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18 Nutrition Habits You Are Probably Neglecting

by | Sep 29, 2015

Purple Artichokes

 

Going to a restaurant with me is not a normal phenomenon. I’m not impressed by comfort foods that most people love like mashed potatoes and mac’n cheese, and I almost always order the “weirdest” thing on the menu––think crudo (aka raw) platters, seaweed tastings and organ meats.

Just last week, for instance, I took my brother Shay to lunch at Mozza in Southern California, and without even asking him ordered the bone marrow appetizer. He looked at me incredulously. “Bone marrow?”

Me: “Yep, don’t worry about it. I always get it. You don’t have to have any if you don’t want.”

To Shay’s credit he tried it and––like 75% of the “weird” stuff I’ve encouraged him to try––he loved it.

So why am I such a freakshow?

Beyond my general disdain for social norms and conformity, my desire to eat at the fringes of the menu and grocery store stems from my desire to get as broad a spectrum of nutrients from my food as possible.

Healthy eating is about more than avoiding flour, sugar and trans fats. It also requires optimizing your nutrient intake of basic vitamins and minerals, as well as essential fats, amino acids, and trace micronutrients science may still be unaware of.

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Top 10 Most Underrated Health Foods

by | Mar 5, 2014

Photo by Michael Hodge

We already know that food manufacturers and the media tend to exaggerate the benefits of popular health foods, but what about all the wonderfully healthy foods they ignore?

It’s time to shine the spotlight on 10 of my favorite healthy foods that never get the attention they deserve.
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Tips To Keep Produce Fresh

by | Jun 11, 2012
spring vegetables

Vegetables

“How do you store fruits and veggies so they don’t go bad? It seems like I can never keep things fresh…”

I employ several different strategies to keep my produce in good condition until I’m ready to eat it. Here are my tricks for buying, cooking and maintaining the freshest fruits and vegetables.

Shop Regularly

Although it is probably self-evident, I think it is important to state that the freshest vegetables are the ones you bought today. They are even fresher if you get them at the farmers market (picked yesterday) rather than a grocery store that imports produce from around the world. In order to keep fresh vegetables and fruit in the house and eat healthy, you must shop for produce and groceries at least once a week.

Download my free guide for more tips on How To Get Started Eating Healthy.

Shop Strategically

This is my true secret to keeping food fresh. Different foods have different shelf lives, and you can take advantage of this fact when planning your meals for the week. Always make sure you buy a few robust vegetables for your Thursday and Friday night dinners (or try to schedule your restaurant dates for later in the week).

Cruciferous vegetables (both leaves and roots) store the best and can last well over a week in the crisper. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, chard, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Root veggies include carrots, beets, parsnips, sunchokes and potatoes.

Summer squash can last for many days in a dry plastic bag in the crisper, and winter squash can last weeks on a shelf. Eggplant has a shelf-life similar to summer squash and can be stored in the same manner. I’ve heard eggplant keeps even better outside the fridge, but I’ve never tried.

Delicate vegetables like lettuce, spinach and other spring greens are not as robust and should be eaten more quickly. Juicy fruits like berries, stone fruits and even tomatoes are more time sensitive and should be incorporated into meals earlier in the week.

Cook Intelligently

Having a rough idea of what meals you are going to make during the week can help you keep veggies fresh in several ways. In addition to planning your dishes around which vegetables last the longest, you can also prepare large batches of food early in the week then freeze or refrigerate the leftovers to eat later.

Avoid over-shopping by buying ingredients to use in multiple different dishes, rather than buying extra items for vastly divergent menus. For example, rather than purchasing red peppers for a stir fry and radishes for a salad, you can skip the radishes and add your extra pepper to your salad instead.

When buying herbs, I like to get one bunch of Italian parsley (it keeps a long time and is incredibly versatile) and only one bunch of a more delicate herb like thyme or cilantro. With this strategy you can explore recipes of different cuisines that utilize similar ingredients. For instance, if I have cilantro I may make Mexican food one night and a Vietnamese dish another night. Both incorporate fresh vegetables and herbs, but the flavor profiles of these cuisines are entirely different.

This is where it comes in handy to have a well-stocked pantry–go beyond the basics and learn to work with ingredients like fish sauce, coconut milk or quinoa. This is a great way to delve into a cuisine and explore different flavors.

Store Properly

Proper food storage can also go a long way in keeping your produce as fresh as possible. Generally speaking, most vegetables maintain their crispness best in the aptly named refrigerator compartment, the crisper. Crispers have different humidity settings than the rest of the fridge and are optimized for vegetables.

I find that leafy greens and herbs keep best in dry plastic bags or tuppers. When you get home with a large bag of salad greens from the farmers market, rinse them clean and spin them in a salad spinner. Let them sit out for an hour or so to completely dry, then put them in large tuppers to store for the week. With this strategy the crisper is not necessary.

Most fruit (including tomatoes) I keep outside the refrigerator to protect the taste, but berries are an exception. I have had fantastic luck using a reader’s suggestion to keep berries in a jar or tupper with the lid closed tight. I always put my berries away immediately after getting them home, trying to handle them as little as possible to keep any mold or bacterial spores out. I try to roll the berries into their new container without actually touching them with my hands. I buy berries much more often now 🙂

Revival Techniques

Sometimes despite your best efforts you end up with a wilted head of lettuce or a floppy bunch of basil. But if wilting is your only problem and the plant looks otherwise edible (still green and free of mold), all is not lost!

The reason plants wilt is they lose water from their cells to the environment through osmosis. But the osmotic properties of leaves can be used to your advantage. You can revive wilted greens by submerging them in a bath of cold water for 30-60 minutes, which replenishes the water in the leaves and allows them to regain their crispness! It is astounding how much they will perk up.

I learned this trick from a friend and fellow scientist–one of the many advantages of being a little nerdy.

Mold is another issue when storing fruits and vegetables, but you can sometimes salvage a batch of food if you catch it early and carefully remove all traces of it to keep it from spreading to the rest of your produce (this may involve finding a new container for the uncontaminated portion). Remember, mold is a living, growing thing that breeds more of itself. Keeping foods in sealed containers and touching them as little as possible with your hands can help control it.

Finally, fruits produce gases that cause neighboring fruits to ripen more quickly. If you have something that is perfectly ripe or over ripe, you may want to keep it away from the rest (unless of course you want the nearby fruit to ripen faster). Likewise, keeping fruits in bags will trap the gases and cause them to ripen more quickly.

Conclusion

With a few tricks and a strategic plan it is possible to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in the house for an entire week. Beyond that it is a little tough if you want your food to be truly fresh.

How do you keep your veggies fresh?
StumbleUpon.com

This article was originally published June 22, 2009.

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Farmers Market Update: Cheap Eats

by | Jan 3, 2010
Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Brussels Sprouts Stalk

Holiday spending making you wish you didn’t have to buy food the rest of the month?

You’re in luck, the farmers market in January is full of healthy, delicious and very affordable produce. This weekend I spent about half of what I do during a normal week in any other season.

Shanghai Bok Choy

Shanghai Bok Choy $2

Napa Cabbage $1

Napa Cabbage $1

My guess is winter produce is cheaper than spring and summer produce because it is more sturdy. During the summer, stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc.), berries and delicate greens are extremely perishable. They are also sweeter, so probably more labor intensive to grow (I’m just speculating here, farmers please feel free to chime in).

Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash

Sweet Potatoes and Acorn Squash

Winter Produce

Winter Produce

Whatever the reason, the food is cheap now at the farmers market. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t tasty. Hearty greens, root vegetables and squash are perfect soul-warming food for this frigid weather.

It’s win-win!

Fennel Bottoms

Fennel Bottoms

The star of the season is brassica, also known as cruciferous vegetables. These are generally what we think of when we say “leafy greens.” Examples of brassica are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, kale, etc.

Purple Kohlrabi and Kale

Purple Kohlrabi and Kale

Organic Broccoli

Organic Broccoli

It’s pretty common to not like these vegetables, so I won’t hold it against you if you just grimaced a little. But if you have only had them frozen or from the regular grocery store I urge you to try brassica again at your local farmers market.

When brassica are grown with care they are sweet and not bitter, tender and not tough. They are really delicious, probably my favorite. But I hated them as a kid. I urge you to give them another chance if you don’t love them already.

Audrey II

Audrey II

It’s also a great time to get onions, leeks, shallots and garlic. Not surprisingly, these make your brassica taste even better.

Dirty Girl Shallots

Dirty Girl Shallots

Twisted Leeks

Twisted Leeks

But life isn’t all about Brussels sprouts and broccoli this time of year. Citrus fruit is taking the market by storm, bringing a splash of warm color to cool weather.

Citron

Citron

Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges

I grew up in Southern California so I’m a little picky when it comes to citrus, but I had my socks knocked off today by the clementines at Olsen Organic Farm. You can’t go wrong with any of the clementines in San Francisco right now, but these were truly special. The flavor was so rich and concentrated. In my hypnosis I bought a huge bag of them.

Olsen Organic Clementines

Olsen Organic Clementines

Tropical fruits are also popping up at the farmers market. Today alone I spotted mango, kiwi, Malaysian white guava and white cherimoya. Too bad there wasn’t any bikini weather to pair with them.

Malaysian White Guavas

Malaysian White Guavas

Kiwis

Kiwis

And of course this time of year there are always persimmons, apples, pears, and pomegranates, though the seasons are winding down.

I didn’t get a picture, but the chanterelle mushrooms were also particularly spectacular.

Can you still find fresh veggies in your city? What’s your favorite?

Today’s Purchases:

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Farmers Market Update: Brassica!

by | Dec 6, 2009

Turnips

Turnips

This weekend was the Brassica Festival at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Brassica

Brassica

Brassica Bash!

Brassica Bash!

Brassica is a genus of vegetables in the mustard or cabbage family that includes cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts. They are also known as cruciferous vegetables, and I adore them.

Curly Kale

Curly Kale

Broccoli Crowns

Broccoli Crowns

In honor of the festival I stocked up on two kinds of kale, collard greens, broccoli and kohlrabi. I resisted Brussels sprouts since I got them last week. The great thing about brassica vegetables is they are very affordable, usually less than $2/bunch.

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Generally I am spending a lot less money at the farmers market now that summer is over. I attribute this largely to the lack of berries and stone fruit. Oh, and my $10/week tomato habit has now dried up. But I can’t complain at all.

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Daikon, Kohlrabi and Sunchokes

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Citrus, especially the mandarins, are marvelous this season and getting better every week. Pomegranate seeds are by far my favorite thing on my breakfast. Pears from Frog Hollow Farm are freaky good.

Persimmons. Almonds. Walnuts.

I think I’m falling in love with autumn in San Francisco.

Kiwi

Kiwi

Mandarins

Mandarins

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

Almonds

Almonds

I finally got some kiwi this week. If you’re a kiwifruit fan, you absolutely must go try the ones from Four Sisters Farm, they have an unbelievable flavor that is almost floral. I had no idea kiwi could be so complex. These are really special.

Many of the farms are offering gift wrapped items for the holidays. Most of these things are pretty cute, probably delicious and something to consider if you’re shopping for any foodies.

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Holiday Foodie Gifts

Or for that person who has everything, you could always just get one of these giant parsnips. They are about the size of your head. Who doesn’t need jumbo parsnips?

Giant Parsnips

Giant Parsnips

Exactly.

Today’s Purchases:

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Cruciferous Vegetables: Did You Know?

by | Oct 28, 2008

Brussels sprouts are a member of the cruciferous or brassica vegetable family. The term cruciferous means “cross-bearing” since the four petals of their leaves resemble a cross. Popular cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage and kale, but also root vegetables such as turnips and rutabaga.

Cruciferous vegetables are usually what we are talking about when we say “green leafy vegetables,” and they are thought to have anti-cancer properties.

Some people consider cruciferous vegetables to be “functional foods” or “super foods,” because they have benefits beyond basic nutrition. For instance, these vegetables are rich in compounds that have been shown to fight cancer and other diseases.

It is in your best interest to learn to love cruciferous vegetables. I eat them several times a week (preferably daily).

Other members of this vegetable family include:

  • broccoli
  • kale
  • cabbage
  • collard greens
  • bok choy
  • cauliflower
  • turnip
  • mustard greens
  • radish
  • watercress
  • arugula
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