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Food for Thought: Increasing Magnesium Intake to Lower Blood Pressure

Written by Lisa Jillanza

A recent study shows that magnesium deficiency has become rampant lately – almost 80% of Americans do not get enough of this precious mineral. Experts say that magnesium is just as important as calcium and iron because it improves muscle functioning, supports the immune system, and plays a major role in heart health.

Because the “silent killer” or hypertension is so high in Americans, doctors are touting the benefits of increasing your magnesium intake even more than before.

Magnesium relaxes blood vessels and improves blood flow. Anti-hypertensive medicines have the same effect on the body.

Doctors do advise that you should be wary of taking magnesium supplements though. It’s best to consult a doctor because you wouldn’t want to have a magnesium overdose which would include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat.

The best way to help increase your magnesium intake and help to lower your blood pressure would be by making some dietary changes and updates.  

You can focus on eating more of:

  • Boiled spinach
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Nuts like cashews, almonds, and peanuts
  • Black beans and peas
  • Fish
  • Prunes
  • Fruits like peaches, figs, apricots, guava, mango, bananas, and cantaloupe
  • Wild rice 

Green smoothies are also a really great way to get much needed magnesium, fiber, and other essential nutrients in your diet.

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on Sweet Potatoes

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and vitamin C.
  • The nutrients in sweet potatoes are also anti-inflammatory, which means that besides being great tasting, sweet potatoes can help reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6.

Recipe: Golden Sweet Potato Brownies 

1 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 cups peeled and finely shredded sweet potatoes

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in the shredded yam. Spread the batter evenly in the greased baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Mix together the confectioners' sugar, butter and milk until smooth. Spread over the brownies while they are still warm.

Recipe: Spicy Baked Sweet Potato Fries 

6 sweet potatoes cut into French fries

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons taco seasoning mix

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a plastic bag, combine the sweet potatoes, canola oil, taco seasoning, and cayenne pepper. Close and shake the bag until the fries are evenly coated. Spread the fries out in a single layer on two large baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until crispy and brown on one side. Turn the fries over using a spatula, and cook for another 30 minutes, or until they are all crispy on the outside and tender inside. Thinner fries may not take as long.

Food for Thought: Cut the Salt, Add the Spice

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Many people have been trying to cut the extra salt out of their diet for years, unsuccessfully. Fortunately, experts are now saying that the best way to cut the salt is to add the spice – hot spice that is!

A recent study shows that adding capsaicin – the spicy ingredient in chili peppers – can help to reduce your sodium intake.

During the study, researchers looked at the “brain scans of more than 600 people and discovered that the areas that responded to spicy and salty foods overlap—and eating spicy foods reduces salt cravings.”

Related information was just released that capsaicin is also a vasodilator—which helps lower blood pressure.

But experts say that you do not have to just eat hot peppers to reap the benefits of capsaicin. The blood pressure-lowering ingredient is found in many spices, like ground pepper, cayenne and paprika.

The study shows that “anyone with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or kidney problems should limit their sodium consumption to 1,500 mg daily.” If you have salt-sensitive high blood pressure, excess sodium is deadly. For those without these conditions, you should aim for around 2,300 mg of sodium daily.

Substituting peppers for salt in your dishes can help you cut back on sodium while infusing your food with delicious flavor… and spice!

Eating Healthy: Spotlight on: Tomatoes

Written by Lisa Jillanza
  • Besides containing 40 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, it also contains 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 8 percent of your daily value of potassium, and 7 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of iron for women and 10 percent for men.
  • Lycopene, what gives tomatoes their red pigment, acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that can damage cells in the body.
  • Studies show that men who at least eat 10 servings of tomatoes a week can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by a whopping 45 percent.

Recipe: Tomato Casserole with Sweet Onions

6 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored and cut into wedges

1 large Vidalia onion or other sweet onion

1 teaspoon fresh dill, or scant ½ teaspoon dried dillweed

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, or scant ½ teaspoon dried leaf thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil 

Place peeled tomato wedges on paper towels to drain.  Peel onions and slice into ¼-inch rings.  In separate bowl combine dill, thyme, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs.  Layer half of the tomatoes and onions in a lightly buttered baking dish and top with half of the minced garlic.  Sprinkle with half of the bread crumb and seasoning mixture, half of mozzarella cheese, and drizzle with half olive oil.  Repeat layers.  Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until bubbly.

Recipe: Corn and Black Bean Salsa

3 to 4 small ears of corn

1 can (15 to 16 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1 large tomato, seeds removed, diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

¼ cup minced red onion

2 to 3 tablespoons finely minced jalapeno or poblano pepper

Juice of one lime, about 3 tablespoons

3 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro

Dash salt and pepper, to taste 

Grill or broil corn to char slightly; let cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Cut corn from cobs and add to the mixture.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving time. 

Great alternative to sauces, and is especially tasty on grilled fish, chicken or pork!

Grilling 101: Grilling Safety

Written by Lisa Jillanza

The summer months and grilling always seem to go hand-in-hand. Because this is a popular cooking method in the summertime, experts remind us that there are ways to grill safely and to avoid cookout germs.

 

  • When handling raw meat, make sure you separate it from other foods. Wash your hands immediately after handling raw meats.
  • Throw out marinades/sauces that may have come in contact with raw meats.
  • Clean your grill and check all tools before cooking with them.
  • Use a food thermometer and check the temperatures that each meat should be cooked until (can be found using a Google search)
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking