Are You Getting the Nutrients You Need for Maximum Energy & Good Health?

Take one quick peek at dietary survey data and you’ll find many Americans don’t consume enough vitamins and minerals through food alone. How does this impact your health? A nutrient deficiency could affect your energy levels, mood, ability to concentrate, structure of your skin, teeth, nails, bones and more. So, how can you be sure you are getting enough of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health? First, focus on consuming foods that are particularly rich in the nutrients many Americans fall short on. Secondly, consider taking a multivitamin to make up for any nutrient gaps. But first, here’s a look at the food groups:

To watch my Talk of Alabama TV segment on this topic, click here.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain a wide variety of nutrients including magnesium – which is necessary for a healthy metabolism, good energy and muscle strength – yet many people get very little magnesium in their diet. On average, most women get about ½ of the magnesium they need each day. Nuts & seeds also have zinc for immune system functioning, wound healing, muscle growth and repair and some nuts, like almonds, also contain calcium, which we need for strong bones. If you are worried about the calories in nuts and seeds, stick to the right portion size (about 1/4 cup for nuts) and keep in mind that research shows people who eat nuts regularly tend to weigh less than those who consume nuts infrequently.

A few of my favorites based on nutrient content (including magnesium): pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts.

Grains

Grains provide approximately 43% of the fiber in an average American diet. Fiber aids digestion, helping prevent constipation and it adds bulk to your diet helping increase feelings of fullness, which makes it easier to control your weight. Whole and enriched grains also naturally contain a wide variety of important vitamins and minerals. For instance, grains provide about 2/3 of the folic acid in an average American diet. Folic acid makes healthy new cells. And, it is a nutrient of concern for women of childbearing age because inadequate folate (folic acid) intake during pregnancy increases one’s risk of having premature and low birth weight babies or babies with certain types of birth defects in the brain or spine. Here in the U.S., grains such as bread, cereal, flour, and pasta are enriched with folic acid (gluten free products might not be enriched).

Beans

Beans count as both a vegetable and protein-rich food. Not only are they packed with fiber but they also contain iron, magnesium and potassium. And diets higher in potassium may help lower blood pressure, especially if you consume too much sodium. Plus potassium supports muscle functioning and higher potassium diets may also decrease risk of kidney stones.

Here are 3 you should focus on based on nutrient content and versatility: black beans, lima beans and white beans.

Seafood

Seafood is another rich source of nutrients. For instance, oysters have more zinc than any other food and more iron than red meat (a 3 oz. serving provides almost half of the daily value for iron). Try canned oysters to save time and money. Canned sardines with the bones are an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D – you need both of these for strong bones. But, chew those bones carefully! And, if you are concerned about mercury (and small children, pregnant and lactating women should consume only low mercury fish), check out this guide from the Natural Resources Defense Council, which categorizes fish based on mercury content.

While eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to get vitamins and minerals, the reality is that most Americans don’t get enough through food alone, especially those on lower calorie diets or adults over the age of 50. So, consider a multivitamin. Multivitamins are a great solution to fill dietary gaps.

I partnered with Centrum and the Wheat Foods Council for this segment though I wrote the content of this post and the segment based on the latest scientific research.

 

 

Tofu Veggie Stir Fry

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is asparagus. And, in my opinion there’s no better way to eat asparagus then stir fried in sesame oil. So, I literally threw together a bunch of vegetables and some tofu for this meatless meal. It’s quick, it’s healthy and it tastes good (and you can add a variety of other vegetables to a stir fry dish).

Tofu Veggie Stir fry

Makes 3 servings

  • 1 green bell pepper
  • bunch asparagus (cut into 2-3 inch pieces)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large sweet onion chopped
  • 6 oz firm tofu
  • 2-3 Tbsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce chopped into small squares the size of 1-2 dice

Add 2 Tbsp sesame seed oil to a large skillet (depending on the size of your skillet you may need to do this in two separate batches) over low heat. Place all ingredients in the pan and heat for 10 minutes or until cooked to preference and tofu is brown. You may want to add additional soy sauce to taste. Serve over brown or white rice.

Try this Winter Fruit for Great Taste & Good Health

By Sara Shipley, RD-to-be and student at the University of Central Oklahoma

Looking for a reason to try butternut squash? I have plenty! This winter fruit, (yes it is technically a fruit because it has seeds) is packed with healthful benefits to round out any meal. Just a single cup provides an ample dose of vitamins A, B1, B3, B6, C, calcium, potassium, and fiber! The butternut squash has an inedible pale-yellow skin with a sweet, somewhat nutty flavored, deep orange flesh. The seeds must be removed prior to cooking, however they can be eaten as a snack after roasting.

Beyond the delicious taste, butternut squash is chock full of wholesome vitamins and minerals that you need in your daily diet.

THE BOON OF BUTTERNUT SQUASH:

VITAMINS: The primary source of vitamin A is from beta-carotene,     with more than 300% of the daily-recommended value in a single cup. It is also a great source for Vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and enzymatic cofactor in our bodies, both necessary to  regulate healthy function. Moreover, this squash provides a source of    approximately 10% each of multiple B vitamins, including B1-Thiamin,   B3- Niacin and B6.

MINERALS: We’ve heard they’re important, but how can you keep up with getting the right amount? Rather than taking a supplement, try incorporating just a single cup for a good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Calcium contributes to strong bones and muscle function and potassium is an integral player in the fluid balance within our bodies. Without magnesium, many enzymatic processes required for normal function cannot proceed. These minerals are vital to a healthy diet.

FIBER: Ah, the digestive health rock star. Fiber keeps your body regular and it is involved in lowering cholesterol and maintaining blood sugar levels. That makes it heart healthy and a preventative measure towards pre-diabetes. Eat just a single cup of this squash and you will add at least 2 grams to your daily fiber goal, which should be approximately 15-20 grams.

There are also many other heart healthy attributes to this squash. Low in fat, there are only 80 calories in a cup (205g), primarily which come from complex carbohydrates. There is no cholesterol and less than 8 mg of sodium! Because this squash is naturally sweet, you don’t need to add much to enjoy the simple taste.

Steaming the squash for 7-8 minutes makes it so easy to enjoy and a quick addition to many basic dishes.  I have been cooking with butternut squash a lot lately and have found two recipes that I love, are easy to make and quite affordable.

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Tart: There is nothing fancy about this ‘tart’ and this recipe calls for only 6-7 ingredients. Don’t be detoured from the process of caramelizing the onions, because they pair so well with the squash and your family or guests will be asking for seconds (or the recipe).

Ingredients:

1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, separated

4 ounces goat cheese, slightly chilled

1.5 cups of cooked, 1-in. cubed butternut squash

3 large onions, thinly sliced

Thyme sprigs (fresh is best, dried works fine)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparations:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

With the thawed puff pastry, use a rolling pin to roll it out to approximately 10 by 16 inches. Carefully slice off half an inch from all sides of the rectangle, keeping the scraps as long strips. Transfer the pastry to the parchment paper. Wet your fingertips and the edge of the pastry. Reapply the scraps to their respective sides, creating a border. With a fork, pierce the inside part of the pastry, so when the puffing occurs in the oven, the unpierced border will rise around the inside and the middle will remain. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden. Set aside and turn the oven down to 375 Fahrenheit.

While the pastry is baking, heat a large skillet on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions, a pinch of salt and pepper and several thyme sprigs. Place a lid on the skillet and stir often to prevent burning. Once they begin to soften and brown, keep the lid on for another 15 minutes and continue stirring.  Take the lid off as they begin to caramelize and turn heat to low. They will take another 15-20 minutes to caramelize entirely, but believe me it is worth every minute. When complete, turn off the heat and remove the thyme sprigs, as they will have done their job by imparting their flavors during that process.

After peeling and cubing the butternut squash into 1-inch cubes, steam the squash for 5-6 minutes. This will not entirely cook the squash, but it will be in the oven again so we do not want to initially overcook it.

Once the tart has been removed from the oven and the onions are caramelized, you can begin to assemble. With a large spoon, spread the onions over the entire pastry inside, as though it were a sauce on a pizza. Next, add the butternut squash and finally, crumble the goat cheese (it is easiest when chilled) in your hand and sprinkle generously over the onions and squash. You may want to brush a small amount of olive oil over the border, to add extra sheen to the pastry before baking again. Place back into the oven for 5-7 minutes, until reheated through. Take out and cut into 8 pieces. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Risotto: I made this for a birthday dinner a few weeks ago and it was a huge hit. Besides the creaminess of risotto that everyone loves, the squash imparts a pretty orange color and adds to the rib-sticking goodness of this dish. With Parmesan cheese, this is a savory side of butternut squash I think anyone will enjoy. (Recipe adapted from Foodnetwork.com, Rachel Ray)

Ingredients:

  •  1 qt chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry, white wine
  • 2 cups cooked butternut squash
  • 1 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 7-8 sage leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preparation:

Bring the 1-quart stock and 1 cup water to a simmer in a saucepot then reduce heat to low.

Heat a medium skillet with the olive oil over medium to heat. When oil becomes hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and toast 3 minutes more. Add the wine, stirring occasionally until completely evaporated.

The risotto should take 18 minutes to fully cook so, patiently ladle the stock into the rice in intervals, allowing the liquid to evaporate each time. After approximately 15 minutes, stir the cooked squash into the rice. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper and in the last minute of cooking time, add the butter in small pieces, sage and cheese.  Enjoy!