It’s Pumpkin Season Again!

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By Haley Adel, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

It’s October so everyone knows what that means…Pumpkin Season! Starbucks has been serving up its assortment of pumpkin spice drinks for weeks, while Trader Joe’s has been lining its shelves with loads of pumpkin-inspired products. To get with the season, we thought we would provide some of the health benefits of pumpkin, and share some of our favorite pumpkin dishes.

For starters, pumpkin is a fruit! This winter squash has seeds inside, and therefore falls into the fruit category. Contrary to its categorization, most culinary preparations of pumpkin treat it as a vegetable. Either way, it is a great source of nutrients! For starters, pumpkin is high in carotenoids. Carotenoids are nutrients that serve as antioxidants. That means they help protect the body from certain damage and stress.  Carotenoids are also converted to Vitamin A, making pumpkin a great way to increase Vitamin A. This vitamin supports both eye sight and skin health.

More importantly for students, pumpkin is full of nutrients that help strengthen the immune system. These include Vitamin C and Vitamin E, in addition to Vitamin A. The benefits come from the ‘meaty’ part of pumpkin. If you don’t like the taste of pumpkin, but love the seeds, there are health benefits for you too! Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are packed with antioxidants. Additionally, they are high in magnesium, which is important for bone health.

Pumpkin is a delicious seasonal treat. Since it is commonly available for only a part of the year, we may not always take advantage of its different culinary prospects. We know pumpkin pie is always a favorite, but we wanted to include some recipes for less common uses of pumpkin. Our first recipe is for pumpkin turkey chili. It’s a tasty meal that will keep you warm as the weather begins to chill. Our second recipe is for easy yet scrumptious pumpkin chocolate chip bars that satisfy the sweet tooth.

Not only are these recipes delectable, but they also provide the nutritional benefits mentioned above because they include pumpkin puree. If you want the health advantages of pumpkin, make sure the product you consume is made from actual pumpkin. A pumpkin-flavored treat can also be delicious, but will just not provide the same favorable benefits. If you enjoyed the recipes we included, please let us know in the comments section!

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

pumpkin chili

Prep time: 15 minutes             Cook time: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can white beans, drained
  • 1 14-oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1/5 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add oil to large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add in onion, garlic, carrots, and bell pepper and sauté until soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add in ground turkey. Cook until meat is no longer pink.
  3. Add in diced tomatoes, white beans, pumpkin, tomato paste, broth, cocoa powder and seasonings, stirring everything together.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Enjoy!

Recipe from:  Clara Norfleet @foodfitnessandfaith

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bar (pictured above)

Prep time: 5 minutes             Cook time: 28 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups oats
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease an 8×8 glass pan with cooking spray
  3. Mix oats, pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, honey, vanilla, salt, and spices in bowl until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Pour mixture into greased pan and bake for 28-30 minutes.
  5. Let sit for 15-20 minutes
  6. Cut into squares and devour!

Recipe from:   Melanie   http://www.nutritiouseats.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-bars/

References:

Brown, Mary J. “Top 11 Science-Based Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds.” HealthLine, 24 Sept. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-benefits-of-pumpkin-seeds#section5.

Raman, Ryan. “9 Impressive Health Benefits of Pumpkin.” HealthLine, 28 Aug. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/pumpkin.

 

My Chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

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By Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate loved ones and often includes an iconic romantic gift: chocolate. In fact, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. Though chocolate is thought to be unhealthy since it is a “dessert”, some chocolate possesses health supporting qualities. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about candy bars like Kit Kat since the amount of processed, added sugar in those do more harm than good. I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate which should be 72% cacao or more, and is not processed with added fats and loads of sugar. Dark chocolate not only has a much more complex and rich flavor, it has a multitude of health benefits!

Dark chocolate contains beneficial nutrients. These include polyphenols and flavanols, plant pigments that protect the heart by supporting the production of nitric oxide in the vessel endothelium which helps them relax and improves blood flow, lowering blood pressure. Flavanols also boost brain health by increasing the cerebral blood flow to gray matter. Chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants which help fight against free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can damage our DNA, and make our skin age faster. It is rich in minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals help aid in the production of red blood cells, boost the immune system and energy levels, aid in calcium absorption, and keep our bones strong.

Though dark chocolate offers benefits, it’s important to keep the portion small because it is calorie dense!  A recommended portion of chocolate is about an ounce. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao contains about 168 calories, mostly contributed by fat since fat contributes 9 kcal per gram. The good news is that the fat in cacao has a good amount of unsaturated fat in it and the saturated fat (stearic acid) has been shown to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.  Palmitic acid, the other type of saturated fat in dark chocolate, does effect blood cholesterol levels, further enforcing that it should be eaten in moderation.

So when you are trying to figure out what to eat for dessert on Valentine’s Day, consider eating some dark chocolate. In small amounts it helps boost cardiovascular and brain health, fights free radicals, and contains beneficial micronutrients. After all, you deserve a sweet indulgent treat that not only tastes great and satisfies your sweet tooth, but also packs a punch in optimizing your health!

Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263176.php
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288165.php
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.php
  4. 4. https://www.thespruceeats.com/fun-valentine-candy-facts-521446
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
  6.  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16774-heart-healthy-benefits-of-chocolate

2 Easy Recipes with Pumpkin!

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Photo by Umberto Cancedda on Pexels.com

 

           Happy Fall everyone! As the weather begins to cool down and the leaves change into an array of colors, we are reminded that fall is among us. In addition to this temporal change, new seasonal fruits and vegetables pop up into our local grocery stores and farmers market. In this spirit, we are using the classic autumn fruit, pumpkin, in two different ways! Pumpkin is not only an amazing fall flavor, but it is also filled with nutrients such as beta-carotene and vitamin C which are important for healthy skin and immunity. Pumpkin is a powerhouse source for antioxidants, and it contains fiber which can help satisfy hunger due to its ability to slow down the rate of sugar absorption into the blood.

     With school already in week 5, it’s hard to balance maintaining grades, do extracurricular activities, self-care, and eating healthy. This first recipe is given in the hopes that eating healthy is easy and delicious. It’s especially great since granola is so versatile since it can be used as a topping for yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, or just as is in between classes. Happy snacking!         

Recipe: Pumpkin spice granola 

*Recipe adapted from simplyquinoa

  • 4 cup of rolled oats (make sure they aren’t quick cooking)
  • 2 cups rice cereal
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tspn pink himalayan salt
  • ½ c maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ c coconut oil
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoon fave nut/seed butter
  • 1 cup of favorite raw unsalted nuts/seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. In a large bowl, Mix the oats, cereal, salt, and spices.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the maple syrup, coconut oil, pumpkin puree and nut/seed butter. When melted completely, pour entire mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  4. Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10–15 minutes so the granola doesn’t burn. Remove from the oven and stir in nuts/seeds. Put it back in the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the nuts are golden brown.
  5. When browned, remove from the oven and let cool completely before storing.

     Additionally, with any leftover pumpkin puree, you can use it as an opportunity to create your own DIY face mask. If you haven’t FALLen into the autumn spirit yet, this can  hopefully get you into the spirit of this new season, help you feel more relaxed, and allow you to take care of yourself!

Recipe: 

Pumpkin Face mask

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground oats
  • 1 teaspoon milk

Mix all of the ingredients together and then put it on a clean face. Wait 5-10 minutes then rinse it off with warm water and make sure to moisturize afterwards!

Sources:

LD, Megan Ware RDN. “Pumpkins: Health Benefits and Nutritional Breakdown.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 5 Jan. 2018, ww.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php.

 

Tips for Staying Cool this Summer

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

Summer is finally here! Whether you’re staying in Davis or traveling elsewhere, these tips on how to stay cool in the summer heat may come in handy over the next couple months, especially if you don’t have AC.  Here are seven quick tips to beat the heat and stay hydrated this summer.

1. Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator to use as a quick refreshing spray after being outdoors.

face-mist

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2. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these will promote dehydration

3. Instead of large, hot meals, try lighter, more frequent cold meals or snacks.  Choose salads, fresh raw food, vegetables and fruit.  Avoid eating meat and protein-heavy foods , which can increase metabolic heat production.  Large meals will also produce more heat for your body to process.  Here are a few cooling summer recipes to try out:

Easy three ingredient popsicles

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Berry Watermelon Fruit Salad

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Easy Gazpacho Recipe

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4. Keep blinds and curtains closed during the day to keep hot air outside. Open windows at night to enjoy the cool evening air.

5. Rinse your wrists and/or feet with cold water before you go to sleep, which has a full-body cooling effect.

6. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.  Monitor your urine color to ensure that you’re staying hydrated.

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7. Wear sunscreen when you’re exposed to the sun; SPF 15 at the minimum, but preferably SPF 30 or higher.

In addition to staying cool this summer, don’t forget to relax and de-stress from finals madness!  Have a great summer, Aggies!

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Why should I eat locally?

By Jessica Bonilla, Dietitian Assistant

Have you ever wonder why we can eat certain fruits, such as bananas and pineapples, that don’t grow in the area naturally? Or how are we able to get certain vegetables all year round even when they’re not in season? Surprisingly, the food industry has been taking care of this issue for decades, and the seasons and distance are no longer an obstacle to get the food we want at any point of the year. However, not all of us are aware of the implications that these actions may have in the long run because we don’t see it directly.

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Clearly, there are fruits and vegetables that are not produced in the US due to the environment and soil conditions (for example tropical fruits, such as mango and papaya) which only grow in very specific areas. This type of produce is usually imported from other countries, which implies huge expenses in transport, conservation techniques, and huge carbon monoxide emissions.

By consuming locally, we can avoid this mass production, which is not based in seasons, natural cycles and biodiversity and that encourages cultivating only a few types of fruits and vegetables. Here are five reasons why you should buy locally:

  • Fresh fruit and veggies

Seasonally fresh fruits are picked up when they are at their peak and therefore will have a more optimal flavor versus the fruits that have traveled thousands of miles and got harvested way before they were ripped.

A bag full of carrots on the soil in Dambulla

  • Reduces carbon footprint

Local produce doesn’t have to travel long distances, which will result in a reduction in energy consumption and greenhouse gases. Also, it will be cheaper because transport charges are not added.

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  • Support local businesses

Money invested locally will help farmers and the money will stay at our local community, which will benefit all of us directly.

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  • Increase your creativity

By having a wide variety fruits and veggies every season, you will be able to challenge yourself to cook differently and to use your creativity.

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  • Increases education and makes you more aware about where your food comes from

We are usually disconnected from the food process. We don’t know how and where our food is produced, and this perception can affect the agricultural process and the way we consume foods.

Serving Sizes: a visual guide

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant 

When’s the last time you measured out half a cup of ice cream, ate exactly 15 chips, or leveled out two tablespoons of peanut butter? You may be surprised about what a serving of these common foods actually looks like.  While using measuring utensils and counting calories isn’t necessary to maintain a healthy diet, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of the recommended serving sizes for the foods you’re eating on a daily basis, particularly if they’re calorie dense.

Below are some visual representations to think about the next time you reach for a pint of ice cream, a bag of trail mix, or a jar of peanut butter.

Peanut Butter

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Serving size = 2 Tablespoons

Pasta

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Serving size: ½ cup, or a tennis ball

Ice Cream

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Serving size = ½ cup, or a tennis ball

*This means that there are 4 servings per pint!

Trail mix

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Serving size: ¼ cup, or a golf ball, or a small handful

Almonds

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Servings size: 1 oz or 24 nuts

Potato Chips

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Serving size: 1 oz or 15 chips

Granola

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Serving size: ¼ cup or an egg

Oreos

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Serving size: 2 cookies

Salad dressing

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Serving size: 2 Tablespoons

Did any of these surprise you? It’s unnecessary to obsess over exact measurements, but being mindful of your portions can help you reach your health goals. As you can see, many “healthy” foods are higher in calories, fat, and/or sugar than you may think. Furthermore, eating smaller portions leaves room for a larger variety of foods within your daily intake, which can help you reach your macro- and micro- nutrient requirements.

 

Energy Drinks: What are the health risks?

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By Rebekah Shulman, Dietitian Assistant

Energy drinks are commonly used by busy college students as an easy source of caffeine. While they can help you to stay alert and focused throughout the day and night, it is important to understand the safe dosage and health effects of energy drink consumption.

Next to multivitamins, energy drinks are the most popular dietary supplement consumed by American teens and young adults.  Because of their compact and convenient design, it is important for consumers to pay attention to the caffeine and sugar content, as well as the ingredients, of these beverages.  A 24 oz energy drink may contain as much as 500 mg of caffeine, while the median sugar content of sugar-sweetened energy drinks is 25 grams per 8-oz serving (comparable to that of sodas and fruit drinks).   Other ingredients that are often found in energy drinks include glucuronolactone, B vitamins, ginseng, gingko biloba, antioxidants, and trace minerals.

Caffeine Content

According to Mayo Clinic, up to 400 mg of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults.  If we assume the average amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee is 100 mg, you could consume up to four cups of coffee a day without adverse side effects.  For energy drinks or energy shots, you need to check the caffeine content on the nutrition label to keep track of your caffeine consumption.  Beverages and supplements are not legally required to disclose the caffeine content of their product, so aim for brands which do disclose this information (Monster and Rock Star Energy began disclosing this information in 2013).

Brand Comparisons

 

Here is the nutrition label for a can of Monster Energy Drink, one of the most common energy drinks.  One 8 oz can has 28 grams of added sugar and 83 mg of caffeine.  The main ingredients are sugar, glucose, citric acid, natural flavors, and taurine, along with seventeen other ingredients, including the artificial sweetener sucralose, B vitamins, and added color.  Taurine is an amino acid known to influence various physiological functions and is generally recognized as safe as a food additive.  However, the European Commission has been inconclusive on establishing an upper safe intake level and the health effects of taurine when combined with caffeine.

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Here is the nutrition label for a can of Guayaki brand Yerba Mate tea in the flavor “Bluephoria”. This can contains 14 grams of sugar (per 8 oz serving) as well as 150 mg caffeine (more than the Monster’s 83 mg).  Yerba mate is described as having “the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate”.  This beverage tends to deliver a more balanced energy boost compared to coffee, and contains many naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. In contrast to Monster, this beverage contains only natural, recognizable ingredients, such as organic cane sugar and blueberry juice concentrate.

 

 

This third energy drink variety is by the brand RUNA, and contains 0 calories, 0 grams of sugar, and 120 mg of caffeine.  Notice there are only four ingredients (all of which are natural) in this beverage.  While it may not be as widely available, or as flavorful, these natural energy drinks are on the rise as consumers look for healthier alternatives to popular, more artificial and sugar-rich brands.

The lesser evil?

While having a Red Bull in moderation will most likely have negligible health effects, students who want a quick and easy energy boost can gravitate towards the healthier, more natural energy drink options when they are available.  In general, consumers should focus on reading nutritional labels and being mindful of sugar content, caffeine content, and list of ingredients.  For a healthier energy boost, aim for minimal added sugars, and more natural ingredients in your energy drink.

It is also important to keep in mind that every individual responds to caffeine differently. Some people may be able to drink over 400 mg of caffeine with minimal effects, while others will experience jitters and heartburn from one energy drink alone.  With caffeine available in compact, sugar-rich cans, it is important to be mindful of how many of these beverages you are consuming in a day, and avoid consuming over 400 mg of caffeine in a day.  Energy drinks can be a quick fix for fatigue, but nourishing your body through calories from real food with naturally occurring sugars, vitamins, and minerals, such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts, will also help to boost your energy.