“Many foods commonly consumed in the U.S. are valuable sources of antioxidants. But researchers have recently ranked the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods and found strawberries to be quite exceptional. When total antioxidant capacity was measured against a uniform amount of food (100 grams, or about 3.5 ounces), strawberries ranked 27th best among U.S. foods. In addition, when only fruits were considered, strawberries came out 4th among all fruits (behind blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries).

However, since many foods (for example, spices and seasonings) are seldom consumed in amounts as large as 3.5 ounces, researchers also looked at common serving sizes for all foods and their total antioxidant capacity. In this evaluation based on common serving sizes, strawberries came out 3rd among all U.S. foods including spices, seasonings, fruits, and vegetables! (In this analysis based on serving size, only blackberries and walnuts scored higher in total antioxidant capacity.) When we hear the word “strawberry,” we might think about a very commonplace fruit. But the antioxidant capacity of strawberry is anything but common!”

(Excerpts from The World’s Healthiest Foods

Erica Vaughn
Produce Manager

photo credit: *clairity* via photo pin cc

Calcium Squares and Calcium Milk

In the last year I have broken or cracked bones in my right toe, left foot, and right rib.  Menopause kicked in full gear last summer and realizing the results of weakening bones, I decided, among other things, to find ways to include more calcium into my diet.

Based on my stature, weight, and age, I figured I needed about 1000 mg of calcium per day. So I did some research on all the plant foods highest in calcium.  Here are my findings:

White Beans 889mg (per 100g); Sesame Seeds 980mg (per 100g); Chia Seeds  400mg (per 100g); Black-strap Molasses 344mg (2 Tbsp); Almonds 248mg  (per 100g); Flax Seeds 160mg (per 100g); Qiunoa 80mg (1 cup cooked); Dried Figs 160mg (6 figs); Orange Juice 72mg (1 cup); Broccoli 74mg (1 cup cooked); Spinach 56mg (1 cup cooked).

Taking some of the items in the list above, I came up with a recipe for Calcium Squares.  None of the ingredients in this recipe are found in the produce department, but all the ingredients can be found in the Co-op.  One batch of this recipe contains a whopping 980mg of calcium and each small square holds   122 mg of calcium.  These may be a little “strong” for some, but my husband and I love these little extra treats of nourishment.  Give them a try and see what you think!

Erica’s Calcium Squares

1/3 cup sesame seeds, finely ground
1/3 cup almonds, finely ground
1 Tbsp chia seeds, finely ground
5 dried figs
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses

1. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
2. Form into 8 balls or squares.
3. Store in the refrigerator.

If the recipe above is too strong or heavy for you, try the calcium milk recipe below:

Erica’s Calcium Milk (contains 610mg calcium)
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp almonds
1 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 cups water

1. Blend 1 cup water with the seeds, nuts, and molasses in blender until smooth.
2. Add second cup of water and blend well.
3. Strain through a bread towel for a really smooth drink.

For a shake and more fiber, just don’t strain the mixture; add a banana, figs or other fruit while blending in the last cup of water!  This recipe contains 610mg of calcium or 305mg of calcium per cup!  So, between the Calcium Squares, Calcium Milk, and other plant foods, I am now getting all the calcium my body needs!  And it’s all YUMMY!

Erica Vaughn, Produce Manager

Romaine Lettuce

“Most varieties of lettuce exude small amounts of a white, milky liquid when their leaves are broken, and gives lettuce its slightly bitter flavor and its scientific name, Lactuca sativa, derived from the Latin word for milk.

Romaine’s vitamin C and beta-carotene content make it a heart-healthy green. Vitamin C and beta-carotene work together to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. When cholesterol becomes oxidized, it becomes sticky and starts to build up in the artery walls forming plaques. If these plaques become too large, they can block off blood flow or break, causing a clot that triggers a heart attack or stroke. The fiber in Romaine lettuce adds another plus in its column of heart-healthy effects. In the colon, fiber binds to bile salts and removes them from the body. This forces the body to make more bile, which is helpful because it must break down cholesterol to do so. This is just one way in which fiber is able to lower high cholesterol levels.

Equally beneficial to heart health is Romaine’s folic acid content. This B vitamin is needed by the body to convert a damaging chemical called homocysteine into other, benign substances. If not converted, homocysteine can directly damage blood vessels, thus greatly increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, romaine lettuce is a very good source of potassium, which has been shown in numerous studies to be useful in lowering high blood pressure, another risk factor for heart disease. With its folic acid, vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber content, romaine lettuce can significantly contribute to a heart-healthy diet.”

Erica Vaughn, Produce Manager

Excerpts from: The World’s Healthiest Foods,
photo credit: julescatering via photopin cc

The Pleasing Produce Department

In the middle of winter when nothing is growing outside…especially nothing green, it is so inviting to go to the Produce Department at Baker Food Co-op.  The décor is inviting and makes a person think ‘spring and green’ when they shop.

One of the Co-op’s newest working members was overheard saying, “I just love to get my produce here.  It’s so fresh…and tastes so good.”  Another ‘plus’ is that it hasn’t been under a water-spray bath for long periods of time.

There is a great amount of work involved in the Produce Department.  On the average each week, 7-8 Working Members have a part in keeping the department looking good and the produce tasting great!  That number varies from month to month, season to season and year to year.

Well before produce arrives, it must be ordered.  Tuesday is delivery day and most of the Working Members come to unload freight, wash, package and display the produce.  Others come any time during the week to clean refrigerators, sweep and mop the floors, restock produce, update forms, record produce losses, create and mark price tags and research information that shoppers need.

These produce ‘worker bees’ have a lot of fun while they work.  One of the members has said, “If I had to brag about the Produce Department, I would brag about the ‘vibe’ or ‘spirit’ of the people working there. When they get together they are…well…happy! And you can’t help but get infected by their light-heartedness.  That happy influence stays with me for the rest of the day.”

By Susie Busch – For Erica Vaughn, Produce Manager 

More Than Skin Deep

Winter squash is a very starchy vegetable – about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. However, recent research has made it clear that all starch is not the same and the starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins – specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.

 Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds. By roasting the seeds for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Place the seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170 F in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

~~Erica Vaughn, Produce Manager

Excerpts from The World’s Healthiest Foods: Squash, Winter and Golden Squash Soup.

photo credit: Ed Gaillard