Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Plant Power!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it’s recommended that we consume between 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruits daily and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables daily, with slight variations depending on gender and age. With that being said, we’re not ones for dwelling on numbers when it comes to food. People often tend to get hung up on a food’s nutrition content – things like sugar, fat, and fiber grams. We’ve noticed that when you focus on eating real food – unprocessed, unpackaged food – food you can picture growing in nature, the nutrition often takes care of itself.

This is why we love the new Plate Model from theUSDA. It simply encourages individuals to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. And since there is such a bounty of in-season produce available in California during the summer months, eating your recommended servings is not nearly as daunting as it often seems during the winter time.

You’d be hard pressed to find a dietitian or nutritionist that doesn’t advocate eating your fruits and veggies. Hundreds of scientific studies have led to the conclusion that the healthiest diet on the planet is a plant-based one. A fellow Registered Dietitian, Sharon Palmer released a book earlier this summer titled The PlantPowered Diet where she explains the dramatic benefits of eating more plants, such as these in-season items:    

melon, nectarines, peaches, plums, and tomatoes.

Tomatoes, for example are nature’s sunscreen. The lycopene in tomatoes—a potent antioxidant—may help prevent sunburn, reducing the aging skin damage from the sun. In addition, antioxidant-rich tomatoes help your skin retain moisture, keeping your skin healthy during the long, dry days of winter and the sun-drenched days of summer.
Melons are relatively low in calories, and are delicious in both sweet and savory recipes. Most melon varieties are rich in vitamins A and C, which are essential beauty-boosting nutrients. Vitamins A and C help keep your hair shiny and healthy by helping your hair follicles produce sebum, the body’s natural hair conditioner. Vitamin C is an essential building block of collagen, which helps to keep our skin supple and elastic. A breakdown in collagen causes the skin to wrinkle.

Image reprinted with permission from www.yumsugar.com and www.healthyaperature.com
Quinoa, while not necessarily an in-season fruit or vegetable, is a plant-lovers dream food. It’s one of the only plant based sources of protein that contains all the body’s essential amino acids. Since it’s packed with both protein and fiber, it’s guaranteed to keep you satisfied until your next meal or snack. Not to mention, since quinoa cooks like a grain it pairs perfectly with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and seasonings. The result is often delicious full-meal salads or side dishes.

Image reprinted with permission from www.foodiefiasco.com and www.healthaperature.com
By enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good-quality proteins and healthy fats in reasonable portions, it allows you to leave the calculator where it belongs – in your desk and not at the dinner table.
If you're looking for ways to increase your plant intake, we highly recommend The Plant Powered Diet for it's essential information on the healthiest plant foods and for it's 75 original (and delicious!) plant-based recipes...

...such as this plant-inspired recipe from Sharon’s book below.
Image from www.sharonpalmer.com
The jewel-like black beans shine in this crunchy, zesty salad. Serve it with corn tortillas and vegetable soup for an easy, refreshing meal.
You can watch Sharon prepare this recipe here.
Makes 6 servings (about 1 cup each)

1 – 15 oz can black beans, no salt added, rinsed, drained
1 cup cooked quinoa (according to package directions)
1 cup frozen corn
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh mango
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped (or 2 tsp dried if not available)
1 small fresh jalepeno pepper, seeded, finely diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric

Mix beans, quinoa, corn, pepper, mango, onion, cilantro and jalapeno together in a mixing bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder and turmeric together. Toss into salad mixture and chill until serving time.
Recipe from The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Optimal Health, Beginning Today, copyright © Sharon Palmer, 2012. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available June 2012.

These seasonal tips & recipe were featured in last month’s
Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
For more “In Season” tips & recipes, pick up the next issue of
The Health & Family Guide on September 21st.  

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