Friday, July 6, 2012

Patriotic Plates: Red, White and Blue Nutrition

Show your colors for healthful eating

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the nation's colors fly high over Independence Day-inspired menus, let's take a look at how red, white and blue can help create a healthy plate.
The natural pigments in foods are colorful clues to the nutrients within. Called "phytochemicals," these compounds found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and other plants provide a parade of protective effects such as curbing cancer, supporting immune function and improving heart, skin, brain and eye health. To tap into the benefits of this wonderful world of color, eat a variety of foods in every shade of the rainbow.
In Michelle Obama's new book, "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," the first lady writes that encouraging Americans to eat more fresh produce is one of the main reasons she planted her vegetable garden. So, from the South Lawn of the White House to acres of growing foods for markets and restaurants across the Southeastern U.S., let's taste the benefits of eating more reds, whites and blues.
Ravishing reds
Red fruits and vegetables contain the natural plant pigments lycopene and anthocyanin. Lycopene, which can be found in tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon and pink grapefruit, is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. Adding a little fat, such as olive oil, to a fresh tomato salad helps the absorption of lycopene and betacarotene. Anthocyanins in red fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy and act as antioxidants.
  • Beets

  • Cherries

  • Cranberries

  • Pink grapefruit

  • Pomegranates
  • Radishes
  • Raspberries

  • Red apples

  • Red cabbage

  • Red grapes

  • Red peppers

  • Red potatoes

  • Rhubarb

  • Strawberries

  • Tomatoes

  • Watermelon
Wonderful whites
Forget the simplistic advice to "avoid all white foods." White vegetables such as onions and garlic contain the chemical allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and may help reduce risk of stomach cancer. Bananas and potatoes are good sources of potassium. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and the phytonutrient quercetin.
  • Bananas

  • Cauliflower

  • Garlic

  • Ginger

  • Jicama

  • Mushrooms

  • Onions

  • Parsnips

  • Potatoes

  • Turnips
Other great whites
The white color of milk comes from the protein casein. White fish is good for you, too. While salmon and tuna get the big billing when it comes to nutrition because they contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats, white fish such as flounder, grouper, halibut and snapper are lower in total fat and are a great source of lean protein.
The red snapper with an aromatic herb and citrus broth served at the Optimist in west Midtown is a delicious and nutritious preparation. Enjoy it with a glass of white wine for added benefits. Red wine may have gotten the initial attention, but white wines contain heart-healthy effects, too, because it's the alcohol content that seems to provide the protective punch.
Refined white flour may lack the dietary fiber found in whole-wheat flour, but if it's enriched, you're consuming more of other nutrients such as folic acid, which is important for heart health and prevention of birth defects. That's why nutritionists say "make half your grains whole." So if you like white bread with barbecued pork, that's fine as long as you enjoy turkey on whole-wheat bread another time. Enriched white rice contains more folic acid than brown rice.
Brilliant blues
Blue-colored anthocyanin pigments in blueberries, blackberries, grapes, eggplant and raisins act as powerful antioxidants and may help reduce risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Other studies have shown that eating more blue foods or beverages made with them is linked with improved memory function and healthy aging.
  • Blackberries

  • Blueberries

  • Eggplant
  • Grapes

  • Plums
Carolyn O'Neil is a registered dietitian and co-author of "The Dish on Eating Healthy and Being Fabulous!" Email her at

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Old Notes from Italy

After so many 100 plus days, the rain, the thunder and the lightning began just as I was getting ready to load a cooler with drinks and head over to the country club to watch the traditional "secret" July 3rd Fireworks. I went upstairs to reconsider what I was going to wear - now that the grass will be damp and even muddy - and I stopped to look out of the window in the upper hallway. On the table are piles of my old journals. I picked up the first one and began to read.......

Cortona May 12, 1999
The roads are winding us down the hill as we leave Cortona heading for Sienna. I have been to the house written about in the book, Under the Tuscan Sun. Bramesole is the name which means yearning for the sun. I yearn for my house and the time to make it more beautiful and more like the houses I've seen today in Cortona.

Volpaia May 15, 1999
The view from my room is of a hillside dotted with silvery green olive trees reaching up to meet another slope of the long lines planted as vineyard. At the top of the hills sits a medieval village- Volpaia- with its 11th century stone tower and connected squares and roofs of houses and shops surrounding. It seems there is one of these clock tower stone villages every few miles in the distance and this morning, Sunday, the bells rang from all directions echoing the sound of Italy. We have seen fields dotted with poppies, roses huge and heavy climbing on so many walls. The colors of nature are abundant and are refreshingly free to ramble. Small flowering plants emerge from holes in the stone walls of houses or just from walls along the street. It makes me realize that we are too neat and tidy in our idea of gardens at home. Why kill the small violets and daisies in our lawns so the grass is perfect when the mix of nature is so pleasing and relaxed?
I hear the bells again. No particular time to mark - it's 10:45 am and some church somewhere is chiming now. The tall cedars are so stately and graceful at the same time. Planted in rows to punctuate the landscape.

May 19, 1999

We are finished with our shooting and today is a relaxed dream day of rest. We are staying at another lovely small hotel, Le Piazza near Castellina in Chianti. My room has a view of another Tuscan valley rolling green, many tones of green. The grounds are so pretty with huge burst of yellow broom and rows of pink roses. The air is perfumed with the honeysuckle that climbs on stone walls.
The hotel is constructed from another old stone farmhouse. Terra cotta tiles and grey stone are the dominant colors of all the buildings here. The walls are white and the furniture dark wood. Here the owner has decorated with Ralph Lauren floral fabrics and chests and tables from Indonesia. It's comfortable in a historically layered European way.
Crissy left at 10:30am today in a Mercedes driven by a hired driver to take her to the airport in Florence.
Ric and Chris, the photographer and sound man, left in the white nine seat van we've been driving around in all week. They are off to meet another CNN reporter who will do a story in Umbria then on to Venice.
I am exhausted but happy I came. I'm happy to have experienced this kind of beauty. I hope I can remember the details
We'll see how much can be reproduced at home.

May 20, 1999 Thursday. Firenze!

I haven't been here since I wandered the streets with Suzy and Leslie in 1976. Now I'm here with Jennifer and Jon. We've done a toast to our friendship. I want to remember the dishes - braised endive with smoked cheese and tomato on top.

I wish there was more......but that's the end.

Note: I was traveling with CNN as senior correspondent, anchor of CNN Travel Now and we joined Lydia Bastianich who was with a group of American food lovers on a culinary tour of Tuscany.
Shall I post the CNN Travel Now show on my You Tube channel?

I regret not writing more in my journals while on trips with CNN - they kept us kind of busy.