Nutrition, Secret Ingredient

Profile: Mushrooms

By Reneé Ortolani
Dietetic Intern

When talking about fruit and veggie consumption, it’s usually recommended to look for the brightest colors of the bunch (i.e. bright red tomatoes, rich purple eggplant or green leafy spinach). The vibrant colors means the fruit or veggie is packed with vitamins and nutrients. While you’re painting your plate with color, leave room for the less vibrant hues too! While they don’t make for as striking a presentation as a carton of blueberries, paler veggies like cauliflower; onions and mushrooms are good sources of nutrients and antioxidants.

Okay, so technically mushrooms aren’t really vegetables, but rather a type of edible fungi. They have more in common with yeast than most of what you’ll find in the supermarket’s produce section. Some of the most common varieties of mushrooms include: portabello, shiitake, cremini, and chanterelle but there are thousands of different types of mushrooms. Mushrooms range in color from white to tan to golden and generally have a mild to strong (depending on variety) earthy flavor. Not all mushrooms are edible, though. Because some poisonous mushrooms look very similar to edible varieties, it’s best to leave mushroom picking to the expert mushroom hunters.

So why are mushrooms so great? Let’s break down their nutrients. Mushrooms are naturally low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and calories making them a healthy option to add to any meal. Mushrooms are also packed with the B vitamins riboflavin, folate, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and niacin. They’re also the only non-fortified dietary source of vitamin D, a huge benefit to vegans. The list goes on with several minerals that mushrooms can add to the diet such as selenium, potassium, copper, iron, and phosphorus.

If you thought that was all that mushrooms offered, keep reading. Not only does this food from the fungi kingdom rate high on the nutrient scale, they provide a slew of possible health benefits as well. Beta-glucans (a type of fiber found in mushrooms) has recently been studied to evaluate its effect on improving insulin resistance and blood cholesterol levels, while lowering the risk of obesity. Choline, another nutrient, aids in sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory, while also helping support fat absorption and reduce chronic inflammation. The mineral selenium delivers cancer-fighting qualities by assisting in detoxifying cancer-causing compounds in the body. It also prevents inflammation, lowers tumor growth rates, and is important for liver enzyme function. The list goes on with supporting cardiovascular health, improving immunity, aiding in weight management, and increasing satiety too.

With all of these nutrient benefits, where can you go wrong with incorporating mushrooms into your lifestyle? There are so many ways that mushrooms can be added to a dish. Whether replacing your burger with a grilled and marinated portabello, adding creminis to an egg frittata, or mixing shiitake mushrooms into your favorite pasta dish, this powerhouse of a “veggie” is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

So, what are you waiting for? Add mushrooms to your grocery list and try them in this delicious portobello mushroom burger recipe from the MGH Be Fit Program, the perfect addition to your palette this summer season!

Be Fit Basics: Stacked Summer Veggie Portobello Burger

Ingredients:

6 portobello mushrooms (any dirt brushed off with a paper towel), stems removed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 rosemary sprigs (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
3 peaches cut in half with peach pits removed
3 bell peppers cut in half with seeds and stems removed
3 small onions, skins removed and sliced in half (preserving onion rings)
1 lemon
Salt and pepper (salt estimated at ½ tsp)

Instructions:

Place mushroom caps in a large bowl; add balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Tear leaves off rosemary sprigs and add them to the bowl. Add salt and pepper and toss all ingredients until mushrooms are fully coated (Adding additional balsamic as needed). In another large bowl place peaches, peppers and onions. Cut lemon in half and squeeze juice into bowl. Add remaining 2 tbsp olive oil with along with salt and pepper; toss to combine.

Light grill; allow it to come to medium-high heat or when you can hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill (being careful not to burn your hand) for 3-5 seconds. The process for lighting your grill will vary depending on whether you have a charcoal or gas grill. [Note: If you don’t have a grill you can roast the mushrooms, peaches, peppers and onions on a large baking sheet in a 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. (The cooking time may vary slightly depending on your oven.)]

Place mushrooms, peaches, peppers and onions on grill. Grill until slightly charred and cooked through, about 5-15 minutes. Turn vegetables once half way through cooking.

Assembly: On bottom of a wheat bun place peppers, onions, peaches and mushroom cap. Place other bun half on top

Yield: 6 serving

Nutrition Information per Serving (not including bun):

Calories: 180 • Protein: 4g • Sodium: 210mg • Carbohydrate 22g • Fiber: 5g •
Fat: 10g • Sat Fat: 1.5g

(Content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

Nutrition, Secret Ingredient

In a Nutshell

By Leslie Wall
Dietetic Intern

Why are dietitians so crazy about nuts and seeds?! Nuts and seeds are morsels of heart healthy fats that can be added to meals and snacks or eaten alone. They pack a nutrient-dense punch of vitamins, minerals, and heart healthy fats that can lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber that help us feel full and satisfied, and add texture and flavor to many dishes.

Nuts and seeds vary in shape and size, and can be prepared in a variety of ways including toasted, roasted, raw, blanched, and salted. Aim to add a variety of nuts and seeds in their most natural form to your diet—raw or dry roasted are great choices. A serving of nuts is 1 ounce (about a palm full). Try mixing it up, as each variety of nuts and seeds contain different vitamins and minerals.

The MVPs of Nuts and Seeds – Here is a list of our favorites.

1. Almonds: Available year round, these nuts are rich in calcium, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and phosphorus.

2. Cashews: High in antioxidants. Has a buttery taste when pureed, and often used to replace cheese sauces in vegan dishes. Chop and sprinkle on pizza for a meaty, flavorful texture.

3. Pecans: Buttery and slightly bittersweet, they’re typically used in pies, quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream.

4. Pine Nuts: The edible seeds of pine trees, pine nuts are the key ingredient in fresh pesto and are out of this world sprinkled over salads, pasta, and pizza.

5. Flax Seeds: The richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Add to breads, cookies, pancake mix, yogurt, and smoothies or sprinkle on cereal and salads.

6. Pumpkin Seeds (a.k.a. Pepitas): A great source of potassium, zinc and vitamin K. Roasted pumpkin seeds can be eaten alone as a snack, or and in salads and breads.

7. Sunflower Seeds: Sunflowers belong to the daisy family and are native to North America. The seeds are high in selenium, vitamin E and magnesium. Shelled seeds are delicious eaten raw or toasted, added to cakes and breads or sprinkled on salads or cereals.

Tips for Toasting: While nuts and seeds are certainly delicious eaten raw, toasting them on the stove or in the oven enhances their flavor.

  • On the stove: Place nuts in a skillet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat. Shake and stir nuts until they’re golden brown and fragrant, then remove from the pan immediately and allow to cool.
  • In the oven: Arrange a single layer of nuts or seeds in a shallow baking pan and toast in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Summer Recipe

Homemade Granola Bars ~ FitDay
Perfect for hiking, camping, and snacking.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)

 

 

 

 

Nutrition, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is . . . Avocado

Animated AvocadoDark green/black bumpy skin on the outside, bright yellow-green meat inside and a large pit nestled in the middle.  We’re talking of course about the avocado – the pear shaped tropical fruit known for its creamy texture and mild nutty flavor.  Guacamole is probably the first thing that comes to mind when talking about avocados, but diced avocado is also a nice addition to your salad or cold soup.  You can also use it in your sandwich as a healthy alternative mayonnaise, or eat it plain all by itself!  Avocados are cholesterol-free and a good source of fiber.  While it’s true they contain a lot of fat, it’s mostly monounsaturated (one of the “good” fats).

Most of us are familiar with the dark green Hass variety of avocados (or maybe the Fuerte which has a smoother, light green skin), but did you know that there are hundreds of avocado varieties?  Here’s another bit of trivia:  avocados will not ripen until they’re picked.  This is why they’ve available all year – they can be left on the tree for an extended period before harvesting.  An easy way to tell if your avocado is ripe is give it a light squeeze.  If there’s a little give to it you’re good to go; if not you can help it along by placing it in a paper bag on your counter for a day or so.

If you’ve ever cut into an avocado, you know it starts to turn brown before long.  This is caused by enzymes in the avocado reacting to the oxygen in the air (this is also why apple slices turn brown around the edges).  You can slow this process by adding a splash of lemon (or lime) juice to your cut avocado.  If you’re not going to use the entire fruit at once, sprinkle leftover pieces with lemon juice and place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

What’s your favorite way to eat avocado?

(Content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department)

 

 

 

Nutrition, recipes, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is…Carrots

Carrots. Photo credit: Jean Scheijen

Sweet, crunchy and delicious:  the favorite food of Bugs Bunny, Winnie the Pooh’s neighbor Rabbit and probably several other rabbit celebrities.  We’re talking, of course, about carrots.  Most people recognize this common root vegetable by its orange color, but did you know carrots are also available in red, white and purple varieties?  In fact, the first carrots were dark purple! 

As with most brightly colored fruits and vegetables, carrots are a good source of vitamins and other nutrients.  It’s believed the antioxidants in carrots can help protect against cancer and heart disease.  They’re also a great source of beta-carotene, a nutrient the body turns into Vitamin A (beta-carotene is also what gives carrots their orange color).  Vitamin A is important for maintaining eye health, especially night vision, and is used by the body to help fight off infection.  

Raw carrots make a colorful addition to salad, and carrot sticks are a great option for a healthy afternoon snack.  Cooking carrots can enhance some of their natural sweetness—try steaming sliced carrots in the microwave for a quick side dish, or adding them to soups or stews.  And, thanks to their natural sweet flavor, carrots can cross the line from savory to sweet; several recipes for baked goods include carrots in the ingredient list.  Carrot greens (the leafy part on top) are also edible, but they have a bitter flavor that many find unpleasant. 

And here’s a fun fact for you: eating a large amount of carrots can cause your skin to turn orange.  The same beta-carotene that makes carrots orange can build up in the skin, causing it to turn a yellow/orange color (but don’t worry, it’s harmless—skin will return to normal in a few days if you stop eating them.  And, you’d have to eat a lot of carrots every day for it to happen). 

Need a side dish idea for dinner tonight?  Our nutritionists recommend this one from Eatingwell.com.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Photo credit: Jean Scheijen)

Nutrition, recipes, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient Is…Sweet Potatoes

By Anne Lukowski, RD, CDE
Charlestown HealthCare CenterSweet Potato

When I think of the holidays, great food always comes to mind.  For me, the fall and winter would not be the same without the sweet potato making at least a few appearances on my table.  The sweet potato can be enjoyed baked, mashed or roasted but there is also sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, glazed sweet potato, sweet potato fries, and sweet potato soup.  Whatever form you choose, the sweet potato is not only delicious, it’s also very nutritious! 

The sweet potato is not just another root vegetable, they have several health benefits.  The sweet potato is a wonderful source of vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, iron, and potassium.  Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamin B6, which has been associated with decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.  And let’s not forget that a sweet potato is a good source of dietary fiber:  a medium sweet potato has 4 grams of dietary fiber which is important for heart health, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, and weight management.

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
(Recipe adapted from eatingwell.com)

Ingredients

2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (about 8 cups)
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish.  Combine maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat.  Cover and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook until tender and starting to brown 45-50 minutes or more.

Yield: About 12 servings, ½ cup each

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING:

CALORIES: 96
PROTEIN: 1 g
SODIUM: 60 mg
CARBOHYDRATE: 19 g
FIBER: 2 g
FAT: 2 g Sat Fat: 0.5 g

Nutrition, recipes, Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient is…Eggs

Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit may remember the scene in the underground cavern where Gollum challenges Bilbo Baggins to stump him with a riddle.  One riddle he tries describes a golden treasure inside a box with no door.  The answer is an egg:  the golden yolk hides inside the smooth egg shell.  Until recently, eggs were criticized for their high cholesterol content and eating whole eggs was discouraged.  While it’s true they do contain a large portion of the daily recommendation for cholesterol (one large egg contains around 200mg), new research has shown healthy adults can eat an egg a day without increasing their chances of developing heart disease.  This is good news as, despite their humble appearance, eggs are nutritionally speaking…well…incredible.

Just like soy, eggs are an inexpensive source of high quality protein.  One egg contains about 7g of protein, half of which is in the albumen or egg white.  All of an egg’s fat is found in the yolk, along with a number of vitamins and minerals.  Eggs are good sources of B vitamins—specifically B12 and riboflavin (Vitamin B2)—which help the body use fat, protein and carbohydrates for energy.  Riboflavin is also necessary for healthy skin, hair and nails, while B12 is used in creating red blood cells.  Eggs also contain choline, a nutrient that may help improve memory, and are natural source of Vitamin D—essential for healthy teeth and bones (many dairy products have Vitamin D added in).

Phew, there certainly is a lot bundled into that small package.  Know what else is impressive?  One egg is only 75 calories.  Oh, and the idea that the quality or freshness of an egg can be determined by the color of the shell is a myth.  Brown eggs are just as fresh and nutritious as white eggs (and vice versa).  The shell’s color is determined by the breed of chicken that laid the egg:  chickens with brown feathers typically lay eggs with brown shells, while white eggs are laid by chickens with white feathers.

Scrambled, hard boiled or mixed with veggies in an omelet—what’s your favorite egg-based dish?

 Individual Zucchini Frittatas

(Recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into thin 1/8” slices
¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper
9 eggs, beaten
½ cup scallions, sliced
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

Notes: -You will need a muffin tin for this recipe.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a sauté pan on moderately high heat; add 1½ tbsp olive oil to pan and then add zucchini slices; season with salt and pepper. Cook zucchini, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, scallions, ½ cup parmesan cheese, and sundried tomatoes in a bowl. With remaining ½ tbsp olive oil grease 6 muffin cups of a muffin tin.

When zucchini is finished cooking, add to egg mixture; stir to combine. Pour the mixture into a greased muffin tin and bake about 10-15 minutes; sprinkle remaining parmesan on top of each frittata and broil until cheese is melted and golden, about 1-2 minutes. Run a knife along the edges of the muffin cups to loosen the frittata.

Yield:  6 frittatas

NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING (per frittata):

CALORIES: 255 calories
PROTEIN: 16 g
SODIUM: 400 mg
CARBOHYDRATE: 9 g
FIBER: 2 g
FAT: 18 g Sat Fat: 5 g

(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department. Photo credit: Alessandro Paiva)
Nutrition, recipes, Secret Ingredient, Uncategorized

The Secret Ingredient Is…Soy

If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant, you probably sprinkled a little soy sauce on your food, right?  Ever eaten tofu in a stir-fry or splashed some Silk® on your morning bowl of cereal?  Although all these products are vastly different from one another in color, texture and flavor, they all have one thing in common:  they’re all made from soy beans. 

Soy sauce, tofu and soy milk are just a few of the types of soy-based products you’ll find.  There’s also miso—a paste made with fermented soybeans— and tempeh, or partially cooked and fermented soybeans that’s been pressed into a cake.  Whole soybeans can also be roasted into soy nuts.  Clearly, soybeans are very versatile little legumes.  Just as impressive are the nutrient content and health benefits of the humble soybean.     

For starters, soybeans are a good source of fiber as well as a number of vitamins and minerals including B6, iron, calcium and zinc.  Soy is also an inexpensive source of protein and one of the only plant-based protein sources that’s also a complete protein—meaning it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs to function but can’t supply on its own.  Because of its high protein content, soy is often used as a meat substitute; but unlike many animal-based proteins, soy contains no cholesterol and is low in saturated fat.  In fact, eating soy may be good for your heart—soybeans are a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fats and the isoflavones (a type of plant hormone) found in soy may help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Those same isoflavones may also help prevent the development of osteoporosis and some types of cancer. 

Edamame, young soybeans that have been boiled in their pods, are available both fresh and frozen at many local supermarkets.  Often served alongside sushi in Japanese restaurants, edamame can be eaten as is for a tasty heart-healthy snack or used in salad like this one:       

Roasted Corn and Edamame Salad 

4 ears fresh corn, unhusked, or 1 1/4 cups cooked corn kernels
2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
2 tablespoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons finely chopped or grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 

Yield: Makes 8 servings 

Soak fresh corn in cold water about 30 minutes. Heat grill on high. Grill corn in husk, 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. Let cool. Remove husks. Cut corn from cob into a bowl; combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

(Post content reviewed by MGH Nutrition Department)