Fruit Vs. Starch: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Food for Thought: Papaya
Referred to as the “fruit of the angels”, papaya is a tropical fruit that grows locally in warm, tropical climates such as Hawaii, Florida, Southern Mexico, Central America. They can be found in markets throughout the states mostly during the late summer, fall, and winter months. The two most popular varieties of papaya include Mexican and Hawaiian.
Papaya has a sweet and rich orange/pink flesh with edible black round seeds. The outer skin will vary in color from green to yellow, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Papaya flesh contains ample amounts of papain, a digestive enzyme that aids in the breakdown of protein, complex carbohydrate (starch), and fats.
Nutritionally, papaya is low in calories and fat, but dense in a wide array of vitamins and minerals, as well as soluble fiber and antioxidants. The most abundant micronutrients contained within the papaya fruit are vitamin C, vitamin A (beta carotene), folate, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Regular papaya consumption can promote cardiovascular health, colon protection, digestive health, bone health, eye support, anti-inflammatory benefits, and immune support. Studies have all indicated that the dense antioxidant content of papaya can prevent free radical damage, especially in the instance of high cholesterol, inflammation, macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis, and colon cancer.
Papaya has the highest nutritional value and antioxidant content when fully ripened. To chose a ripe papaya, look for reddish-orange skin that is slightly soft to the touch. Avoid fruit that is bruised or overly soft; black spots are OK. Yellow skinned papayas should be left to ripen at room temperature for a few days. Ripe papayas should be eaten ASAP or refrigerated to slow enzyme activity.
Papaya is a great fruit to eat by itself for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack. It can be prepared just like a melon; cut papaya in half length wise, scoop out the seeds, and enjoy with a spoon. It also makes a great addition to smoothies, salads, seafood entrees, and salsa.
I personally enjoy dehydrated papaya, which can be purchased from Nuts Online or at select health food stores (go for the natural, unsulfured, no sugar added variety).
What is your favorite way to eat papaya?!?!
Disclaimer: Individuals with a latex allergy should avoid the consumption of papaya, as well as other latex fruits (avocado, banana). Check with a doctor if you feel you might have a latex allergy before consuming papaya.
Food for Thought: Dates!
Dates are succulent, dessert like sweet fruits that grow in clusters on date palm trees in dry, hot climates. While most people are only familiar with the medjool and deglet noor date varieties found at grocery stores, there are several in existence, each with their own unique flavor and texture, including khadrawy, halawy, honey, zahidi, peanut butter, and barhi.
Fresh vs. Dry Dates
These other date varieties are usually only available straight from the farm or at a market nearby, but it certainly pays off to give them a try. Typically, the dates available at grocery stores are months to years old, which is easily noted by their dryness and chewy texture. On the contrary, fresh dates are moist, rich, and "melt in your mouth". Fresh dates can have a higher nutrient profile (compared to dry) due to their intact water content and also digest the best.
All dates are nutrient and energy powerhouses. They are great sources of sugar, fiber, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6. Dates are also sodium, fat, and cholesterol free, making them great alternatives for dessert recipes. Energy wise, medjools dates pack the most calories, coming in at 66 calories/date, with the smaller varieties like deglet noor, honey, khadrawy, and zahidi averaging 20-30 calories/date. Contrary to popular belief, dates are a healthy, slimming food due to their immense nutrient profile and zero fat content, making them a great choice for those who wish to lose weight or have diabetes.
It is believed that dates have been cultivated for 50 million years, getting their start in the Middle East. Currently, date palms can be found growing in SW. Asia, N. Africa, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and parts of the United States such as southern California, Arizona, and southern Florida. Date season in the US runs from mid to late August through the end of September.
Selection, Storage, and Consumption
When selecting dates, opt for plump, moist dates and check the container for a packing date. The fresher the dates, the better the taste, texture, and nutrient profile. When fresh dates are not available, dry dates can be pitted and soaked overnight. If you're up for giving fresh-from-the-farm dates a try, check out Bautista Organic Date Ranch: http://7hotdates.com/.
Because dates are lower in water content than most fruits, they can be stored for longer. It's best to store dates in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain their quality and freshness, but they can also be stored in a dry, cool cabinet as well.
Dates are great eaten as is, used as a sugar replacement, or to recreate a dessert altogether. Before consumption, be sure to remove the pit inside of the date, top stem, and check for black "dirt" (which is actually bug poop). If you happen to bite into a date containing black "dirt", it will taste bitter and gritty, but don't fret because it isn't toxic! Dates are one of the best fruits to take along while traveling, camping, or hiking and can be enjoyed by people of all age groups.
Recipe: Date Fudge Balls
10-20 pitted medjool dates
1/4-1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup of water
Food Processor or Blender (high speed)
Small cup/bowl/container for coconut sugar
Flat plate/platter/container for finished date fudge balls
Process pitted dates in food processor or blender until "date batter" forms (dates will be molded/formed together). If dates are dry, use tiny bit of water when processing to get them to stick. Take a chunk of date batter out with a spoon or *clean* hands and roll into a bite size ball. Dip hands in water to avoid date paste from sticking. Once date ball is formed, place into container of coconut sugar and roll around until all surfaces of the date ball are covered in a fine layer of coconut sugar. Place finished date ball onto a plate/platter/container. Finish rolling date balls until all the date batter is used up.
Once completed, serve as is, or place date fudge balls in the freezer for 1-2 hours for a chilled, fudgy treat! Date fudge balls are great eaten by themselves, served with fresh fruit, or on top of banana ice cream! Store un-eaten date fudge balls in refrigerator or freezer for later use.
Food for Thought: Bananas!
One of the most popular, top selling produce items at every grocery store is the banana! This tropical, yellow curved fruit is a staple item in most diets due to its immaculate nutritional profile and sweet, creamy taste!
Bananas are nutritional powerhouses, containing every essential nutrient required for human health (except vitamin D). A single medium banana contains 105 calories, 1.3 grams of protein, 27.0 grams of carbohydrates, 3.1 grams of fiber, and 0.4 grams of fat. Packed within that same banana is a whopping 422 mg of potassium, B complex vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and all essential amino acids. Bananas are also an excellent source of soluble fiber and prebiotics, easing digestion and providing nourishment to the probiotic bacteria of the colon. When combined with a low fat, plant-based diet, regular banana consumption can contribute to weight management (fat loss), electrolyte balance, improved digestion, protection against chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, cancer), blood sugar regulation, increased energy levels, and improved immune function.
Bananas thrive in tropical locations, and can be found growing in areas such as Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Several varieties of bananas exist including the cavendish (most popular), red banana, lady finger, and plantain.
When selecting bananas, choose ones that are free of any blemishes, bruises, or mold. Most bananas are going to be unripe at the store and will need time to ripen prior to consumption. Unripe bananas are mostly starch, lacking both the nutritional and digestive benefits aid truly ripe bananas. Ripe (cavendish) bananas are uniformly yellow with brown spots, and tear easily from the stem. The more spots a ripe banana contains, the more TNF-alpha (a tumor-suppressing compound) that banana will contain! Unripe bananas can be stored in a plastic or brown paper bag, closet, or pantry to increase ripening time. Typically it takes about 7-10 days for store bought green/yellow bananas to completely ripen.
Once your bananas are ripe, they are perfect for eating or freezing for later use. For freezing, unpeel banans, break into quarters and place in a plastic baggie or container. Bananas make great bases for smoothies, milk (banana/s blended with water), and other desserts including pies, pudding, cakes, muffins, ice cream, and fruit salads. Mashed banana also makes an excellent food choice for infants, toddlers, or those with compromised digestion.
Many on a low fat, plant-based diet make bananas a staple food due to their accessibility and low cost. A great tip for success is to get a 40 lb. box (standard shipping size) of bananas each week. This will ensure that you will always have ripe bananas available and ready to eat! Call ahead to see if your grocer offers wholesale prices on bulk banana buys :)
Eat bananas for vitality, health, and longevity!
Recipe: Soft Serve Berry Banana Ice Cream
3 or more frozen bananas
1/2 cup water (use more if needed)
1 cup frozen berries (optional)
fresh berries (topping, optional)
Food Processor or High Speed Blender
Place frozen bananas in Food Processor or High Speed Blender. Add water and blend until smooth and creamy (usually takes about 5 minutes). Blend in frozen berries if desired. Once smooth and creamy (no chunks), top with fresh berries. Enjoy!
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