SPAGHETTI SQUASH – THE MIGHTY WINTER SQUASH!

I recently read an article in bon appetite where the author clearly did not like spaghetti squash – his article entitled “5 Creative Ways to Cook with Spaghetti Squash” involved deep fat frying it and frittering it (also in deep fat fryer).  He even stated that spaghetti squash had a “blah” flavor and that his favorite was acorn squash.  So why did he write the article?

I find spaghetti squash to be a super food that most people seldom, if ever eat!

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Spaghetti squash, a type of winter squash, gets its name from the pale-yellow flesh that can be fluffed into stringy, pasta-like threads. It has a very mild flavor and, unlike other winter squash, does not have much sweetness. So you can use spaghetti squash in both savory and sweet dishes. Consider eating it warm, topped with pasta sauce or tossed with a small amount of olive oil and fresh herbs, or serve it chilled with sun-dried red peppers, olives and feta cheese.

Calories and Fat

Most varieties of winter squash contain almost twice the calories per serving of spaghetti squash, which has only 42 calories per cup.  It’s also very low in fat, with less than 0.5 grams of fat per cup. (So why would you deep fat fry it?)  Spaghetti squash contains about 92 percent water by weight, which may account for its lack of calories. These qualities make spaghetti squash a good choice for weight-loss or weight-management plans. It will fill you up without adding a lot of calories or fat to your daily total.

Carbohydrates

Spaghetti squash also fits well into a low-carb or diabetes meal plan. It contains only 10 grams of total carbohydrates per cup, whereas most types of winter squash have at least 18 grams. Of the total, 4 grams come from natural sugar in the squash, and 2 grams come from dietary fiber. Eating a diet rich in fiber may regulate digestion, reduce constipation, lower your cholesterol and help you manage your weight.

Vitamins

You’ll get small amounts of almost every essential vitamin from eating spaghetti squash. Vitamin C and vitamin B-6 are the vitamins found in highest concentration in the squash. Vitamin C plays a role in the growth and repair of body proteins, aids in wound healing and supports your immune system. It’s also an antioxidant that helps defend your body against harmful free radicals. Vitamin B-6 is involved in over 100 enzyme reactions in your body, including energy metabolism and hemoglobin production.  The fruit can range either from ivory to yellow or orange in color. The orange varieties have a higher carotene content.

Minerals

Every essential mineral is found in trace amounts in the flesh of spaghetti squash. The mineral potassium plays a part in building muscle, metabolizing carbohydrates and maintaining proper muscle function in your body. It also functions as an electrolyte, helping to regulate fluid balance and the acidity, or pH, of your blood. Replacing electrolytes is essential any time you sweat heavily or lose body fluids. Without enough potassium you may experience weak muscles, an abnormal heart rhythm or an elevated blood pressure. Spaghetti squash also contains the minerals calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and sodium.

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Ingredients

Servings: 4

I think I would add some black beans that have been drained and well rinsed!

  • Pierce squash all over with a knife to vent. Place on microwavable plate and cover with waxed paper.  Microwave on high 5 minutes.  Turn squash over and microwave on high about another 5 minutes until the squash is tender enough to pierce easily with a knife.
  • Let cool slightly. Halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds; discard. Scrape flesh with a fork to remove in long strands. Spread out on paper towels to drain, then transfer to a bowl and chill until cold.
  • Just before serving, whisk lime juice and ranch dressing in a large bowl. Add chilled squash, avocado, cucumber, and chicken and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with basil or parsley leaves.
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NUTRITION LABELS: FACTS AND FICTION

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Start with the Serving Size

  • Look here for both the serving size (the amount for one serving) and the number of servings in the package.
  • Compare your portion size (the amount you actually eat) to the serving size listed on the panel. If the serving size is one cup and you eat two cups, you are getting twice the calories, fat and other nutrients listed on the label.

Check Out the Total Calories and Fat

  • Find out how many calories are in a single serving and the number of calories from fat. It’s smart to cut back on calories and fat if you are watching your weight.  Try to keep the calories from fat below a third of the total calories.

Let the Percent Daily Values Be Your Guide

Use percent Daily Values (DV) to help evaluate how a particular food fits into your daily meal plan:

  • Daily Values are average levels of nutrients for a person eating 2,000 calories a day. A food item with a 5 percent DV of fat provides 5 percent of the total fat that a person consuming 2,000 calories a day should eat.
  • Percent DV are for the entire day, not just one meal or snack
  • You may need more or less than 2,000 calories per day. For some nutrients you may need more or less than 100 percent DV.

The High and Low of Daily Values

  • 5 percent or less is low. Aim low in total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
  • 20 percent or more is high. Aim high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Limit Fat, Cholesterol and Sodium

Eating less fat, cholesterol and sodium may help reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

  • Total fat includes saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat.
  • Saturated fat and trans fat are linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • High levels of sodium can add up to high blood pressure.
  • Remember to aim for low percentage DV of these nutrients.

Get Enough Vitamins, Minerals and Fiber

  • Eat more fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium and iron to maintain good health and help reduce your risk of certain health problems such as osteoporosis and anemia.
  • Choose more fruits and vegetables to get more of these nutrients.
  • Remember to aim high for percentage DV of these nutrients.

Additional Nutrients

You know about fat and calories, but it is important to also know the additional nutrients on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

  • Protein Most Americans eat more protein than they need, so a percentage Daily Value is not required on the label. Eat moderate portions of lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, plus beans, peanut butter and nuts.
  • Carbohydrates There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches and fiber. Eat whole-grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta plus fruits and vegetables.
  • Sugars Simple carbohydrates or sugars occur naturally in foods such as fruit juice (fructose) or come from refined sources such as table sugar (sucrose) or corn syrup.

Check the Ingredient List

Foods with more than one ingredient must have an ingredient list on the label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Those in the largest amounts are listed first. This information is particularly helpful to individuals with food sensitivities such as soy, wheat, nuts, and shellfish.  It is also useful to help those who wish to limit added sugars, sulfites, color additives  or people who prefer vegetarian eating.

WATCH OUT FOR DECEIVING LABELS AS WELL

For example, this Broccoli Cheese Campbell’s condensed soup label only contains the Nutrition Facts for the condensed soup yet the directions call for the addition of a can of milk.  Even using skim milk, this effectively doubles the calories of the soup.  This is not stated ANYWHERE on the label!

And, this one is one of my favorites! Great Value No Stick Cooking Spray:  check out the serving size !  1/4 second spray?  Who knows what 1/4 second is and who could possibly coat a pan or casserole dish with that amount?  Don’t be fooled, you are adding some fat to your cooking by coating the pan or casserole dish!  I also know someone who buys the butter flavor no stick spray, gets lite popcorn and liberally sprays the popcorn thinking it has zero calories!

BE SURE TO READ YOUR NUTRITION LABELS BUT DON’T ALWAYS TAKE THEM AT FACE VALUE!

Adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

NATURES VIAGRA – BEETS!

SIX IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT BEETS – YOU’LL LEARN TO LOVE THEM GREENS AND ALL! BEETS ARE NATURES VIAGRA!  Beets contain loads of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones – while ancient Romans had no … Continue reading

THE RAW FACTS

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Have you always wondered how to prepare vegetables in order to maximize their nutritional content? There’s no easy answer, since some produce is most nutritious cooked, while other kinds do not need heat to bring out the best in them. Here is how to get the most from the farmers’ picks.

Onions

Just slice and eat them raw. You get less of the phytonutrient allicin, a hunger busting ingredient when you cook onions. On the other hand, they contain a flavonoid known as quercetin. It has anti inflammatory properties. Total amount of flavonoids can be increased by cooking. Yellow and red onions have more flavonoids than white ones. Sauté or bake onions for five minutes; any longer and the onion will begin to lose nutrients.

Broccoli

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Eat it raw. Heating deactivates myrosinase, an enzyme that helps cleanse your liver of carcinogens. Broccoli or other cruciferous veggies, such as cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts are good examples of vegetables which should be eaten both cooked and raw. Raw broccoli contains an enzyme called myrosinase which breaks down into sulforaphane, a compound helping to prevent cancer and stomach ulcers. Cooking damages myrosinase. On the other hand, cooking forms the compound indole in cruciferous veggies. It is a phytonutrient that fights precancerous cells before they turn malignant.

Beets

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Eat them raw. Beets lose more than 30 percent of their folate while cooking. Eating them raw will store this brain compound.

Mushrooms

Eat them cooked. Whether you heat, sauté, boil, roast or grill them, more muscle-building potassium will be brought out.

Red peppers

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Eat them raw. Their vitamin C breaks down while roasting, frying, or grilling above 370 degrees. Red peppers are high in vitamin C that is nutrient soluble in water. By boiling or cooking red peppers, the vitamins dissolve in the water. It is best to eat red peppers raw.

Spinach

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Eat it cooked. Have spinach cooked and you will absorb more iron, calcium and magnesium. Though raw spinach is still good, cooking makes it easier for your body to absorb the calcium it contains. Calcium is essential for teeth and bone strength, so make sure you get the most out of the spinach. Steam your spinach rather than boiling it to avoid losing nutrients.

Tomatoes

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Eat them cooked. Are you surprised? When you eat cooked tomatoes, your body absorbs more cancer fighting lycopene. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant linked to the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases. Researchers have found that lycopene molecules change tomatoes’ shape, which makes them more usable by the body. The amount of lycopene in tomatoes is higher and it is better absorbed by the body after cooking with a little oil, and particularly processing, rather than eaten fresh or raw.

Carrots

Raw carrots supply polyphenols, chemicals with antioxidant properties thought to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Boiling carrots destroys all the polyphenols as well as cooking, which breaks down the vitamin C found in carrots. This vitamin is easily degraded when exposed to heat. It is said that cooked carrots supply more of the antioxidant ß-carotene than raw ones. Your body converts this antioxidant to vitamin A.

Garlic

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Cooking makes the herb garlic less potent because heat reduces the amount of healthy allicin, so it is best to add your garlic just before you finish cooking rather than at the start. Garlic contains chemicals that relax your blood vessels, helping to protect you from heart attack. Cooking garlic reduces the amount of these vital chemicals, so it is better to enjoy garlic raw.

WHEN IT COMES TO VEGETABLES, FRESH IS GENERALLY BEST BUT SOMETIMES A BIT OF STEAMING/COOKING MAY ALLOW VITAMINS AND MINERALS TO BE MORE EASILY ABSORBED BY THE BODY.

MY RULE OF THUMB: FRESH THEN FROZEN THEN CANNED BUT MOST IMPORTANT IS THAT YOU EAT 5-7 SERVINGS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES EACH DAY!

HAPPY CRUNCHING!