Rethink that drink for better heart health

Eliminating sugary and diet beverages may reduce your chances of heart disease

sugary drinks

What’s your favorite beverage? Coffee with sugar? Tea with honey? Diet soda or low-calorie sports drink? Read on to learn how your go-to beverage could be affecting your heart.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, beverage consumption in the United States accounts for 47 percent of all added sugars. Those guidelines also report that higher intake of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, is consistently associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adults. Continue reading

Herbs add flavor to your end-of-summer garden vegetables

Add thyme, rosemary and savory for flavor and good health

ZestyZucchiniSaute blog

Zucchini sauté combines fresh, colorful garden zucchini with flavorful herbs.

If you’re looking to put a new spin on a favorite recipe, herbs are an easy and healthy way to do it. Three herbs — thyme, rosemary and savory — pair well with lean meats such as chicken or fish, vegetables, soups, stews or casseroles. Use them to make marinades, dry rubs, flavored vinegars and salad dressings.

Thyme, savory and rosemary are part of the mint family. They can be used separately or added all together to a recipe to create a unique blend that’s also healthy. Herbs in the mint family are known for phytochemicals that protect against cancer and provide antioxidant protection. Each of these herbs provides a variety of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, calcium and potassium. Continue reading

Add this fresh herb to your favorite summertime dishes

Dill and summer go hand in hand

herbs blogIn our ongoing series about ways to add a fresh herb to your meals, today we’re featuring dill.

Dill lends its sweet-and-sour flavor to a variety of foods from several European countries, as well as to Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. It provides a hint of summery flavor to a lemon sauce for fish, in yogurt-based dips, on vegetables such as carrots and spinach, in egg dishes or with legumes.

Dill leaves are used fresh or dried and are sometimes referred to as dill weed. The seeds of dill also have culinary uses, most commonly in creating pickled vegetables. While cucumbers create the well-known dill pickle, other vegetables that can be pickled with dill include green beans, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and okra. This Easy and Delicious Dill Pickle recipe uses fresh dill instead of the seeds.

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Fresh herbs bring fantastic flavor and heart benefits

Add parsley for texture, flavor and nutrition

herbs blogAs part of our ongoing series about how fresh herbs bring fantastic flavor and heart benefits, today we take a look at parsley. Yes, there are other uses for parsley besides that little garnish sprig on the side of your plate!

Last summer, my parsley plants blessed me with an endless supply of delicious, flavorful leaves. I tried new recipes, tried different ways to save it for later and gave it away to friends and neighbors. In return, my friends and neighbors shared their plans for making chicken soup, tomato sauce and roasted chicken.

The flat leaf varieties of parsley have a peppery taste that is a little stronger than the curly variety. While tabbouleh often comes to mind when I think of parsley, this herb is used in soups, egg dishes, salads and marinades or sauces. Parsley combined with other herbs enhances the flavors of the entire dish. Continue reading

What’s Cinco de Mayo without Cilantro?

Add this distinct herb for extra flavor and health benefits

cinco de may blog

Pico de Gallo is a traditional Mexican dish featuring fresh cilantro.

We’re taking a look at herbs and their ability to add great flavor to your recipes, often eliminating the need for salt. We started with basil in March and this month we’re featuring cilantro.

Be sure to check back often to learn more about herbs and how to incorporate them into a delicious, healthy eating plan.

Celebrate with cilantro

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, it’s time to celebrate Mexican food and culture. Pico de Gallo, with its fresh tomato, onion, chile, lime juice and cilantro, is a classic component of Mexican festivities.  It’s also popular in Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisines.

Of cilantro’s two components used in cooking (seeds and leaves), our focus is on the leaves. The seeds are known as coriander and the leaves are known as cilantro (or coriander leaves). Look for bright green leaves without yellow spots if you purchase cut cilantro. If you’re harvesting from your own garden, cut up to 1/3 of the plant at a time, leaving enough leaves for continued growth. To clean cilantro leaves, move them gently around a bowl of cold water until all dirt/sand is removed. When chopping the cilantro, include some of the tender stems for additional flavor. Continue reading

Add fresh herbs for great flavor and heart-healthy benefits

Get onboard with basil

herbs blogFresh herbs add great flavor to a variety of dishes and are a wonderful complement to a Mediterranean-style eating plan. Adding herbs to recipes also eliminates the need for salt. A low-sodium diet may help improve blood pressure, thus reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Herbs also provide healthy antioxidants and, if you grow them yourself, will be at peak quality for your favorite recipes.

We’ll take a look at several different herbs in the coming months, starting today with basil. Be sure to check back often to learn more about herbs and how they can be used in specific recipes.

The benefits of basil

If you’re excited to get your herb garden started, begin by planting basil seeds indoors in early to mid-April. The plants can be transplanted outdoors when the temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night. Because it is sensitive to cooler temperatures, basil is an annual herb in Michigan. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, frequent care through pruning will result in greater production of leaves. Continue reading