101 foods that could save your life – Part1

 Açaí (Euterpe oleracea)

Did you know…the antioxidant capacity or “ORAC” value for a four-ounce portion of Açaí is 6576? That is more than blueberries, strawberries, and red wine combined!
What’s the Story?
Açaí (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries are produced by a palm tree grown in the floodplain areas of the Amazon River in Brazil. Theye have a unique taste—like wildberries with a hint of slightly bitter chocolate—yum! The berry, about the same size as a blueberry, is ninety-five percent seed. The seeds are discarded, leaving the skin alone for açaí products.
A Serving of Food Lore…
In the Amazon, açaí palms cover an area equivalent to half the size of Switzerland. Açaí is a primary food staple of Amazon River communities. It is served as a beverage and is a main part of the meal, much in the same way as bread or rice in other cultures. In the city of Belém in Brazil, more of the fruit is drunk than milk—an estimated 200,000 liters of açaí juice is consumed daily among a population of 1.3 million.
Where Is Açaí Grown?
Açaí is unique to the Amazon rainforests of Brazil and commercial production of the berry is found mainly near the city of Belém.
Why Should I Eat Açaí?
Surprisingly for a fruit, the vast majority of the calories come from fat: A four-ounce serving of pure açaí contains about 100 calories and six grams of fat. However, it is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-9 fats and also contains little sugar. Açaí contains essential fatty acids, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin A, and other antioxidants.
Scientists have discovered that açaí is rich in anthocyanins, a special group of plant chemicals believed to have many health benefits. In fact, açaí contains ten times more anthocyanins than is found in an equal serving of red wine. Anthocyanins in açaí make up only about ten percent of the total antioxidants contained within this amazing little berry.
Açaí also contains phytosterols, a plant component known to reduce cholesterol, treat symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia
(swollen prostate), and help protect the immune system from physical stress.
Home Remedies
SEXUAL PERFORMANCE: Açaí combined with guarana syrup is a popular drink in Brazil. One of the reported benefits from drinking the concoction is improved sexual performance.
BEAUTY: Dr. Nicholas Perricone mentions in his anti-aging books that açaí has beautifying properties.
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CANCER: Utilizing  a test tube study, University of Florida researchers found powerful antioxidant compounds in açaí that greatly reduced cell proliferation and enhanced apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human leukemia cells.
Tips on Using Açaí
• Açaí comes in juice, frozen pulp, bottled smoothies, and powder forms that are all readily available at most health food stores and grocery markets. Due to their highly perishable nature, fresh açaí berries are only available in Brazil.
• Look for flash-pasteurized açaí products which preserve açaí’s anti-oxidants and beautiful purple color.
• Heating açaí may diminish some of its antioxidants.
• Açaí can be used to make sauces and jams.
• The pulp can be added into smoothies or beverages, spooned over cereal, added to yogurt, or eaten alone.
Brazilian-Style Açaí Bowl
by Royce Gracie
Servings: 2 • Prep time: 5 minutes
Royce Gracie is an international star in the sport of jujitsu and has a long family history of using açaí for improved performance. Royce’s grandfather, Carlos, opened Brazil’s first jujitsu academy and began to incorporate açaí into his own diet and those of his students many years ago. Our family loves this recipe over yogurt, ice cream, pancakes…you name it! All four ingredients are powerhouse foods.
2 100-gram packs Sambazon original açaí pulp
4 ounces organic apple juice
1 organic banana
1 teaspoon organic honey
Blend all the ingredients in a blender until thickened. Top with organic granola and additional organic honey to taste.
Calories: 190; Total fat: 5g; Saturated fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 10mg; Total carbs: 44g; Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 34g; Protein: 3g.
Agave (Agavaceae)
Did you know…at the turn of this century, tequila production had risen so dramatically that the blue agave plant (also used to make agave nectar) was on the verge of extinction?
What’s the Story?
There are over three hundred species of agave plants. Tequilana, or blue agave, is the most widely known and available. The name agave is of Greek origin and means “noble” or “illustrious.” Agave goes by many other names including maguey, mescal, lechuguilla, amole, and century plant. Though over 200 million blue agave plants are grown in several regions of Mexico, only a small percentage of them are used for agave nectar production.
The heart of the plant is often referred to as the “piña,” or pineapple, which holds the naturally sweet juice used for both tequila and nectar production. The juice can either become “dark,” “amber,” or “light,” depending on the processing. Unfiltered dark agave has a stronger flavor, while the light variety, which has had the solids removed, has a more refined flavor. The liquid is then heated to make concentrated syrup, much like maple sap is heated to create maple syrup, with a consistency a little thinner than honey.
A Serving of Food Lore…
Agaves were cultivated for centuries by Native Americans. In the seventeenth century, the Portuguese and Spaniards brought agaves back to Europe from the Americas. The Spaniards are actually credited with fermenting the juices from the agave and creating what we now know as tequila. Another fermented beverage made from agave was called pulque, made by Native Americans for use in religious ceremonies. Agave nectar has become increasingly popular as an alternative sweetener to sugar in the United States.
Where Is Agave Grown?
The agave plant is native to arid and tropical regions from the southern United States to northern South America, and throughout the Caribbean. The agave has long been cultivated in hilly regions of Mexico.
Why Should I Eat Agave?
Agave syrup (or nectar) is about ninety percent fructose, a form of natural sugar found in fruit. Fructose does not impact blood glucose (glycemic) levels as dramatically as other sweeteners such as cane sugar. Even better, because fructose is sweeter than table sugar, less is needed in your recipes. Agave also contains a complex form of fructose called inulin. A type of friendly bacteria called bifidobacteria digests inulin to produce short-chain fatty acids that have been shown to fight colon cancer. Agave also contains sapogenins, which have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.
Home Remedies
Mexican folklore has revered agave and considered it sacred for its ability to purify the body and soul. Ethopians have used agave branches as natural toothbrushes, while the Aztecs treated wound infections with concentrated sap.
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ANTI-INFLAMMATORY: An animal study found those who were treated with an extract from agave leaves orally and topically had less inflammation than the control group.
ANTIMICROBIAL: Agave has been found to contain special substances that greatly reduce the growth of yeasts, mold, and life-threatening bacteria.
CANCER-KILLING ACTIVITY: Human cell studies have found that saponin and other compounds in agave can interrupt the life cycle of cancer cells.
Tips on Using Agave
• This sweetener is sometimes called “nectar” and sometimes called “syrup.” It is one and the same.
• Agave comes in light, amber, and dark syrup sold in bottles.
• Unopened, agave syrup has approximately a three-year shelf life.
• In recipes, use about twenty-five percent less of this nectar than of table sugar. Three-quarter cup of agave nectar should equal 1 cup of table sugar. For most recipes this rule works well.
• Reduce your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
• When substituting this sweetener in recipes, reduce your liquid slightly, sometimes as much as one-third less.
• Agave nectar can be combined with artificial sweeteners to lessen their aftertaste.
• It can be used as a substitute for honey or sugar in baking.
Sharon’s Simple Berry Sauce
by Sharon Grotto
Servings: 4 • Prep and cooking time: 35 minutes
Our kids love to pour this berry sauce on their toaster waffles and pancakes or use it as an easy way to add fruit and sweetness to a smoothie. Simple to make but oh so good! This recipe contains two powerhouse ingredients.
1 10-ounce package frozen mixed organic berries
¼ cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup water
Combine frozen berry blend, agave syrup, vanilla extract, and water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until the frozen berries are defrosted. Bring to boil. Let simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve over pancakes, waffles, French toast, or anything that you want to taste “berry good.”
Calories: 95; Total fat: 0g; Saturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 75mg; Total carbs: 24g; Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 21g; Protein: 0g.
Almonds (Prunus dulcis)
Did you know…the traditional wedding favor of five candied al monds (Jordan almonds) originated in Italy in the 1350s? They rep resent the five attributes of a happy marriage: health, wealth, happiness, fertility, and longevity.
What’s the Story?
Almonds are the seeds of a fruit tree that is a relative of the rose family. Most commercially grown almond trees are grafted to the stumps of peach trees (rootstock), making them more resistant to pests. Prunus dulcis, meaning “sweet almond,” is the commonly consumed version of almonds. “Bitter” almond contains a toxic chemical called hydrocyanic acid that can be deadly to humans if eaten raw. When heated, this chemical is destroyed, making the bitter almond safe to consume. Sweet almonds, the most consumed tree nuts in the United States, comprise sixty-two percent of the nut market.
A Serving of Food Lore…
Almonds originated in central Asia and have been cultivated in the Mediterranean since Biblical times. The Bible spoke of Aaron’s rod that blossomed and bore almonds, using them as a symbol to represent divine approval by God. The almond also symbolized virginity and was often used as a marriage blessing. The Egyptians left almonds in King Tut’s tomb to provide nourishment to him in the afterlife. In 1700, Franciscan padres brought the almond tree to California from Spain. By the turn of the twentieth century, the almond industry was firmly established in the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas of California.
Where Are They Grown?
The United States provides eighty-eight percent of worldwide almond production with California growing the bulk of the U.S. supply. They are also grown in Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Why Should I Include Them?
A small handful of almonds (one ounce or 23 almonds) contains 160 calories and is a good source of protein and fiber. This same amount supplies thirty-five percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin E and twenty percent DV of magnesium, and is a good source of calcium and iron. Almonds contain a variety of antioxidants including the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which may prevent cancer cell growth and oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, attributed to increased risk for heart disease.
Home Remedies
Almonds have been used in hopes of curing cancer, ulcers, and corns, and reducing symptoms associated with consuming too much alcohol.
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OBESITY: A 2006 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who had eaten a serving of almonds had higher levels of cholecystokinin (a hormone associated with satiety from eating fat-containing foods) in their systems than men did. In practical terms this means that while almonds may leave both women and men with a feeling of “satisfaction,” women may stay full longer. There is ongoing research into the effects of the act of “chewing” on satiety hormone release. For example, researchers at King’s College in London found that almonds appear to help block absorption of carbohydrates, block their own fat from being absorbed, and improve satiety in both men and women. According to a
2003 study in the International Journal of Obesity, subjects who added eighty-four grams (about three handfuls) of almonds to a low-calorie diet enhanced weight loss when compared to a low-fat, low-calorie diet alone. The diet that included almonds produced greater and longer sustained weight loss.
HEART HEALTH: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) showed that eating a combination of heart-healthy foods that includes almonds can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels as much as a first-line statin drug. Loma Linda University was the first to demonstrate that eating almonds raises vitamin E levels in the bloodstream. Participants who ate almonds reduced their total cholesterol by five percent and lowered their LDL or “bad” cholesterol by nearly seven percent. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved a limited health claim for almonds saying that consuming them may reduce the risk of heart disease. Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto found that eating a healthy diet that included almonds reduced inflammation by about the same level as taking Lovastatin, a popular statin drug for fighting heart disease. The almond-rich diet not only lowered cholesterol but it also lowered C-reactive protein, a leading marker of inflammation and an independent risk factor for heart disease.
ALZHEIMER’S: Mice with an Alzheimer’s-like disease were fed an almond-rich diet. After four months, those animals who ate the almond-rich
diet did much better on memory tests than those fed the usual chow. The diet also reduced the number of Alzheimer deposits in the rodent brains.
COLON CANCER: A study from the University of California, Davis, found that almonds had a significant effect on the prevention of colon cancer in rats.
Tips on Using Almonds
Consumer, beware! Make sure you are buying  “the real McCoy.”  Many imported almonds  are not almonds  at all—they’re  apricot kernels! They may look similar but the taste and health benefits of real almonds are second to none.
• Look for almonds in the shell that don’t rattle when you shake them. Rattling may be a sign that the almonds are old.
• Fresh almonds are white throughout. One that is yellow or has a honeycomb look to it may mean the nut has turned rancid.
• Green almonds are available for three weeks in the spring. They have a fuzzy green hull and a jellylike center. They are great on a salad or plain with a dash of sea salt.
• Look in the baking aisle, the snack aisle, and the produce section of the supermarket for many types of almonds. Look for one-ounce snack packs of whole almonds, or other on-the-go containers. Choose slivered, sliced, chopped, or ground almonds to use in recipes.
• Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
• Unopened, containers of almonds can be kept in the refrigerator or a cool pantry for up to two years. Once opened, they should be kept in an airtight container and consumed within three months.
• Roasting almonds before serving them brings out their rich flavor.
• Sprinkle sliced almonds on granola, cold cereal, or yogurt for breakfast or for a healthy anytime snack.
• Spread almond butter on an English muffin or toast. Almond butter, sold by the jar, is available next to peanut butter, jams, and jellies at many supermarkets and health food stores.
• Use almond milk in breakfast smoothies or on cereal. You’ll find it in an unrefrigerated box next to the soy milk section at the supermarket.
• Munch on some almond trail mix or snack mix.
• Roast whole almonds with kosher salt and a variety of herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, or cardamom for some kick.
• Add slivered almonds to rice, couscous, other grain dishes, and pasta.
• Use ground almond meal for a healthy “breading” for fish or poultry.
Berry & Almond Pizza Courtesy of the Almond Board of California Servings: 2 • Prep and cooking time: 15 minutes
All five ingredients in this recipe are powerhouse foods.
1 (6-inch) whole wheat pita
3 tablespoons almond butter
1/3 cup fresh berries
1 tablespoon slivered or slicedalmonds, roasted
1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
Toast pita. Spread with almond butter, and sprinkle with fresh berries and almonds. Drizzle agave syrup or honey over top. Cut in half and serve.
Calories: 280; Total fat: 17g; Saturated fat: 1.5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 170mg; Total carbs: 29g; Fiber: 5g; Sugar: 7g; Protein: 8g.
Amaranth (Amaranthus)
Did you know…Aztec  people used to make idols out of amaranth, honey, and human blood, and then eat them? Cortés thought this practice was an abomination and burned their amaranth fields to the ground. Amaranth had all but disappeared and was not rediscovered until several centuries later.
What’s the Story?
Amaranth, also known as Chinese spinach or pigweed, is a plant that is valued for its culinary as well as its cosmetic properties. There are about sixty varieties of amaranth plants in existence today. Amaranth seeds are quite small, about the size of sesame seeds, and are typically yellow to cream in color. The flavor of amaranth seeds is a combination of sweet and nutty with a somewhat crunchy texture when cooked. The leaves of the edible varieties of amaranth taste very similar to spinach.
A Serving of Food Lore…
Amaranth, often referred to as the “ancient grain of the Aztecs,” dates back some 8,000 years. It is thought to be the main grain consumed by the Aztecs before they were conquered by Spain. Amaranth was revered for its nutritional superiority and was hailed as the fuel of warriors. It was also prized as an offering pleasing to Montezuma due to its great nutrition and healing powers.
Where Is Amaranth Grown?
China is the largest producer of the grain today. Amaranth is also cultivated in Mexico, Central America, and in recent years, regions of the United
States such as Colorado, Illinois, and Nebraska.
Why Should I Eat Amaranth?
Amaranth ranks highest in protein per serving out of all of the grains. It contains the essential amino acid lysine, which is deficient in all other grains. Added to other grains, amaranth actually completes their incomplete proteins. Amaranth also has one of the highest fiber contents among the grains. Of all the grains, only quinoa ranks higher in iron than amaranth. It is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, and folate. It contains the cholesterol-lowering, cancer-fighting phytochemical squalene.
Home Remedies
Flowers from the amaranth plant are used to treat toothaches and fevers in Peru. A popular rum drink in Ecuador called “aguardiente” is made out of amaranth flowers and is thought to help “cleanse the blood” and regulate a woman’s monthly cycle.
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CANCER: Squalene is an antioxidant found naturally in amaranth that may halt blood supply to tumors. Shark oil, a more commonly used source of squalene, has only one percent squalene content, while the content of amaranth oil is eight percent.
BREAST CANCER PREVENTION: Research has found that a component in the amaranth seed can inhibit tumor growth in breast cancer cells.
HEART DISEASE: Though oats seem to be the undisputed cholesterol “soaker-upper” grain, amaranth appears to be almost as effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and may be a viable alternative for those who have an allergy to or simply don’t like oats.
DIABETES: Amaranth has been found to aid in the prevention of hyperglycemia and may ease diabetic complications. In a study of diabetic rats, amaranth significantly decreased serum glucose, increased serum insulin levels, and normalized elevated liver function markers.
Tips on Using Amaranth
• Amaranth comes in flour form for use in baking. Combine with wheat flour in equal proportions to make bread dough.
• Amaranth seeds can be stored for up to six months in the refrigerator in an airtight jar or container.
• Because amaranth seeds are so small, they should be rinsed with cold water in a fine meshed strainer or one lined with cheesecloth. Seeds can also be baked or steamed.
• Amaranth seeds taste better if cooked in strong-flavored liquids such as tomato juice.
• The leaves are used as a boiled or fried vegetable.
• Amaranth is an excellent thickener for soups.
• Simmer or bake amaranth along with another grain in apple juice, then serve it with fresh fruit.
• Prepare low-fat “refried” amaranth as an alternative to rice.
• You can toast amaranth seeds in a skillet and they pop like popcorn. Popped amaranth makes an excellent breading for fish or meat, or a crunchy topping for soups, salads, and casseroles.
• Boiled amaranth, when chilled, develops a gelatinous consistency that can be used to prepare fruit jams with no pectin and very little sweetener.
Amaranth Berry Pancakes
This recipe contains four powerhouse foods.
by Chef Kyle Shadix
Servings: 8 • Prep and cooking: 25 minutes
½ cup amaranth flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk or rice milk
2 large eggs
¼ cup canola oil
2½ cups fresh berries such as blueberries or strawberries
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. In separate bowl, mix buttermilk, eggs, and oil, and whisk until smooth. Let stand 5 minutes. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together. Add ½ cup of berries. If batter is too thick to pour easily, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to thin. Cook pancakes in skillet or on griddle, and serve with fresh berries.
Calories: 220; Total fat: 10g; Saturated fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 55mg; Sodium: 323mg; Total carbs: 26g; Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 6g; Protein: 8g.
Apples (Malus domestica)
Did you know…that the popular saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” came from the old English saying “To eat an apple be fore going to bed will make the doctor beg his bread”?
What’s the Story?
Apples are members of the rose family. There are over 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world. About a hundred different varieties are grown commercially in the United States. Some of the most common types are Red and Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fiji, McIntosh, and Rome.
A Serving of Food Lore…
Apples originally came from an area between the Caspian and Black Seas around 6500 B.C. Apples were a favorite food of ancient Greeks and Romans. The Romans brought the apple to England and the English introduced it to North America. Today Americans consume, on average, about twenty pounds of apples per year.
Where Are Apples Grown?
China is the world’s largest producer. The United States, Turkey, Poland, and Italy follow respectively. Apples are commercially grown in thirty-five of the fifty United States, with Washington and New York leading in production.
Why Should I Eat Apples?
If you are going to eat an apple, you should eat every part of it but the core. Almost half of the vitamin C content is just underneath the skin. Apples are rich in fiber, a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Over two-thirds of the fiber and almost all of the antioxidants are found in the peel. Apples are a rich source of phytochemicals such as phenoylics (chlorogenic acid and catechin), carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and flavonoids including phloridzin and quercetin (which may play a role in fighting cancer and heart disease).
Home Remedies
Apples are believed to help with stomachaches and are eaten to relieve constipation. Apple cider vinegar is used to help treat heartburn. As the story goes, if you rub a piece of an apple on a wart and bury the piece in the ground, the wart will disappear as the apple rots. Apples have been given to unmarried couples, teachers, and friends as good luck charms to drive away bad spirits and bad luck.
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HEART HEALTH: Two apples a day may help keep heart disease at bay! Researchers found that for every ten grams of fiber added to the diet, there is a fourteen percent reduction in heart disease. A medium apple contains five grams of fiber. Another group of researchers followed men at risk for heart disease for five years. They found that the flavonoids and antioxidants in the apple skin peel may contribute to a decreased risk of developing heart disease.
CANCER: A rat study showed that the more apples they ate, the less mammary tumor growth there was. In one human cell study, apples appeared to protect cells by halting signals that cause the cancerous cells to form. In another study, of human colon cancer cells, flavonoids, associated with apples, inhibited the growth and spread of the cancerous cells.
WEIGHT LOSS: A study conducted by researchers from the State University of Rio de Janeiro found that overweight women who added three apples a day to their low-fat diet lost more weight than those women who did not add in apples.
BRAIN HEALTH: A 2005 animal study found that eating apple products may help protect against cellular damage attributed to memory loss. In another animal study, this time with mice, researchers added apple juice concentrate to their diet. The results showed that the juice concentrate prevented an increase in oxidative damage to brain tissue and decline in cognitive performance.
DIABETES: Diabetics who consumed apples had smaller spikes in glucose after eating, perhaps due to their soluble fiber content.
Tips on Using Apples
• Choose apples with firm, undented, shiny skin.
• Keep apples in the refrigerator after purchasing because apples ripen six to eight times faster at room temperature.
• Bruised or rotten apples give off a gas that promotes ripening of fruits, which may cause spoilage of other foods.
• If you are not going to use cut apples right away, squeeze some lime, lemon, or orange juice on them to prevent browning.
• Raw apples are great for a snack and in salads.
• Apples can be baked in pies and tarts or pureed into applesauce.
• Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, and Rome are best for baking. The best salad apples are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Fiji.
• Golden Delicious apples are an all-purpose apple and may be used for many cooking methods.
Apple Cranberry Fruit Salad
This recipe contains six powerhouse foods.
Courtesy of the Cranberry Marketing Committee
Servings: 8 • Prep time and cooking time: 15 minutes
3 apples, red and green, cored and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup celery, sliced on bias
¾ cup cranberries, sweetened, dried
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
½ cup yogurt, plain, low-fat
3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, thawed
¼ teaspoon table salt
Mix apples, celery, cranberries, and hazelnuts in large bowl; set aside. Blend yogurt, orange juice concentrate, and salt until smooth. Pour over apple mixture and mix all ingredients together.
Calories: 150; Total fat: 5g; Saturated fat: 0.5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 110mg; Total carbs: 26g; Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 18g; Protein: 2g.
Apricots (Prunus armeniaca L.)
Did you know…seeds  of the apricot grown in central Asia and around the Mediterranean are so sweet that they are often substituted for almonds?
What’s the Story?
The apricot belongs to the Rosaceae family, which includes other tree fruits such as the apple, pear, and peach. There are approximately forty different varieties of apricots, differing in size from three-eighths of an inch to many varieties that surpass two inches, and in colors ranging from yellow to orangey red. The most prevalent varieties are the Pattersons, Blenheims, Tiltons, and Castlebrites. About half the apricot crop is canned and the remainder consists of dried, preserved, and fresh forms. If left to the effects of nature, orange apricots will turn brown within days of harvesting. Apricots stay orange-colored because they are treated with sulphur dioxide, a preserving agent. Unless you are allergic to sulphur dioxide, this ubiquitous preservative usually doesn’t pose a health risk. Unsulphured (brown) versions can be found at your local health food store.
A Serving of Food Lore…
Cultivation of apricots dates back more than three thousand years. The botanical name for apricots suggests that the fruit originated in Armenia, yet it appears that its true origins actually lie somewhere between northeastern China and Russia, close to the Great Wall. Apricots eventually made their way to Armenia and then onward into a greater westward expansion through Europe. Apricots were brought to the eastern United States by English settlers and to California by Spanish missionaries.
Where Are Apricots Grown?
Apricots are produced commercially in sixty-three countries. Turkey contributes over twenty percent of the world production, followed by Iran, Italy, France, Pakistan, Spain, Syria, Monaco, China, and the United States.
Why Should I Eat Apricots?
Particularly in their dried form, apricots are one of the best natural sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene. Just a handful of apricots easily meets one hundred percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of beta-carotene and, depending on the variety, the carotenoid content can reach over 16,000 micrograms in just three fresh apricots. Beta-carotene, cryptoxanthin, and gamma-carotene are the predominant carotenoids. Apricots are also a good source of potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, and contain an abundance of phytochemicals such as D-glucaric acid, chlorogenic acid, geraniol, quercetin, and lycopene.
Home Remedies
As early as 502 A.D., there were reports that apricot seed, often referred to as kernels, were effective in treating cancer. Today, many people still believe that the naturally occurring toxin cyanide, found in apricot kernels, might be helpful. Apricot kernels are used to make the alternative cancer drug laetrile. Over twenty-five years ago, the National Cancer Institute claimed laetrile was an ineffective cancer treatment, yet many who seek alternative cancer treatments travel to Mexico, where laetrile remains available. In the seventeenth century, apricot oil was said to be used in England to cure ulcers. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania lauded apricot’s aphrodisiac properties.
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VISION: Rich in vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that prevents free radical damage to eye tissue, apricots may help to promote good vision. Researchers who studied over 50,000 registered female nurses found that those with the highest vitamin A intake reduced their risk of developing cataracts by nearly forty percent.
CANCER: The American Cancer Society states that apricots and other foods rich in carotenes may lower the risk of cancers of the larynx, esophagus, and lungs.
HEART HEALTH: Patients who had the lowest level of beta-carotene intake had almost twice the risk of having a heart attack compared to those with the highest intake. Those with the highest intake of beta-carotene had about one-third the risk of suffering a heart attack and about one- half the risk of dying from it if they did have one.
Tips on Using Apricots
• Look for fresh apricots that have a rich orange color and are slightly soft.
• To avoid extra calories, choose canned apricots that are packed in juice rather than in sugar syrup.
• Dried apricots come in orange (sulphured) and brown (unsulphured).
• Keep fresh apricots refrigerated as they have a short shelf life. Consume within a few days when ripe.
• For use in cooking or preparing for canning, place whole apricots into boiling water for about thirty seconds, peel, pit, and halve or slice.
• Apricots can be made into wine and brandy.
• Add sliced apricots to hot or cold cereal or even to pancake batter.
• Dried apricots give a Middle Eastern flavor to chicken or vegetable stews.
Apricot-Cranberry-Mango Ice
Courtesy of the Cranberry Institute
Servings: 8 • Prep, cooking, and freezing time: 41/2hours
All five ingredients contained in this recipe are powerhouse foods.
1½ cups apricot nectar
1½ cups dried cranberries
2 cups (2 large) mangoes, peeled, pitted, pureed
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Bring cranberries and apricot nectar to boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes until softened. Place cranberry mixture, lemon juice, and agave in food processor and puree until blended. Place cranberry puree in small bowl. Place mango puree in separate bowl. Remove 2/3 cup cranberry puree and 2/3 cup mango puree and stir together in a separate bowl until blended. Layer in small 3-ounce paper cup, 1 tablespoon at a time: cranberry–mango mixture, mango puree, cranberry puree, mango puree, cranberry puree, and cranberry-mango mixture. Place a popsicle stick in center of mixture. Repeat to make 7 more popsicles. Freeze at least 4 hours until firm. Cut down side of cup to remove popsicle.
Calories: 150; Total fat: 0g; Saturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg; Total carbs: 38g; Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 34g; Protein: 0g.
Artichoke (Cynara scolymus L.)
Did you know…Marilyn Monroe was crowned Artichoke Queen in 1948 in Castroville, California, the “home of the artichoke”?
What’s the Story?
Artichokes are actually the immature flowers of a thistle plant. The leaves and flower buds are edible but the center isn’t. Artichokes range in color from dark purple to pale green and come in several varieties such as Green Globe, Desert Globe, Big Heart, and Imperial Star. The “Jerusalem artichoke” is a nutritious tuber cherished for its similar taste to the artichoke but is really a member of the magnolia family and not at all related to Cynara scolymus L.
A Serving of Food Lore…
The artichoke most likely originated in the Mediterranean, possibly Sicily, Italy. Artichokes were seen in Ancient Egyptian writings as symbols of sacrifice and fertility and have been mentioned in Greek and Roman literature as far back as 77 A.D. In sixteenth-century Europe, the artichoke was a favored food of royalty. It is thought to be one of the world’s oldest medicinal plants. The Spanish brought it to California in 1600 but it didn’t catch on with Americans until the 1920s.
Where Are Artichokes Grown?
The largest commercial growers of artichokes are in France, Spain, Italy, and the United States. California provides almost one hundred percent of the U.S. artichoke crop, and Castroville, in the heart of California’s Central Coast farm country, calls itself the “artichoke center of the world.” Castroville is home to the only artichoke processing center in the United States.
Why Should I Eat Artichokes?
Artichokes are a rich source of vitamin C, folate, dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Artichokes contain the phytochemical cynarin, which aids in digestion by stimulating bile production and may also help to increase appetite. Artichokes contain the flavonoid silymarin, also found in a relative of the artichoke, milk thistle. Silymarin is thought to lend protective support to the liver and protect from heart disease by preventing LDL cholesterol from turning into the more harmful oxidative form. Artichokes ranked seventh out of the top 100 highest antioxidant-containing foods, according to a 2004 USDA study.
Home Remedies
Throughout history, Egyptians and Europeans believed that the artichoke enhanced sexual power and aided in conception. Greeks and Romans have used artichokes to promote regularity and to alleviate stomach upset. It has been said that consumption of artichokes helps “clean” the blood by detoxifying the liver and gallbladder. They have also been used to treat snakebites, anemia, edema (swelling), arthritis, and itching.
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HIGH CHOLESTEROL: Researchers have found that artichoke leaf extract can reduce cholesterol levels in people.
CIRCULATION: In rat models, researchers have found that wild artichoke restored veins and arteries that did not have sufficient flow in them.
DIGESTIVE HEALTH: Studies conducted on guinea pigs have found that chemicals in artichokes can stop disturbances in the GI tract. The chemicals halt the intestines from spastic movement. Human studies have also found that artichoke leaf extract can significantly reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and dyspepsia (pain in the mid-abdominal area).
Tips on Using Artichokes
• When selecting artichokes you want to pick ones that feel heavy, have tightly packed leaves, and are dark green in color.
• Keep artichokes refrigerated in a plastic bag and use them within four days of purchase.
• Wash artichokes well.
• Trim the stem about 1–1½? if desired. The stem is edible and does not have to be cut off. Remove damaged leaves.
• Though steaming is an option, the most common method of cooking artichokes is to place them in a pot and cover with water and a tablespoon of olive oil. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
• To eat, dip the end of the cooked leaf in either mayonnaise or a combination of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Scrape the artichoke pulp from the leaf between your teeth. Scrape off the fine fibers that lie on top of the artichoke heart and peel away any remaining outer skin to reveal the “heart.” Slice and dip hearts into same mixture…enjoy!
• Use canned or jarred artichokes in pasta or salad for a quick, easy meal.
• Stuff the leaves with a combination of breadcrumbs, garlic, and butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
• Make a great hot artichoke dip by combining artichoke, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and water chestnuts.
• Artichoke hearts are delicious on salads, as part of a dip, or by themselves. Drizzle olive oil, cracked black pepper, and a little salt over steamed hearts.
Steamed Artichoke with Cilantro Aioli
This recipe contains five powerhouse foods. INGREDIENTS:
1 cup canola mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 fresh garlic clove, minced
Pinch chili pepper Pinch black pepper Pinch sea salt
6 fresh artichokes
by Chef J. Hugh McEvoy
Servings: 12 • Prep and cooking time: 35 minutes
Blend the first five ingredients in nonreactive bowl. Chill until needed. Steam artichokes in a large pot using a steamer insert or wire rack. Cook until tender when pierced with fork, about 25 minutes. Turn steamed artichokes upside down on wire rack to drain water from the leaves before serving. Serve artichokes hot. Serve cilantro aioli well chilled.
Calories: 147; Total fat: 15g; Saturated fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 7mg; Sodium: 205mg; Total carbs: 3g; Fiber: 3g; Sugar: 18g; Protein: 2g.
Asparagus (Asparagaceae)
Did you know…white and green asparagus come from the same plant? When the spears emerge from the ground, the sunlight turns the stalks green by producing chlorophyll.
What’s the Story?
Asparagus is a member of the lily family. There are approximately three hundred varieties of asparagus of which about twenty are edible. The name asparagus comes from the Greek language meaning “sprout” or “shoot.” The most widely known species is the vegetable asparagus, which comes in green, white, and purple colors.
A Serving of Food Lore…
The Egyptians wrote about asparagus, which is believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region more than 2,000 years ago. Greeks and Romans prized asparagus for its unique flavor, texture, and alleged medicinal qualities. The Roman Empire even had an “asparagus fleet” of special ships charged with the task of gathering the finest asparagus plants in the world. In the sixteenth century, asparagus gained popularity throughout France and England and, from there, the early colonists brought it to America.
Where Is Asparagus  Grown?
Wild asparagus grows in such diverse places as England, central Wisconsin, Russia, and Poland. In 2004, the top four cultivated asparagus producers were China, Peru, the United States, and Mexico.
Why Should I Eat Asparagus?
Asparagus is an excellent source of folic acid, which may help control homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, and cognitive dysfunction, and also may reduce birth defects. Asparagus is also a good source of vitamin C, thiamine, and vitamin B6. It is also high in rutin, a flavonoid that is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen blood vessels, and protect against oxidative damage.
Asparagus is also high in glutathione, an antioxidant that protects cells from damage. Protodioscin is a plant chemical found in asparagus that has been found to reduce bone loss, improve sexual desire, enhance erection, and possess cancer cell–killing ability against a number of different forms of cancer. Fresh purple asparagus has a fruity flavor and is high in the phytochemical anthocyanin.
Home Remedies
The Greeks and Romans valued asparagus for medicinal uses like treating bee stings, heart ailments, dropsy, and toothaches. The fresh juice, taken in small doses, is said to act medicinally as a diuretic and laxative. Asparagus roots are used by Chinese herbalists to treat many ailments, such as arthritis and infertility. Madame de Pompadour used asparagus mixed with egg yolks, vanilla, and truffles as an aphrodisiac. Historically, asparagus has been used to treat problems involving swelling, such as arthritis and rheumatism, and may also be useful for PMS-related water retention.
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DIGESTIVE HEALTH: Asparagus contains inulin, a carbohydrate that is not digested but promotes friendly bacteria in our large intestine. It also contains fructo-oligosaccharides  (FOS) that promote the growth of beneficial  bacteria in the colon. Asparagine, a phytochemical  in asparagus, gives it a diuretic effect.
DIABETES: A 2006 study reported in the British Journal of Medicine pointed to promising news for diabetes care. Research showed that an extract of asparagus significantly increased the action of insulin by producing an eighty-one percent increase in glucose uptake in fat cells.
HEART HEALTH: When  folate  levels  are  low, blood  levels  of homocysteine can rise. A rise in homocysteine can significantly increase the risk for heart disease by promoting atherosclerosis. Just one serving of asparagus supplies almost sixty percent of the daily recommended intake of folate.
Tips on Using Asparagus
• Select bright green asparagus with closed, compact, firm tips.
• If the tips are slightly wilted, freshen them up by soaking them in cold water.
• Keep fresh asparagus moist until you intend to use it.
• Asparagus can be frozen but it is better not to defrost it before cooking.
• When you bring the asparagus home and aren’t going to use it the same day, trim a little of the bottom off and store upright in a container with a little water. For longer storage, wrap spears in a paper towel or a clean, damp tea towel, then store in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your refrigerator for up to five days.
• For purees, soups, or salads, break or cut asparagus spears at the tender part and use the trimmed ends that you might otherwise discard.
• If your recipe calls for cold asparagus, plunge the stalks into cold water immediately after cooking, then remove them quickly; letting them soak too long can cause them to become soggy.
• Try fresh asparagus with lemon juice.
• Chives, parsley, chervil, savory, tarragon, or other spices melted into butter are delicious when poured over asparagus.
• Use pureed in soups, stews, creamed dishes, or sauces.
Asparagus with Fresh Citrus Dressing and Toasted Almonds
This recipe contains five powerhouse foods.
by Chef Cheryl Bell
Servings: 6 • Prep and cooking time: 10 minutes
2 tablespoons almonds, sliced
1½–2 pounds asparagus stalks, washed and trimmed
¼ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast almonds in a small shallow baking dish until golden brown; 4 to 5 minutes. Steam asparagus until crisp and tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer hot asparagus to serving bowl or platter. In a small bowl, whisk together orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon orange dressing over top of asparagus and sprinkle with almonds.
Calories: 90; Total fat: 6g; Saturated fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 10mg; Total carbs: 5g; Fiber: 2g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 3g.
Avocado (Persea Americana)
Did you know…avocado is also called “alligator pear” because of its pear-like shape and green skin?
What’s the Story?
“Avocado” is derived from the Aztec word “Ahuacuatl,” which means “testicle tree.” The meaning stems from the shape of the fruit (that’s right…it’s not a vegetable) and its supposed aphrodisiac qualities. Over 500 varieties of avocados are grown throughout the world but only seven are grown commercially in California. Bacon, Fuerte, Gwen, Pinkerton, Reed, Zutano, and Hass are the main types seen in most grocery stores in the United States. A small percentage of avocados consumed in the United States are imported from Mexico, Chile, and the Caribbean or come from the states of Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas, but California accounts for over ninety percent of all avocado consumption (and the Hass in particular) in America.
A Serving of Food Lore…
The avocado originated in south-central Mexico, sometime between 7000 and 5000 B.C. Archaeologists  in Peru discovered avocado seeds buried in Incan tombs dating back to 750 B.C. It was thought that the seed of the avocado would offer aphrodisiac qualities in the afterlife. There is evidence that avocados were cultivated in Mexico as early as 500 B.C. Florida was the first U.S. state in which avocados appeared, around 1833. In
1871, avocados became a major crop in California. Rudolf Hass planted his namesake fruit, a hybrid avocado, in La Habra, California, where it continues to flourish.
Where Are Avocados Grown?
Mexico, Chile, and the United States are the top producers of avocados. Mexico accounts for one-third of all avocado production. San Diego
County, which produces forty percent of all California avocados, is often called the avocado capital of the nation.
Why Should I Eat Avocados?
Avocados contain mainly heart-healthy monounsaturated  fat. In comparison with any other fruit, avocados contain more protein, potassium, magnesium, folic acid, B vitamins, vitamin E, and vitamin K. They are also rich in other nutrients and plant chemicals such as beta-sitosterol, a phytochemical that has cholesterol-lowering properties and may aid in reducing the size of the prostate gland and fighting prostate cancer too; lutein, a phytochemical that helps fight macular degeneration and inhibits prostate cancer growth; and carotenoids, which help the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients and protect against cancer, eye problems, and heart disease.
Home Remedies
Every part of the avocado has been used at one time or another to tackle a few of life’s inconveniences. Throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America, the avocado has been put to use in unique ways. A powder made from avocado seeds has been used to control dandruff. Some people have chewed the seeds to reduce toothache pain, and even the skin has been used as an antibiotic for intestinal parasites and dysentery. The flesh has long been used to condition dry hair and as a soothing shaving cream.
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GINGIVITIS AND OTHER  GUM DISEASE: Test tube studies conducted on human gum tissue found that avocado helped to decrease the occurrence of gingivitis and other periodontal disease.
SKIN DISORDERS: A 2001 study in the Journal of Dermatology found that a cream containing vitamin B12 and avocado oil kept psoriasis outbreaks at bay longer when compared to a conventional vitamin D cream. Avocado and B12 creams are available without prescription.
HIGH CHOLESTEROL: Patients   with high cholesterol were placed on a diet high in avocado for seven days. These patients showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides. These patients also showed a significant increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
DIABETES: A randomized human study found that those diabetic subjects who consumed a high monounsaturated-fat diet, consisting mostly of
avocados, had far better control of their blood glucose and triglycerides (elevated triglycerides contribute to heart disease) when compared with
those subjects who consumed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.
ARTHRITIS: A dietary supplement made from a combination of soybean and avocado oil may relieve symptoms of osteoarthritis. Four well- controlled studies have verified the effectiveness of this oil combination.
PROSTATE CANCER: Dr. David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, showed that when avocado extract was added to prostate cancer cells, cell growth was inhibited by up to sixty percent.
Tips on Using Avocados
• Choose avocados that are soft to the touch but not too soft.
• Hass avocados turn black when they are ripe.
• Other varieties require a slight squeeze to determine if they are ripe.
• Ripe avocados should be kept in the refrigerator.
• If the avocado is bought unripe, you can place the fruit in a paper bag until it is ripe or store it at room temperature for a few days.
• Slice avocado lengthwise and twist to separate the two halves. To remove the pit, put a knife into the pit and twist. To remove the flesh, scoop it out with a spoon.
• If the avocado is not used immediately, add some lemon or lime juice to it to prevent browning.
• Place diced avocado in salads.
• Slice and add to a sandwich or place on crackers with cheese.
• Spread on bread for a butter or mayonnaise substitute.
• Brazilians add avocados to ice cream.
• Filipinos make a beverage out of pureed avocados, sugar, and milk.
Luxurious Guacamole Adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless Servings: 6 • Prep time: 15 minutes
I tried this for the first time in Rick Bayless’s restaurant, Frontera Grill, in Chicago. Simply heaven! This recipe contains six powerhouse foods.
2 ripe Hass avocados
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
½ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
¼ small white onion, finely chopped
½ medium tomato, chopped into ¼-inch dice
 1 serrano or ½ to 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (optional) Garnish with fresh cilantro
Cut the avocados in half. Remove pit and scoop the avocado flesh into a medium bowl. Mash the avocado with a large fork or potato masher. Meanwhile, rinse chopped onion to prevent it from overpowering the guacamole. Pat onion well with a paper towel to remove moisture. Stir it
into the avocado along with the garlic, salt, pepper, and tomato. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the guacamole and refrigerate—preferably for no more than a few hours.
Calories: 120; Total fat: 10g; Saturated fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 230 mg; Total carbs: 8 g; Fiber: 6g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 2g.

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