The 52 New Foods Challenge – Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are up next and I’m happy to report that I like flax seeds and I eat them regularly. They have a host of health benefits , but most people do not properly prepare them, and therefore do not get to capitalize on their health benefits. Read on for how to properly prepare flax. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends adding ground flaxseeds to homemade granola bars or to strawberry-banana smoothies. In the food facts, I’ll add some precautions about using ground flaxseeds in these manners.
Food Facts:

  • Flax seeds are a good source of fiber.
  • High in vitamin B6, thiamine, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and copper.
  • They are also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid and phytoestrogens known as lignans. These have been shown to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
  • Flax have been shown to protect against prostate cancer.
  • Highest plant sources of omega-3 oils
  • Benefits heart, arteries, skin, hair, & brain
  • Great for your gut & constipation
  • Antioxidant rich 
  • Protects against breast & colon cancers
  • Create a mucilage when soaked in liquids (similar to chia seeds)
  • Their densely packed nutrition cannot be accessed if not properly prepared. The body simply cannot digest, and therefore take advantage of, the nutrients housed in whole flaxseeds.
    • You can grind them yourself if you have a Vitamix 32-ounce Dry Grains Container  for a Vitamix Blender, or something similar. You can also buy them already ground, BUT the container should be opaque and there should be an expiration date that is fairly soon (a couple of months). They should be stored in the fridge (as with all raw nuts and seeds).
    • You can also soak whole flaxseeds in liquid. This will increase their absorption. If you plan to add them to your yogurt, I suggest that you add them the night before. If you plan to add them to a smoothie, add them to whatever liquid you use in the smoothie the night before and allow them to soak overnight.
    • I’m still on the fence about baking with them. Because Omega-3s are a fragile fat (heat-sensitive) I worry about baking with them. But I also know that while the oven gets fairly warm, the internal temperatures of baked goods doesn’t necessarily get to the oven temp. My current opinion is: if you bake with them, the oven temp should be 325-350 maximum and don’t eat them in baked goods all that often.
  • Flaxseed oils should always be cold pressed, purchased in opaque bottles, and should be refrigerated.
  • Be sure to never heat flax oil to avoid oxidation!
  • Flaxseeds contain a moderate amount of oxalate, so those with a history of oxalate containing kidney stones should watch their consumption.

From Bauman College lecture notes, The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes, by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet, by Tonia Reinhard, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

Photo Cred: Luv Kreativ Photography

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Cherry Tomatoes

It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes. I’ve never liked them. In fact, I’m the black sheep of the family in regards to my dislike of tomatoes. With that being said, I believe that one day I will love raw tomatoes [growth mindset]. I do like cooked tomatoes of all kinds (except ketchup, yuck!). I am starting to like heirloom tomatoes in a caprese salad. I think the reason I don’t really like tomatoes is because of their strong flavor – it totally changes the taste of a burger, sandwich, or salad. Jennifer Tyler Lee and I are kindred spirits in this way. 🙂 The other fact that helps me feel justified in not liking raw tomatoes is that unless it’s summer, tomatoes are either grown in greenhouses or internationally, or are grown in Florida (Florida’s “soil” is actually just sand and is void of nutrients). So unless they are garden tomatoes or farmer’s market tomatoes, they are often mealy and are picked when green. The book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit is fascinating. Highly recommended! Anywho… Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato pops! I recently made a cherry tomato chutney at a Sur la Table cooking class – it was delicious!

Food Facts:

  • They are technically a fruit!
  • Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family (along with potatoes, eggplant, peppers- all kinds, and some spices). Nightshades are known to be inflammatory. Nightshades are commonly removed during a 5-R Protocol to determine food intolerances.
  • There are over a THOUSAND different types of tomatoes and can be a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.cherry-tom-with-logo-1000px
  • Native to South America.
  • The leaves of the tomato are toxic. It was long believed that tomatoes were poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family which houses other poisonous plants (poisonous nightshade and black henbane).
  • Great source of vitamins B6, C, and K, carotenes (especially lycopene), beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, and fiber.
  • Lycopene content is FIVE times greater in cooked tomatoes because cooking causes the cell walls to burst and “free” the lycopene. Also, the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene content.
  • Lycopene in particular has been shown to protect against cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • Highest levels of vitamin C can be obtained from raw tomatoes.
  • Fully ripe tomatoes cannot be shipped long distances. Therefore they are picked when underripe and then gassed with ethylene. You probably know what I’m going to say here….buy them at a local farmer’s market, CSA, or grown your own!
  • Cherry tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce and are sweeter and more flavorful than their larger counterparts. Smaller is better!

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipesby Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Healthby Jo Robinson, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Tonia Reinhard, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Radishes

Radishes more of a versatile vegetable than I had originally thought. Rewind to a few years back, and I only included raw radishes in salads or possibly in taco truck tacos. Nowadays I like them pickled and ROASTED! To roast radishes: simply top and tail the radishes and then cut in half (if using the cherry belle or french breakfast varieties; cut into smaller one inch cubes if using larger varieties). Add the radishes to a roasting pan with some grass-fed butter and sea salt. Bake at 350 degrees until a knife easily pierces. They taste just like POTATOES!!!!! This is perfect for those avoiding nightshades or white carbs! Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends pickling radishes or wilting the greens and flash sautéing the radishes. Radishes are also quite easy to grow and mature very quickly.

Food Facts:

  • A member of the cruciferous veggie family.
  • Depending on the variety, some are very mild, while others are very spicy.
  • Several varieties grow in the spring (smaller, round or oval shape, crisp white flesh, less pungent), while others grow in the summer/fall/winter (larger, more fibrous, more pungent flavor, take twice as long to grow).
  • Radish greens are edible and have significantly more vitamin C  than the roots and more calcium as well.
  • Radishes are a good source of vitamin C.
  • Red Globe radishes are a good source of molybdenum, folic acid, and potassium.
  • Daikon radishes are a good source of copper and potassium.
  • Believed to be cancer-protective.
  • Supports healthy liver and gallbladder function and can improve digestion.
  • Have been used in India as a diuretic, expectorant, laxative, and to treat gastric discomfort.
  • Cooking diminishes the vitamin C content (raw is the way to go! – unless of course you have radishes coming out your ears and you’re bored with raw radishes).

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Butter Lettuce

Butter lettuce is another favorite of mine. I appreciate that it has a mild flavor and butterlettuceis a healthier alternative to iceberg lettuce. While working for Tomatero Organic Farm, it was a very popular item. Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends Chinese chicken lettuce wraps and of course, salad. Like Jennifer, I use butter lettuce in salads and in lettuce wraps. I think this is a great gateway lettuce for those that like iceberg lettuce in their salads (as I used to as a kid and teenager). It’s mild with a nice texture and can hopefully get people to start liking more nutrient dense and flavorful greens in their salads.

  • This type of lettuce is has a delicate texture and a slightly sweet flavor.
  • Common varieties include Boston and Bibb.
  • The darker the leaves, the more nutrients due to higher photosynthesis activity, and therefore higher phytonutrient values.
  • Additionally, the less tightly packed leaves on a head of lettuce, the more phytonutrients it has (i.e. iceberg has very tightly packed leaves, whereas loose leaf lettuces are not tightly packed at all). Lettuce leaves need sunlight to grow but the UV rays can also damage them. In order to survive, plants make “sunscreen” in the form of antioxidants. Those antioxidants make the plant more nutrient dense and that plant protection then becomes our own protection when we eat them.
  • The inner leaves on the lettuce head are exposed to very little sunlight and therefore are very low in nutrients; as a result, the outer leaves are exposed to the most sunlight and are higher in nutrients.
  • Precut lettuces (like in pre-made salads) start loosing their antioxidant values as soon as they are cut.
  • Lettuce all are a good source of chlorophyll and vitamin K.
  • Moisture on lettuce leaves cause them to prematurely degrade, opt for a salad spinner to rinse and dry lettuce. This can help the lettuce to last several days.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson, and Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Cucumbers

I have always loved cucumbers. I find their crunchy texture and mild and refreshing flavor irresistible. It always baffles me that there are people out there that don’t like them (ahem…you know who you are ;-). I’m a HUGE fan of pickles (I’ll thank my Essenmacher roots for that!) and I love cucumbers on salads (green salads, pasta salads, etc.). I’ve also had refreshing cucumber waters and cucumber cocktails. Je
nnifer Tyler Lee also recommends Asian cucumber salad, minty cucumber salad, and cucumber tea sandwiches. All of which sound great!

Food Facts:

  • Seventy percent of the US pickle crop is made into pickles.
  • Cucumbers are composed mostly of water, making them a very refreshing option during summer.
  • The flesh contains vitamins A and C and folic acid, while the skin is rich in fiber and contains the minerals silica, potassium, magnesium, and molybdenum. [My thoughts on peeling vegetables: peeling them is just extra work AND it takes away vital nutrients, so no thanks.]
  • Good source of vitamin K and B5, phosphorous, copper, and manganese.
  •  Cucumbers belong to the same family as melons, summer squash, and winter squash.
  • Have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Are a good source of flavonoids, lignans, and triterpenes.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and whfoods.com.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Basil

While working at the Campbell Farmer’s Market, basil was always a top seller for Tomatero. Tomatoes, strawberries, and basil always brought folks to the booth. In fact, one of my coworkers would often wave some basil through the air to release the scent to help lure them in like Yogi Bear. I love basil. I like making traditional caprese salads, basil pesto, and my awesome sister-in-law Amy, makes a watermelon caprese salad (watermelon subs nicely for tomatoes for those avoiding nightshades). Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests trying a nut free pesto – using sunflower seeds or adding fresh peaches and basil to ice cream! YUMMMY! What’s your favorite use for basil?

Food Facts:

  • Sweet basil is the variety that we typically eat, however Holy basil or tulsi is a variety that is coveted for its medicinal purposes and is native to India.
  • Excellent source of vitamins A, K, and C and maganese.
  • It is rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids.
  • Basil’s essential oils are antifungal and antimicrobial and have been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi.
  • It is also an anti-inflammatory and can be used to support conditions where inflammation is a factor.
  • Basil should be stored with stems in a glass of water on the counter. Putting basil in the fridge turns it black.
  • There are more than 60 varieties of basil.
  • It belongs to the mint family.
  • Some of the major medicinal uses include: digestive support, a mild sedative, headache relief, kidney support, poor circulation, and intestinal spasms.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Salmon

Salmon is my most favorite fish. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. My uncle John would go out fishing and always bring home plenty of salmon to share. Often, he would smoke the salmon and this was my very favorite treat. It’s like I had arrived in healthy heaven. Today it is still my favorite, along with halibut.

Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests a sesame crusted salmon, which sounds delicious. She also suggests a recipe for crispy salmon chips (salmon skin) which intrigues me!

Planked Alaskan salmon and asparagus

Food Facts:

  • Always opt for wild salmon. Its nutrient values are far superior to that of farmed salmon. Wild salmon has 20% higher protein content and 20% lower fat content as compared to farmed salmon.
  • The chinook and sockeye varieties of salmon are fattier than ono, pink, and chum.
  • Salmon is a great source of potassium, selenium, niacin, phosphorus, thiamine, folate, riboflavin, and magnesium, and vitamins B5, B6, B12, C, and E.
  • Great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Wild salmon has a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.
  • Cold-water fish, like salmon, have been shown to protect against heart disease, alzheimer’s disease, and many types of cancer.
  • Salmon is good for combatting inflammation.
  • It has also been shown to help prevent against depression.
  • It is a great protein source for detoxification of the liver. [aka Love your liver with salmon.]

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Sunflower Butter

Sunflower butter or sunbutter is a great option for those that are allergic to nuts but can tolerate seeds. It has a great peanut-y flavor. As with all nuts and seeds, I recommend opting for organic because fat is where the toxins (herbicides) are stored. I also generally recommend raw nuts and seeds because roasting can damage the fragile fats and is often used to hide the rancidity of nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds have a season when they are fresh, just like all fruits and veggies. Choosing raw allows you to know that the nuts and seeds are still fresh. Although, raw and organic nut butters are CRAZY expensive (like $12-$25 for a fairly small jar). You can certainly make your own. Add the nuts or seeds to a food processor and turn it on. Once they become the right consistency, turn off and store in a jar (in the fridge to slow the oxidation process). Some people add salt, sugar, or oil to it. Feel free to experiment away!

Jennifer Tyler Lee, like many parents, was looking for a nut-free alternative for her children while at school. She suggests using it as you would peanut butter…ants on a log and apple slices dipped in sunbutter. She also suggests a no bake snack called Bitty Bites. I would obviously sub out the whole wheat flour for a grain-free option like cassava flour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFood Facts:

  • Good source of vitamins B1, B5, B6, and E, folate, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, and protein.
  • Sunflower seeds contain phytochemicals, especially phytosterols, which can help to lower blood cholesterol.
  • They are a great source of monounsaturated fats (24 grams per 1/3 cup serving).
  • Sunflower seeds also contain arginine an essential amino acid that is important during periods of growth.
  • Contain heart healthy compounds.
  • Have been shown to be anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antiallergenic.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Cherries

Well this post will be up just in time for cherry season to be over :(. Cherry season typically starts near the end of May and goes through late June/early July.  But better late than never! Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests that folks dehydrate them, making “Sour Cherry Blasters” or make them into a cherry compote to accompany vanilla ice cream. Cherries are not one of my favorite fruits, but I will enjoy them raw. While I do think they are tasty, I just like other stone fruit better.

Food Facts:

  • Sour (tart) cherry juice can be used to help improve sleep and has been shown to reduce the risk for heart disease and and diabetes.
  • Cherries are a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, copper, and manganese.
  • Good source of fiber.
  • Both sour and sweet cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation.cherries
  • Cherries have also been reported to reduce Gout attacks.
  • Sour cherries are lower in calories than sweet cherries.
  • They are a rich source of flavonoids, especially anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins.
  • Cherries were one of the first fruits to be brought to the “new world”.
  • One study found that runners that drank Montmorency cherry juice (one glass before the race and one glass during the race) were less sore afterwards because of the ability of the cherries to help with muscle recovery.
  • Fresh cherries are firm, shiny, and lack dents, pits, or bruises. They also have bright green stems. The fresher the cherry, the more nutrients!
  • Store cherries in the fridge and eat them quickly!

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murry, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Tonia Reinhard, and Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson.

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Plums

I have very fond childhood memories of eating all the fruit growing up. My grandfather grew up on a farm in Lake Huron, MI. When the Essenmacher clan moved to California, he set up a bountiful backyard garden. Among the many things that he grew were plums. The plum tree was nestled next to my childhood swing set. I still love plums to this day and I’ll give my grandparents all the credit for my fruit addiction.

Jennifer Tyler Lee suggests that readers roast plums with pistachios or try making an Asian plum sauce. While I can easily eat about a half dozen fresh farmer’s market or backyard plums, I do like the idea of cooking the fruit. I’m particularly fond of grilled stone fruit served over some vanilla ice cream.

Food Facts:

  • Wild varieties pack the most nutrients. Look for red, purple, black, or blue plums because they will have more phytonutrients, especially anthocyanins.
  • Plums should be ripened on the the tree and can be susceptible to chilling injury.
  • Plums are a good source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, K, fiber, potassium, and copper.
  • Plums and prunes (or dried plums as they are now being referred to in order to boost their popularity) are known for their laxative effects.
  • Their content of neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acids [phenols] has been documented to have antioxidant and anticancer properties.

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes by Jennifer Tyler Lee, Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Laura Pizzorno, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planet by Tonia Reinhard, and Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson.