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How to Keep Healthy Foods Fresh

food storage berries

Berries

Berries are one of the most fragile fruits, and moisture can cause them to spoil quickly. It is best to store them unwashed and rinse them under cold running water just before eating. Discard any damaged or spoiled berries before storing. Give your berries more space by removing them from the store container and placing them in a single layer in a loosely covered shallow container. Most types of berries will last 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Whole Grains

Whole grains still contain the germ, which is the portion of the grain with healthy oils. The presence of the germ makes the grains sensitive to heat, light, and moisture. According to the Whole Grains Council, grains like wheat berries and rice last longer than grains that have been ground into flours. Both whole grains and flours should be stored in an airtight container away from light and heat. Most grains will last 6 months in the pantry or 1 year in the freezer. Flours and meals will keep for 1 to 3 months in the pantry and 2 to 6 months when stored in the freezer.

Oils

Unrefined oils, like extra virgin olive oil and nut oils, are sensitive to air, light, and heat. When exposed, the fatty acids can turn rancid causing an unpleasant flavor. Store olive oil in a dark, cool place. Unopened bottles will last for 1 year. Once you open it, most varieties will last for 6 months. Nut and seed oils are even more sensitive than olive oil. As a result, store oils like sesame and walnut in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Onions

Like most root vegetables, onions should be stored in a well-ventilated, cool, dry place. Onions need air movement to stay fresh, so take them out of plastic bags before storing. The sweeter an onion, the higher its water content. This influences how easily it bruises and how long it will stay fresh. As a result, sweet onions like Walla Walla and Vidalia may have a shorter shelf life than other varieties. The National Onion Association suggests wrapping these onions in a paper towel or newspaper and storing them in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life. Once peeled, all onions should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Chopped or sliced onions will last 7 to 10 days.

Sweet Potatoes

Refrigeration will cause sweet potatoes to harden in the center and develop a bad taste. Place sweet potatoes in a well-ventilated container set in a cool, dry place. A basement or root cellar are ideal, but simply keeping the potatoes away from heat will help extend their freshness. According to the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, when properly stored, sweet potatoes will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks.

Tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes are best eaten within 2 to 3 days after purchase. Store your tomatoes at the coolest room temperature possible with the stem-side facing up, away from direct sunlight. Generally, storing tomatoes in the refrigerator can cause them to lose flavor. But according to the Division of Agriculture at the University of California Davis, if you have ripe tomatoes that you aren’t ready to eat, you can delay over ripening by placing them in the refrigerator for fewer than 3 days. Allow refrigerated tomatoes to sit at room temperature for 1 hour before eating to help improve the flavor.

Nutrition and Arthritis

Nutrition and Arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is used to describe joint pain or joint disease. According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are over 100 different types of arthritis affecting 1 in 5 people over the age of 18, and 1 in 250 babies and children. Symptoms of arthritis include joint swelling, pain and stiffness that lead to a reduced range of motion. Some forms of arthritis cause pain that comes and goes, while others result in pain that worsens over time. Arthritis can make it difficult to perform daily activities and regular exercise.

How can food influence arthritis?

Arthritis is linked to inflammation, and research has shown that some foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants may combat inflammation and reduce some symptoms of arthritis. Similarly, other foods have been found to cause inflammation and should be limited for those with arthritis. These include foods with high amounts of saturated fat, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates. Additionally, some medications for arthritis cause the body to retain more sodium, so paying special attention to sodium intake is important as a way to prevent an unhealthy rise in blood pressure.

What foods have been found to reduce the symptoms of arthritis?

The painful symptoms of arthritis can be reduced by basing your diet on anti-inflammatory foods. Antioxidants are key players making fruits and vegetables an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. While most fruits and vegetables have unique nutrients that can be beneficial, focus on those with vitamin C, beta-carotene, and anthocyanins. Bell peppers, strawberries, citrus, broccoli, and kale provide vitamin C. Sweet potatoes, mustard greens, turnip greens, apricots, and carrots are rich in beta-carotene. Anthocyanins are found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, and red onions.

Reduce saturated and trans fats, and focus on incorporating more foods with hearty-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, sardines, anchovies, trout, chia seeds, and walnuts are all sources for omega-3s.

Research also shows that spices have anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, or cloves can be stirred into yogurt, blended into smoothies, and sprinkled over oatmeal or stir-fried vegetables.

5 Popular Diet Terms Defined

Raw food diet

Raw food diet

A raw food diet is based on the belief that heating food damages valuable nutrients. As a result, the eating plan includes consuming foods that have not been heated above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The diet is largely composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Some dehydrated or dried foods also meet the raw food criteria depending on the dehydration process.

The basis of the raw food diet is somewhat controversial. While some nutrients may be destroyed when foods are heated, others are enhanced and made more available to the body.

Clean eating

Clean eating is often used to describe a diet of more whole foods in their natural form and fewer packaged, processed foods. It is not an eating plan with strict guidelines but more of an approach to eating that influences your food choices. For example, clean eating means you choose grilled fresh fish over battered frozen fish and whole fresh fruits versus canned fruits in syrup. By eating clean, you can increase nutrients while reducing your intake of excess calories, fat, sodium, and sugar found in processed foods.

Flexitarian

Flexitarian is used to describe a person who eats a heavily plant-based diet, but includes meat and other animal products from time to time. A flexitarian style of eating closely resembles a vegetarian diet by being rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, but occasionally a flexitarian may choose to eat fish, poultry, pork, or red meat.

Paleo

The Paleo diet resembles what was likely eaten during the Paleolithic era, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. The diet is based on the belief that chronic disease is associated with eating foods like grains, legumes, and dairy. Therefore, it is largely made up of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The exact eating plan can vary from person to person, but sugar and sodium intake are limited because the Paleo diet does not allow processed or pre-made foods.

Gluten-free

A gluten-free diet contains no wheat products. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that must be avoided by those with celiac disease. When people with the disease eat gluten, their bodies produce antibodies that damage the lining of the small intestines, reducing the absorption of nutrients. Rye and barley are two additional grains that contain proteins similar to gluten and must also be avoided. A gluten-free diet contains fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, beans, unprocessed nuts, unprocessed meats without breading, and gluten-free grains.

Healthy Dessert Choices

Healthy Dessert Choices

You can lose weight and still satisfy your sweet tooth. The key is finding treats with more nutrients and fewer calories and added sugars.

Fancy Fresh Fruit

Low in calories, but rich in valuable fiber and beneficial antioxidants, fruit is an obvious healthy dessert. But this doesn’t mean you have to sit down to a boring bowl of fruit salad. Freeze blended fruits to make a popsicle, puree frozen mango and pineapple for a simple dairy-free ice cream, or stack fruit slices like this Orange Kiwi Fruit Salad with Honey Yogurt.

Unsweetened Dried Fruit

It’s true that dried fruit can be loaded with calories. This is because the drying process extracts the moisture making it easy to eat several apricots or plums in one sitting. Many dried fruits also have added sugar, increasing the calorie count even more. The sweetness is concentrated in dry fruit, so there is really no need for added sugar. Make your own or stick with unsweetened varieties. Eating a small handful of dried cherries or raisins is a healthy way to satisfy a candy craving while increasing your fiber intake.

Dark Chocolate

Flavanols, like those found in chocolate, have been found to lower blood pressure, increase blood flow, and reduce blood clot formation. Processing chocolate, like when butter and sugar are added to make milk chocolate, reduces the concentration of the flavanols, so remember to grab dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao solids) and limit servings to 1 ounce to avoid going overboard on calories.

Nut Butters

When ground into a spreadable paste, most nuts have a concentrated sweetness even without added sugar. Enjoy a teaspoon or two for dessert and you’ll reap the same nutritional benefits as eating a few nuts. Add more flavor without excess calories by stirring in cocoa powder or spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

Making frozen yogurt at home allows you to combine the health benefits of fresh fruit with a boost of protein and calcium. You can make your frozen treat in a countertop ice cream maker, like this Strawberry Mango Frozen Yogurt, or simply mix it up in a blender to create a frozen yogurt that is more like soft serve or a thick smoothie.

How to Control Hunger

How to Control Hunger

Understanding what causes hunger, how to stay full longer, and how to reduce cravings are important steps for weight loss. It allows you to make the changes necessary to take control of hunger before it takes control of you.

Eat a balanced meal.

A balanced meal offsets changes in the body that can trigger hunger. If you sit down to a meal full of simple sugars and lacking protein or fiber, you will likely be hungry again soon after eating. Refined carbohydrates spike blood sugar, which is then followed by a crash that will have your stomach grumbling. Protein helps to stabilize your blood sugar, reducing this spike and crash reaction. Research shows that increasing fiber intake also increases fullness. By balancing your meal to include a lean protein source like poultry or beans with complex carbohydrates and fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, you will feel full longer.

Fill up on fewer calories.

If the meal ends and you still feel like you haven’t had enough to eat, take a closer look at the foods on your plate. Eating nutrient-dense foods that provide fewer calories allows you to eat more while still reaching your weight loss goals. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and most have few calories. Add a salad to your meal or fruit for dessert. Filling up on these foods will keep you feeling satisfied.

Don’t drink your calories.

Sodas, alcohol, and juices supply the body with calories, but they won’t fill you up. When research subjects eat the same number of calories of solid food versus beverages, they report feeling fuller with food.

Recognize true hunger.

Years of food restriction and fad diets can result in a numbing of hunger signals and an inability to recognize fullness. This causes you to confuse when your body needs fuel and when you are hungry out of stress or boredom. When hunger strikes, stop and assess the situation. How long has it been since you last ate? It’s normal to feel hunger about 3 to 5 hours after eating. Do you have a physical feeling of hunger like a grumbling stomach? If so, chances are your body needs some healthy fuel. If not, you might be turning to food for reasons other than hunger. The more you stop to evaluate your cravings for food, the better you will become at recognizing true hunger.

Identify your triggers.

We all have triggers that make us crave foods even when we are not truly hungry. It’s essential to identify these triggers so that you can eliminate them and reduce eating when you are not truly hungry. Do you browse a food blog or restaurant website and find you are suddenly hungry? Do you sit in front of the television and want a snack? Seeing food can trigger cravings. When you recognize how these triggers affect you, you can learn to ignore the cravings and monitor your activities to steer clear of situations that make you hungry.

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