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Need a Good Night's Sleep? Try These Bedtime Snacks

Written by Lisa Jillanza

A good night's rest is good for your overall well-being and is also helpful in keeping a youthful appearance and will make you feel younger too. So which foods should you snack on if you're finding it hard to get to sleep and counting sheep just isn't working?

According MSNBC.com, among the best natural sedatives is tryptophan. One of the ingredients necessary for the body to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter best known for creating feelings of calm, and for making you sleepy.

Experts suggest the following snacks to induce “feel-good relaxation chemicals” thereby calming your nerves and slowing your brain towards relaxation:

Non fat popcorn Oatmeal with sliced bananas One cup of plain yogurt with mixed nuts or granola Sesame seeds Pretzels Low fat vanilla pudding Grapes Healthy cereal with skim milk Low-fat granola bar

It's also suggested that bedtime snacks not exceed more than 200 calories

So next time you're tossing and turning opt for any of the snacks above to achieve a peaceful night's sleep that you need and deserve. Good night!

Eat your Leafy Greens! The Health Benefits of Spinach

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Ever since we saw Popeye take out that can of spinach to make himself super strong, we have known about the nutritional benefits of spinach. But there are plenty of other benefits of spinach that maybe even Popeye was not aware of.

Leafy, green vegetables, like spinach, provide more nutrients than any other food. Researchers have found at least 13 different flavonoid compounds in spinach that have been known to act as antioxidants and as anti-cancer agents.

According to MSNBC, spinach protects against eye disease and vision loss and is also good for brain function. It guards against colon, prostate, and breast cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, and dementia. It lowers blood pressure; is an anti-inflammatory; and is great for bone health.

Spinach has an amazing array of nutrients, including high amounts of vitamin K, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and iron. In addition, a carotenoid found in spinach not only kills prostate cancer cells, it also prevents them from multiplying. Folate promotes vascular health and has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers and to help stop uncontrolled cell growth, one of the primary characteristics of all cancers.

The vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach protect against colon cancer in addition to fighting inflammation, making them key components of brain health, particularly in older adults. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K and is also rich in lutein, which protects against age-related macular degeneration, and it may help prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol buildup.

With this laundry list of health benefits, it's no wonder why fresh spinach should be a daily staple in your diet. It's easy to find year-round so do yourself a healthy favor and aim for a few ounces, raw or steamed, every day. Cooked spinach is a great source of iron, and is totally fat free.

So maybe Popeye was really onto something,

 

You Say Tomato...Unique Facts Regarding this Remarkable Food

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Until the 1800s, tomatoes were considered toxic, but since then tomatoes have been a staple of many people's diet, and rightfully so , whether you consider it a vegetable or a fruit, it is very beneficial.

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. In addition as a source of fiber, one medium tomato equals one slice of whole wheat bread with only 35 calories.

According to Homecooking.about.com, Lycopene, a dietary carotenoid found in high concentrations in tomatoes as well as processed tomato products, including ketchup and canned tomato products, is what gives tomatoes their red pigment. It is an antioxidant which purportedly fights the free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth and activity. These free radicals can potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging.

A recent study has also shown that men who eat at least 10 servings of tomatoes a week can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by a whopping 45 percent.

The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma's gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten. A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous (although the leaves are poisonous) by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit.

The French referred to the tomato as pommes d'amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties. Centuries later in 1897, soup mogul Joseph Campbell came out with condensed tomato soup, a move that set the company on the road to wealth as well as further endearing the tomato to the general public.

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes in an array of shapes, colors and sizes. The most common shapes are round (Beefsteak and globe), pear-shaped (Roma) and the tiny cherry-sized (Cherry and Grape). Yellow varieties tend to be less acidic and thus less flavorful than their red counterparts. In the United States today, tomatoes are second in consumption only to potatoes.

When choosing the perfect tomato, use your nose. Smell the blossom (not the stem) end. The most flavorful ones will have a rich tomato aroma. Also be sure to choose one with a brilliant shade of red, as those tomatoes contain more betacarotene and lycopene giving you the most vitamins and minerals. Store fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool dark place, making sure it's stem-side down and use within a few days.

Foods that Boost Metabolism and Help Lose Weight

Written by Lisa Jillanza

It may be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there are plenty of foods out there that are beneficial to you in more ways than one : including speeding up your metabolism.

According to MSNBC, metabolism is the process by which your body converts calories from food into energy. It is the body's engine that burns calories and regulates your caloric needs. The foods you eat play a major role in the way your body metabolizes fat. Some foods contain certain ingredients that help to burn calories more quickly, while also giving you other vital fuels that you need to increase energy levels, and prevent diseases later in life. There are also certain foods that require more calories to digest than the food actually contains, which can essentially speed up your metabolism.

Below are a few food suggestions provided by Ehow.com that can boost metabolism and encourage weight loss.

Spicy Foods- An interesting and effective way to boost your metabolism is to eat spicy foods. Spicy foods and spices, such as chili peppers and jalapeno peppers, contain the chemical capsaicin, which is what gives these foods their heat. Capsaicin increases and quickens adrenaline production in the body, which speeds up your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Try eating spicy salsa, which gives you a lot of flavor without a lot of calories.

Carbs & Protein- Eating snacks that contain healthy carbohydrates and proteins will help boost energy and fill you up, so you can avoid overeating during meals. Eating these types of snacks in small portions will keep your metabolism going throughout the day, burning fat and increasing energy. Try snacking on peanut butter with a sliced banana, and apples dipped in peanut butter or paired with a few slices of cheddar cheese.

Green Tea- Green tea contains large amounts of the powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. The oxidation process that occurs in green tea helps break down fat more quickly, while also helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. EGCG also promotes faster workings in the brain and nervous system, so the body burns more calories. If you don't like to drink green tea, they also sell caplets in health food stores.

B Vitamins- B vitamins have major benefits for many parts of the body: the central nervous system, metabolism and the production of energy. A vitamin B deficiency will cause your metabolism to slow down, your mood to become depressed and your body to feel tired and sluggish. B6, B12, thiamine, folate and niacin play major roles in the healthy function of your body. Snack on foods such as spinach, broccoli and asparagus; navy, soy and black beans; and melon, fish, poultry and eggs. In order to work these into your day, snack on cut-up honeydew or cantaloupe, a hard-boiled egg, a few pieces of sushi, or tortilla chips and a mixed bean dip.

Magnesium- Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in more than 300 chemical reactions in your body and contributes greatly to the synthesis of protein and metabolism. It also assists in proper nerve, heart and muscle function. To increase your levels of metabolism, eat green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli; soybeans such as edamame; nuts, such as almonds, cashews and peanuts; and whole grain cereals, including oatmeal.

Summer Salads: Keep your Lettuce Fresher for Longer!

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Now that summer is in full bloom, families will be turning to salads as their meal of choice when the temperature gets too hot to cook. But oftentimes, as soon as you go to reach for your favorite green leafy vegetable you realize that it has gone bad too soon.

Use these helpful tips to keep your lettuce fresher for a longer period of time and you'll be enjoying your salads all summer long:

First of all, it's important to purchase the freshest lettuce that you can to ensure that it lasts as long possible. Look for crisp leaves that are free of browning edges and rust spots. Check out your local farmer's market to browse the freshest fruits and vegetables around.

According to Stellaskitchen.com if you buy iceberg lettuce wrap it in a moist paper towel as soon as you get home and place it in a plastic bag before storing it in the refrigerator.

In regards to leafy lettuce greens like romaine, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, you can follow the same process. However, it is better to remove leafy greens from their plastic bag and pat the leaves dry with a paper towel before storing them if they are wet from the produce sprayer at the store. Squeeze the water out from the paper towel and wrap the lettuce up. Place the wrapped head of lettuce back in the bag and in the produce drawer.

Utilize containers that have special holes for specific vegetables (Tupperware's Fridgesmart is a great one for lettuce!)

Utilize air-tight plastic bags to store your lettuce in instead of the plastic bags you purchase the head in at the store.

Try to avoid bagged lettuce as it has already been preserved and is well on its way to spoiling.

Avoid metal pans to store your lettuce; this also speeds up the spoiling process.

Utilize your refrigerator's crisper as it truly does help to keep vegetables, like lettuce, crisper and therefore fresher.

Make sure to store your lettuce in your produce drawer with plenty of breathing room. Leaves can be easily bruised if you have lots of other veggies crammed in with the lettuce.

Here's another tip from Stellaskitchen.com regarding storing leftover salad- lay a damp paper towel over the top of the salad and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid.

By following these simple tips you'll be able to enjoy fresh, light summer salads all season long without having to worry about your leafy greens being soggy or brown.