananas, unpeeled, directly on your grill and cook turning occasionally until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Remove and peel carefully. Slice and serve over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Melon: Cut a medium cantaloupe lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into six wedges. Peel and brush the melon with melted butter. Place on grill and cook until hot throughout and lightly marked, 3 to 5 minutes.

• ROMAINE LETTUCE:

Compared to Iceberg lettuce, Romaine is loaded with vitamins, having three times as much Vitamin C and six times as much Vitamin A.

• ROAST GARLIC:

For roasted garlic, sprinkle the garlic bulb with a little salt and pepper, olive oil and a little white wine. Wrap the garlic in tin foil and roast at 350 degrees for approximately one hour.

• BAKING POTATOES:

When baking potatoes, use a potato with a high starch content such as russets or Idaho potatoes. Look for potatoes that have a smooth skin and no sprouts. Potatoes that have wrinkly skin or soft spots should be avoided. Store your potatoes in a cool dark spot away from onions.

• PLANTAINS:

Plantains are a bland starchier variety of banana, and are most often cooked and eaten as a vegetable. Plantains are often used in many African and West Indian dishes and can be boiled, baked, fried, broiled, microwaved or mashed. They are rarely eaten raw, unless they have ripened to a point where the skins are completely black.

• PINEAPPLE:

Pineapple can be purchased in many forms – fresh, canned, dried or crystallized. When selecting a fresh pineapple, choose one that feels heavy for its size with a rind that is dark green, yellow or reddish yellow, but that does not contain any bruises or brown spots. The leaves should appear fresh and green – avoid pineapples that appear withered and have leaves that are turning brown. The pineapple should have a fragrant scent.

• BEANS:

Did you know that one cup of cooked beans can provide as much as 17 grams of protein? That is more than half of the 24 grams recommended for women daily. Beans may even help you lose weight because all the fibre creates a feeling of fullness which helps keep you satisfied longer.

Chefs often prefer using dried beans because their texture is firmer and the flavour of the finished dish is more easily controlled, especially the sodium level. Using dried beans, soaking and softening them, doesn’t have to be a difficult task.

To use dried beans, simply wash the beans and cover with cold water. The ratio of water to beans is about six times the amount of water to beans (e.g. 1 cup of beans to 6 cups of water). The beans will re-hydrate and almost double in size. Let stand overnight, then drain and rinse to get rid of the starch that can cause flatulence later.

To cook, place beans in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover pot, and then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until tender. Be careful not to let the water level go below the top of the beans. Simply add more water to cover them. While the beans are simmering, skim away any impurities that float to the surface. When tender, drain and rinse again before using.

• PEARL ONIONS:

To peel pearl onions, place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for 2 minutes, drain, and pour cool water over them. Trim the root ends and easily slip the skins off before use.

• AVOCADO:

If you are looking to use an avocado immediately, choose slightly soft avocados which yield when gently pressed on the skin. If you are going to use the avocado within a few days, buy firm fruits that do not yield when gently pressed and leave them at room temperature to ripen. If the avocado has irregular light-brown markings on the outside skin, these markings generally have no effect on the flesh of the avocado, but avoid avocados with dark sunken spots or cracked broken surfaces which indicate signs of decay. When preparing avocados, place the peeled fruit immediately in lemon juice to avoid browning of the fruit.

Avocados contain about 22% fat, and the average medium-sized avocado contains approximately 300 calories and 30 grams of fat.

Avocados are rich in nutrients such as dietary fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and folate. They are cholesterol-free and contain no sodium. They contain 60% more potassium per ounce than bananas and are an excellent source of mono-unsaturated fat.

If you would like to read more food tips and hints, and get some great recipes too, visit the Good Cooking Central website.

The health benefits of blueberries or foods containing real blueberries or pure blueberry juice are numerous. Research continually proves that this fruit contains powerful antioxidants that ward off a variety of diseases. In addition, the fruit is packed with other vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy body.

The blueberry originally grew native to North America and was not introduced to the European continent until the 1930s. Nowadays, the plant is also grown in Australia, New Zealand and certain parts of South America. It is a perennial and typically blooms during the middle of the summer. The plant has two main varieties of bushes. The wild variety grows quite low to the ground and is called the lowbush blueberry; the taller variety is a cultivated plant called the highbush blueberry.

The fruit of the blueberry bush is spherical in shape and is approximately a half of an inch in diameter. When it is ripe, the berry is a deep blue or blue-violet color. The taste varies based on the ripeness of the fruit; the flavor becomes less acidic and much sweeter the longer that the berry is on the bush.

Blueberry Nutrition Information

Raw blueberries are a wonderful choice for a snack. A typical portion size is about two and a half ounces, which translates into approximately fifty average sized berries. A portion contains around forty calories; almost none of these calories are from fat. Of course, there is no cholesterol and only a minute amount of sodium. The fruit is composed mainly of carbohydrates with approximately seven grams of sugar and two grams of dietary fiber in one serving.

Although blueberries contain small portions of a variety of vitamins and minerals, they are mostly known for supplying vitamins C and K and the mineral known as manganese. In fact, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s guidelines, this fruit provides a fifth of the recommended daily amount of manganese and a fourth of the daily amount of vitamin K. In addition, blueberries have a small amount of the B vitamins which provide energy to the body.

Eating Blueberries

Perhaps the best way to gain the most nutritional value from this fruit is to eat it raw. Some choose to sprinkle them on their morning cereal or oatmeal while some add them to fruit or green leafy salads. Another excellent option is flash-frozen blueberries; this method preserves almost all of the nutrients. Blueberries can be found seasonally in most grocery stores’ produce sections as well as sporadically during the winter months when they are imported from warmer climates. Another great option, especially for those who do not like to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, is blueberry juice which can often be found in markets’ organic sections. It is often found in conjunction with pomegranate juice, which is another powerful antioxidant and is a great way to enjoy blueberry health benefits. Additionally, blueberries are delicious when added to baked products such as muffins, breads, cakes and pancakes.

Very few people suffer from allergies to blueberries. Those who are affected generally have mild to moderate symptoms. An allergy to any kind of berry can begin at any point in one’s life and may not happen when he is a child. The most common reactions occur when the body rejects the food because it is unable to digest it. The symptoms that occur from this include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea or a moderate to severe stomach ache. Some people may develop a rash. Antihistamines such as Benadryl can be given for a skin reaction. Very few people develop an allergy so severe that they need to be taken to the emergency room. However, a few people are so allergic to the fruit that they have an anaphylactic reaction and develop shortness of breath, a swollen tongue or other violent reactions. Babies under nine months of age should not be fed blueberries since their bodies have not yet begun production of the enzyme needed to digest this fruit.

Health Benefits of Blueberries

Several recent research studies have shown that blueberries hold even more health benefits than was originally thought. It should also be noted that the wild blueberry varieties contain even more of some nutrients than do the cultivated varieties. Reports released in 2007 showed that the many antioxidants in the skins and flesh of blueberries fight off the effects of Alzheimer ‘s disease and slow its degenerative process. In fact, some studies have even shown that consuming this berry can lessen the negative effects from a stroke or other ischemic event. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a report that showed that individuals who consumed blueberry juice had better memory and fewer problems with depression. Multiple studies have also shown its benefits on the heart and cardiovascular health. The high amount of anthocyanins in blueberries, which gives the fruit its deep blue color, relaxes and widens the blood vessels causing decreased blood pressure. It may also decrease bad LDL cholesterol levels. Finally, a research study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center showed that blueberries decrease abdominal fat and in turn decreases the incidence of metabolic syndrome.

In addition, blueberries have numerous health benefits that have been known by scientists for several years or decades. Blueberries have more antioxidant properties than any other fruit. Antioxidants have been shown to decrease the movement of free radicals throughout the body, which in turn decreases one’s risk for cancer and decreases the effects of aging throughout the body’s organs especially the skin. It is also well-known that blueberries, similar to cranberries, promote the health of the urinary tract by cleansing the tract of unhealthy bacteria and thereby preventing urinary tract infections. This fruit’s high levels of anthocyanins aid in vision by decreasing the incidence of vision loss from such disease processes as macular degeneration and cataracts. Finally, the dietary fibre from the skin of the fruit decreases the incidence of constipation while the vitamins and minerals such as copper improve digestion.

Summary

Blueberries are truly natural powerhouses that are filled with nutrients to ward off a number of diseases and aid in good health. Scientific research studies continue to dig deeper into this fruit’s many wonderful attributes. With so many delicious ways to eat this fruit, no one will be able to resist its juicy, sweet flavor and gain from the health benefits of blueberries whether eaten whole or as blueberry juice.

One of the oldest cultivated fruits, pomegranates first grew in ancient Persia and the health benefits of the pomegranate were recognized even then. The Romans gave it its name – “pomegranate” literally means “seed apple” in Latin – and planted the sturdy seedlings throughout their empire. Spain so loved pomegranates that they named the city of Granada after them, according to some historians. The fruit also made its way eastward to India, where its juice was considered a health elixir that cured any number of ills. As modern researchers discover more about the importance of antioxidants to good health, it’s beginning to look as though the Ayurvedic specialists of centuries ago were right about pomegranates.

The round red fruit has a symbolic history as rich as its geographic history. Its profusion of seeds linked pomegranate fruit with fertility, while the long-lived trees became associated with rebirth and renewal. Garnets, the rich red gemstone prized throughout the ancient world, took their name from their resemblance to pomegranate seeds. Pomegranates have been the subject of poetry and allegorical tales from Greek mythology to the book of Exodus. Paintings and frescoes depict legendary heroes, gods and goddesses dining on pomegranates.

Nutritional Information

However poetic they may be, there is also practical value due to the health benefits of pomegranate. Nutritionally speaking, pomegranates compare favorably to many more familiar fruits. They contain no fat, low sugar and only 80 calories per 100-gram serving, yet they offer 5 grams of fiber and 15 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

Pomegranate juice is almost as popular as whole fruits. Because it’s more concentrated, pomegranate juice is slightly higher in calories than whole seeds at 120 calories per 8-ounce serving. Like whole pomegranates, pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants. This nutrition information applies to pomegranate juice, not to the sweetened mixture of juice and simple syrup called grenadine.

Going beyond the label reveals the full extent of the health benefits of pomegranate.

Pomegranates and Antioxidants

Pomegranates’ deep red color delivers more than just plate appeal; that garnet hue signifies the fruit’s rich supply of antioxidant phytochemicals. Antioxidants counteract cellular damage due to free radicals. While researchers are still studying the effects of antioxidants within the human body and haven’t yet concluded that these compounds work the same in people as they do in a test tube, the National Cancer Society asserts that within the testing they’ve done so far, “antioxidants help prevent the free radical damage that is associated with cancer.” It’s impossible to talk of curing disease with antioxidants, but it’s clear that foods with antioxidants appear to be sensible preventive medicine.

Plenty of foods have antioxidants, but only pomegranates have a related set of compounds called punicalagins. That tongue-twister of a name has its roots in the scientific name for pomegranates, Punica granatum. Punicalagins have the same capacity to neutralize free radicals as other antioxidants, but preliminary studies suggest that these substances also actively seek out free radicals and may have an effect in reducing the chance of prostate cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer.

Pomegranate juice has an antioxidizing capacity of 2,860 units per 100 grams. That compares favorably to prune juice, goji berries and melon juice. If research bears out the distinction between punicalagins and other antioxidants, then consuming both could have an even bigger buffering effect on free radicals.

Vitamins, Minerals and Micronutrients in Pomegranates

Like many fruits, pomegranate supplies a healthy dose of vitamin C. Unlike others, it also contains vitamins B5, B9 and K. Potassium and zinc top the list of vital minerals that pomegranates and pomegranate juice contain.

Better known by its full name, pantothenic acid, vitamin B5 is essential to healthy skin and nerve function. The name might be more familiar as a hair-care ingredient, but pantothenic acid is also an important dietary requirement. Research into the importance of pantothenic acid is ongoing, but this micronutrient may help prevent muscle cramping, insulin resistance and adrenal insufficiency.

Vitamin B9, also known as folate or folic acid, took on greater significance in the world of nutritional science when researchers found that folic acid deficiency contributed to neural tube defects in babies. Adults also need this vitamin to repair DNA and create healthy blood cells. A single serving of pomegranate seeds contains 10 percent of an adult’s recommended allowance of the vitamin.

People who don’t get enough vitamin K may bruise easily and run a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Usually found in dark green leafy vegetables, vitamin K becomes more palatable when it’s packaged in sweet pomegranate seeds. Pomegranate juice and whole pomegranate seeds contain about 10 percent of an adult’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin K.

Allergies and Contraindications

While pomegranate allergies are rare, anyone who notices itching or burning of the skin after handling pomegranates should avoid these fruits. The mild acidity of pomegranate juice could exacerbate GERD or heartburn symptoms; if heartburn is a common occurrence, try cutting down on acidic foods including pomegranates shortly before bedtime.

The seeds in pomegranates may cause irritation for people with diverticulitis. Like tomato, strawberry and raspberry seeds, pips in pomegranate seeds can get into the diverticuli of the bowel and cause pain. For other people, the relatively large seeds of the fruit cause no trouble at all.

People on certain blood thinners must be careful of their vitamin K intake. Because the vitamin prohibits clotting, too much of it combined with medications could cause an interaction between the two. Account for the vitamin K in pomegranate seeds and juice to ensure that the food doesn’t interact with medications and the pomegranate health benefits can be enjoyed safely.

Selecting, Cooking and Eating Pomegranates

Pick a pomegranate that has a bright red color and feels heavy for its size to get the best-tasting fruit. Pomegranates are in season throughout the fall, so buying them in season ensures a better product.

Most fruits consist of sweet flesh wrapped around inedible seeds. Pomegranates reverse that familiar formula; they’re full of translucent juicy seeds surrounded by a fibrous white pith. Separate the delicious seeds from the pith with a sharp rap from the back of a spoon against the back of a pomegranate half. The seeds should shower down from the pith and into the bowl with a few taps from the spoon.

Pomegranate seeds closely resemble the garnets to which they lent their name. Their vivid color and translucency make them a beautiful garnish to ice cream dishes and desserts. Try them in salads, too, where their bursts of tangy juice add a new dimension of taste and texture. Use pomegranate juice anywhere that other fruit juices would go: in glazes and sauces, with mixed fruit drinks and as a frozen treat.

Summary

However you decide to use them, whether you learn how to juice pomegranate or use it in salads or desserts, it is easy to start exploring the health benefits of pomegranate fruit.

Health nutrition supplements are generally used to support the body through periods of intellectual and physical effort or in the recovery period after some kind of illness. Normally, health nutrition supplements wouldn’t be necessary if the body can take all the nutrients from food, but since food intake could lead to deficiencies, supplements often become the only possibility. You are prone to getting malfunctions in the system if your diet is not varied enough.

Stress makes our body consume more nutrients, and this is why people who work under pressure often feel exhausted and with low energy levels. In such cases, the administration of some health nutrition supplements on doctor’s orders could make you feel revitalized. If you smoke or drink, chances are that your body could be deficient when it comes to the absorption and metabolism of vitamins. Yet, it is important not to use supplements without proper thought and consideration, because you can cause imbalances if you are not careful. Remember, only a doctor can advise you on an adequate course of action.

Vitamins and minerals are not the only health nutrition supplements you can use. There are so many other nutrients that you don’t get from your regular meals and you don’t even know that you have to compensate for them until the body sends very energetic alarm signs. This is the case with hypo-calcemia or with osteoporosis, not to mention magnesium, chromium or some other mineral deficiencies. You can detect imbalances and inadequate nutrients levels by blood tests. They are the most relevant for any doctor when prescribing some form of treatment.

Oily acids are one other problem with diets. Omega 3 for instance is not available in a regular diet even if it is carefully balanced. This useful fat can only be taken from fish oil and flax seeds. If you don’t consume enough fish in your diet, health nutrition supplements are necessary to support the body mechanisms. The Internet now offers plenty of alternatives for health nutrition supplements, but you need to know what choices to make.

Do not rush into buying health nutrition supplements for the entire family. Every age has its specific needs and a youngster will need different supplements to support growth as compared to a senior adult who needs energy to cope with old age and current tasks. Then, middle-aged adults require a different type of approach in terms of nutrition. Do your homework well before you start taking health nutrition supplements.

Foods That Make You Fat

Yogurt
Yogurt and granola for a snack sounds pretty healthy and tasty. The fact that all you have to do is grab a spoon, open the yogurt pack, toss in the granola and you’re ready to eat, is a plus. Great tasty, healthy and convenient are what this snack seems to be. What you might not know is that there is naturally about 16 grams of sugar in plain yogurt. Getting the flavored kind will add almost double the amount of sugar than the plain kind. Fat-free Greek yogurt has less sugar and twice as much protein than plain which makes it a better choice. 

Granola

Okay, yogurt can be packed with sugar, but how about the granola? It is made of nuts and oats and that’s the only healthy part, because the majority of granolas are loaded with oils and sugar. This makes a cup of granola be up to over 500 calories and 28 grams of fat. Crazy!

When you’re at the restaurant these foods might seem like the more health conscious food to put on your plate, but you should know…

Sushi Rolls

Sushi is something quite popular to have when you’re out and about with friends and family. It’s a break from the chicken wings and burgers, so it seems somewhat refreshing to break from the norm for a time. Plus it’s raw fish nothing fried and greasy….. right?
The Veggies and seaweed in the roll are low in calories the other stuff though, are not. In the more popular picks of sushi rolls the ingredients are packed with calories like the cream cheese or mayo that they slather it with. Also there are the tempura-battered(fried) sushi rolls. These ingredients can cause one roll to be between 500 and 600 calories and 20 grams of fat!

Tofu
This is something vegetarians use plenty of on thanksgiving. It’s great nothing’s wrong with the tofu itself, but because tofu doesn’t have much taste to it, so restaurants usually add sauces and deep fry them. This will add too much sodium, calories and saturated fat.

Salads
The vegetables are great adding antioxidants to your meal. It’s all the cheese, sugar coated nuts, croutons and too much dressing that makes salads become so fattening. Even the vinaigrettes can be packed with as much calories as ranch dressing. 

Sugar-free doesn’t always mean it’s a better choice

Sugar-Free Cookies

You’ve probably heard that too much sugar will make you fat. That’s why you cut back on the soda, candy, and cookies. So when you see the words sugar-free on something, you probably think no sugar no worries, it’s harmless to my waistline.
The thing with sugar-free products is that after the sweetness is removed what manufacturers do is add fat. They often trade the sugar for fat for the taste. One cookie can be up to 160 calories with 9 grams of fat. Pretty close to the sugar kind. Also sorbitol is a sugar substitute which most sugar-free cookies contain. Sorbitol can cause bloating and irritable bowl syndrome.

Women say that it is difficult to lose weight, because they do not have time to prepare healthy meals. They work long hours, care for their family and are simply too tired at the end of the day to prepare meals with good nutrition and suitable caloric value. So, eating out becomes a way of life for many families. In addition, the fast-food industry spreads a myth that you need lots of time to cook healthy meals.

Most people know that fast food is not good for them, but many do not realize how dangerous it really is. Fast foods are generally high in salt, fat, and refined carbohydrates, and low in vitamins and minerals. High intake of fast food is linked to high body weight. People who ate fast food more than two times per week gained an average about 10 pounds more than those who ate fast food less than once per week. Generally along with smoking, substance abuse and inactivity, fast food presents one of the greatest public-interest health threats to Americans today.

When a person is told that fast food is not good for him from a nutritional point of view, he is hardly surprised. The relationship between fast food and the almost epidemic obesity of the American population is a fairly well known fact. Still, the factors that make fast food so popular still seem to be powerful enough to make the majority of the population ignore the obvious risks of poor nutrition and weight problems. Fast food is easily available, relatively cheap, most people find it tasty and filling and it can be purchased fast.

There are very few alternatives to the high fat and high calorie menus in the fast food restaurants. Although many seem to be making some attempt to offer low cal alternatives, they end up ruining these offerings with sauces and dressings loaded with fat content. Even though these alternatives are offered, it is still the hamburger and fried chicken that is the king of fast food, and little has been done to reduce the impact of these foods on obesity.

There is advertising competition among the fast food restaurants to show that their fast food is least harmful to the consumer and even lists nutrition facts to prove that it is good for you. If you frequently eat out at fast food restaurants, you should consider the nutritional information they now provide to make good choice. It is possible to do that if you carefully pay attention to the details listed.

If you want to lose weight or release yourself from an eating disorder, try to eat these healthy types of foods: vegetables, root vegetables, potatoes, lettuce, fruits, berries, fish, porridge and lean dairy products. Unfortunally, many people live on a diet that consists mainly of pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, sweets, soft drinks and chips. If you are doubtful whether you should regularly eat a certain type of food, check if it causes compulsive eating or makes you want to eat even when you do not need more. Avoid all food that has this kind of effect. Read more about fasting days and fasting food at http://www.idealweightblog.com.