Seasonal Eats: Peppers

standard December 5, 2016 Leave a response

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In most of the US, peppers are a summer staple. Here in Texas, they seem to be a year round bounty. I’ve had multicolored shishito peppers in each of my CSA bushels for the past few months, almost without fail. So even though it’s December, let’s talk about peppers. And then make some smoky, cozy chili.

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Nutrition:

Most peppers are generically classified as either sweet or hot. Sweet peppers are mild, and can be slightly sweet, though the name is to mostly differentiate them from their spicy counterpart. Bell peppers, banana peppers, and pimentos are all considered sweet. Hot peppers include chilis, jalapenos, serrano peppers, habeneros, and thai peppers. Poblanos, Anaheim peppers, and shishito peppers are all somewhere in the middle, with mild heat characteristics.

Sweet peppers provide about 20 calories per 100 grams, with most of that energy being water and carbohydrates. Hot peppers have roughly 40 calories per 100 grams, with a higher carbohydrate to water ratio, due to a higher sugar content. Both varieties are high in vitamins and minerals, with greater than 5% DV of vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. Peppers are extremely high in vitamin C at over 130% DV for sweet peppers and a whopping 400% DV for hot peppers, per 100 grams. Hot peppers are also a significant source of iron, copper, folate, and magnesium.

Benefits:

Peppers contain capsaicin which aids in increasing metabolism by raising body temperature and expending energy. Hot peppers contain much more capsaicin than sweet peppers, so add some heat to your meals to get things going.

The incredibly high levels of vitamin C in peppers provide significant antioxidant power to the body. Vitamin C is also a key factor in collagen production, which gives structure to skin, bones, and blood vessels. Red bell peppers as well as hot peppers have the most concentrated amounts of vitamin C, so stock up on this ruby color.

Recipes:

Add some sweet and heat to your menu this week with these fun pepper recipes:

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Sources:
Peppers, hot chilis, green, raw. USDA Food and Nutrient Database. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3308?manu=&fgcd=&ds=
Peppers, sweet, green, raw. USDA Food and Nutrient Database. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3069?manu=&fgcd=&ds=

Seasonal Eats: Chayote Squash

standard October 3, 2016 Leave a response

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Fall is the time of year when summer squash still abounds in gardens and supermarket shelves. Yet pumpkins and butternuts and all the glorious winter squash start to make an appearance as well. Mixed in there you also find chayote, spaghetti squash, and a few other oddball varieties.

Chayote is an interesting squash; most people have never heard of it, it looks almost like a pear, and it has very little flavor on its own, so you can season it to fit almost any cuisine. It can add texture and fiber to almost any dish, and you can swap it in for zucchini or summer squash in most recipes.

Nutrition:

One medium-sized squash contains 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 0 g fat, and almost 40 calories. With minimal sugar content and a moderate amount of fiber, chayote makes an excellent low-calorie addition to a recipe or meal.  These interesting vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, manganese, and zinc. With almost 50% DV folate, chayote is a terrific food for pregnant women and new mothers.

Benefits:

Since this small, strange squash contains so many vitamins and minerals for so little calories and bulk, it is an easy way to add nutrition to your diet. The fiber aids in fullness and weight loss. Folate aids in heart health and stroke prevention, as well as fetal development. And there is some evidence that chayote can even help with bloating kidney stones, and acne control.

Recipes:

Swap chayote into one of your favorite squash recipes or give one of these a try this Fall:

 

Sources:
Chayote, fruit, raw. USDA Food and Nutrient Database. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2919?fgcd=&manu=&lfacet=&format=&count=&max=50&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=chayote&ds=

 

Seasonal Eats: Blueberries

standard June 6, 2016 Leave a response

June officially means summer. And Summer officially means its BERRY SEASON! Growing up my favorite thing to eat in the summer was Cheerios and berries. The sweet, juicy bursts in every bite were heavenly on a hot, sunny day. And along with stone fruits and watermelon, berries are a summer staple. 
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Nutrition:

Berries are one of the lowest calorie, highest nutrient density fruits. A single cup of blueberries has 84 calories, 0 g fat, and 21 g carbohydrates, with 15 g being sugars and 4 g fiber. These little juicy fruits are also packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese at over 20% DV each, as well as low levels of potassium, copper, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Benefits:

Blueberries are known for their antioxidant power, and they have been studied to have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fruit. This makes them a terrific daily addition to any diet, providing  protection against free radicals in the environment, aging, and even some cancers.

Since blueberries are low in sugar and calories, especially compared to other fruits such as bananas or apples, they are a great choice for weight control and diabetes management. Their high fiber content also helps with digestion, so adding a handful to that morning bowl of cereal or smoothie is a great way to start the day.

Recipes:

Have a refreshing summer with one of these juicy recipes:

 

Sources:
USDA. Blueberries, raw. National nutrient database for standard reference. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2166?manu=&fgcd=
Prior RL, Cao G. Analysis of botanicals and dietary supplements for antioxidant capacity: a review. J AOAC Int. 2000; 83:950-956.