Powerful good, those purple foods! No, no, not chemically-colorfied candies and goodies, but natural, wholesome fruits and vegetables from Mother Nature’s edible rainbow. If you’ve been passing up purple foods in the produce section, judging them too weird or trendy, it’s time to circle back! Load your basked from the prolific selection of purple foods available today including healthy-diet darlings like purple sweet potatoes (one of my favorite), purple cauliflower, purple carrots and long-time favorites such as purple grapes, eggplant, plums, berries and more.
Fittingly it’s a “P” word that makes purple foods so healthful – polyphenols! Purple fruits and vegetables are filled with polyphenols, important plant-based micronutrients which researchers say may help prevent degenerative diseases (like certain cancers) and protect your heart and overall cardiovascular health. One of the most abundant polyphenols in purple foods is a sub-classification named anthocyanins. Also found in foods like cocoa, nuts, olive oil and tea, anthocyanins are health-promoting, natural chemical compounds that aid in cell protection and healing. Nutritionists recommend include purple fruits and vegetables into your diet at least 4 to 5 days a week alongside dark green, orange and yellow foods for maximum benefits.
I love the Purple Asparagus from Friedas.com, it’s noticeably sweeter than it’s green siblings.Developed in Italy, the the large spears are purple-burgundy toned with a a creamy white interior.
Another one of my favorite foods with the good-for-you purple hue is a purple sweet potato. This dark tuber is royally delicious and once reserved only for the feasts of Incan kings in Peru. These days, purple potatoes reign supreme in the supermarket and, according to the USDA, can have in excess four times the antioxidant power of traditional white potatoes. Plus, potatoes of any color are such a great source of nutrition for athletes including complex carbohydrates to provide energy for workouts and potassium, iron, and other nutrients to help keep a hard-working body in balance. Eat them just like you would any other potato!
I also like to spiralize a purple sweet potato (or finely slice) my purple sweet potatoes and make healthy string fries. The easy recipe is featured below along with a few other links in my recipe collection that are popping with the power of PURPLE! Enjoy!
Fall and winter are prime time for pomegranates, a delicious superfood with juice and arils (fleshy seeds) that appear in everything from seasonal salads and smoothies to holiday cocktails and desserts. But there is much more to a pomegranate than festive flavor and ruby-red good looks, the prized fruit offers an abundant supply of vitamins, essential minerals, and a rich assortment of antioxidants – it’s also a good source of dietary fiber. It addition helping optimize health and wellness for the general population, pomegranate has several distinctive benefits for runners, ultra runners, cyclists, triathletes, obstacle course racers and other endurance and strength athletes.
Reduces DOMS: A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that the polyphenols found in pomegranate juice may help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in previously resistance-trained individuals. Study participants who drank pomegranate juice, rather than the placebo, reported less incidence of discomfort in the exercises administered to provoke arm and leg soreness. Take away: Drinking pomegranate juice before exercise may lessen soreness and quicken recovery so that you can train again sooner.
Increases Exercise Efficiency: A 2014 study reported in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, sports scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say that the nitrates in pomegranate extract enhance exercise efficiency by decreasing oxygen consumption during exercise without limiting performance, increasing blood lactate or increasing energy contribution from glycolysis or the phosphagen system. It’s the same sort of benefit that has also been attributed to consuming beet juice before endurance exercise. Take away: Pomegranate juice or extract supplements may enhance exercise efficiently and increase the amount of time it takes to get to reach exhaustion.
Reduce Inflammation and Bolster Immunity: Pomegranate seeds are rich in specific polyphenols, such as tannins, quercetin and anthocyanins — all of which may offer both heart health and anti-cancer benefits. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies. Additionally, studies specifically on athletes have suggest this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance. Take away: Recover faster and keep from getting sick during intense training cycles with pomegranate.
Quick Source of Energy: A glass of pomegranate juice diluted with a bit of water makes a healthy “sports drink” that will fuel your brain and body with quickly-sourced, natural sugars. Take away: Ditch sugary, store-bought sports drinks and power up with the healthy carbohydrates and antioxidants found in pomegranate juice.
A mocktail featuring pomegranate is the perfect way to ring in 2106 – it’s a tasty toast to your health with no worries about driving home or feeling bad the next day. Shake up your holiday libations with my Smart Tart Pomegranate Meyer Lemon Spritzer, the recipe is simple, has no added sugar and features less acidic Meyer lemons (a hybrid orange-lemon) and the previously mentioned benefits of pomegranate arils and juice — it’s also no coincidence that both these fruits are in peak season as we speak!
Directions: In large pitcher, pour 2 liters sparkling water and mix in 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice, 4 packets Stevia (more or less to taste), and 4 ounces pomegranate arils (along with any juice in bottom of carton). Serve with thinly sliced Meyer lemon. Serves 8.
School may be starting, but that summer weather will be around these parts for a while — and that means I can count on good watermelons through October here in Texas. Yeehaw! When chopping up fresh watermelon for my kids’ lunchboxes, I always hide set aside a bowlful in the fridge to use as the superstar ingredient in in one of my salad creations. This weekend, “Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad was inspired by a dish I could both serve outdoors for al fresco dining (squeezing out the last few drops of summer pleasure before vacation ends) and also to package up during the week to take to school and work.
“Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad lives up to its name – it’s super beautiful in shades of red made with ripe watermelon, shredded fresh beets and red onion. In addition to all the gorgeous nutrition these super food veggies offer, this quick and easy salad recipe offers enough protein to make it a meal thanks to hearty red quinoa and sprouted pumpkin seeds. Yes, you CAN eat watermelon seeds contrary to the old wives’ tale that eating them might make the fruit grow in your belly!
I buy sprouted watermelon seeds to put on this salad and eat as a snack right out of the bag. Why “sprouted” seeds? Not only does the sprouting process make them easier to eat and digest than the big black seeds, they are high in protein and a good source of iron and heart-healthy fats. Sprouting seeds “wakes up” dormant seeds and kick starts the germination process that unlocks all their nutritional benefits. You could make sprouted watermelon seeds at home, but busy-me prefers to buy – you could also substitute sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in the recipe if you can’t find them.
Over the course of #LivingOnTheWedge this summer, I’ve received lots of reader comments and questions about watermelon. I’m sharing what I know with you inquiring minds of melon – another great resource for all things watermelon (including nutrition, recipes, and fun facts) is Watermelon.org.
What’s the best way to store a watermelon and for how long can you keep it?Storing watermelons at 55° F is ideal, according to Watermelon.org. However, whole melons will keep for 7 to 10 days at room temperature – any longer and they’ll start they’ll lose flavor and texture. After cutting, store watermelon in refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. After cut, wrap watermelon in plastic or keep in an airtight container at 36° – 39°F. Also, I’ve noticed if you let watermelon sit in the juice that collects at the bottom of the container for too long, it loses the signature crisp texture – so I always drain off (and drink or save) the juice every time I get into my stash. Another strategy to maintain freshness is to keep melon stored in big chunks or slices as opposed to little bites. This cuts down on the amount of juice that drains out in the bottom of the container.
Do you know why watermelon helps alleviate morning sickness while pregnant? The high water content in watermelon (92 percent) along with magnesium and potassium helps keep pregnant women from getting dehydrated, a dangerous condition that can also make nausea worse. Additionally, the cool, mild, lightly sweet flavor of watermelon is easy to tolerate when queasy, especially when paired with other known upset tummy tamers like ginger, lemons or limes. Check out my recipe for Watermelon Ginger Limeade — take a few sips every 10 minutes until you feel better!
Is it safe to eat a watermelon that was accidentally left in the car overnight in the summer? My first reaction to this question was – “yes, don’t watermelons grown in the hot sun anyway?” But experts say to abide by the “when in doubt, throw it out” rule. So, I would say if the outdoor temp was close to “room temp” then eat, if hotter, throw it away (as horrifying as that is).
Is it okay to swallow watermelon seeds? One reader said she remembered swallowing her share of seeds during watermelon eating contests as a kid, and was worried about the consequences. Unlike the fear that our mothers instilled in us as young-uns, watermelon seeds are 100 percent safe for consumption. There is nothing at all harmful about them and a watermelon won’t even sprout in your belly! Today’s recipe for “Super Red” Watermelon Quinoa Salad even uses easier to digest “sprouted” watermelon seeds (which can be grown or, easier, bought at a health food store) – they are actually good source of protein and alternative for people with nut allergies.
How many kinds of watermelon are there and which is the best? There are more than 300 varieties of watermelons grown around the world, although not that many are readily available in your local market. The Crimson Sweet is a popular choice that is reliably sweet –check out this link that sums up some of the best from Saveur. And, if looking to pick the BEST watermelon out of the bin, check out these Tips for Picking Watermelon.
What are you packing in lunchboxes this week? Aside from “don’t swallow watermelon seeds,” what other superstitious advice has your mother given you? Do you have any unanswered watermelon questions? Please share and/or ask in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer
BTW, this post was sponsored by the National Watermelon Promotion Board — however, unless otherwise noted, all recipes, editorial content, and enthusiasm for watermelon are all my own.
Super Red Watermelon Quinoa Salad
This delicious Watermelon Quinoa Salad is packed with nutritious benefits and is great f or Labor Day entertaining, summer parties and lunch boxes!
Place watermelon in blender and blend for about 1 minute, or until flesh is broken down. Pour watermelon through fine mesh strainer, collecting juice in a glass measuring cup. Collect 1 ½ cups of watermelon juice, reserving 1 cup for quinoa and ½ cup for dressing.
Rise uncooked quinoa in fine mesh strainer and place in saucepan with 1 cup of watermelon juice. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until juice is absorbed. Pour cooked quinoa in bow and let cool in fridge for 30 minutes.
While quinoa is chilling, make dressing by adding ½ cup of reserved watermelon juice to bowl. Wisk in jalapeno, salt, pepper, stevia, olive oil and cilantro. Set aside.
Pull quinoa out of fridge. Add beets, red onion, green onion and spouted watermelon seeds to quinoa and toss with watermelon vinaigrette.
This “Flavor Your Adventure” post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. For more snack ideas to “Flavor Your Adventure” this summer, visit Blue Diamond Almonds on Facebook , Twitter, and Instagram .”
I love everything about the lake and am so lucky to be surrounded by so many bodies of water where I live! I’m an active, warm-weather loving person, so naturally, all the sports that a lake welcomes get me excited – I’m a happy girl on a waterski, wake board and stand up paddle board or rowing around in a kayak for a friendly race or to explore unchartered territory. I also like to take a trail run around the lake and then jump in to cool off! And, when I need a break, there’s no lack of relaxing choices — fishing, floating or snoozing in a hammock.
Staying fueled up for a busy day in the sun requires balanced meals and healthy snacks – and, of course, it should all taste fantastic and be easy to tote around! Almonds are probably my favorite way to flavor an adventure – these versatile nuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and heart healthy fats. Almonds are one of the most abundant sources of protein, fiber, calcium, niacin and vitamin E when it comes to tree nuts. I’m a fan of getting enough protein throughout the day to keep my motor running and almonds never fail – a one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) adds an extra six grams of protein along with heart healthy fats to my meal or snack. Research has shown that the fats and protein in nuts curb hunger longer that other food choices, leading to less mindless snacking and overeating throughout the day.
Blue Diamond Almonds come in so many different flavors that my taste buds never get tired, but honestly, the lightly salted roasted almonds are perhaps my favorite – simple and just enough salt without being overpowering! The six-ounce cans are sized just right for taking down to the dock and sharing with family and friends – plus, I appreciate that almonds are a snack that needs no refrigeration. There is NO way I’m putting my snack in the same cooler where my husband keeps the finishing worms!
Fishing at dusk means a late dinner, eating almonds keeps the “hangries” away in a healthy way!
Have you spent time on the lake this summer? How are you flavoring your adventure? Are you a simple salted nut person or do you like flavors that are bold and exotic? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer
Runners and obstacle course athletes need superfoods to perform optimally – you know, to run faster than a speeding bullet and jump tall things in a single bound. Not one single wall or hurdle got in my way the other weekend at Spartan Race (recap to come) and nor could Batman beat me to the finish line of a local 5k, probably because I was fueled up with some really good super food energy for superheroes!
If you’re heading out for some weekend warrioring, it’s not realistic to stick a bunch of kale and quinoa or even a beef tenderloin (I’ve tried) into your backpack. But, there are plenty of superfoods that can take the rough and tumble of nearly any outback course – almonds are one! Stick a pouch of almonds in your bag, and you’ll have a sustaining snack when you need to fuel up the tank. Personally, I love the Blue Diamond Sea Salt Almonds and Blue Diamond Dark Chocolate Almonds (the latter are dusted in cocoa, not dipped — so no worries of melting).
Almonds are going to pump up your super powers by offering protein and heart-healthy fats. One recent study suggest that almonds might help athletes mobilize more previously reserved carbohydrates rather than breaking down fat as an energy source during intense exercise. This means you might not “hit the wall” – have you ever seen a superhero hit the wall? I think not. Almonds are also a great source of energy-boosting manganese and copper, minerals which minimize the damage free radicals can do to the mitochondria that power our cells.
For quick energy, I like to pair almonds with a the concentrated complex carbohydrates that come from dried fruit – again, an easy, mess-free food to pack in your bag for races, hikes and expeditions of epic proportions. Dried apricots are a personal favorite because they are high in iron –an impressive 41% DV for a cup. Anemia, or even a moderate iron deficiency (a surprisingly common problem in athletes), can make a superhero feel tired, hinder athletic performance, work capacity and lessen VO2max.
If you want something a little more “fancy” than almonds and dried fruit, it’s not hard at all to make your own energy bars with ingredients like nuts, apricots, feel-good chocolate and dash of salt for extra electrolyte balance. My no-cook recipe for Apricot Chocolate Almond Energy Bars can be whipped up in the food process in less than 10 minutes. Stick them in the freezer for 30 minutes to cut precise bars if you’re into perfection – you can also roll them up into balls and carry along for race fuel. And, they taste really, really good! If you’d like to make these more abundant in protein, like if you think you might me skipping a meal or have intense workout recovery need, just swap out the almond meal (although keep the ground up chocolate ones) and swap measure-for-measure with your favorite brand of protein powder.
Also, depending on how strict your interpretation of Paleo diet is, these should fit in your diet — definitely Paleo-ish and made with whole foods. Drop the chia seeds and protein powder if these rub you the wrong way.
Line and 8 or 9 inch baking pan with plastic wrap, and set aside.
Pulse Blue Diamond Chocolate Almonds (these are dusted chocolate almonds, not chocolate coated) in food processor until coarsely ground, leave in work bowl.
Add in coconut, apricots, almond meal (or protein powder), palm sugar, chia seeds and sea salt in food processor and process until apricots chopped and well combined with other ingredients.
Drizzle and pulse in coconut oil one tablespoon at a time until mixture begins to stick together when pinched between fingers. The amount of coconut oil you need to use will depend on the size of apricots and whether you used almond meal or protein powder as a binder.
Gently pulse in mini chocolate chips. If using regular sized chocolate chips add them to step 3.
Firmly press the apricot mixture into the baking pan, using the flat surface of a measuring cup or drinking glass to create a flat even layer.
Place pan in the freezer for 30 minutes, then remove and cut into 12 rectangle bars or roll up in balls (size of your choosing). Keep in an airtight container and store for up to one month in the fridge.
If you take pleasure in eating the signature dishes of the season, fall is a particularly comforting time of year. Just thinking about the bounty of upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and autumn harvest inspired recipes gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling of well-being of being at Grandma’s house with all the family gathered round.
Pumpkin aside, the most iconic ingredient of autumn may be the sweet potato. Even though this practically royal root is actually enjoyed year-round to the tune of 2.6 billion pounds in the US, it makes the most of its popularity in October, November and December. Think about it — if you haven’t had sweet potatoes on your holiday dinner table, you may not be normal.
What is normal in my kitchen is to skip mucking up this orange tuber with marshmallows (why, WHY?!) and instead mash up and mix in other healthy ingredients – like the healthy greens, onions, coconut milk and wellness enhancing spices in my recipe for Kale and Caramelized Onion Sweet Potatoes below. If said it before, but I’ll say it again – I love using the sweet potato as a way to fuel my distance running, it’s the perfect choice for healthy carbohydrate loading. Not only does the sweet potato have a lower glycemic index than the traditional white potato (meaning it will be deployed as energy to your body at a more steady state), it is also packed with other nutrition that benefits athletes including vitamins A and C, manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin B6 and fiber.
Peel the sweet potato and cut into even sized 1 inch cubes. Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot filled with water. Boil uncovered for 15 minutes or until softened.
Drain the sweet potatoes in colander and set aside.
In bottom of same pot, add olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 15 minutes or until turning golden brown and caramelizing. Add wine to pot to deglaze pan and then quickly add kale or other greens and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until wilted. Turn off heat.
Add sweet potatoes, coconut milk, ginger, and cinnamon and mash everything together to desired consistency. If needed, add a splash more coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
I’m going to keep this short and sweet (potatoes)! In addition to the Bourbon Cranberry Apricot Relish, one of my other contributions to the family’s Thanksgiving feast was this delicious dish – Sweet Potato Skillet Stack with Sriracha Orange Sauce. So pretty to look at and easy to make – you use the same skillet to roast the potatoes and simmer down the sauce on the stove top. Slicing the potatoes into nearly paper-thin slices is the most tedious detail, but it’s made much easier with a mandolin (watch your fingers) or food processor slicing attachment.
Sweet Potato Skillet Stack with Sriracha Orange Sauce Recipe
4 pounds sweet potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
sea salt to taste
4 ounces orange juice
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
2 teaspoons. sriracha
¼ cup chopped green onions, including green tops
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1) Preheat oven to 375°. In small microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and then mix together with olive oil; set aside.
2) Peel sweet potatoes and, using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice crosswise into very thin slices (1/8” to 1/16”).
Slice potatoes as thinly and evenly as possible using a sharp knife, mandolin or food processor.
3) Coat bottom and sides of 12-inch cast iron skillet with two tablespoons of the butter-oil mixture; reserve the rest. Arrange the sliced sweet potatoes in concentric stacked rings until the entire pan is filled. Sprinkle tops with sea salt.
Ready for the oven
4) Roast potatoes for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the middle of the potatoes are tender and the tops begin to brown and crisp. If potatoes were sliced on the thick side or packed very tightly, they may take longer to cook. Remove from oven.
5) In small bowl, stir together orange juice, coconut sugar, ginger and sriracha sauce. Drizzle mixture over potatoes and bring to boil over medium-heat on stovetop. Lower heat and continue to simmer for approximately 5 minutes or until orange juice mixture is reduced to a thicker state. Sprinkle tops of potatoes with green onions and parsley and serve warm.
I have sweet potatoes coming out my ears! Due to the holidays, they’ve been on sale for 25 cents a pound at my grocery store. Needless to say, I’ve been picking up a couple pounds every day “just in case.” Good thing I have a lot of favorite sweet potato recipes to finish off my stockpile. Check out all this yam-y yumminess:
Sweet potatoes. It’s hard to believe that I strongly disliked them until just a few years ago. I thank some overly sweet marshmallow sweet potato casseroles for the aversion and an amazing array of more savory dishes for my newfound love. In fact, I adore sweet potatoes so much today that they are my go-to carb source for pre-marathon race fuel. Plus, my recipe for Spicy Beef and Sweet Potato Samosasalmost won me a million dollars in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Oh, some other potato appetizer won, but that’s okay — I still stand by the funky orange tuber!
Not native to America, the sweet potato was brought over by Columbus from the West Indies. Thriving in many parts of the country, folks during the Revolutionary War relied on this early “superfood” as a primary source of nourishment. One physician during the era anointed the tuberous root as an “indispensable vegetable” and I couldn’t agree more. The sweet potato is loaded with calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates sweet potatoes as the number one most nutritious vegetable on the planet because they such are so nutritionally rich. Sweet potatoes rate low on the glycemic index which keeps blood sugar levels from spiking. Sweet potatoes have a glycemic load of just 17 while a regular white potato comes in at 29. Finally, a carbohydrate you can feel great about eating!
Since I was planning soup as our main dish for dinner, I wanted to add something to maximize the protein – chickpeas seemed an innocuous ingredient choice that would pump up the overall protein by 6 grams per serving (for a total of about 18 grams per serving) without altering the taste. Knowing my family likes slightly spicy, southwestern flavors, I also added just enough Ancho chile powder to take down the sweet a notch without making it “hot.” Soup’s on — hope you enjoy!
Update March 2017: This soup was featured in Taste of Home’sHealthy Cooking Annual Recipes cookbook.
Southwestern Sweet Potato Chickpea Soup Recipe
1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about medium)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground Ancho Chile pepper
4 cups vegetable stock (eg: homemade, canned or reconstituted)
Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave-safe baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Cool slightly; discard potato skins.
Heat stock pot over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add onion; sauté 1 minute or until translucent. Stir in cumin and Ancho powder. Scoop sweet potatoes out of skin and add to pot along with stock and chickpeas.
Place half of sweet potato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters); blend until smooth. Pour pureed soup into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining mixture. Stir in salt.
If serving as an entrée, divide soup evenly among 4 bowls (6 to 8 bowls for soup course); sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Garnish with sliced green onions.