ALLIUM VEGETABLES: A SOURCE OF POWERFUL PHYTO- NUTRIENTS
Onions and garlic, two members of the allium family of vegetables, add unmistakable flavors to foods, but they also provide your body with natural chemicals called phytonutrients that are linked with many health benefits. “Alliums contain substances that, when broken down by chopping, crushing or mincing , are exposed to each other, creating a compound called allicin. Some studies have found that allicin may act as an antioxidant; consuming allicin has been linked to lower blood pressure, improved blood flow and prevention of plaque build-up in the arteries,” explains Rissa Landman, MS, RD, CDN, CNSC, a dietitian at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
The allium family include cultivated, edible bulbs and their leaves, such as leeks, onions, shallots, garlic, scallions and chives, as well as varieties that grow wild such as ramps (wild leeks). If allium plants are allowed to flower, they produce edible shoots and flowers, such as garlic scapes and purple chive flowers. Onions and shallots contain phenols and flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Consuming flavonoids is associated with decreased risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. However, not all onions are created equal, according to Landman. “Sweet onions have been bred to please our palates; however, they have lost some of their powerful antioxidant compounds in the process,” she explains. In general, the less sharp the flavor (think yellow onions and shallots), the higher the phytonutrient content. While sweet onion may be more palatable if you are serving them raw, Landman suggests using yellow onions or shallots when cooking. “The process of cooking and caramelization will bring out the onions’ natural sweetness, and you will maximize your intake of beneficial compounds, she says. To get more allium vegetables into your diet, snip fresh scallions or chives over salads, dips and pasta dishes, start soups and stews with diced, sautéed onions and include leeks in potato-based dishes; leeks in potato dishes; leek and potato soup is a classic example of a delicious way to get phytonutrients that allium vegetables provide. And one final suggestion: “To reap the most benefits from your alliums, they should be allowed to sit for at least 10 minutes after chopping, slicing or mincing to allow allicin compound to become stable before heating,” advises Landman.
Source: Weill Cornell Medical College Women’s Nutrition Connection, February 2016.
ANOTHER REASON TO AVOID UNNECESSARY USE OF ANTIBIOTICS, ESPECIALLY CHILDREN
According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity, Researchers from John Hopkins University analyzed health records of nearly 164,000 children ages 3 to 18 and found that those who had taken antibiotics at least seven times by age15, gained, on average, an extra three pounds. That’s not much, but researchers suggested that the cumulative effect may continue into adulthood. The connection to weight gain is biologically plausible, since antibiotics kill harmful bacteria but also other species that are vital to gastrointestinal health and that may affect nutrient and calorie absorptions as well as appetite. Antibiotics are essential, even life-saving, treatments for bacterial infections, but too often they’re prescribed for colds and other viral infections that cannot possibly be helped by the drugs.
Source: University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, February 2016.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE SUPER BOWL?
I look forward to receiving Annie Watts Cloncs Christmas letter because in addition to information about their family as well as a recipe and words of wisdom. In her 2015 letter, Annie shared her version of guacamole following a trip to Central Mexico 15 years ago. Two secrets, she says for great guacamole is a ripe (but not TOO soft) Hass avocado and mashing with a fork for a chunky texture.
ANNIE’S ANYTIME GUACAMOLE
• 1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped
• 2 TB finely chopped sweet onion, optional
• 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
In small bowl, coarsely mash avocado with a fork; stir in onion, garlic powder and lime juice. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Variations:
-Add 1/4 cup diced tomatoes.
-Add finely chopped jalapeno or serrano chiles, or a dash of hot sauce to taste.
Recipe makes 3/4 cup.
Annie’s words of wisdom:
Good friends are like quilts... they age with you, and yet never lose their warmth. Take good care of them!