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Nutrition

Study: Adding color to your plate may lower risk of cognitive decline

A new study shows that people who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids like strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline.

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A new study shows that people who eat a diet that includes at least half a serving per day of foods high in flavonoids like strawberries, oranges, peppers and apples may have a 20% lower risk of cognitive decline. The research is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at several types of flavonoids, and found that flavones and anthocyanins may have the most protective effect.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and are considered powerful antioxidants. It is thought that having too few antioxidants may play a role in cognitive decline as you age.

“There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older,” said study author Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, of Harvard University in Boston, Mass. “Our results are exciting because they show that making simple changes to your diet could help prevent cognitive decline.”

The study looked at 49,493 women with an average age of 48 and 27,842 men with an average age of 51 at the start of the study. Over 20 years of follow up, people completed several questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. Their intake of different types of flavonoids was calculated by multiplying the flavonoid content of each food by its frequency. Study participants evaluated their own cognitive abilities twice during the study, using questions like, “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering recent events?” and “Do you have more trouble than usual remembering a short list of items?” This assessment captures early memory problems when people’s memory has worsened enough for them to notice, but not necessarily enough to be detected on a screening test.

The people in the group that represented the highest 20% of flavonoid consumers, on average, had about 600 milligrams (mg) in their diets each day, compared to the people in the lowest 20% of flavonoid consumers, who had about 150 mg in their diets each day. Strawberries, for example, have about 180 mg of flavonoids per 100 gram serving, while apples have about 113.

After adjusting for factors like age and total caloric intake, people who consumed more flavonoids in their diets reported lower risk of cognitive decline. The group of highest flavonoid consumers had 20% less risk of self-reported cognitive decline than the people in the lowest group.

Researchers also looked at individual flavonoids. Flavones, found in some spices and yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, had the strongest protective qualities, and were associated with a 38% reduction in risk of cognitive decline, which is the equivalent of being three to four years younger in age. Peppers have about 5 mg of flavones per 100 gram serving. Anthocyanins, found in blueberries, blackberries and cherries, were associated with a 24% reduced risk of cognitive decline. Blueberries have about 164 mg of anthocyanins per 100 gram serving.

“The people in our study who did the best over time ate an average of at least half a serving per day of foods like orange juice, oranges, peppers, celery, grapefruits, grapefruit juice, apples and pears,” Willett said. “While it is possible other phytochemicals are at work here, a colorful diet rich in flavonoids–and specifically flavones and anthocyanins–seems to be a good bet for promoting long-term brain health. And it’s never too late to start, because we saw those protective relationships whether people were consuming the flavonoids in their diet 20 years ago, or if they started incorporating them more recently.”

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Nutrition

Tips for great grilling

Follow these easy tips for even tastier meals.

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Grilling is so fun and delicious – clearly a high point of any summer.  Follow these easy tips for even tastier meals.

  1. Start with a clean grill. 
    Starting with a clean grill will allow the flavor of whatever you’re cooking to shine through and not mix with flavors left behind from whatever you grilled last. It also helps prevent food from sticking. Clean the grill with a sturdy brush while it’s hot, as it will be much easier to clean.
  2. Oil the grill grates. 
    Oiling the grill grates will help prevent lean meats from sticking to the grill. Pour oil on a paper towel, then use tongs to rub the oil on the grill grates – don’t use cooking spray as it will flare up.  Or try this fun grill hack: cut a potato in half and rub the cut side of the potato on hot grill grates, this will make the grill naturally non-stick!
  3. Always make sure your grill is hot. 
    Adding food to a hot grill will give it a wonderful sear on the outside, while keeping it perfectly juicy in the center. It will prevent food from sticking to the grill, and it’s important for cooking safety. 
  4. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to check for a safe and desired temperature. 
    You always want to make sure that food on the grill is cooked to a safe temperature. Use an instant read thermometer to make sure meat is cooked to the proper temperature. Food safety is extremely important, as undercooked food can cause illness.
  5. Use a grill basket. 
    For foods that might fall through the grates and cause flare-ups, use Basquettes. These are incredibly handy for grilling vegetables, seafood, fish, kabobs, stuffed sliders, cheese and fruit. You can use Basquettes with a top so you can flip a whole basket of food over in one motion.
  6. Always let meat rest after removing it from the grill. 
    Depending on the meat, allow it to rest for at least 5-15 minutes before slicing into it. A large piece of meat, such as a tri tip will need more rest time than a smaller steak, like a tenderloin. Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat for a juicier, more tender piece of meat and tenting under foil helps keep it warm.
  7. Experiment with different cooking techniques.
    Grills can easily become smokers or rotisseries! Make a flattened foil packet of aromatic hardwood and pierce it a few times. Use your Basquettes with the legs on and slip the foil packet beneath. Or put the baskets together and make a rotisserie cage for delicious chicken!
  8. Know whether to cook your foods directly or indirectly. 
    Smaller pieces of meat, like a New York strip steak, that take 20 minutes or less to cook should be grilled over direct heat. Large pieces of meat, like ribs, that take more than 20 minutes to cook should be grilled over indirect heat.
  9.  Add sauce to meat at the end of the grilling process. 
    Adding a glaze or barbecue sauce, especially one with sugar, too early in the cooking process can cause your meat to burn and stick to the grill. If you plan to baste meat with a sauce or glaze, do it in the last 5 minutes of cooking, if the total cooking time is 30 minutes or less. If the total cooking time is over 30 minutes, baste the meat in the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Bonus tips!

  • Never flatten meat with a spatula when it’s on the grill. This will release all of the juicy flavor in the middle of the meat.
  • Avoid putting cold foods on the grill. Bringing meat to room temperature for 30 minutes will help it cook more evenly.
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Nutrition

Recipes to help manage cholesterol

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke, with about 38% of American adults diagnosed with high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. It can be managed by getting levels regularly tested and making lifestyle changes like eating a heart-healthy diet.

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When cooking, keep in mind small changes that can make a big impact on heart health.

High cholesterol is one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke, with about 38% of American adults diagnosed with high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. It can be managed by getting levels regularly tested and making lifestyle changes like eating a heart-healthy diet.

  • Reduce saturated fat – Select lean cuts of meat or opt for plant protein, limit processed meats, broil or bake rather than pan-fry meats and remove skin from poultry before cooking.
  • Eat more fish – Fish can be fatty or lean, but it’s still low in saturated fat. Choose oily fish like salmon or trout, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Use liquid oils in place of solid fats – For roasting, sauteing and more, use non-tropical liquid vegetable oils like canola, safflower, soybean or olive instead of butter, lard or shortening.
  • Lower dairy fats – Low-fat, fat-free or non-dairy milk can be used in many recipes instead of whole milk or half-and-half.
  • Increase fiber and whole grains – Add high-fiber vegetables to meals, serve fruit instead of juice and try brown rice instead of white.

These simple tips and better-for-you recipes like Chicken Tortilla Soup and Air Fryer Crispy (Un) Fried Chicken can help you eat healthy without sacrificing taste.

Find tips for managing cholesterol and other risk factors at heart.org/cholesterol.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
This recipe is reprinted with permission from “Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook, 2nd Edition.” Copyright 2018 by the American Heart Association. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.
Servings: 4

1          pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, visible fat discarded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2          cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
2          cups fat-free, no-salt-added chicken broth
1          can (14 1/2 ounces) no-salt-added, diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4       cup finely chopped onion
1          teaspoon sugar
1          teaspoon ancho powder
2          medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4       teaspoon salt
2          corn tortillas (6 inches each), cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1          corn tortilla (6 inches), torn into pieces
2-4       tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
1/4       cup finely chopped avocado
1/4       medium red bell pepper, cut into matchstick-size strips

In slow cooker, stir chicken, corn, broth, tomatoes, onion, sugar, ancho powder, garlic and salt. Cook, covered, on low, 6-8 hours, or on high, 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

On baking sheet, arrange tortilla strips in single layer. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until crisp. Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack. Let strips stand 15 minutes, or until cool. Transfer to airtight container and set aside.

When soup is ready, transfer 1 cup to food processor or blender. Stir in tortilla pieces. Let mixture stand 1 minute. Process until smooth. Stir mixture into soup. Stir in cilantro.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with avocado, bell pepper and reserved tortilla strips.

Air Fryer Crispy (Un) Fried Chicken
Recipe courtesy of the American Heart Association
Servings: 4

1/2       cup all-purpose flour
2          tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2       teaspoon ground oregano
1/4       teaspoon pepper
1/4       teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2-1    cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2       tablespoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
1/3       cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs
1/3       cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
4          boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 ounces each), visible fat discarded, flattened to 1/4-inch thickness, patted dry with paper towels
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat air fryer to 390 F.

In shallow dish or pie pan, whisk flour, parsley, oregano, pepper and cayenne.

In separate shallow dish or pie pan, whisk buttermilk and hot sauce.

In third shallow dish or pie pan, stir panko and Parmesan.

Place dishes and large plate in row. Dip chicken in flour mixture then buttermilk mixture then panko mixture, turning to coat at each step and gently shaking off excess. Using fingertips, gently press panko mixture so it adheres. Place chicken on plate. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Lightly spray chicken with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange chicken in single layer in air fryer basket, working in batches if needed. Cook 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center and coating is golden brown, turning once halfway through and lightly spraying with nonstick cooking spray.

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Nutrition

5 Reasons to eat more tart cherries

Decades of scientific research has shown Montmorency tart cherries are deserving of their superfood reputation. Here are five reasons to enjoy them more often.

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If you want to add superfoods to your diet in the new year, Montmorency tart cherries may be perfect for you.

Montmorency is the variety of tart cherries grown in America, primarily on small family farms. Compared to sweet cherries that are typically eaten fresh during the summer season, tart cherries are available year-round as dried, frozen, canned, juice and juice concentrate.  

Decades of scientific research has shown Montmorency tart cherries are deserving of their superfood reputation. Here are five reasons to enjoy them more often:

  • Sleep: Tart cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin and have been the focus of multiple sleep studies.
  • Exercise recovery: Tart cherry juice has become a popular exercise recovery drink for athletes.
  •  Arthritis and gout: Studies have explored the impact of Montmorency tart cherry juice consumption on gout attacks and arthritis symptoms.
  • Heart health: Montmorency tart cherry research has examined blood pressure and blood lipids.
  • Versatility: Although they remain perfect for pie, tart cherries can easily transition from sweet to savory, adding complex flavors to oatmeal, smoothies, salads, granola bars, trail mix and grain bowls.

Look for dried U.S.-grown tart cherries at the store and online for enjoyment at the start of your day and at night in recipes like Tart Cherry Overnight Oats and Tart Cherry Bedtime Bites.

Find more recipes and scientific research at ChooseCherries.com.

Tart Cherry Bedtime Bites
Recipe courtesy of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board
Yield: 12 bites

6          medjool dates, pitted
1/2       cup dried tart cherries
1/2       cup finely shredded coconut flakes
3/4       cup unsalted cashews
1          teaspoon almond extract
1          pinch fine sea salt

In food processor, process dates until broken into pea-sized bits. Add dried tart cherries, coconut flakes, cashews, almond extract and sea salt; process until combined. Form into 12 balls and chill 2 hours.

Tart Cherry Overnight Oats
Recipe courtesy of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board
Servings: 2

1          cup dried tart cherries, plus additional for topping (optional)
1          cup old-fashioned oats
1          cup almond milk
1/2       cup slivered almonds, plus additional for topping (optional)
2          tablespoons tart cherry concentrate
2          tablespoons chia seeds
1/2       teaspoon cinnamon
            honey, for topping (optional)

In large jar or container, mix cherries, oats, milk, almonds, cherry concentrate, chia seeds and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Spoon into bowls and enjoy cold or warmed up. Drizzle with honey or sprinkle with extra dried tart cherries and almonds, if desired.

A Dark, Colorful Clue
The deep red color is your clue to the science-based benefits of Montmorency tart cherries. The vibrant hue is due to the concentration of anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol in the flavonoids family that has been widely studied.

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