Blueberries , an Antioxidant Superfood

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Blueberries are healthy and super sweet – we all know that, right? Plus, they make a killer pie. But it turns out these summer favorites are actually a superfruit packed with antioxidants that may fight disease and help with brain health. Read on to learn why this fruit easily earns the title of “super.”

 WHY THEY’RE SUPER

At 84 calories per cup, a serving of berries contains 14 percent of the suggested daily fiber and 24 percent of the suggested daily intake of Vitamin C. But it gets better. Research suggests blueberries deliver some even more powerful and long-lasting health benefits. One study found that consuming a cup of blueberries per week can lower blood pressure and perhaps speed up metabolism, due mostly to their high levels of anthocyanins (a type of antioxidant) . Another study suggests blueberries can lower levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol), potentially reducing the risk of coronary heart disease . Blueberries may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells .

So adding some baby blues to a fruit salad may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer – great news for your body. But what about your brain? Blueberries have that covered, too. Psychiatrists at the University of Cincinnati found that wild blueberry juice enhanced memory and learning function in older adults while reducing blood sugar and decreasing symptoms of depression . Because of these findings, some researchers suggest blueberries could potentially fight more serious memory problems like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s(though more research is needed) . The most recent research on this tiny superfood backs up that claim. Using a food-frequency questionnaire, scientists have been able to link a higher intake of flavonoids, particularly from berries, to reduced rates of cognitive decline in the elderly .

FEELING BLUE? YOUR ACTION PLAN

For the freshest in-season blueberries, buy or pick your own May to October. Craving these blue babies out of season? Most grocery stores sell them all year long, though these varieties tend to be more expensive (and come from further away). Don’t forget about dried and frozen alternatives, perfect for smoothies and baked goods any time of the year.

Is there such thing as eating too many blueberries? They do have a relatively high sugar content (especially in dried form), but when sticking to the suggested serving size of one cup of fresh berries, that’s nothing to worry about.

Blueberries are great washed and eaten by the handful, but don’t be afraid to be creative with these fruits. Toss ‘em in a yogurt parfait, add to whole-grain waffles topped with banana, cinnamon, and nut butter, or try them in a smoothie.

What’s your favorite way to eat blueberries? Share in the comments below!

 

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7 Ways to Eat (& Drink!) Turmeric

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Do you have a jar of turmeric languishing in your spice cupboard? Or perhaps you’re looking for ways to add it to your diet in response to all the recent studies indicating its health-promoting and disease-preventing properties. Turmeric has long been a staple in Indian curries as well as in foods like mustard (it provides that golden yellow color!), but there are lots of other ways to eat and drink this spice. Here are seven easy ideas.

  • 1. Add it to scrambles and frittatas. Use a pinch of turmeric in scrambled eggs, a frittata, or tofu scramble. If you or your family are new to turmeric, this is a great place to start because the color is familiar and the flavor subtle.
  • 2. Toss it with roasted vegetables. Turmeric’s slightly warm and peppery flavor works especially well with cauliflower, potatoes, and root vegetables.
  • 3. Add it to rice. A dash of turmeric brings color and mild flavor to a pot of plain rice or a fancier pilaf.

→ Recipe: Fragrant Yellow Rice

  • 4. Try it with greens. Sprinkle turmeric into sautéed or braised greens like kale, collards, and cabbage.
  • 5. Use it in soups. A bowl of vegetable or chicken soup feels even more warming when it’s tinged with golden turmeric.
  • 6. Blend it into a smoothie. While fresh turmeric root is especially great in juices and smoothies, a pinch of ground spice is good, too. The slightly pungent flavor is usually well masked in smoothies.

→ Recipe: Superpower Morning Smoothie (the recipe doesn’t call for turmeric but you can definitely add it!)

  • 7. Make tea. Simmer turmeric with milk and honey to make an earthy and comforting beverage.

→ Recipe:Turmeric-Ginger Tea

 

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Why avocados are the most awesome fruit, according to science

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Also known as an alligator pear or butter fruit, the versatile avocado is the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of monounsaturated fat (the healthy kind). According to Medical News Today, avocados are a naturally nutrient-dense food and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals.

It’s hard to go past a perfectly ripe avocado. And lucky for us, these things are so packed with nutrients, it hurts. Not only are they high in fibre, monounsaturated fatty acids, antioxidants, B6, vitamin E, and a bunch of healthy fats, they’re also packed with twice the amount of potassium as bananas. And all of these work in conjunction with the nutrients we get from other fruits and vegetables – throw some avocado in a salad and you’ll absorb nutrients from the rest of the ingredients more easily, says this episode of Reactions from the American Chemical Society.

Oh and that ugly, tough skin? Well, that’s one of the avocado’s best qualities – it’s so dense, it keeps out pesticides, making it one of the safest fruits to eat (which is why you should think twice before forking out that extra cash for organic avocados).

Cut through that skin and you’ll get access to 11 different carotenoids, which are naturally occurring pigments found in plants, fungi, and some bacteria that have been found to impart many health benefits, including decreasing the risk of disease, particularly certain cancers and eye disease. Beta-Carotene, for example, is thought to have added benefits because of its ability to be converted to vitamin A, and lutein and zeaxanthin might protect our eyes from disease because they absorb the damaging blue light that enters the eye.

If you want to take advantage of all that, you’re going to want to make the most of the dark green portion of the fruit directly under the skin, and the video above shows you the best technique to maximise how much of this velvety goodness you get. (Plus it doesn’t involve stabbing a knife into the seed, which could save you a trip to the hospital.)

But alas, avocados aren’t perfect – they contain compounds called phenols, and these guys are responsible for the ridiculously fast browning that takes place as soon as you cut into one. When exposed to oxygen, the phenols will convert into an entirely different class of compounds called quinones, and over time, these link together to form a pigment called melanin. Yep, the same compounds that give our skin its colour.

On top of that, avocados are packed with an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, which acts to speed up this whole browning process even further. Why, nature, why?

Any avocado fan will know a temporary counter to this is lemon or lime juice, because the acid it carries can slow down the activity of the enzymes. But did you also know that if you douse your guacamole in cold water and store it in the fridge overnight, it will help stop the browning? Just tip the excess water out the next day and stir your guac and it’ll be (almost) as good as new, the American Chemical Society recommends.

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Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is one of the alternative juices often called upon to treat medical conditions, which is popular today. It is quite tasty and has a number of benefits for the body that helps to treat various health issues. Selecting the right cherry is necessary for you to feel the full benefits for your health.

Below we have posted a video further explaining the benefits of cherries along with a delicious sparkling cherry juice recipe!

Sparkling Cherry Juice (from Sour/Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate)

Healthy Tart Cherry Juice

Tart Cherry Juice

I make tons of this concentrate every cherry season and it lasts me for the greater part of the year. The concentrate will easily freeze and if you like to make things simple (like I prefer) you can use your ice tray to make instant serves ready to go when you want. Just drop a cube into your glass and add your sparkling water and your all set. Easy & yum!

Ingredients
1 pound sour cherries, washed and pitted * see notes
2 pounds sugar
1/2 pint water
Sparkling water

Place the cherries in a saucepan off the stove, pour the sugar over the top and let them sit for 2 hours. Add the water, and stir to mix the cherries, sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves.

Bring the cherry mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain liquid into another pan, pressing cherries with a spoon to extract all the liquid, and discard the cherries. Simmer the liquid over low heat until it is syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour syrup in a jar and store in the refrigerator.

To serve, place 1 to 2 tablespoons of syrup in each glass, fill glasses with chilled sparkling water and stir to mix.

*note:
If you’re interested in trying cherry juice to help with your symptoms from gout, arthritis, or other ailments, you may be wondering what the difference is between sour (tart) cherry vs black cherry juice. The main compound in cherry juice that benefits us is made up of Anthocyanins. While present in all variety of cherries, Anthocyanins are more highly concentrated in the sour (tart) cherry and black cherry varieties.
There’s one camp that prefers black cherries and another that recommends sour (tart) cherries for their ability to reduce uric acid levels and lessen the pain and inflammation of gout. Both work, but it seems that sour cherries are more highly favored by natural health practitioners and slightly more effective. Expect to see results within less than 24 hours.

Cherry Recipes

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Wonderfully delicious, cherry fruit is packed with full of health-benefiting nutrients and unique antioxidants. Cherries are one of the very low calorie fruits; however, are rich source of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Both sweet as well as tart cherries are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness. They are a healthy addition to many desserts and savory dishes alike.

Cherry Granola Breakfast Parfait

Cherry-Breakfast-Parfait

Don’t have time to make a healthy breakfast? There are no excuses now! You can make the granola & jam ahead of time and have it ready to make a delicious healthy meal that takes only minutes to put together.

2 c plain yogurt
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c cherries, pitted and halved
1/4 c sliced almonds
4 tbsp maple syrup, divided
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix oats and almonds. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, 2 tbsp maple syrup, oil, and salt. Stir the sugar mixture into the oat mixture until new mixture is uniformly wet. Spread in a single layer onto the baking sheet. Bake until granola is crispy (about 20-25 minutes), stirring occasionally. Pour 1/4 cup yogurt into a bowl or tall glass. Drizzle some maple syrup over the yogurt. Add a layer of granola, then a layer of cherries. Repeat until all yogurt, granola, and syrup are layered into the parfait.

No Bake Cherry Chocolate Chip Crumble Bars (Gluten Free, Refined Sugar Free)

No Bake Cherry Chocolate Chip Crumble Bars

These are easy to make, required no baking (hence the name) and are very tasty, especially if you like cherries and chocolate. Great combo!

2 cups oats
1 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened dried cherries
2 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2 tablespoons raw honey
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup (or more) homemade cherry jam**see recipe below

Line an 8 inch square pan with nonstick foil.  Combine the oats, walnuts and salt in a food processor and pulse until crumbly.  Add the cherries and blend until they are well combined with the oat mixture and are small bits of dried cherry.  Add the coconut oil and honey and pulse to combine and mixture just starts to clump together.  Add the chocolate chips and pulse again a few times.  Sprinkle half the crumbly mixture evenly in the bottom of the square pan.  Spread the jam over the crumb layer.  Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the jam and press it down gently.  Cover the pan and refrigerator for an hour.  Remove bars from pan using the overhanging foil.  Cut into squares on a cutting board.  Keep bars in the refrigerator until serving.

**Homemade All Natural Cherry Jam

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2 cups cherries, pitted (if you do not have fresh available you can use frozen)
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until pureed.  Put the mixture in a small saucepan and boil for 15-20 minutes until thickened.  Cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Use within 2 weeks.

Cherry Cornbread Mini Muffins

These cornbread-like muffins are not too sweet and manage to be both crispy and moist at the same time which makes them pretty near perfect.

These cornbread-like muffins are not too sweet and manage to be both crispy and moist at the same time which makes them pretty near perfect.

1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups cornmeal
1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 dozen fresh, pitted cherries, quartered (this makes approximately 1 heaping cup of fruit before cutting & pitting)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and mist your mini muffin pans with vegetable oil
Combine the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, b. powder, b soda & salt) in a bowl and mix them well.
Cut butter into pieces and use a pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients. The mixture will be clumpy and crumbly and the butter should be fairly evenly distributed into the dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients and whisk well egg, milk, yogurt & vanilla extract.
Fold the wet and dry ingredients together until just blended but don’t overmix. Scoop batter into prepared mini muffin tin, sprinkling a few fresh, sliced cherries into each muffin as you go.
Divide cherries evenly amongst muffins (this recipe makes approximately 24 mini muffins)
Bake at 425 degrees until deeply golden on top (approximately 15-20 minutes)

Roasted Cherry Butternut Squash

Rehydrated dried cherries turn simple roasted butternut squash into a special side dish.

Rehydrated dried cherries turn simple roasted butternut squash into a special side dish.

4 cups (1 L) cubed (1-inch chunks) peeled butternut squash (1 small squash, about 1-1/4 lb.)
3/4 cup (190 mL) dried cherries
1/2 cup (125 ml) boiling water
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons (30 ml) maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) salt

Heat oven to 375F. Spread squash in a single layer on a greased or sprayed 15×10-inch jelly roll pan or shallow roasting pan. Bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cherries and boiling water; set aside to plump.
Add onion wedges to pan with squash. Drizzle butter over vegetables; toss well. Bake 10 minutes. Drain cherries; add to pan. Drizzle syrup over vegetables; toss well. Continue baking 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and glazed. Sprinkle with salt. Makes 8 (1/2 cup) servings.

Grilled Chicken with Cherry-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Chopped cherries combine with cherry preserves and smoky, hot chipotle peppers for an unusual & tasty marinade and sauce for grilled chicken.

Chopped cherries combine with cherry preserves and smoky, hot chipotle peppers for an unusual & tasty marinade and sauce for grilled chicken.

1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) dark sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup cherry preserves
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce or more to taste
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Stir cherries, broth, preserves, ketchup, vinegar, chipotle peppers, thyme and allspice in a small deep bowl. Transfer to a shallow nonreactive dish (see Note) large enough to hold chicken. Add chicken and turn to coat well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat grill to high. Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Remove the chicken from the marinade. Transfer the marinade to a medium skillet.
Bring the marinade to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, 12 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, reduce the grill heat to medium and grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 7 to 9 minutes per side. Let the chicken cool slightly; serve with the sauce.

Cornish Hens With Port-Cherry Sauce

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This delicious sauce is made from dried cherries, port, thyme, and cornstarch. While used to top Cornish game hens, it really can work with any protein source.
While it sounds relatively fancy, you need only 15 minutes of prep time and 45 to cook—quick enough for a weeknight dinner.

Ingredients
Hens:
2 (1 1/2-pound) Cornish hens
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (available at specialty-food shops)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, divided
Cooking spray
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Sauce:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup port or other sweet red wine
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup dried cherries
Additional thyme sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Remove giblets and necks from hens. Rinse with cold water; pat dry. Remove skin; trim excess fat. Split hens in half lengthwise. Combine paprika, next 3 ingredients (through pepper), and 1/4 teaspoon chopped thyme; rub on hens.
Place hen halves, breast sides up, in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place a thyme sprig in the cavity of each bird.
Insert a thermometer into meaty part of a thigh, avoiding the bone. Bake at hens at 400° for 35 minutes or until thermometer registers 165°. Transfer hens to a platter; cover with foil.
To prepare sauce, place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour drippings from broiler pan into bag; let stand 10 minutes until fat rises to top. Seal bag; carefully snip off 1 bottom corner. Drain drippings into a small bowl; discard fat. Set drippings aside.

Grilled Chicken with Cherries, Shallots, and Arugula
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Ingredients

1 small shallot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound (2 halves) boneless, skinless chicken breast
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces (2 cups) sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup baby arugula

Combine shallot, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil and set aside.
Preheat grill to medium-high. Drizzle remaining oil over chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Toss shallot mixture, cherries, and arugula in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on top of chicken.

Sparkling Red Cherry Punch

For a festive garnish, add a pitted tart cherry and a quartered slice of orange on a cocktail pick to each glass.

For a festive garnish, add a pitted tart cherry and a quartered slice of orange on a cocktail pick to each glass.

Sweeten your parties with this festive punch made of cherry juice, orange juice and your favourite sparkling wine or champagne. Use sparkling water to make it alcohol free.

1-1/2 cups (375 mL) tart cherry juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier, Curaçao or Cointreau
1 bottle (750 mL) champagne or sparkling wine

In a large pitcher, combine cherry juice, orange juice and liqueur. Chill at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Just before serving, stir cherry mixture. Tilt pitcher; slowly pour in champagne. Stir gently. Serve in champagne flutes or wine glasses. Makes 8 servings.

Red Alert

This drink is a blend of lip-smacking cherry juice with another trendy ingredient, coconut water, which is gaining popularity as a cooking ingredient and sports drink (for its high potassium and mineral content). This blend is great for cooling off after a workout or as a morning wake-up drink.

This drink is a blend of lip-smacking cherry juice with another trendy ingredient, coconut water, which is gaining popularity as a cooking ingredient and sports drink (for its high potassium and mineral content). This blend is great for cooling off after a workout or as a morning wake-up drink.

60 mL tart cherry juice
120 mL coconut water
60 mL club soda or sparkling water

Pour ingredients into one 240 mL glass. Stir to combine and serve.

Binge Drinking Affects Your Immune System Immediately

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking

Just one night of binge drinking affects the immune system, and it can happen within just 20 minutes of ingesting alcohol. The findings, published in the journal Alcohol last month, are the first to document the immediate effects of alcohol on the human immune system.

The immune system is a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against disease, infection and viruses. If this system is damaged, reduced or does not work as efficiently as it should, a person will become sick with illness from infections or viruses. Alcohol is known to inhibit the immune system which means that those who abuse alcohol will find it takes longer and they are affected by infections much longer than other people.

When the immune system is deficient and a person abuses alcohol, they have an increased risk of contracting certain diseases such as pneumonia, respiratory infections, blood-borne viruses such as HIV or Hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, if they have a predisposition to cancer, heart disease or kidney disease, these conditions are more likely to occur.

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Balanced Immune System

It is well known that binge drinking alters behavior. “But there is less awareness of alcohol’s harmful effects in other areas, such as the immune system,” Loyola University Chicago’s Elizabeth Kovacs says in a news release. Previous studies in both humans and animals revealed that alcohol intoxication exerts effects on the immune system several hours to days after the exposure—when blood alcohol is no longer detectable.

Now, to study the effects while blood alcohol is still elevated, a team led by Majid Afshar of Loyola University Health Systems collected blood from seven men and eight women before they voluntarily became intoxicated after “high-dose alcohol consumption.” This was achieved by downing up to five shots of vodka within 20 minutes. A 1.5-ounce shot of vodka is the equivalent of one 5-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce can of beer.

The team also collected blood 20 minutes, two hours, and five hours after the participants first imbibed (these are the times when intoxicated patients typically arrive at trauma centers for alcohol-related injuries). The researchers isolated immune cells from the blood sample, and then measured their response to introduced proteins from potentially harmful bacteria, New Scientist explains. An early pro-inflammatory state was already evident at 20 minutes when blood alcohol levels were about 130 milligrams per deciliter. The immune system was revving up: There was an increase in total circulating leukocytes, monocytes, and natural killer cells. Additionally, there was also an increase in cytokines, a protein that signals the immune system to ramp up.

The responses eventually diminished, and the immune system became more sluggish than when the volunteers were sober. At the two and five hour post-peak-intoxication intervals, the team found an anti-inflammatory state with reduced numbers of monocytes and natural killer cells circulating in the blood. This was accompanied by higher levels of a different kind of cytokine that signals for the immune system to become less active.

So next TGIF, before you have your night out consider this information.

You can find out more about helping to boost your immune system here.