Soak up some soluble fiber with Carrot Lentil Coconut Stew

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men; about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

Americans do not get enough fiber and this could be one contributing factor of the alarming rate of heart disease in our country. Fiber protects the heart!

One type of fiber is soluble; this type of fiber is found in beans, lentils, peas, oats, oat bran, and apples. Research has shown that fiber can lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol, both of which reduce the risk of heart disease.

I have created a delicious lentil stew recipe that is loaded with soluble fiber. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients, they are mostly  warming spices that will give your immune system a boost—perfect for this time of year! Enjoy!

Carrot Lentil Coconut Stew using Crock Pot/Slow Cooker

      Ingredients:   

  • 2 Cups of Dry Red Lentils
  • 1 Cup of Medium Spiced Salsa (I like Newman’s!)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Vegetable Oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped.
  • 3 Large Carrots, cut in half length wise and thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 Teaspoons of Turmeric
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon of Fenugreek
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of lemon pepper
  • 6 cups of Vegetable Stock
  • Korean Chili sauce (you can purchase at any Asian Market)
  • 1 can of lite coconut milk
  • 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
  • Chopped Cilantro and Unsweetened Shredded Coconut for topping/garnish

 

                Directions:

  1. Rinse lentils and soak overnight in 5 cups of water
  2. In a big soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions, carrots and cook for 5 minutes, stirring them until they are soft.
  4. Add the garlic, turmeric, fenugreek, salt and lemon pepper and stir for one minute.
  5. Add the salsa and bring to a boil.
  6. Stir in the lentils and vegetable stock.
  7. Transfer this concoction to a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours or LOW for 8 to 10 hours.
  8. Stir in coconut milk and lemon, cook for 15-20 minutes on HIGH.
  9. Add a couple of squirts of the Korean Chili sauce. Mix Well.
  10. Serve in soup bowls. Garnish with cilantro and coconut.. or a swirl Korean Chili sauce.

 

 

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Wild over whole grains

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Even though it’s the last day of September, I am not going to let this month slip on by without celebrating Whole Grains Month. Already, this month, we have celebrated National Cheese PIzza Day, National Peanut Day, and National Chicken Month,

In honor of Whole Grains Month, I am going to zero in on more uncommon ones. Sure, you’ve probably heard of barley, oats, and rice, but what about teff, farro, freekeh, millet, or amaranth? These might sound like foreign words to you, so we’re going to break them down and talk about how they could be beneficial to add in to your diet.

As a little introduction about why whole grains are awesome—they are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns to gel during digestion, slowing down the digestion process. Insoluble fiber helps food to pass through the stomach and intestines. Simply put, fiber keeps things movin’! Whole grains also come packed with vitamins and minerals.

Moving on to teff and farro, two uncommon grains that are so worth trying!

Let’s start with teff, a species of grass, native to Ethiopia. It comes in the form of a seel much like quinoa. It has a lot of the recently discovered dietary fiber, resistant starch. Resistant starch goes un digested in the intestines, passing to the colon and feeding the good bacteria that live there. You’ve probably heard a lot lately about the importance of gut health and this is one of those things that promote good gut health! It’s also very high in calcium with 123 mg per one cup cooked. For all the Celiac and gluten sensitive people out there, this grain is gluten-free! You can buy it as a whole grain and cook it as you would rice or buy it ground into flour and use it in place of your other flours.

Another ancient grain is farro. Farro originated in Mesopotamia and is actually the name used to describe three different wheat grains. Those three grains are Einkorn, Emmer, and Spelt. Typically in the U.S., the grain that’s most commonly found is the Emmer grain. It’s much like a rice grain that is sold dry and cooked in water until soft and squishy. A typical serving of farro is ¼ cup which contains 170 calories, 34 grams of whole grain carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of plant-based protein! It also packs in a number of minerals and vitamins including magnesium, zinc and vitamin B3. It’s also a good source of antioxidants which help prevent heart disease, stroke, and some cancers.

Have you started to notice a trend here? A lot of the ancient grains are similar to one another but each offer their own unique benefits. Whole grains are all good sources of fiber and plant based protein that helps keep you full long after you’ve eaten them. As always I like to promote a good mix of everything. So if you’re looking for a break from your usual rice or quinoa, try swapping them out for some of these ancient grains. I challenge you to try out a new grain each week for the next month and see how you feel and find some new favorites to add to your pantry!

 

The Difference between Insoluble and Soluble Fiber

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You’ve heard this from me before: EAT MORE FIBER!!! In fact, only 10 percent of Americans are consuming enough fiber every day. Fiber is absolutely essential in achieving a healthy, vibrant lifestyle. It aids in weight loss, helps lower cholesterol levels, and keeps your blood sugar levels stable.

The American Heart Association eating plan suggests eating 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.

In order to reap all of these benefits of fiber, it’s important that you consume both soluble and insoluble fiber.

When soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that helps improve digestion. These fibers absorb water, increasing stool bulk, and lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber helps soften the stool because it attracts water into your stool; this prevents constipation and keeps your intestines healthy.

The best types of soluble fiber are fruits like apples, grapefruits, and oranges, as well as beans, lentils, peas, oats, oat bran, and barley.

The best types of insoluble fiber include vegetables and whole grains like wheat, quinoa, stone ground cornmeal, bran, buckwheat, and brown rice.

So now you know what foods are great fiber choices. Here are some tips to get a fantastic amount of fiber in your body every day:

– Choose fruit for your snacks!

– Oatmeal for breakfast!

– Add a banana to your cereal

– Cook with brown rice instead of white rice.

– Always, always, use whole grain bread for sandwiches and toast.

– Add chickpeas, kidney beans, or black beans to your salad (one of the easiest salads every is a couple cups of mixed greens, a half-cup of black beans or kidney beans, a few tablespoons of salsa and a quarter cup of low-fat shredded cheddar cheese)

– Always have a vegetable with dinner—hey even sweet potatoes count for my “meat and potato” fans!

I hope I have inspired you to eat your fiber! Let me know any tips that have helped you!

By Kelly Springer RD, MS, CDN

 

 

Improve your Heart Health this New Year

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I have a lot of clients who come to me seeking to lower their alarming cholesterol levels, lower their blood pressure, or both. Both of these conditions affect your heart health and I want to give you some tips on how to improve both.

Let’s start with blood pressure. To lower your blood pressure through diet, you want to consume foods high in potassium and low in sodium.

Reduce canned or processed foods. Much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods like soups or frozen dinners—even poultry or other meats often have salt added during processing. Eating fresh foods, looking for unsalted meats, and making your own soups or stews can dramatically reduce your sodium intake. Cook at home, using spices for flavor. Cooking for yourself enables you to have more control over your salt intake. Make use of the many delicious alternatives to salt. Try fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or chives. In the dried spices aisle, you can find alternatives such as allspice, bay leaves, or cumin to flavor your meal without sodium. Substitute reduced sodium versions, or salt substitutes. Choose your condiments and packaged foods carefully, looking for foods labeled sodium free, low sodium, or unsalted. Better yet, use fresh ingredients and cook without salt.

Potassium helps you heart by reducing the effects of sodium! Many people turn to bananas for potassium. Yes, they are a great source, but there are some tasty veggies with even higher amounts. Some foods that are high in potassium include avocados, spinach and sweet potatoes.

Now, let’s talk about lowering your cholesterol. There are multiple ways to address your cholesterol nutritionally Increase your soluble fiber intake; soluble fiber reduces your LDL cholesterol. A common food choice that truly helps to do this is oatmeal! Check out my blog with overnight oat recipes. Having a high-fiber breakfast will also help your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight, both of which also help your heart health. Other foods high in soluble fiber include: apricots, mangoes, oranges, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and turnips.

Healthy fats raise your ratio of HDL (or good cholesterol)  to LDL (or bad cholesterol). Some healthy fats to consider are salmon, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. And there are certain flavonoids found in dark chocolate, red wine, apples, spinach and tea that help lower cholesterol.

Here’s to your heart! Stay tuned for more heart health blogs in February, in honor of heart health month!