8. Flax (Linaza)
Happy International Women's Day! Nutrition month food #8 is flax seeds, a food every woman should be eating. Why? Because flax seeds are natural hormone (estrogen) balancers.
Flax seeds, or linseeds, are not only a good source of fibre but also in the omega-3 essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Flax seeds are also high in lignans, a fibre that acts as a phytoestrogen. But that doesn't mean flax seeds raise estrogen levels! In fact, lignans bind to estrogen receptors thereby reducing the harmful effects of excess estrogen, particularly on breast tissue. Lignans are also great hormone balancers. Ground flax seeds are the best way to get all of their benefits.
Either purchase vacuum packed ground flax, or buy them whole and grind them yourself. Store them in the fridge or freezer in order to keep them from going rancid (they do so very quickly). Three tablespoons of ground flax has around 5.5g of fibre.
Back home in Hamilton, I grind my flax seeds every few days in a coffee grinder and store them in the fridge. Here in Chile, without a coffee grinder I prepare overnight oats. In about 1/2 cup of oats, I add 1 tablespoon, more or less, of whole flax seeds. I add water and cinnamon, cover it with a plate and leave it in the fridge over night. By morning, the flax seeds are soft. Then I proceed to add more fruit and goodies to my oatmeal for a hearty, high-fibre breakfast.
9. Prickly Pear (Tuna)
Nutrition month food #9, prickly pear (cactus pear). Ever try one of these prickly suckers? They're super yummy! But, ouch, make sure to peel them using a knife and fork to avoid pricking your fingers. You won't always find them in Canada, but supermarkets will carry them some of the time.
Prickly pears are really nutritious. Two of these little pears has less than 100 calories, over 7g of fibre, almost half of the daily requirements for magnesium and vitamin C, and 12% for calcium and potassium.
Prickly pears help cure hangovers and are liver protecting. One study found that drinking prickly pear juice before alcohol consumption helped combat the negative effects of alcohol. The authors of the study suggest that prickly pear juice lowered alcohol-induced inflammation which helped reduce oxidative damage and injury to the liver.
Prickly pears have a high vitamin C content making them immune boosting. Vitamin C is also good for the skin, as it is required for the formation of collagen.
Prickly pears are good for your bones as they contain calcium and magnesium. They're also loaded with antioxidants, particularly flavonoids and polyphenols. Pretty amazing stuff if I do say so myself.
DO treat yourself to one of these lovely fruit next time you're at the grocery store. DON'T prick yourself like I did during my photo shoot!
10. Blackberries (Moras)
Nutrition month food #10, blackberries. Love all berries and blackberries! Blackberries belong to the Rosaceae (rose) family, along with raspberries, cherries, apples and almonds.
Berries in general are low glycemic, particularly blackberries and raspberries. One fruit serving of berries is equivalent to 1 cup.
Blackberries are high in fibre. A one cup serving has close to 8g. The average person does not eat enough fibre. Fibre is needed for digestion and elimination, to reduce cholesterol, to provide fuel for gut bacteria, among many others.
Vitamin C. One cup of blackberries has almost half of the recommended intake. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in the body and is needed for immune system support, collagen formation, iron absorption, wound healing.
They contain many antioxidants which help reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals. The antioxidants in blackberries also improve the health of blood vessels by helping to protect their DNA.
Blackberries can boost cognition. Several studies have found that regular consumption of blackberries can help improve memory. I love blackberries on their own, in yogurt, smoothies and even in salads. Get them in the summer when they're in season and local.
11. Pumpkin (Calabaza)
Nutrition month food #11, pumpkin.
This orange squash is excellent for your eyesight. That's because it contains loads of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Pumpkin contains two antioxidants called lutein and zeaxanthin, which also support the eyes by helping to prevent cataracts.
Pumpkin is a great food to eat if you're trying to lose weight. So if you've ever been told to avoid pumpkin when trying to lose weight, false advice! Eat up! It aids in weight loss because it's high in fibre, filling AND low in calories. One cup has around 50 calories. Beta-carotene also acts as an antioxidant and is important in fighting certain cancers.
Pumpkin is also great for the skin taken internally as well as externally. In Chile, pumpkin is used in many traditional dishes including bean soups, cazuela (beef soup), and other stews and soups. In North America, we often turn it into a dessert by making pumpkin pie. I personally like pumpkin as a pureed soup, in stews, boiled, and of course as pumpkin pie. And don't throw out the seeds! They are super nutritious!
12. Maqui Berry (Maqui)
Nutrition month food #12, maqui berry.
Maqui berry is a super food native to the south of Chile. It is an antioxidant powerhouse. It is particularly high in the anthocyanins, the same antioxidant found in blueberries. Maqui berries are believed to have a higher antioxidant content than Acai berries
Maqui berries have an anti-diabetic effect. Some studies have shown that maqui berries have a beneficial impact on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. Maqui berries are anti-inflammatory due to their high antioxidant content.
They're also believed to be anti-bacterial.
In North America you can find maqui berries in health food stores as supplements or powder. I have yet to find the fresh fruit. The photo pictures dried maqui berries.
13. Blue Potatoes (Papas de Chiloe)
Nutrition month food #13, potatoes, especially colourful, organic potatoes.
The potatoes pictured are from Chiloe, an island located about 1000km south of Santiago in Chile. Chiloe is an island with an abundance of potatoes. It is believed to have close to 300 varieties of potatoes. Pretty incredible! Potatoes can be really nutritious, especially if they are colorful. The more colour, the higher the antioxidant content.
Did you know that potatoes are lower glycemic when they are boiled versus baked? If you're being extra cautious with your blood sugars, boil your potatoes. Otherwise, a 1/2 to 1 cup portion should be ok for anyone. Especially the colourful stuff! French fries don't count.
Potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C and potassium. But don't peel them!
14. Almonds (Almendras)
Nutrition month food #14, almonds. A gift from nature to love!
I'm a sucker for almonds and I love almond butter. I've been eating almond butter now for over 10 years and I never get sick of it.
Almonds are very nutritious, as I'm sure you are very well aware.
Almonds and other nuts may be high in fat and calories but it's the fat and calories you want. Why? Because almonds are loaded with nutrients. A one ounce serving of almonds (28 approx) has about a third of our daily requirements for vitamin E, magnesium and manganese. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and protects cell membranes from oxidative damage. Vitamin E is also good for the skin and hair, hormone balance (including prevention of PMS), eyesight, and many others.
Almonds are also a great food for people with blood sugar imbalances. That's because they are very low in carbs which means they don't have a significant impact on blood sugar levels. In addition, almonds contain protein and fibre which help you feel full and beat cravings.
Almonds also contain decent amounts of magnesium. Magnesium is required for many different processes in the body including blood pressure regulation. Getting enough magnesium is essential for individuals suffering from high blood pressure. A one ounce serving of almonds has 20% of the daily requirements of magnesium.
Almonds also help reduce cholesterol. Several studies have demonstrated that eating almonds helps reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol without reducing HDL (good) cholesterol. Almonds can help prevent oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol. Oxidized LDL is a lot more harmful than non-oxidized LDL.
Almonds can also help with weight loss. One study in particular found that women who were overweight who consumed almonds lost more weight than overweight women who did not consume almonds or nuts.
There are so many different ways to eat almonds. For starters, eat them raw. Munch on them as a snack. Crush them and throw them in your cereal, yogurt, granola, salad. Grind them and make almond flour for baking. Use them in your baking and cooking. Throw them in your smoothie. Spread it on your toast.