Herb Gardens: How and Why To Plant Your Own

Springtime is a beautiful season where the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing. The return of warm air and pastel colors brings with it a renewed desire to eat fresher and to eat healthier. Subsequently, just as it is a wonderful time to plant your flower garden, it is a wonderful time to plant an herb garden. 

Herb gardens are easy to plant with rewards that reap well into fall. With minimal effort, you can have three seasons of fresh herbs! These fresh herbs offer health benefits, inspire more creative cooking, and may even encourage you to eat healthier overall. For someone who is newer to the kitchen, using fresh herbs from your own herb garden is an easy way to feel more accomplished and for someone who is very comfortable in the kitchen, you’ll enjoy basing recipes around the herbs in your garden or adding a new twist to a classic dish.

The best part about planting an herb garden is that you can personalize it to fit you--it can be indoor or outdoor, it can be however big or small you want it to be, and it gets to be made up of herbs all chosen by you! To start, decide where you are going to keep your herb garden. If you have a deck or other outdoor space with easy access to your kitchen, I recommend putting your garden there. If you don’t have an outdoor space, indoor by a window works as well. After you know where you are going to put your herb garden, decide what size and style of garden you want. You can have one planter or multiple small pots where you put an herb in each pot. You have a lot of flexibility here, but definitely make sure to plant herbs in a container rather than directly into the ground because some herbs will spread farther than you meant for them to. Next, choose which herbs to plant. Think about the herbs you commonly use and expand to herbs you could see yourself trying out.

As you are deciding which herbs to plant, here are a few herbs with their health benefits and uses:

Basil

Health Benefits: Basil is high in vitamin K, which helps with strong bones and blood clotting when you have a cut.

Uses: This herb is widely used and common in Italian recipes. More directly, a few ways to use basil are chopping up and putting in your salad, putting on top of pizza, and making your own homemade pesto.

Spearmint

Health Benefits: Mint is a great way to increase your water intake and may help ease cramps or an upset stomach.

Uses: Mint is my personal favorite herb because you can put it in your water to add a little flavor and style. Simply put it in your water each morning and refill your cup! Mint is also great to use for marinades or Middle Eastern recipes.

Parsley:

Health Benefits: Parsley has a very high amount of vitamin K, which helps with bone strength and proper blood clotting, and vitamin C, which is an antioxidant to contribute to your overall health.

Uses: Parsley can be used in many, many ways. You can put it in your meat marinade, chop it up in salads, and put in sauces and soups.
 

After you have planned out your herb garden, the rest is easy. You buy your planter or pots, your herb plants (which should be small and around 8 inches tall), and a bag of soil from your nearest home garden store and then you plant them! Water them whenever the soil feels dry. Now, you are done and ready to use your new herbs. Enjoy!
 

Sources:

http://www.rd.com/home/gardening/growing-herbs/

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20705274,00.html/view-all

http://permaculturenews.org/2016/06/29/top-10-herbs-and-their-health-benefits/

http://www.tastefulgarden.com/How-to-Grow-Herbs-d22.htm

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=85

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=112

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266128.php

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=109


What's the Deal with Carbonated Water?

Is carbonated water just as healthy as regular water? Carbonated water, sparkling water, seltzer water, club soda, fizzy water- just as carbonated water has many names, carbonated water has as many myths. A simple Google search may scare consumers with the many claims that has put a bad taste on carbonated water’s reputation. Let’s investigate some of these myths!

Carbonated water does not hydrate as well as water

Carbonated water is basically just regular, plain water that contained added carbonation. Therefore, it absorbed by your body just as well as plain water (1). Carbonated water may make you feel more satiated versus drinking regular water due to the gas bubbles expanding in the water. Regular water may be the best option for those who are physically active.

Carbonated water leeches calcium from bones

This claim originated from the connection between cola drinks and lower bone density. However, the lowered bone density from the cola drinks have nothing to do with the drink’s carbonation. While researchers found that carbonated cola beverages are associated with a slight decrease in bone density, non-cola carbonated beverages were not (2).

Carbonated water erodes tooth enamel

This claim isn’t completely false. Tooth erosion usually occurs through the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks alongside its carbonation, which causes the drink to be highly acidic (3). Carbonated water isn’t nearly as acidic, simply because the beverage only has added carbon dioxide. However, you should be cautious when consuming flavored carbonated waters because they may contain added sugars. Still, the levels of erosion from carbonated water beverages are very low (1).

Carbonated water irritates the stomach

Those who have consumed any type of carbonated beverage should already know how all those bubbles cause some slight belching and bloating. Therefore, carbonated water is probably not best for those with a sensitive stomach, digestive system, or have irritable bowel syndrome. On the bright side, for those who don’t fall under those categories, studies show that carbonated water doesn’t cause an upset stomach (3)!

Take away message? Carbonated water is a safe beverage to consume! It is especially a perfect alternative if you are trying to cut soda out of your diet. Make sure to double check the nutrition label for added sugars and sodium when you are picking up flavored carbonated water. Drinking plain water is still the better choice. If it’s the boring taste you’re worried about, try infusing your water with natural flavors by adding fresh fruit, lemons or limes, or mint leaves!

  1. http://time.com/3689687/seltzer-water-carbonated-water/

  2. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-healthy-is-carbonated-water/

  3. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/sparkling-water-healthy-regular-water-article-1.1460179

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Greens, Greens, Greens

You are at the grocery store doing your weekly food shopping and you look at your list. Next up: salad greens. You go to the produce aisle and you see more greens than you know what to do with. Is the only difference taste? What about texture? Are some greens healthier than others? Are there right or wrong greens for my salad? These are the questions floating through your head and the questions we’ll tackle here. After all, salads are one of the most popular ways to eat vegetables and if you making yourself a salad, you might as well go all in with maximizing nutrition, right?

Following is more information about the health content of different greens and a delicious salad that goes with each.

Romaine

When comparing romaine lettuce only to iceberg, red leaf lettuce, and green leaf lettuce, romaine overwhelmingly ranks higher in terms of nutrient density. Out of those four in particular, romaine lettuce has the most folic acid, potassium, and beta-carotene. Because of the high beta-carotene content, you can count on this salad green to contribute to your eye health!

Salad: Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad is perfect for romaine lettuce. Because romaine is so deliciously crisp, it gives a little crunch. This means that when you make yourself the Chinese Chicken salad, you can use fewer fried wonton sticks. To complete the salad, throw in some scallions, chicken breast, drained Mandarin oranges, and Asian salad dressing.

 

Arugula

Arugula is another vitamin-packed vegetable. Specifically, arugula has high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C, along with some calcium and folate. Where arugula really stands out is that in its higher amounts of vitamin C as compared to romaine. So when you are feeling like your immune system might need a little boost, its arugula to the rescue!

Salad: Grapefruit & Seed Salad

Arugula is perfect for when you are wanting some bite to your salad and when your immune system needs a lift. And as a bonus, grapefruit also has a high vitamin C level. To make Grapefruit & Seed Salad, peel a grapefruit and cut into bite sized pieces, add sunflower seeds, and pour on a balsamic dressing over your bed of arugula.

 

Kale

Now onto one of the healthiest greens of them all and a often discussed superfood: kale! Kale has some of the highest concentration of nutrients in many of the major vitamins common in salad greens. For example, in 100 grams of kale, you are eating about nine times the amount of recommended daily vitamin K and about double the vitamin A and vitamin C. Kale is also an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. If you like kale and are trying to up your vitamin intake, then this green is the way to go!

Salad: Green Apple & Lime Salad

This is the easiest salad you will ever make and to kale fans, it is a favorite. All you have to do for this salad is cut up a green apple into bite sized pieces, add them to your cut kale, and add a little bit of lime juice and olive oil. Yes, it’s the most basic salad you have ever heard but that makes it perfect for your daily lunch on the go.

Each salad green has its own unique personality, both from a tatse and nutrition perspective. No matter what salad green you choose, you are doing good things for your body!

Resources:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/

http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/09373.pdf

http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/different-kinds-of-lettuces-and-greens

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/arugula

http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/romaine-lettuce

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm064928.htm

https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Data/SR/SR28/reports/sr28fg11.pdf

Your New Spring Drink: Lemon Ginger Tea

Every season brings its own excitement and associated memories--and also a favorite seasonal drink! However, it seems as though each season has its own drink except for spring. summer has iced tea and lemonade, fall has chai tea lattes and apple cider, and Winter has hot chocolate and eggnog. In spring you are ready for a refreshing drink as the April showers leave a refreshing smell outside as the May flowers blossom. But for most of early spring, it is still too cool to carry around a lemonade or the iced teas of summer.

Not to worry, though, because lemon ginger tea is about to become your new drink of choice for those cooler days. Lemon ginger tea is the perfect beverage for the spring with its fresh appeal, warmth, and health benefits-- and wow, are the health benefits plenty!

Here is a snapshot of all the healthful things you will be enjoying as you are sipping your new spring drink:

Lemon

  • Studies have shown that the vitamin C in lemon helps your body absorb and use iron.

  • Lemon may lower women’s risk of ischemic stroke.

  • Certain nutrients in lemon may decrease wrinkles and promote overall skin health.

  • Also, the high amount of vitamin C in lemon helps boost your immune system to keep you healthy.

Ginger

  • Many studies have found ginger to decrease swelling and inflammation.

  • Most popularly, ginger can temper nausea.

  • Ginger has antioxidant properties which can help with your overall health.

Honey

  • Honey may help prevent and heal stomach ulcers.

  • Interestingly, a study found that honey may reduce cholesterol levels.

  • Honey has several antioxidant properties.

  • Along with ginger, honey may help decrease inflammation.

Now that you know all of the health reasons to be drinking Lemon Ginger Tea, here is the recipe that I enjoyed this morning:

Lemon Ginger Tea Recipe

  1. Bring to a simmer three cups of water.

  2. Cut one lemon into slices and squeeze into the pot of water. Put the squeezed lemon slices in the pot afterward.

  3. Cut four inches of ginger into thin slices and put into the pot of water.

  4. Let the water return to a simmer.

  5. Once water is at a simmer, turn off the heat and cover the pot for at least 20 minutes.

  6. Use a slotted spoon, or other method, to separate the lemons and ginger from the tea.

  7. Reheat the tea over the stove, if needed.

  8. Mix 2-4 tablespoons of honey, to taste, to the tea and enjoy!

Have fun and drink happy knowing that you are both starting a new spring tradition and are treating your body well! 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283476.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3758027/

 

Why and How You Should Eat The Rainbow

“Eat the rainbow” is probably a phrase you have heard since you were a kid. Have you ever wondered why though? There are two great reasons. The most basic of the reasons is that when you focusing on eating a variety of colors, you end up eating more fruits and vegetables and less white, starchy foods. The more complex of the reasons is that eating the rainbow generally gives you a wide and varied range of nutrients. It’s easy to eat the rainbow, and I will show you how the rainbow can fit naturally in your daily meals and the different nutrients you will get from all of the colors.

Red

Red bell peppers have high amounts of vitamin A in them. To get all of your vitamin A for the day, you just need to eat one red bell pepper. Getting enough vitamin A daily helps keep your bones and teeth strong and makes your skin healthier!

Orange

Now, on to one of the most widely known fruit and vitamin combinations: oranges and vitamin C! Eating one orange gives you your daily vitamin C dose. Vitamin C strengthens our immune system and helps our body heal when we get wounds or are exposed to air pollution.

Yellow

Bananas can give you part of your daily percentage of vitamin B6. I knew bananas were ap-peel-ing for a reason! In all seriousness, though, vitamin B6 is needed for over one hundred different reactions in your body. Eat those bananas up!

Green

Hint: What is green, loved by Popeye, and has a lot of vitamin K? Spinach! Spinach gives you massive amount of vitamin K. You should make sure to get enough vitamin K because it helps with blood clotting and bones health.

Blue/Indigo

Blueberries are more than just yummy-- they also have a lot of manganese. Manganese is important because it helps you age and fight free radicals. With this in mind, throw some blueberries in your next bowl of oatmeal!

Violet

Purple grapes are healthy for you in many ways and one way is that they have a lot of copper! Copper helps your body create red blood cells and keeps many different processes in your body healthy and functioning.

Eating all of these different colored fruits and vegetables, you can eat a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients. In summary: eat the rainbow!

Resources:

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002400.htm

https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce/bell-peppers

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-Consumer/

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/manganese

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002419.htm

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