About Lisa Andrews

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD,  is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.  Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati.  For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/

 

When I was a kid, I couldn’t say broccoli. But I could say “bop a bee.” I wasn’t a fan of the little green trees at first, but over the years I've learned to love this vegetable.

After all, what’s not to love? It’s naturally nutritious, fairly inexpensive, and fun to dress up. Keep reading to learn more about this affordable, stalky favorite.

Broccoli’s Roots

Broccoli seems to have been bred from cabbage in the Mediterranean, specifically in Italy. The word "broccoli" means “the flowering bud of a cabbage.” Broccoli is actually fairly new to the US -- did you know that it's only been growing here since  1925?

Italy and Asia grow and consume quite a bit of broccoli. In the US, broccoli is available year-round and is grown primarily in California as well as Arizona, Texas, and Oregon. 1

Broccolini, often dubbed “baby broccoli” is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It was first cultivated in 1993 in Japan and is now grown in California, Arizona, and Mexico. 1

Nutritional Stats

A cup of raw broccoli provides 55 calories and is a source of vitamin K and fiber. In addition, broccoli is a source of folate.

While most people go for just the broccoli florets, don’t toss those woody stems! They can be cut into rounds and cooked, or shredded and made into broccoli slaw. They're good sources of fiber and can be surprisingly sweet.

Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. The cancer-fighting phytochemicals in broccoli are more bioavailable when broccoli is lightly cooked, such as in a microwave (for 3 to 4 minutes) or steamed. 2

Health Benefits

When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong with broccoli. As part of the cabbage family, it’s a source of the isothiocyanate sulforaphane, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In addition, a review of studies suggested that along with other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli may aid in the prevention of MS, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.3

Broccoli intake may also help reduce the damaging effects of liver disease. In rodent studies, 2-week consumption of a diet with 10% broccoli has been found to alter 25 different metabolites in the blood, including glutathione, which is linked with health promotion and disease prevention. These metabolites reflect changes in gut bacteria and liver health. More studies are needed on humans, but the initial findings from these rodent studies are promising. 4

One other bonus of broccoli intake is its impact on blood sugar. A small study indicates that broccoli consumption may improve insulin resistance in men with type 2 diabetes. Subjects that consumed broccoli for 12 weeks while doing aerobic exercise had more improvements in beta-cell function than those that consumed a placebo. 5

How to Enjoy Broccoli

There are plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable. Next time, try to...

  • Steam broccoli in a microwave for 3 to 5 minutes and season with a touch of pesto.
  • Brush broccoli florets and rounds with olive oil and roast them with garlic and lemon juice.
  • Chop broccoli into very fine pieces and make it into a slaw with poppy seed dressing, almond slivers, and dried cherries.
  • Grill broccoli along with peppers, onions, and zucchini
  • Add broccoli to your favorite stir fry with green beans, bell peppers, and mushrooms.
  • Try broccoli in a quiche or omelet.
  • Add chopped broccoli to pasta, rice, or other grain dishes.
  • Enjoy raw broccoli with your favorite hummus or yogurt dip.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Handout: 8 Fun Ways to Prepare Broccoli

8 Fun Ways to Prepare Broccoli Broccoli Tips and Tricks

More from the Affordable Nutritious Series

References

  1. Broccoli | Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (agmrc.org)
  2. Lu Y, Pang X, Yang T. Microwave cooking increases sulforaphane level in broccoli. Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Mar 5;8(4):2052-2058. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.1493. PMID: 32328271; PMCID: PMC7174218.
  3. Schepici G, Bramanti P, Mazzon E. Efficacy of Sulforaphane in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 16;21(22):8637. doi: 10.3390/ijms21228637. PMID: 33207780; PMCID: PMC7698208.
  4. Eve AA, Liu X, Wang Y, Miller MJ, Jeffery EH, Madak-Erdogan Z. Biomarkers of Broccoli Consumption: Implications for Glutathione Metabolism and Liver Health. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 20;12(9):2514. doi: 10.3390/nu12092514. PMID: 32825248; PMCID: PMC7551379.
  5. Saeidi A, Soltani M, Daraei A, Nohbaradar H, Haghighi MM, Khosravi N, Johnson KE, Laher I, Hackney AC, VanDusseldorp TA, Zouhal H. The Effects of Aerobic-Resistance Training and Broccoli Supplementation on Plasma Dectin-1 and Insulin Resistance in Males with Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients. 2021 Sep 9;13(9):3144. doi: 10.3390/nu13093144. PMID: 34579020; PMCID: PMC8471572.
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History and Harvest

Did you know there are over 20 varieties of onions? It’s true! From green onions (a.k.a. scallions) to red, white, and yellow onions and even shallots, you have no reason not to add these layered beauties to more of your meals. Let’s review this affordable, accessible vegetable.

According to the National Onion Association, some food researchers believe onions originated in central Asia, while others think they may have come from West Pakistan and Iran. Today, onions are grown in many parts of the country including California, Washington, Idaho, and Eastern and West-Central Oregon. Onions are also grown in China, India, and Egypt. Don’t forget wild onions, too. These may be sprouting in your yard!

Nutritional Prowess

Did you know you could eat an entire medium onion for under 45 calories? It’s unlikely you’ll do that, but onions are a great addition to any recipe (except maybe chocolate cake). Once they’ve been made into onion rings, however, all bets are off on the calorie load.

Onions add taste, texture, and fiber to soup, stew, salad, and more. They’re an excellent aromatic vegetable that adds flavor without butter or salt. Onions are a source of B vitamins, vitamin C, and quercetin, a flavonoid compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin is also found in apples.

Onions also provide fiber known as FOS (fructooligosaccharides), which is fermented and acts as a pre-biotic to feed the healthy bacteria in your large bowel. Keep your gut happy -- gas is good!

Health Bonuses

It’s worth adding onions to your salads, sandwiches, sauces, and other dishes. Quercetin has been found to have anti-cancer properties including reducing oxidative stress, enhancing sensitivity to chemotherapy drugs, and cell growth reduction. It has been used in the treatment of pancreatic, ovarian, and prostate cancer, and may also impact lung cancer. 2

Fruits and vegetables may aid in reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease, since they help lower blood pressure and arterial inflammation. Glucoside compounds found in onions appear to have the highest bioavailability in humans. These compounds are metabolized in the liver and travel in various forms in the blood. A supplemental form of quercetin called aglycone has been found to reduce blood pressure. More research is needed to evaluate the amount of quercetin from plant sources needed to lower blood pressure in humans. 3

A recent review article also indicates that quercetin from onions is lipophilic and crosses the blood-brain barrier easily. This suggests it may have neuroprotective effects due to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic properties. 4

Just Add Onions

There are so many delicious varieties of onions to eat! Where will you start?

  • Add chopped white, yellow, red, or green onions to your omelets or frittatas.
  • Pickle red onions and add them to tacos or sandwiches.
  • Sauté onions with mushrooms and ‘smother’ a chicken breast or piece of fish with them.
  • Toss a few red onion rings or chopped scallions in your salad.
  • Season black or pinto beans with diced onions, cumin, and chili powder.
  • Include onions in pasta, rice, or other grain dishes.
  • Make a quesadilla with grilled onions and peppers.
  • Try sautéed onions and zucchini together for a side dish.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Brand-New Handout: 5 Ways to Cook with Onions

5 Ways to Cook with Onions The Many Layers of Onions

References:

  1. Onion History - National Onion Association (onions-usa.org)
  2. Asgharian P, Tazehkand AP, Soofiyani SR, Hosseini K, Martorell M, Tarhriz V, Ahangari H, Cruz-Martins N, Sharifi-Rad J, Almarhoon ZM, Ydyrys A, Nurzhanyat A, Yessenbekova A, Cho WC. Quercetin Impact in Pancreatic Cancer: An Overview on Its Therapeutic Effects. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2021 Nov 3;2021:4393266. doi: 10.1155/2021/4393266. PMID: 34777687; PMCID: PMC8580629.
  3. Dabeek WM, Marra MV. Dietary Quercetin and Kaempferol: Bioavailability and Potential Cardiovascular-Related Bioactivity in Humans. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 25;11(10):2288. doi: 10.3390/nu11102288. PMID: 31557798; PMCID: PMC6835347.
  4. Deepika, Maurya PK. Health Benefits of Quercetin in Age-Related Diseases. Molecules. 2022 Apr 13;27(8):2498. doi: 10.3390/molecules27082498. PMID: 35458696; PMCID: PMC9032170.

Catch Up on the Other Installments of the Affordable Nutritious Series:

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You really can’t ‘beet’ kale.

As one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, the mighty kale leaf won’t be wilting away any time soon. Kale hails from the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and of course, cabbage. Kale is considered a cold-weather crop and grows well in fall and spring. In case you were wondering, National Kale Day is observed on the first Wednesday of October.

There are multiple varieties of kale (16 to be exact). These include curly leaf kale, dinosaur kale (a.k.a. lacinato kale), white kale, red Russian kale, Siberian kale, Chinese kale, baby kale, black kale, sea kale, redbor kale, premier kale, walking stick kale, Portuguese kale, Brazilian kale, purple kale, and ornamental kale.

So much kale, so little thyme!

This post continues our series on affordable and nutritious veggies.

Nutritional Value:

Kale is seriously popular among health enthusiasts for good reason. In addition to being very low in calories (roughly 35 calories per cup of chopped kale), kale provides beta-carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C. It’s also a good source of potassium and calcium and provides a small amount of iron and other micronutrients.

Kale also adds fiber to your diet. Don’t just eat the leaves! The woody stalks can be chopped up and sauteed to be used in soups and stews --their flavor is similar to celery.

Health Benefits from “Start to Finish”

As part of the cabbage family, kale is a source of sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, two powerful antioxidants that may be beneficial in reducing the risk of cancer.

A systematic review of studies on fruit and vegetable intake and bladder cancer risk was conducted and showed that while fruit and vegetable intake show inconsistent data on prevention of bladder cancer, subgroup data on specific fruits and vegetables indicates that green leafy vegetables (like kale) may help prevent bladder cancer.

Did you know that leafy vegetables like kale may also play a role in mental health?

A systematic review of studies analyzing intake of fruit and vegetable intake and mental health was published in Nutrients. The study focuses primarily on depression in addition to sleep, quality of life, mood, self-efficacy, curiosity, creativity, optimism, self-esteem, stress, nervousness, happiness, and anxiety. Data suggested that a high total intake of fruits and vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, may lower psychological stress, reduce depression, and foster well-being.

Ways to be Kaleful:

Kale is inexpensive and easy to work into your diet. Here are a few tips:

  • Add chopped kale to frittatas or omelets.
  • Substitute part of your salad greens with chopped kale.
  • Use chopped kale stems in stir-fries and soup stock.
  • Try roasted or air-fried kale with a drizzle of oil and a dusting of garlic salt.
  • Add massaged kale to your favorite grain bowl. Massaging kale for a few minutes improves its texture and taste.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

References:

  1. 16 Different Types of Kale Varieties (With Pictures) - AMERICAN GARDENER
  2. G??bska D, Guzek D, Groele B, Gutkowska K. Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 1;12(1):115. doi: 10.3390/nu12010115. PMID: 31906271; PMCID: PMC7019743.
  3. Xu C, Zeng XT, Liu TZ, Zhang C, Yang ZH, Li S, Chen XY. Fruits and vegetables intake and risk of bladder cancer: a PRISMA-compliant systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 May;94(17):e759.

PDF Handout: Kale and Your Health

Kale and Your Health Kale Yeah!

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The demand for all things cauliflower has hit an impressive high these past few years. As part of the low-carb, gluten-free craze, cauliflower has been riced, passed off as potatoes, and made into pizza crust.

What’s not to love? As part of our affordable, nutritious series, we’ll take a closer look at this versatile veggie.

Cauliflower 101:

Cauliflower is thought to have originated in Asia, though it became a popular crop in the Mediterranean regions of Syria, Turkey, Italy, and Spain around 600 BC. Most of the US cauliflower supply comes from California, but it’s also grown in Arizona and Oregon. While it’s a cool-season vegetable, cauliflower can be enjoyed all year round.

As part of the Brassica oleracea family along with cabbage, Bok choy, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts, the Latin meaning of cauliflower is “the flowers of a cabbage”. Cauliflower is often dubbed “white broccoli” and its flavor is similar to but milder than its green cousin.

Health Benefits of Cauliflower:

It’s great that cauliflower is used in so many dishes as it has quite a bit of nutritional prowess. Cauliflower is low in calories and carbs and is a source of vitamin C. Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, cauliflower is a source of sulforaphane, an antioxidant that may protect against several types of cancer as well as heart disease. 1

In addition to reducing the risk of cancer, the sulforaphane in cauliflower may also play a role in preventing the progression of Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s disease, cerebral ischemia, MS, epilepsy, and psychiatric conditions as it aids in neurogenesis and reduction of oxidation stress and inflammation. 2

A phytochemical in cauliflower may also be beneficial in reducing pain related to endometriosis. Cauliflower contains quercetin, a flavanol that’s been found to have antioxidant, antiangiogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties. A recent study showed that quercetin altered the cell cycle and markers of inflammation in treated mice compared to controls. Researchers believe this could be used in humans as well. 3

Use Your Head (of Cauliflower):

As mentioned above, cauliflower can be used to replace rice or as part of an alternative to traditional pizza crust, but there are so many other ways to enjoy it!

Here are a few to try:

  • Dice cauliflower and add it raw to your favorite salad or slaw.
  • Pair fresh cauliflower and other veggies with a yogurt dip or hummus.
  • Roast cauliflower with curry, turmeric, and other Indian spices.
  • Make buffalo cauliflower bites and serve with hot sauce.
  • Stir fry cauliflower with broccoli, peppers, and onions.
  • Try air-fried cauliflower tossed in olive oil and garlic.
  • Add riced cauliflower to grain bowls with beans or lentils.

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

PDF Handout: CauliPOWER Handout

CauliPOWER Handout Caulipower!

References:

  1. Vanduchova A, Anzenbacher P, Anzenbacherova E. Isothiocyanate from Broccoli, Sulforaphane, and Its Properties. J Med Food. 2019 Feb;22(2):121-126.
  2. Huang C, Wu J, Chen D, Jin J, Wu Y, Chen Z. Effects of sulforaphane in the central nervous system. Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Jun 15;853:153-168.
  3. Park S, Lim W, Bazer FW, Whang KY, Song G. Quercetin inhibits proliferation of endometriosis regulating cyclin D1 and its target microRNAs in vitro and in vivo. J Nutr Biochem. 2019 Jan;63:87-100
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Last week's Carrot Trivia was so popular that we're back for more today!

If you 'carrot' all about your health and want to enjoy delicious, affordable food, you’ll seek out the classic carrot! Carrots are versatile, valuable vegetables that provide beta-carotene and other antioxidants.

Carrots have their ‘roots’ in Central Asia but are grown worldwide. Seven states take credit for growing carrots in the US: California, Texas, Washington, Michigan, Florida, Colorado, and Wisconsin. While bright orange carrots are well known in the US, purple, black, and white carrots were the originals and are still grown today.

In this new series, we’ll be covering simple super foods to get more nutritional bang for your buck.

Nutritional Value:
Carrots’ bright orange color indicates their beta carotene content, but there’s more to love than a single nutrient. Carrots are also sources of the following phytochemicals: phenolics, carotenoids, polyacetylenes, and ascorbic acid (AKA vitamin C). A benefits-review article suggests that carrots possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, lipid-lowering, and anti-tumor properties (1).

Beta-carotene may be the best-known antioxidant in carrots, but yellow carrots are a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that aid in the prevention of macular degeneration. Purple and black carrots (most commonly found in India and China, though they're also making a comeback at local farmer's markets) contain anthocyanins, the same antioxidants that are so hyped in blueberries! These antioxidants have been linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

Health Benefits:
Men may derive extra benefits from regular carrot intake because carrots have been found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. A systematic review of studies indicated that a dose-response reduction in the risk of prostate cancer was linked to carrot intake. The study found that those who ate carrots at least three times a week were 18 percent less likely to have prostate cancer (2).

Carrot consumption may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. In a Danish study of over 57,050 individuals, self-reported consumption of 2 to 4 or more raw carrots per week was linked to a 17% decreased risk of colon cancer with an average follow-up of over 18 years. Researchers believe the inhibition of pro-inflammatory compounds in carrots may reduce cancer risk (3).

Don’t Just Dangle the Carrot -- Eat More of Them!
Here are a few ideas...

1. Pair raw carrots with your favorite hummus or yogurt dip.
2. Dice carrots and add them to soup, stew, or grain dishes.
3. Season carrots with cumin, cinnamon, and a dash of salt and then roast them.
4. Sauté carrots with peppers, onions, or broccoli in stir fries.
5. Shred carrots and make a carrot raisin salad.
6. Make carrot soup with ginger, curry, and other Indian spices.
7. Roast carrots with Brussels sprouts in olive oil and garlic.
8. Sneak carrots into your favorite smoothie with bananas and berries.
9. Chop carrots and add them to your favorite salad or slaw.
10. Use carrot tops to make pesto!

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Free bookmark card:

Carrot Handout Celebrate the Classic Carrot

Free Handout: click here to download

 

References: 

  1. Ahmad T, Cawood M, Iqbal Q, Ariño A, Batool A, Tariq RMS, Azam M, Akhtar S. Phytochemicals in Daucus carota and Their Health Benefits-Review Article. Foods. 2019 Sep 19;8(9):424.
  2. Xu X, Cheng Y, Li S, Zhu Y, Xu X, Zheng X, Mao Q, Xie L. Dietary carrot consumption and the risk of prostate cancer. Eur J Nutr. 2014 Dec;53(8):1615-23.
  3. Deding U, Baatrup G, Christensen LP, Kobaek-Larsen M. Carrot Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study of 57,053 Danes. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 27;12(2):332
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"Yo-yo dieting" and "weight cycling" are terms that refer to intentional weight loss followed by unintentional weight gain. This back-and-forth can be common for people trying to lose weight, particularly women. In addition to being a frustrating situation for clients and practitioners, weight cycling may also be risky business for long-term physical and mental health.

Why Weight Cycles

Sustaining weight loss is difficult. When weight is lost, changes in fat hormones, energy expense, and gut peptides may lead to weight regain to a very regulated set point. When weight is lost, appetite is increased, making it difficult to limit food intake. Frustration with the scale may lead to feelings of failure, which can set up a cycle of "diet, cheat, repent, repeat."

In addition, long-term habit change is difficult. Keeping weight off is a lifelong commitment. According to the National Weight Control Registry, people who successfully maintain weight loss typically engage in at least 60 minutes of regular exercise most days of the week, keep calorie intake limited, and avoid certain foods.

A Weighty Matter

Although weight loss may benefit body composition and improve lipids, blood pressure, and/or blood sugar, researchers suggest that regained weight may lead to increased fat gain and increases in cardiometabolic markers.

Observational studies have evaluated the link between weight cycling and health outcomes. A modest association between yo-yo dieting and type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia has been observed in women. High blood pressure, cardiovascular events, and increased overall cancer risk have not been seen.

A recent meta-analysis of 127 articles* related to weight cycling evaluated the risk of endometrial cancer. These included traditional weight loss methods as well as bariatric surgery. Using statistical analysis, the review revealed that, compared with stable weight, self-reported weight loss was associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer, while self-reported weight cycling was linked with a higher risk of endometrial cancer. After bariatric surgery, the risk of endometrial cancer dropped by 59%.

What Can Be Done?

Given the rising rates of overweight and obesity in the US, we don’t want to ignore the issue of weight loss when it’s indicated. We also don’t want to raise the risk of eating disorders, depression, or the unwanted side effects that accompany fad diets and restrictive methods.

Below are some tips for practitioners working with weight loss clients:

  1. Focus on healthy habits, not weight. When the number on the scale is the only measure of success, it’s difficult for clients to recognize that small changes move the needle.
  2. Be realistic with clients. Advise them that a small weight loss of 5 to 7% may still reduce their risk for diabetes and hypertension.
  3. Provide practical solutions for meal planning. Ask detailed questions about budget, grocery shopping, label reading, cooking skills, strategies when dining out, and beverage consumption. All of these are pertinent when it comes to sustainable habit change.
  4. Encourage regular exercise. While exercise alone may not result in weight loss, it can aid in maintaining muscle mass, improving sleep, and reducing stress, all of which may impact food intake and weight.
  5. Refer to mental health experts. Chronic dieting can take a toll on mental health too! It can lead to low self-esteem, depression, binge eating, or other issues. Counseling, group therapy, or medications for depression, stress, and anxiety may be indicated. 

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

References:

  1. Carey KJ, Vitek W. Weight Cycling in Women: Adaptation or Risk? Semin Reprod Med. 2020 Dec 7
  2. National Weight Control Registry (nwcr.ws)
  3. Zhang X, Rhoades J, Caan BJ, Cohn DE, Salani R, Noria S, Suarez AA, Paskett ED, Felix AS. Intentional weight loss, weight cycling, and endometrial cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Gynecol Cancer. 2019 Nov;29(9):1361-1371. doi: 10.1136/ijgc-2019-000728. Epub 2019 Aug 26. PMID: 31451560; PMCID: PMC6832748.
  4. Ozemek C, Tiwari S, Sabbahi A, Carbone S, Lavie CJ. Impact of therapeutic lifestyle changes in resistant hypertension. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2020 Jan-Feb;63(1):4-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2019.11.012.
  5. Quinn DM, Puhl RM, Reinka MA. Trying again (and again): Weight cycling and depressive symptoms in U.S. adults. PLoS One. 2020 Sep 11;15(9):e0239004.

Handout:The Dangers of Weight Cycling

Weight Cycling Handout Health Risks of Weight Cycling

*13 different studies were reviewed.

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