April Asparagus "Tips"

purple white green asparagusYou know I am a big fan of eating seasonally and since April brings in the peak season for asparagus, I am excited to bring them to my table this month with a few old AND new recipes.  After reading these FUN facts about asparagus, I hope you'll also have more FUN with them this month.  

  • asparagus thick vs thinGet 'em now! Pick the ones that are firm and bright green with closed, firm (no mushy!) purple or dark green tips.  When mature, asparagus are thicker which can be more tender, especially early in peak season - i.e. NOW! (http://news.psu.edu/story/186083/2000/03/27/skinny-asparagus-thicker-means-more-tender)
  • Try something new! Although green is the most common color for asparagus, there is a more delicate white variety as well as a sweeter (higher sugar content) purple variety.
  • Although I am generally an advocate for organically grown anything, asparagus is on the Environmental Working Group's "Clean 15" list of fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) which is great news if you don't have access to organics.
  • Make it for date night! Asparagus is one of the most famous foods known as an aphrodisiac.  This is partly because of its shape (!) and partly because of the nutrient content that leads to increased energy and reduced fatigue (http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/10-edible-aphrodisiacs/).
  • Keep 'em moist!  Asparagus are more perishable than many of their vegetable peers so eat them within 24-48 hours of purchasing. To best preserve them, keep them moist by trimming the ends and, a) standing them on the ends in water or, b) wrapping the ends in a damp cloth or paper towel, before storing in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic.  You may have to use a peeler on very stalky, tough stems.
  • That smell?  One last thing...I bet you are wondering about that famous (or infamous) smell.  You know, the one that everyone says can invade your pee when you eat asparagus?  Well, it turns out that researchers still are not sure what exactly causes the odor (they have identified at least 21 potential sources!); as a result, they are not sure how many people actually CAN produce the odor. What clouds the issue even further is that many people do not have the ability to perceive the odor  (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140818-mystery-of-asparagus-and-urine).  Either way, it does not affect asparagus' vegetable health benefits. Packed with nutrients such as folate and B vitamins, asparagus has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant (therefore anti-cancer!) benefits, supports your digestion (it's a prebiotic!), heart health, and regulation of blood sugar levels.

How to prepare?  Of course, you can eat 'em raw and toss them into salads, pastas, casseroles, omelettes but here are some cooking preparation options too...

Grill them over medium heat and add olive oil and lemon. Chopping?  Do it after cooking.

- Roast them (400 - 500) with olive oil, lemon (slices or juice), mustard, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika or chili powder, and/or parmesan cheese (add just before done).  (Wrap them with smoked salmon or prosciutto for a tasty vegetablarian treat! -http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/asparagus-and-smoked-salmon-bundles-recipe.html)

- Pan saute with  1/4-1/2 cup of water and lemon or broth.

Season to taste - just try to avoid the salt so that you get the natural diuretic effects.  Here are a couple links to my favorite recipes: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/lemon_lovers_asparagus.htmlhttp://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/asparagus_baby_kale_caesar_salad.html

I hope you are now as excited about asparagus season as I am!  How will you be bringing it to your table this month?

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Tanya Leake

Tanya Leake is the founder of EmBODY WELL and is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified health coach, group fitness instructor, specializing in Zumba, dance fitness and sculpt.  She teaches a variety of modes of dance, is certified as an Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor, with additional certifications in Natural Health Fundamentals, Behavior Change and Nutrition Therapy.  She is also a certified instructor for Oldways’ “A Taste of African Heritage” health through heritage program.   She brings a wealth of knowledge from a holistic perspective on health and well-being.

Think a little differently about dinner tonight!

Change your mindset and improve your health!  Improving your health is usually about changing habits.  Vegetablarians change the traditional habits of basing meals around protein or pasta and having vegetables as a side dish, afterthought, or requirement.  Vegetablarians use vegetables to build a meal.  In fact, according to myPlate, the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and Pyramid, and the African American Heritage Pyramid, 1/2 (or more) of your plate should be vegetables (especially green, leafy);  that sure sounds like the main portion!  Just like a main course salad, switch it up and feature your vegetables as the highlight with protein (lean fish or poultry) or starch (brown rice, quinoa or potatoes) as "mere" accompaniments. The first step?  When planning your next meal, skip that habit of thinking about which fish, chicken or pasta, and start with: what vegetable(s) do I want?  Don't limit yourself to a single vegetable - mix it up with a fun medley!  Any vegetables in season will likely taste the best and be easiest to find - use a seasonal vegetable guide for your area (see Regional, Seasonal Eating) - or, do what you feel and choose that vegetable you love and maybe haven't had in a while.  Experiment with various ways of cooking it; you just might discover something new you want to keep in rotation!

Comment

Tanya Leake

Tanya Leake is the founder of EmBODY WELL and is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified health coach, group fitness instructor, specializing in Zumba, dance fitness and sculpt.  She teaches a variety of modes of dance, is certified as an Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor, with additional certifications in Natural Health Fundamentals, Behavior Change and Nutrition Therapy.  She is also a certified instructor for Oldways’ “A Taste of African Heritage” health through heritage program.   She brings a wealth of knowledge from a holistic perspective on health and well-being.

Vegetablarians hydrate!

For the up to 75% of Americans that are chronically dehydrated (http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/07/02/chronic-dehydration-more-common-than-you-think/), vegetablarianism can help.  Eating more vegetables is a great way to get up to 20% of the 10 glasses of water recommended daily by the Institute of Medicine.  Dehydration is easy to reverse by drinking more water AND increasing vegetable intake.  All vegetables are high in water content , but particularly those high in water content (> 90% water) are best for helping remedy the situation.   Some great examples include: baby carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, celery, green peppers, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and yes, iceberg lettuce (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/enri/pubs/enri129.pdf).  So, eat up...or should I say...drink up?!?!   ;-)

Comment

Tanya Leake

Tanya Leake is the founder of EmBODY WELL and is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified health coach, group fitness instructor, specializing in Zumba, dance fitness and sculpt.  She teaches a variety of modes of dance, is certified as an Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor, with additional certifications in Natural Health Fundamentals, Behavior Change and Nutrition Therapy.  She is also a certified instructor for Oldways’ “A Taste of African Heritage” health through heritage program.   She brings a wealth of knowledge from a holistic perspective on health and well-being.

Regional, seasonal eating

According to holistic health belief, eating local and seasonal fresh vegetables optimizes the nutrient AND flavor content of your vegetables (assuming they are ripe ;-)).  During one season, you can try different recipes AND different vegetables and, before you know it, it will be a new season and you'll have a whole new set of recipes and veggies to explore!  As a busy vegetablarian,  my farm-to-door delivery service is a lifesaver!!  It makes it so easy!  Without having to go to the store, I always know I will have fresh veggies on hand!  With most of these services, you can pick the contents of your weekly delivery OR you can request that the service just send you whatever is in season and available (within a certain price point) and every box is like a surprise gift bag! (of course, you can tell them if there are things you absolutely, positively don't like :-)) Here are a few, helpful guides to make it easy.

Regional, seasonal map - http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap

Local produce delivery guide - http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/07/guide-to-farm-to-door-delivery-services-usa.html

Do you have services or guides you like for regional, seasonal eating? Share!

Comment

Tanya Leake

Tanya Leake is the founder of EmBODY WELL and is an American Council on Exercise (ACE) certified health coach, group fitness instructor, specializing in Zumba, dance fitness and sculpt.  She teaches a variety of modes of dance, is certified as an Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor, with additional certifications in Natural Health Fundamentals, Behavior Change and Nutrition Therapy.  She is also a certified instructor for Oldways’ “A Taste of African Heritage” health through heritage program.   She brings a wealth of knowledge from a holistic perspective on health and well-being.