What’s Trending in Food for 2013?

Top 10 Food Trends in 2013

1.     Repositioned Palate

        One in 10 shoppers now choose higher-end cuts of meat in order to recreate a restaurant dining experience. In the past, consumers used to eat food for substance, today more people are having eating occasions that can be described as “savoring”, which conveys a new upscale eating experience defined by freshness, distinct flavors, and more.

2.     Redefining Health

        Data shows that consumers relate the word “fresh” with “healthy”. Nine in 10 people think fresh foods are healthier, and 80% look for the descriptor “fresh” when it comes to retail and 58% in restaurants.

3.     Generational Cooking

        Young adults are continuing to cut back on restaurant visits for the fifth year in a row, which means the market for the food industry to develop at-home meal products that appeal to the newest generation of cooks is on the rise.

4.     Eating Alone

        There has been a dramatic increase in the number of adults who are eating solo, regardless of family dynamics. In addition to adults, children are also eating alone more often opening the market for new fresh/refrigerated meals for kids.

5.     Seeking True Transparency

        Food safety is trending and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. 17 % of consumers have stopped buying a certain food or brand due to certain safety concerns.

6.     Global Look-Alikes

        The integration of ethnic flavors, food items, and ingredients into American foods. Children’s sushi is predicted to be a hot trend for 2013.

7.     Farmstead Formulations

        Hyper-local sourcing, like restaurant gardens, farm/estate brands, small-producer suppliers, and the mainstreaming of farmers’ markets all attest to consumers’ fascination and appreciation for all things agricultural related.

8.     Craveable Finger Foods

        Restaurants have added bite-sized food to their menus and 67% of consumers find it “extremely appealing” to get their flavor through dips/condiments.

9.     Nutritional Insiders

        In 2012 alone, 78% of consumers made a strong effort to get more vitamins and 57% tried to consume more products with specialty nutritional ingredients. The top vitamins were vitamin D, vitamin C, B-vitamins and omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamin E, and vitamin A.

10.  Mother Hens

        Moms are more likely to buy nutritionally enhanced food and beverages. They are also more likely to seek out nutritional information. Moms want healthier kids’ food away from home.

Top 10 Food Trends in 2013

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The Plant-Based Mediterranean Wallet

The Mediterranean Wallet

Americans constantly correlate a healthy lifestyle to expensive foods. This is not always the case. Yes, fresh foods, like produce for example, are normally higher in price compared to canned foods, or foods with a longer shelf-life.

Studies have shown that adopting the Mediterranean Diet helps reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and heart attacks, amongst other chronic health disparities. The lifestyle stresses the importance of plant-based meals. One major ingredient in the diet is olive oil. The introduction of olive oil into the diet has been determined, to aid in feeling fuller long or the feeling of satiety.

Studies have also shown that an increase in plant-based meals can lead to a decrease in food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or some meals for members of a household.

Researchers conducted a study to emphasize the use of simple, plant-based recipes and olive oil, following a Mediterranean diet pattern. A number of participants commented on how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was.  So, the study approached a local food bank about designing their study using food pantry items for the program’s recipes.

Most people, who attempt at putting together a nutritionally balanced menu for their family or household, spend the bulk of their budget on meats, poultry, and seafood. These items, specifically lower-fat versions, tend to be the most expensive items someone will see on their grocery store receipt. Low socioeconomic status families will normally purchase these items first, leaving little left in the budget for healthier fruits and vegetables.

The researcher on the study explained that if the focus of the shopper could be changed to eliminate foods that are not needed to improve health from the shopping list, a healthy diet can be more economical.  Certain foods that could be crossed off that grocery store list include meats, snacks, desserts, and carbonated beverages/sodas.

The first 6 weeks of the study consisted of cooking classes where instructors prepared quick and easy plant-based recipes that incorporated ingredients like olive oil, whole grain pasta, brown rice and fruits and vegetables. The participant’s progress was tracked for 6 months after the conclusion of the cooking program.

One particular benefit for those attending the 6 week cooking class was that they were provided with groceries that contained most of the ingredients discussed by the class facilitators. The chosen ingredients provided to the participants would allow them to make 3 of the discussed recipes for their family members.

Once the classes were over, the researchers collected grocery receipts throughout the remainder of the study. Analysis of these receipts showed a significant decrease in overall purchases of meats, carbonated beverages, desserts and snacks. This was particularly interesting to the research team as they never offered instruction to the participants to avoid buying these items.

The further review of the grocery receipts showed that each household enjoyed an increase in the total number of different fruits and vegetables consumed each month. Participants cut their food spending in more than half, saving nearly $40 per week. The study also found that the reliance on food pantries decreased as well, indicating a decrease in food insecurity.

The research team also found that the cooking program had unexpected health benefits as well. Almost one-half of the participants presented loss in weight. This was not an objective in the study but, raised a few eyebrows. The study also showed an overall decrease in BMI of the participants.

Overall, this study shows that a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean Diet, not only contributes to an overall improvement in health and diet. The study also highlights how a plant-based diet can contribute to decreasing food insecurity in America.

Plant-Based Med Diet Can Be Easy On the Wallet

6-week Cooking Program on Plant-Based Recipes

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food inse

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A Very Merry Holiday

A Very Merry Holiday

There are several times throughout the year when people focus on losing weight — just before their birthday, leading up to a wedding or important event, and a few months prior to bathing suit season.

But there’s usually only one occasion when people forget about losing weight and simply concentrate on not gaining any. And that’s the holidays.

Thanksgiving is long gone, so if you had a few too many slices of Grandma’s pumpkin pie, relax and let it go. There’s no reason to feel guilty!

Instead, look ahead to Christmas. It’s the second time in the span of about 1 month that people will gather for absurd amounts of food, and, most importantly, quality family time.

By Dec. 26, everyone regrets that fourth helping of stuffing, fifth buttered roll and sixth biscotti, no matter how enjoyable they were the day before. To avoid feeling overstuffed prepare a plan beforehand. This will also help shed worries of weight gain and hopefully keep you from closing out 2012 with an extra 10 pounds on your hips.

Just say no….

A lot of holiday foods can be tempting, which is why it’s important to remember the phrase “mind over matter.”

Aunt Ginger may make the most delicious mashed potatoes you’ve ever tasted, so you tend not to realize that they’re loaded with fat and dripping with butter. You think you need to scoop up as many as you can before your rambunctious cousins get to them, but the fact is, the dish will be there next year and for many years to come.

This isn’t the last pan of mashed potatoes on the planet. Think of it that way and it’ll be easier to turn them down.

Also keep in mind that just because everyone around you is stuffing themselves doesn’t mean you need to follow suit.

The key is to eat until you’re satisfied, and not full. Pace yourself because you may tend to eat less! The slower you eat sometimes, the more full your stomach gets quicker. And make sure you listen to your stomach when it feels full…

Learn what’s what…

Something may seem healthful on the surface, but that doesn’t mean that’s truly the case. Sure, that green bean casserole has vegetables, but it also has creamy soup with all-too-high fat and sodium levels.

Try to learn exactly what’s in the food you’re eating so you know whether it’s OK to dive in for seconds.

“Ultimately, just a general education of wellness is always very important for everyone”

Pay attention to things like antioxidants and good fats vs. bad fats. A bowl of almonds, pecans and peanuts will make an excellent pre-meal snack and offers healthful fats at the same time.

A tray of sliced fruits and vegetables provides another convenient appetizer with plenty of health benefits.

“Things with lots of colors — they all have tons of antioxidants in them”

Consider volunteering to do the cooking for your family so you’ll have ultimate control over the nutrition on the table come Christmas Day. Plus this gives Nanny a break from all that cooking too!

Tweak tradition…

Holiday classics don’t have to be eliminated. Just look for ways to make them as nutritious as possible. For example, you can continue your family’s tradition of having a 20-pound turkey as the main dish, but don’t get any fancy ideas about deep frying the bird.

“Baking, broiling and grilling are really the best cooking methods”. Take the skin off the turkey before you eat it to make it even better for you.

Stuffing is also found in many holiday feasts, and it’s another dish that can be altered with ease. Making it from scratch and tossing in some dried cranberries will add fiber. Also, using whole wheat bread is also a healthy tweak to an old family tradition.

“When you’re choosing your foods during the holiday season or making recipes, try to continue to add whole grains to your diet”

Think ahead…

In the future, try to keep up with healthy habits before and after the holiday season. If you stick to normal portions and maintain a nutritious diet on a regular basis, it won’t be hard to stay in control on Christmas.

“Truly, it’s what you do all year round so that one day isn’t going to make a huge difference”

http://www.piercecountyherald.com/event/article/id/49987/group/News/

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Kitchen Ink

Kitchen Ink

You wouldn’t think tattoos and kitchens go hand-in-hand but, over the past years tattoos in restaurants and professional culinary settings, has dominated and almost become a tidal wave in trends. Tattoos, once considered a principal for sailors, bikers, ex-cons, and college hipsters, have now became a culinary staple. Tattoos have almost become a standard uniform in professional kitchens across the world. These tattoos range anywhere from hearts, butterflies, and unicorns to cheeseburgers, tacos, and tribal bands. Body art is so mainstream that everyone from modest kitchen rats to celebrity chefs proudly display their art on TV, magazines, catalogues, and in their very own cookbooks.

Read more on this article and see how tattoos in the kitchen are becoming a norm in present-day culinary professions.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/wellness/fitness-food/story/2011-12-02/From-toques-to-tattoos-a-kitchen-culture-change/51579784/1

http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-06-15/restaurants/kitchen-ink-chefs-talk-about-their-tats/

Here is a picture that I took recently of a stranger walking in Morgantown

Here is a picture that I took recently of a stranger walking in Morgantown

Not Your Typical Pumpkin Season

Good for more than just delighting trick-or-treaters, the pumpkin is related to the squash and melon family and packs a nutritional antioxidant punch. The pumpkin is an autumn favorite, but you don’t just have to think about using one for decorating or pie.

What’s in Pumpkin: One cup of cooked, unsalted pumpkin has 49 calories and is a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. Pumpkin seeds have protein, healthy fats, minerals and a small amount of omega-3 fats.

Choosing: Pumpkins intended for carving don’t always taste as good as sugar (also called baking or pie) pumpkins. Choose pumpkins that are firm, smooth and brightly colored and, when possible, with the stem still attached.

Storing: Pumpkin “pulp” can be frozen or canned. You can store whole pumpkins in a cool, dry place for up to three months. Once sliced, keep the pieces in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic for five to seven days. Place cooked pumpkin in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for three to six months.

Using Pumpkin this Season: Besides the iconic pumpkin pie, try your hand at pumpkin muffins, pumpkin rolls or maybe even pumpkin soup. You cook pumpkin like you would any other winter squash — peel it, slice it and remove the seeds. Then roast, boil or steam the pieces until tender. You can dice the cooked flesh into bite-sized pieces or puree them in a food processor.

You can also use the seeds. They’re easy to roast and are nutritious and flavorful.

So many ways to utilize seeds after carving pumpkins this season!

Health benefits of Pumpkin

  • It is one of the very low calorie vegetables. 100 g fruit provides just 26 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol; however, it is rich in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins. The vegetable is one of the food items recommended by dietitians in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
  • Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A, vitamin-C and vitamin-E.
  • With 7384 mg per 100 g, it is one of the vegetables in the Cucurbitaceae family featuring highest levels of vitamin-A, providing about 246% of RDA. Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and is required by the body for maintaining the integrity of skin and mucus membranes. It is also an essential vitamin for good visual sight. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help a body protects against lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • It is also an excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Carotenes convert into vitamin A inside the body.
  • Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the macula lutea in retina of the eyes. Thus, it helps protect from “age-related macular disease” (ARMD) in the elderly.
  • The fruit is a good source of B-complex group of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
  • It is also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
  • Pumpkin seeds indeed are an excellent source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for heart health. In addition, the seeds are concentrated sources of protein, minerals and health-benefiting vitamins. For instance, 100 g of pumpkin seeds provide 559 calories, 30 g of protein, 110% RDA of iron, 4987 mg of niacin (31% RDA), selenium (17% of RDA), zinc (71%) etc., but no cholesterol. Further, the seeds are an excellent source of health promoting amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is converted to GABA in the brain.

    Pumpkin rolls are delicious year round

Key Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds

  1. Promotes Prostate Health

For you men over 50 helping carve pumpkins this Halloween, be sure to save those seeds.  Pumpkin seeds help promote a healthy prostate and minimize the issues such as urination problems due to an enlarged prostate.  Prostate problems are most common in men over fifty.

  1. Better Bones

Although it is the season for scary ghosts and skeletons, I’m not talking about a great looking skeleton with good bones hanging on your door for the “trick or treaters”.  I’m talking about your bones.  Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and are a great natural resource for this much needed nutrition.  Low levels of zinc are one of the links to osteoporosis.

  1. Arthritis Relief

In a recent study pumpkin seeds showed the same anti-inflammatory benefits as the non-steroid drug indomethacin.  The good news on these results is that the pumpkin seeds did not have the same negative effect of damaged fats (lipid peroxides) in the lining of joints like the anti-inflammatory drug.  Okay, so this study was conducted on animals, but the healing benefits of pumpkin seeds for arthritis relief is a potential benefit to humans.

  1. Lower Cholesterol

Another known benefit of pumpkin seeds is their ability to help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol.  That is because the seeds have phytosterols, a compound that not only helps lower cholesterol but helps protect against certain cancers.  In addition to pumpkin seeds, many other nuts and seeds have the phytosterol compound including pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, English walnuts and Brazil nuts.

Making Pumpkin Seeds

Although you can buy pumpkin seeds already dried and seasoned, baking your own seeds is a less expensive and much more fun.

  • Scoop out the seed from inside the pumpkin
  • Using a paper towel, lightly pat the seeds and remove any pulp
  • Spread seeds evenly on a paper bag and dry them overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 160 – 170 degrees F
  • Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes

You can add seasoning like garlic powder, onion powder or salt and pepper for extra flavor.

By baking at a low temperature, you are more likely to preserve the essential oils and get all the health benefits of your pumpkin seeds.  You can add your seeds to your favorite salads, sprinkle in your soup or chili, add to your sautéed veggies or just eat them as is.

Pumpkin can be used for breakfast too!

What in the world is a Persimmon?

What in the world is a Persimmon?

Dating to ancient China, this orange-red fruit made its U.S. debut in the 1880s after being introduced in Washington, D.C. Today, California produces hundreds of persimmon varieties.

Is it healthy?: A medium-sized persimmon contains 120 calories and is a good source of fiber and vitamins A and K.

Selecting YOUR Persimmon: Select persimmons that are plump with smooth, unblemished skin and eat ripe ones immediately.

Storing: Store unripe persimmons at room temperature in a paper bag with an apple or banana to ripen. Or briefly store ripe persimmons in the refrigerator.

How do I use them?: With persimmons’ sweet flavor, they make a great addition to desserts. Try a persimmon cheesecake or a traditional persimmon pudding.

Persimmons look similar to tiny tomatoes, until you slice them open!

Here are five ways to eat persimmons:

  1. In a salad. Despite originating thousands of miles apart, persimmons (from East Asia) and pomegranates (from the Middle East) harmonize nicely—both flavor-wise and visually—in a fall/winter fruit salad. For an even more colorful (and very nutritious) dish, toss them with sliced red cabbage, Romaine lettuce, Asian pear, hazelnuts and Gorgonzola cheese, as in the Rainbow Chopped Salad from Epicurious.
  2. As a condiment or accompaniment. Organic Authority suggests serving a fresh persimmon salsa with grilled fish or chicken. Or it can be cooked into a spicy chutney with apples and raisins. Firm fuyus can also be sliced and roasted to be served as a sweet/savory side dish, as in this recipe from About.com.
  3. Dried. Dried persimmons are a popular treat in Japan where they are made through a labor-intensive process you’re unlikely to want to replicate at home. But even the shortcut method you can make in your oven—like this recipe from Martha Stewart—produces a yummy snack.
  4. In a drink. Imbibe magazine’s recipe for a persimmon margarita rimmed with cinnamon salt is a novel twist on one of my favorite cocktails. On the nonalcoholic side, 101 Asian Recipes explains how to make a Korean persimmon tea.
  5. In dessert. Nicole of Pinch My Salt shares her grandma’s recipe for sweet, moist persimmon cookies. And you can try a delicious-looking fuyu persimmon, pear and walnut rolled tart.

Sweet Sweet Potato Season!

Sweet Sweet Potato Season!

Sweet potatoes are a Native American super food that are nutrient-packed plants with orange or yellow flesh. They’re named for their sweet flavor caused by an enzyme that converts the potato’s starched into sugar.

Can you believe that a ½ cup serving of sweet potatoes has 90 calories and is an excellent source of beta-carotene vitamins A and C.

HOW TO CHOOSE: Select sweet potatoes that are firm and smooth and avoid ones with bruises or cracks. Also avoid choosing from a refrigerated display as the cool air can change the flavor.

HOW TO STORE: Store your sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place just like regular potatoes. Use room temperature sweet potatoes within a week.

HOW TO USE: Whenever possible cook sweet potatoes whole to retain the nutrients before peeling. Serve in place of baked potatoes or get creative with a recipe such as sweet potato pancakes.

Now, I know that everyone loves pumpkin pie around this time of year but, how about opting out that pumpkin for sweet potatoes?

Though traditionally considered a Southern or ethnic dish, particularly in African-American and Latino households, sweet potato pie is gaining traction as a Thanksgiving side.

One of the reasons sweet potato pie is offered as a pumpkin pie substitute is that the pies are similar in color and use mostly the same ingredients. The main difference is texture and taste.

What a sweet potato looks like when sliced open

 

SWEET POTATO FACTS

  • Sweet potatoes are not yams. They’re not even related.
  • Sweet potatoes originally hail from Africa.
  • Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamins A and C and other nutrients.

 

NUTRITIONAL BREAKDOWN

Here’s a breakdown for a 1/8 slice of a 9-inch pie:

  • Calories: Pumpkin pie — 316; Sweet potato pie — 340
  • Protein: Pumpkin —7 grams; Sweet potato — 5 grams
  • Fat: Pumpkin —14 grams; Sweet potato —16 grams
  • Cholesterol: Pumpkin — 25 mg; Sweet potato — 20 mg

 

KEEP IN MIND

While the fat and cholesterol levels are about the same, depending on the recipe you use and whether it is homemade or commercial, the calories and other nutrients can vary widely.

Pie Crust

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in water until mixture forms a ball. Divide dough in half, and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight
  • Roll out dough on a floured counter. Don’t overwork it.

Filling

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (roasted) or 1 small roasted long-neck pumpkin (press excess liquid). You will need about 1.5 cups of potato or pumpkin puree.
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

  • Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 400 degrees.
  • Place puree in large bowl.
  • Whisk in brown sugar and next 4 ingredients.
  • Transfer filling to crust.
  • Bake pie until filling is puffed around edges and set in center, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool. Can be made a day ahead. Cover, refrigerate

    Home-cooked sweet potato pie

Swiss Chard You Say?

Swiss Chard You Say?

One of the most nutritious vegetable options out there, Swiss chard is also one of the most ignored. Its flavor, similar to beets, usually holds equal parts sweet and bitter.

NUTRITION: At 15 calories per half-cup serving, Swiss chard packs one heck of a healthy punch with vitamins K, A and C and phytonutrients.

HOW TO CHOOSE: Always buy Swiss chard from refrigerated displays to ensure freshness. You want to choose vivid green leaves with no signs of wilting.

HOW TO STORE: Don’t rinse Swiss chard before storing because it will lead to spoilage. Tightly wrap it in a plastic storage bag and keep it in the refrigerator where it can stay fresh for up to five days.

HOW TO USE: This is one of the few veggies that you can boil without losing nutrients, and it brings out a sweeter taste. To serve, toss with your favorite dressing.

Healthy Swiss Chard just picked!

While Swiss chard is a great vegetable to eat raw in salads and sandwiches, this versatile and nutrient-concentrated vegetable can serve as a great addition to most any cooked recipe. Yet, like with all foods it is important to consider how cooking can affect its nutrient content, taste, texture and color, so that you can insure that you are receiving the very best that this leafy green vegetable has to offer every time you eat it. While there are limited research studies on how to cook Swiss chard to maintain its optimal nutritional value, published studies all support what we emphasize on the World’s Healthiest Foods website: short cooking times are the best.

Nutrients in Swiss chard

Swiss chard is a power food, a storehouse of many different vitamins, minerals and nutrients. In fact, based upon the nutrient rating system we developed at the World’s Healthiest Foods, Swiss chard is an excellent source of 9 nutrients, a very good source of 7 nutrients and a good source of 7 nutrients. Swiss chard is a nutrition star!(link to either Food Rating Table or Nutritional Profile for chard).

As a member of the goosefoot family of plants (also called the chenopod family), Swiss chard is in the company of and beets (which originally and still grow wild around parts of the Mediterranean), quinoa (which originated in the valleys of the Andes and was a staple food for the Inca civilization) and spinach). Chard’s unique heritage as a member of the goosefoot family is one of the reasons it is so valuable nutritionally.

Short term cooking can best retain Swiss chard’s nutrients–focus on vitamin C:

As noted above, cooking Swiss chard for minimal amounts of time is key to maximizing it nutrient profile. This is because many of the nutrients concentrated in Swiss chard are susceptible to damage from heat and water.

Looking to the 12 nutrients for which Swiss chard is an excellent source, let’s take vitamin C as an example of how cooking may impact the nutrient content of this vegetable. Studies that have examined the impact of cooking upon vitamin C have shown that short-duration cooking (3-6 minutes) resulted in vitamin C loss of 25% or less while studies involving longer cooking times (10-20 minutes) have shown that 50% or more of the vitamin C may become lost.

How important is it to preserve this vitamin C? Consider these numbers: in one cup of chard, costing you only 35 calories, there are 32 milligrams of vitamin C. These numbers rank chard right alongside of freshly squeezed organic orange juice as a source of vitamin C! Cooking the chard for too long is like leaving half of your freshly squeezed organic orange juice sitting in the glass.

Short term cooking can best retain Swiss chard’s nutrients–focus on potassium and magnesium:

Other examples of how cooking can impact the nutrient content of Swiss chard involve the minerals in which Swiss chard is concentrated. Included in chard’s “excellent amount” category are the minerals potassium and magnesium, and both are particularly vulnerable to reductions from cooking. Even blanching for several minutes may greatly reduce the content of these minerals. Applying insights gleaned from studies focused on nutrient losses from cooked spinach, where blanching for several minutes resulted in a reduction of over 50% of potassium and approximately one-third of magnesium, we once again see how minerals are at risk for nutrient loss during cooking and how important using minimal cooking times can be.

How cooking affects oxalates in Swiss chard

Swiss chard is one of the vegetables that contain oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and in humans. Although there are a few, relatively rare health conditions that require strict oxalate restriction (hypertext to oxalate article here), for the vast majority of individuals, oxalate-containing foods should not be a health concern.

While we have not seen research on cooking, Swiss chard, and oxalates, there is some research on this topic with another chenopod family vegetable, spinach. Research has shown that the boiling of spinach in large amounts of water helps decrease the oxalic acid content by as much as 50%.

Maintaining vibrant color

While the rich colors of Swiss chard can be attributed to a host of different phytonutrients, chlorophyll is a major contributor to its rich green color. Chlorophyll contributes a green color to vegetables and plants since it reflects sunlight at exact appropriate wavelengths for our eyes to detect them as green.

Prolonged cooking results in a dramatic loss of chlorophyll. Excessive heating results in the removal of the magnesium from the center of the chlorophyll molecule causing it to turn into a molecule called pheophytin, which results in a noticeable change in color from from bright green to olive-gray. Therefore, to maintain the vibrant green color of Swiss chard and the potential health benefits supplied by the chlorophyll phytonutrients it is important to cook it for minimal amounts of time.

In the world of processed food, you can never trust your senses to tell you whether a food is nutritious or not. There are too many ways for a food manufacturer to trick your taste buds and your eyes. There are artificial flavors and artificial colors in the majority of non-organic, processed foods. But in the world of cooking and organically-grown food, it is amazing just how much you can trust your senses! You can depend on your taste buds and your eyes! When chard color starts to look lifeless, guess what? The chard is losing something – in this case, the magnesium found in its chlorophyll.

Enhanced taste and texture

One of the reasons that many people don’t like green leafy vegetables is that they equate these foods with a soggy, limp texture that also can contribute to a taste profile that is compromised. Yet, this texture and taste are not inherent to the vegetables themselves but are caused by the overcooking that the vegetable has experienced either in the home or in a restaurant. Therefore, by only cooking Swiss chard for only a few minutes as opposed to a longer period of time, you will not only be able to enjoy the nutrients inherent in this vegetable, but its great taste and texture.

Once again, your senses can be your guide here. If you had a plant at home, or in your garden, and it started looking limp, you would automatically think that it had either too much water, too little water, or had been exposed to too much sun. Assume the same thing about the the chard you are preparing: too much heat, too much contact with boiling water or steam and you’ll observe the exact same consequence.

Practical tips

To maximize the content of the nutrients of which Swiss chard is concentrated, quickly cook this leafy green vegetable, covering the pot or pan. Steaming for 2-3 minutes is the method we highly suggest. Not only will this method help to retain nutrient content, but will provide you with a vegetable bursting with taste, great texture and bright color.

Swiss Chard growing in the garden!