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How Phytonutrients Help Your Diet

Are you getting enough phytonutrients? The odds are high that you're not, according to recent Amway research published in the British Journal of Nutrition and available on Amway's website. More than six in 10 adults fall short of the World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the primary source of phytonutrients. Most adults would have to double their daily fruit and vegetable intake just to reach the WHO's minimum recommendation of five servings per day (400 grams per day). Adults who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day have phytonutrient levels two to six times higher than those who only consume fewer than five servings per day.

Why is it so important to make sure you get enough phytonutrients in your diet? And what can you eat to make sure you're getting enough? Here's some information to help you understand phytonutrients, why they're so important for your body, and where you can find sources of them.

fresh berries in glasses
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What Are Phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals (both named from the Greek word for "plant"), are chemicals produced by plants that yield health benefits for plants and for animals and people who consume plants. In plants, they may perform functions such as promoting growth, blocking radiation, and repelling insects. In humans, phytonutrients may have benefits such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial effects.

There are more than 25,000 known types of phytonutrients. Some of the major categories of phytonutrients include carotenoids, chlorophyll, curcuminoids, flavonoids, fiber, garlic, indole-3 carbinol, phytosterols, resveratrol, and soy isoflavones. Phytonurtients often provide plants with distinctive coloration, so they are also informally categorized by the colors they give food, such as the green in spinach, the orange in carrots, or the blue in blueberries; however, not all phytonutrients have distinctive colors. Phytonutrients are distinguished from essential nutrients, which are required for the body to function properly but can't be produced by the body, and include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Why Are Phytonutrients Important?

While phytonutrients are not as crucial as essential nutrients for staying alive, they perform extremely important biological functions that can help you stay healthy and function at your optimal level. For example, carotenoids act as antioxidants, inhibiting oxidation reactions that can damage cells. In addition to these general antioxidant properties, some types of carotenoids provide other specialized benefits. For instance, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted into Vitamin A, which promotes a healthy immune system and good vision.

In some cases, the benefits of phytonutrients are unproven, but research points in promising directions. For example, some cruciferous vegetables contain the glucosinolate glucobrassicin, which forms indole-3 carbinol. Preliminary research has indicated that indole-3 carbinol may inhibit some types of cancer, prompting ongoing research to determine if supplemental indole-3 carbinol can help fight cancer.

Where Do I Find Phytonutrients?

To increase the volume and variety of phytonutrients in your diet, Amway's study recommends following three simple steps. First and most fundamentally, eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, or at least 400 grams. Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables can all supply phytonutrients.

Second, it's important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables so that you enjoy the benefits of a range of phytonutrients. You can do this by eating a diet that includes different colors of fruits and vegetables, including leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach, orange vegetables such as carrots and squash, and berries such as strawberries and blueberries. Salads, shakes, and smoothies can help you build these colorful combinations into your diet.

Third, you can supplement your diet with plant-based supplements to increase your intake of phytonutrients. This can be especially helpful if you have a hard time preparing meals with sufficient quantities and varieties of phytonutrients on a regular basis.

Reap the Rewards

Phytonutrients, found in fruits and vegetables, provide important known and potential health benefits. These include antioxidant protection against cell damage, a healthy immune system, healthier vision, and possibly improved resistance to certain forms of cancer, to name just a few of the verified and suspected benefits associated with the thousands of known phytonutrients. If you want a healthier body and more vibrant energy, it's worth your while to make an effort to get more phytonutrients into your diet.


Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

Lentil Moussaka Recipe

Lentils are amazing. Filling, low cost, available in bulk (at many supermarkets) and full of protein (26% by weight) and fiber (31%). Superfood.

lentils in hands
Photo by Anna Svensson

As a plant-based mama and home chef, I am always looking to create new dishes using superfoods like lentils and low cost, simple staples like onions and potatoes. This is how I came to transform the Greek classic of Moussaka into my Swedish style (got to have potatoes in everything) vegan version, which the whole family enjoys – also the toddler.

It takes about an hour to make it, but fear not, all the steps in this recipe are simple, manageable and “no fail”. The worst thing that can happen to someone venturing into plant-based cooking is a confusing recipe with high failure rate.

This is what you need to serve about four people. Moussaka sits well in the fridge overnight so no stress if you have leftovers; lunch at the office tomorrow – done. The “ZW” (zero waste) notes ingredients bought in bulk in my own reusable bags or naturally package free.

Ingredients:

• 8-10 medium size yellow potatoes (ZW)
• 1/2 cup dry green lentils (ZW)
• 1 large yellow onion (ZW)
• 1 tbsp. flour (gluten free mix or regular)
• 1 can diced tomatoes (recyclable aluminum can, check for “no BPA liners”)
• 1-2 tbsp. tomato paste (recyclable aluminum can, check for “no BPA liners”)
• Salt & pepper to taste (ZW)
• 1-2 tomatoes (ZW)
• 1 cup raw cashews (ZW)
• Water (ZW)
• Something to grease your casserole dish with
• Shredded “cheese” (about 1 cup)

homemade vegan moussaka
Photo by Anna Svensson

Here’s what you do:

1. Wash, peel and boil the potatoes (15 minutes). They need to be firmer than when used in mash. Drain.

2. Rinse the lentils using a strainer and boil until soft (20 minutes) then rinse again and drain excess liquid.

3. Boil cashews until soft (20 minutes). Drain.

4. Set all aside.

5. Chop the onion and sauté in a pan with the lentils and some water until it’s soft. (This is a great low fat trick; no need for oil or margarine in your pan ever. Just water, I promise.)

6. Add the flour, stir.

7. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper and ½ cup water.

8. Stir and cook on low (with lid) for about 10 minutes.

9. Set the oven to 450F.

10. Pour the cashews into a blender along with 1 cup of water and blend until smooth. This is your cream!

11. Grease a casserole dish (mine is 12” x 8” x 3”) with coconut, canola or olive oil.

12. Slice the potatoes.

13. Layer the dish with potatoes, tomato-lentil sauce, potatoes again, and top with sliced tomatoes.

14. Complete your layering with the cream and cheese for a deliciously golden look.

15. Pop in oven for 20 minutes.

Serve with green salad or, as the kids prefer, corn!

You can use dairy cream and cheese if want to make the meal vegetarian and more familiar to omnivores. Vegan shredded cheeses are available at stores as well or you can use cashew-based mozzarella from ItDoesntTasteLikeChicken.com for super a cheesy cover (no need to also add the cashew cream if you decide to make cashew mozzarella). I don’t recommend subbing homemade cashew cream for coconut cream in this dish.

PS: Did you know that tomato paste freezes well? Since you won’t use the entire 6 oz can, freeze the leftover paste (in a glass jar) until your next Moussaka day!

Lentil and Beet Soup Recipe

This recipe is simple and healthy. Pigeon peas are low in carbs and high in protein, while beets are rich in vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds like carotenoids, lutein/zeaxanthin, glycine, betaine, dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus. Beets are also being a source of beneficial flavonoids called anthocyanins. They are very low in calories, with no cholesterol, but they do have the highest sugar content of all vegetables.

I always prefer simple authentic recipes at home. And when you have a hard time making your toddler eat vegetables and lentils, this soup is an ideal option. Spices are known for their anti-oxidant and disease fighting properties since ages. The combination of spices in this delicious soup makes it's healthier and an ideal weight loss choice. It provides all essential nutrients and is low in calories.

The spices added here are mild in flavor and the vegetable used is available throughout the seasons. Preparing food with quality ingredients and making it from scratch feeds your body and soul. It takes only 15 minutes to cook this super-simple yummy, recipe. Serves: 4

healthy beet soup
Photo by Adobe Stock/naltik

Ingredients:

• 1 cup Pigeon Peas
• 1 cup beets, chopped into small chunks
• 2 green chilies
• 1/4 tsp turmeric
• 1/4 tsp cumin powder
• 1 tsp coconut oil
• A few curry leaves
• Salt, to taste

Instructions:

Soak the lentils in water for 4 hours. Afterwards cook the pigeon peas in pressure cooker. Cook the beet with green chilies, turmeric, salt and cumin powder adding 1 cup of water. Now add the cooked lentils and switch off the flame. Add coconut oil and curry leaves to garnish. Serve warm.

7 Healthy Food Tips for College Students

A common stereotype regarding college students is that they eat quick, cheap, and microwavable ramen noodles at every meal. This could be from the small food budget that college students often have or the lack of stoves in most dorms. Unfortunately, these highly processed noodles do little to feed the brain or energy levels. What college students need is a healthy, well-rounded diet. This may seem impossible when many colleges restrict the heat sources you can have in your dorm room, but you will quickly see that it is not. Check out these tips.

baby spinach in bowl
Photo by Pixabay/kkolosov

1. Grow a Small Herb Garden

Have you ever wished for a little more flavor for your food? Not only do herbs contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they are a great source of flavor. They are also rather cheap to grow, especially since you can monitor your clippings to continuously encourage new growth. There are even some herbs that grow year-round, including oregano, basil, chives, rosemary, and parsley. You can find some tips about growing each of these herbs and several others.

2. Add Fresh Produce to Your Diet

When you buy what is in season, you will be surprised at how affordable produce is. Additionally, many produce items can be enjoyed raw, as a smoothie, in a salad, on sandwiches, or with a dip. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always good sources of vitamins and minerals that your brain needs to function. Find out what grows in your area seasonally and challenge yourself to try something new.

3. Learn About Mug Cooking

Eggs are a great way to get protein into your diet, but students often overlook being able to cook them. In recent times, coffee mug cooking has become popular. All you need is a few eggs, some vegetables or herbs of your choice, and a microwave, and you will be enjoying a hearty meal in no time. You’ll need to adjust the time based on the specific microwave, but with a little tweaking, all the students on your floor will be asking for your method.

4. Drink More Smoothies

While stoves are off-limits, a blender may fall under your dorms standards. Smoothies are a great way to make quick, nutritious food on the go. Just toss in the ingredients, blend for a minute or two, and enjoy! Another great thing about smoothies is that they are often full of nutritious ingredients. For example, check out this Mango Chili Avocado Smoothie—it has vitamin-rich mango, Omega-3 rich avocados, and plenty of flavor.

5. Choose Healthier Snacks

Being unprepared is one of the quickest ways to ruin your diet. After all, why go out of the way to eat healthy when you can grab a quick slice of pizza from the cafeteria? Stock yourself up on room-stable snacks like pretzels, rice cakes, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. Peanut butter is another great option since you can spread it on multigrain crackers or dip apple slices in it.

6. Choose Energizing Snacks

One of the worst things you can do when you are staying up late studying or finishing a paper is to fill your body with junk food. It can leave you feeling sluggish, not to mention lead to weight gain. Instead, choose healthier snacks like the ones above. Some other easy options that are good for you include tuna, oatmeal, and yogurt. Be sure to eat foods that are nutrient-rich and filling. Choose things full of protein and fiber if you want to stay full and prevent excessive snacking.

7. Have Your Own Salads Any Time

Whether you want to freshen up your sandwich or enjoy a salad, growing a window garden can be a great way to add some greens to your diet. Green vegetables are often rich sources of chlorophyll, antioxidants, fiber, calcium, zinc, and iron, as well as vitamins A, C, and K. Additionally, with the right care, you can easily save space by growing a small garden of lettuce, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens outside your dorm window. If you want the freshest greens, use this tip and harvest the greens early in the morning. This is when they are at peak freshness.

These Tips Will Help You Be an Ethical Omnivore

Modern wisdom might lead you to believe that animal-product-free living is the only way to eat with your conscience intact. Sure, you’re eschewing meat, cheese and other products produced at the expense of a living creature — but it might not be the best diet for you and your health.

Fortunately, there are ways to rectify an omnivorous diet in your mind and in your heart. The following four tips will help you become an ethical meat eater, which means you can feel good about what you eat, animal product or not.

omnivore's meal
Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash

1. Make Fruits and Veggies Your Base

There’s a reason people can be healthy on a vegetarian or vegan diet: Fruits and vegetables contain so many of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need. That’s why your body still needs nourishment from fresh produce, even if you’re eating meat or adding it back into your diet.

Start your foray into life as an ethical omnivore by making fresh produce the basis of all your meals. You might go for a grilled chicken breast served over a bed of lettuce, a handful of meatballs over a bed of zucchini noodles or even a green smoothie for breakfast — it doesn’t matter.

Adding a healthy serving of vegetables and fruits into every meal will make your diet more varied and, therefore, healthier. And, it’ll make you feel good about your omnivorous food choices if the base of your diet is fresh produce instead of animal products.

2. Know Your Labels

Food companies know how many of us are into feel-good, delicious foods. As such, they plaster labels on their products that make them seem as though they’re earth- and body-friendly. It’s up to you to know which of these are worth your attention.

Let’s start with the “all-natural” stickers, because these are potentially the most problematic. Though it may seem official, no overarching body regulates this phrase, which means it’s up to the manufacturer to decide whether they want to label their products all-natural. And, considering how many of us prefer to put non-processed products into our bodies, food brands use this label generously to market their products. In other words, take this one with a grain of salt.

Organic products have more stringent guidelines to meet to earn the sticker. Animals must get time outdoors so they can experience a more traditional life. To that end, organic farmers also can’t use hormone or antibiotic treatments other producers may use to boost the animals’ growth rate. In other words, this meat and dairy is better for the livestock and, therefore, better in your ethical quest.

You should add another must-have when you’re buying beef, milk or other cow-centric products: the grass-fed label. This designation signifies the cattle grazed on grass, which is more sustainable than factory farming. Plus, the animals get to stick to their natural diet, which results in healthier cuts of meat down the line.

3. Think About the Animals

In your attempt to become an ethical omnivore, the animals are likely at the forefront of your mind. It’s no secret some companies pay little attention to how well they treat their livestock, so long as they can make the biggest profit from their products. You’ll obviously want to steer clear of brands known to act like this.

The only problem is, how can you tell just from looking at a carton of eggs, a bag of shredded cheese or a wall of pre-packed cuts of meat? It’s up to you to do your research and find brands whose ethics match yours. There are plenty of cage-free operations, which allow animals free rein of farmland so they live less stressful lives. Other farmers ensure the food they feed their livestock is plant-based, so they grow naturally healthy without the aid of hormones.

As we mentioned before, you can use labels to help you find the food that fits with your moral mindset. For example, the United Egg Producers have a certification label that’s as good as a promise your eggs have come from humanely treated chickens. Not only do these birds live in comfortable, non-crowded shelters, but the farmers also handle them gently to cause them less stress throughout their egg-laying process.

Knowing this information should put your mind at ease as you make a shift into omnivore territory. And, by supporting producers who put these practices at the forefront, you’re inspiring other farmers to do the same to attract more business from like-minded customers.

4. Eat Seasonally

Once upon a time, you couldn’t find whatever produce you wanted at any time of year. Instead, you had to wait until the particular fruit or vegetable came into season — the growing conditions had to be just right to cultivate juicy summer peaches or funky fall gourds.

Now, though, with the advent of improved farming technology and the expansion of international trade and commerce, you can get anything any time of year. This convenience may seem great, but it comes with a few caveats: For starters, shipping products across borders means your out-of-season produce requires quite a bit of extra fuel to get it to you. Plus, it’s better to listen to Mother Nature and eat what she provides at the right time of year.

So, in your quest to eat more ethically, you’ll want to learn how to eat seasonally. Most importantly, you’ll have to learn what to eat, when. It might get a bit monotonous in winter, when fewer products are available for you to eat. But you can mix things up by learning different preparation methods so your meals taste different, despite being the same base fruit or veggie.

Eat Ethically

These are four pillars of ethical eating, but they’re also just a jumping-off point into your more earth-conscious diet plan. As you get deeper and deeper into it, you’re sure to find one thing to be true: You’ll feel better all around if you feel good about what you’re eating. Now, dig in.

Herbal Iced Teas To Keep You Chill This Summer

A typical summer day is incomplete without a cold beverage. After an exhausting day in the sun, you can reboot your system with a comforting and aromatic herbal iced tea. It is a refreshing way to increase your water intake as well. Herbal teas not only help you keep many ailments at bay but also have great flavor. They improve your health by helping you remain chill in body, mind, and spirit. These teas are made with herbs that have a unique flavor and impart a cooling effect, which you will surely need this summer.

herbal tea
Photo by Pixabay/congerdesign

How To Make A Herbal Iced Tea

Preparing an herbal iced tea is pretty simple, follow these steps to create your own. Bring together the herbs that you personally like and get on to preparing an iced beverage on a hot sunny day.

What You Will Need:

• 1/2 cup boiled water
• 1-2 tablespoons of dried or freshly chopped herbs
• A glass filled with ice cubes
• Sweetener for added taste (optional)

How To Do It:

It’s pretty simple.

Bring water to a boil and pour it over the herbs. Cover it for about 20-30 minutes before you strain it. You can add the juice of a lemon for a tangy flavor. Or add honey or maple syrup if you have a sweet tooth. Finally, pour over a glass full of ice and enjoy your iced beverage.

Now that you know how to make herbal iced tea, here are a few options to beat the heat this summer:

Peppermint Iced Tea

The minty flavor gives your body a cooling effect. Mint has a characteristic smell and taste as well as healing properties. It soothes the digestive and nervous systems, curbs appetite and cravings, and promotes healthy digestion.

Nettle Iced Tea

Another tea that is a powerhouse of nutrients is nettle tea. It is the herbal equivalent of green juice as it is high in vitamin C and minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. Seasonal changes usually cause allergies, and nettle tea is perfect for treating them. Preparing a cup of nettle iced tea may be a challenge as it needs to be brewed for at least 20 minutes to get the most of its cooling health benefits.

Hibiscus Iced Tea

This ruby red iced tea is what you need this summer. It is both cooling and heart healthy. It may be sour, but studies show that it has a lot of health benefits – from maintaining healthy blood pressure to regulating the body heat. It also has anti-aging properties that help in preserving the skin’s elasticity. It is loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants, which make it a healthy choice.

Lemon Balm Tea

Another member of the mint family, but this one is more citrusy. Lemon balm tea has calming properties. It relaxes the nervous system and is an effective cure for anxiety and insomnia. It not only tastes great but is also good for your health. It is usually taken to relieve stress.

Chrysanthemum Iced Tea

If you tend to develop heat rashes or headache in the sun, chrysanthemum is the tea for you. It has been traditionally used as medicine to help you cool down in the summer heat. It is known for its subtle floral flavor apart from its medicinal qualities. It cools your liver and nourishes your eyes. It cools your system and is just what you need on a hot afternoon.

You can’t escape the summer heat, but you can deal with it with these iced herbal teas. So, sip on these healthy frosty beverages and keep cool.

A Yoga Diet Based on Ayurvedic Principles

eating by ayurvedic principles
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As the traditional healing system from India, Ayurveda has long been used as a guide in nutrition for many yogis all over the globe. This complex philosophy is not merely a selection of remedies for various illnesses, but a holistic approach to living, encompassing everything from physical, to emotional well-being.

Naturally, those who practice yoga will find its wisdom even more appealing, since your diet can be completely altered with the help of Ayurveda’s ancient principles. Whether you are dealing with a chronic health issue, or you simply want to lead a healthier life, Ayurveda can complement your yoga lifestyle in several essential ways.

eat for your dosha
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Mind Your Character

Ayurveda recognizes three distinct personality types, and depending on your predominant characteristics, your diet can also be tailored to meet your emotional and psychological needs. Vata people are lively and mostly thin, so their nutrition should consist of sour, salty and sweet tastes, and it should be mostly warm, such as cooked veggies. The Pittas are very fiery, dynamic personas, so cooler, raw foods should keep their character in balance. Finally, the Kapha people are serene, slow and peaceful, so light meals will prevent them from gaining too much weight.

appetite control
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Keep Your Appetite Under Control

In order to maintain your life’s balance, your diet also needs to be based on moderation. Your main parameter of measure can be your own palms: put them together and open them, as if you are making an open version of the Anjali mudra. Ayurveda advises not to eat more than two of these measures per meals, in order to avoid overburdening your digestive tract and gaining too much weight.

plant-based foods
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Focus on Plant-Based Food

Although no foods are eliminated from the Ayurvedic diet, meat is consumed rarely and mostly as a healing part of your diet. It is considered a heavy option for your digestive system, so most people should rely on vegetables as their main source of nutrition. However, you might have a problem with obtaining enough protein, so you can use plant-based protein powder to supplement your diet and still adhere to Ayurvedic principles. Supplying your body with essential amino acids is crucial for maintaining and building muscles, and keeping up with your yoga routine, which is the key to a strong, vital body.

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Turn Meals Into Rituals

Our fast-paced lives often push us into choosing the most convenient meals, which means fast food and highly-processed goods. It also affects the way we eat, so we rarely take time to enjoy a meal. Ayurveda invites you to take your time when you prepare food, but also when you eat, to chew through every bite, and enable your digestion to work properly from the very first step. Also, make sure to remove all distractions, such as your phone, and turn off your TV – you should be in the moment and savor every bite.

eating schedule
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Time Your Eating

In addition to what and how you eat, your eating schedule also affects your overall wellbeing. It’s best to eat your daily meals before the sun sets, but since this can be difficult in certain parts of the world and during winter, you can make adjustments. As long as you don’t overwhelm your digestion in the several hours before sleep, and stick to light meals in the evening, your health shouldn’t suffer. That way, your body can use all the nutrients from the food properly and focus on repairing and healing during sleep.

healthy hydration
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Hydrate Properly

We all know that the majority of our body is made of water, and this simple fluid is essential for all key processes required for our health, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and healing. When it comes to how you hydrate, Ayurveda asserts that it’s best to drink water moderately throughout the day, instead of drinking too much at a single go. As for the right temperature, too cold and too hot shouldn’t be consumed, but water at room temperature, or lukewarm are best options. An extra tip: try drinking your water sitting down, since this is the best position for your kidneys to work optimally!

pair foods wisely
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Match Your Foods

If you have established which character category you fall under, and which foods suit you best, you should also be careful as to how you pair your foods for each meal. For instance, mixing foods that have a cooling nature, such as milk, and heating nature, such as bananas, can cause indigestion and prevent your body from properly absorbing the nutrients in those foods. Find more compatible choices depending on your personality and digestion, and your health will flourish!