Peanuts are a whole food – they are the edible seeds of a plant and are technically a legume. These seeds contain nutrients that provide energy for the growth and development of the young peanut plant. As such, peanuts are a rich source of protein, fiber and calories from fat. And the nutritional good news continues, since the type of fat in peanuts is liquid and they are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that help to protect against heart disease.
Nine out of 10 Americans eat too much salt. While our bodies need salt to survive, the average healthy person needs only about 1,200 – 1,500 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Americans are getting much more, closer to 4,000 mg per day. To put these amounts into perspective, one teaspoon of salt contains about 2,000 mg of sodium. Why are we eating so much salt? Almost 80% of the sodium we eat comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods. Consider that almost anything you buy at the supermarket that comes in a bag, a can, a box, a bottle, etc. mostly likely has salt in it. These items all add up. If we eat meals from restaurants, the amount of salt we get quickly adds up even more.
For years, the dietary message was to eat less fat. That message caused a proliferation of low-fat and fat-free foods on the market and a subsequent stampede of consumers purchasing and eating those foods. Many food manufacturers substituted sugar and other carbohydrates for the fat, however, so the result was that we didn’t lose weight and we didn’t have healthier hearts. Now we know that it is not the amount of fat, but rather the types of fat, that make a difference when it comes to caring for our health.
At about this same time last year, I started my love affair with cauliflower. I am not sure how it all came about. I remember being at the grocery store and seeing the clean, bright white heads all bunched together and peeking up at me. I thought, wow, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten cauliflower and it’s one of my favorite vegetables. Every time I went shopping, I would tell myself to pick a different vegetable, not to get too attached to cauliflower. Then I would find myself back in front of them again, choosing my favorite one from among their creamy florets.
You know the saying, Heidi Klum made it famous on Project Runway – “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.” Heidi was referring to the world of fashion, and here I am referring to the explosion of interest in food and cooking in America. Fad diets, you are out! Eating healthy and delicious foods, you are in!
When I think of salads, I think of them being loaded with dark green, leafy lettuces such as romaine and spinach. My favorite is the Caesar salad which consists mainly of romaine lettuce. This salad has had a huge resurgence in recent years because it is both delicious and versatile. It is used as a salad and in wraps, can be a side dish or main course and may be eaten plain or by adding a lean protein such as grilled chicken, shrimp or salmon. If you eat salads to enjoy the nutritional benefit of vegetables without a lot of calories, keep in mind that toppings and dressings can have quite a bit of calories, so add them in reasonable portions such as by the tablespoon or teaspoon.
Holiday traditions are an important reminder of the miracle of the connections we have with family and friends. Since Hanukkah is celebrated around the same time as Christmas, it has become a well-known Jewish holiday. This year, 2011, Hanukkah starts at sundown on Tuesday, December 20th and ends at sunset on Wednesday, December 28th on the Gregorian calendar. Hanukkah always starts on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Since the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar don’t exactly coincide, the days for Hanukkah appear to move around and usually fall in late November or December.
As the holidays approach, those of us who are fortunate enough to have a roof over our head, food in our cupboards, and a little extra money to give our family gifts take the time to reflect on our good fortune. As we listen to the news about the economy and hunger and the misfortunes of others, we often realize just how well off we are–well off enough that we can spare a little of our time and money to help those who aren’t quite so lucky. In the spirit of community and kindness that surrounds the holidays, we start looking for ways to give back. Time being short and money being tight, we all want our donations to have the greatest benefit for those in need, so how do we do it?