Side Orders: Fresh fruits burst with flavors

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Our local farmers markets are beginning to bloom, filling up with deliciously fresh fruits.

According to cookbook author, pastry chef and bakery owner Lei Shishak, there’s no better way to enjoy them than in a made-from-scratch dessert, such as one featured in her recently released cookbook, “Farm to Table Desserts: 80 Seasonal, Organic Recipes Made From Your Local Farmers Market” (Skyhorse Publishing, $23).

“I started gardening in 2015 and immediately fell in love with growing my own fruits and vegetables,” she says. “I learned a lot from a neighbor who stressed the importance of growing organically. It was really this personal love of gardening that prompted me to write a book focused on farm-to-table recipes.”

But she cannot grow everything, so she frequents her nearby farmers market, and early summer is her favorite time to do so, primarily, Shishak says, for the first crop of strawberries.

“Farmers markets are such a wonderful environment,” she notes. “I love talking to the farmers directly and hearing their passion for their offerings.”

Anyone who’s visited Chattanooga Market or any other farmers market in our area knows well of which she speaks. With each visit, Shishak says, she gets motivated to create new recipes around crops grown by people who put the time and effort into raising them and bringing them to market to share.

When we shop at farmers markets, we support our local economy and consume food that’s healthier, tastier and packed with essential nutrients specific to our local environment.

“I believe that interest in healthier foods will continue in people of all ages who care about what goes into their bodies,” she says. “More areas are increasing the number of organic options available to consumers, and that healthy trend should continue as the results of eating healthier are felt by more and more people.”

She’s hard-pressed to come up with any one favorite fruit, but strawberries are among her favorites, mainly because so many of her friends and bakery customers at Sugar Blossom Bake…

Why Everything We Know About Salt May NOT Be Wrong

A recent New York Times column offered us this provocative headline: Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong. Presumably that means- it may be right, too. Hence, my counter-headline.

I think what we know mostly is right. Here’s what I think we know:

Too much salt is bad for us. That one is almost tautological, since if it weren’t bad for us, it wouldn’t be too much.

Most of us consume too much salt. Most of the salt we consume- roughly 80%- is processed into foods we didn’t prepare ourselves. Eat less of those processed foods- especially hyper-processed foods, processed meats, and fast food- and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds – and you’ll be better off for many reasons both related and unrelated to salt. Prepare meals at home from wholesome ingredients when possible and you’ll be better off. Drink plain water preferentially when thirsty- and you’ll be better off again. That’s what I think we know, and I think it’s all correct. If you like to get your punch lines and move on, our work here is done.

For the rest of you:

What we seem not to know about salt is the ideal intake level, and in particular, variations in that level based on age, health status, and genetics, among other factors. But we have long known that sodium is an essential nutrient, that we all need some, and that it’s possible to consume too much or too little. Debate about where best to draw the dividing line, and in particular whether it should be drawn in different places for different populations, is more a matter of refinement than refutation, evolution rather than revolution. It’s how science is supposed to advance.

The source of the new provocation presented to us in the Times is two research papers recently published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, one involving mice, the other ten male cosmonauts in a simulated space environment. If that sounds like a somewhat dubious start to a dismissal of decades of research involving actual human beings, in much larger numbers, and subject to such pesky nuances as living in earth-like conditions, I’m inclined to agree. Mice and cosmonauts may teach us interesting new things about salt, but they are unlikely to reveal that everything learned to date is wrong.

Looking at the studies, they did no such thing. As acknowledged by the Times reporter, the papers are rather dense, enumerating a great many measures in recondite detail. For our purposes here, the gist will do.

The investigators found that both the ten healthy men in their simulated space station, and C57/BL6 mice are good at conserving levels of body water across a range of sodium intake. Complex hormonal fluctuations, some directly in response to diet and some part of underlying body rhythms, allowed for marked variation in the excretion of sodium (i.e., its removal in urine) without corresponding changes in urine volume. We have long known of the kidneys’ ability to concentrate or dilute urine over a wide but finite range, and these findings fit comfortably within that expanse of understanding.

Translating their own findings into succinct take-away messages, the researchers suggest that, in mice, “the kidneys, liver, and skeletal muscle form a physiological-regulatory network for extracellular volume control…” In plain English, the kidneys and other organs in the body work together, under the influence of various hormones,…

Fresh Fruit Protects Against Diabetes, Complications

Eating fresh fruit every day was linked with a lower risk for diabetes and diabetes-related vascular complications in a Chinese epidemiological study that included half a million people.

Among individuals without diabetes at baseline, daily fruit consumption was associated with a 12% lower risk for getting diabetes compared to never or rarely eating fresh fruit (hazard ratio 0.88; 95% CI 0.83-0.93; P<0.001); this corresponded to a difference of 0.2 percentage points in 5-year absolute risk, said a research team led by Huaidong Du, MD, PhD, of Oxford University in England.

The study found a dose-response relationship between fresh fruit and diabetes risk, with each daily portion of fruit consumed linked to a 12% reduction in risk (HR 0.88; 95% CI 0.81-0.95; P=0.01 for trend). This association was not significantly modified by sex, age, region, survey season, or a range of other factors including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, body-mass index, and family history of diabetes, Du and colleagues reported online in PLOS Medicine.

Among individuals with diabetes at baseline, eating 100 grams per day of fresh fruit was associated with lower risks of all-cause mortality (HR 0.83; 95% CI 0.74-0.93), microvascular complications (HR 0.72; 95% CI 0.61-0.87), and macrovascular complications (HR 0.87; 95% CI 0.82-0.93) (P<0.001 for trend), the study found.

“To our knowledge, this is the first large prospective study demonstrating similar inverse associations of fruit consumption with both incident diabetes and diabetic complications. These findings suggest that a higher intake of fresh fruit is potentially beneficial for primary and secondary prevention of diabetes,” Du and colleagues wrote.

Previous studies of fruit intake and diabetes risk “were conducted primarily among Western populations and tended to combine fresh fruit with processed fruit (sometimes including also fruit juice), in contrast to focusing only on fresh fruit, as in our study. This may…

From Almond Biscotti to “Crack” Nuts: 16 Easy Recipes for Nut Lovers

Nuts are a great way to add flavor, protein and crunch to your cooking. From salads to sweets, these recipes make the very most of nuts.

Hands-down, my favorite biscotti recipe. Adapted from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, they are everything good biscotti should be: buttery, lightly sweet and crunchy but not tooth-shattering. GET THE RECIPE

Baked oatmeal is a comforting Amish breakfast casserole with a consistency similar to bread pudding. There are endless variations — the recipe is easily adapted with whatever fruits and nuts you have on hand — but this version filled with tart apples and plump raisins with a crunchy walnut topping is my favorite. GET THE RECIPE

Sweet, salty, spicy, and rosemary-infused, these nuts from Union Square Café make the perfect party snack. Bonus: they’re a cinch to make! GET THE RECIPE

This retro snack mix is a party essential in our home. The recipe makes a ton, which is a good thing since one handful is never enough. GET THE RECIPE

When you combine roasted Brussels sprouts, smoky bacon, toasted pecans and maple syrup, it’s hard to resist eating the entire pan right out of the oven. GET THE RECIPE

Made with crisp power greens, toasted walnuts, chunks of Parmesan and a lemony Dijon dressing — this salad tastes like a healthful, crunchy Caesar. GET THE RECIPE

Sweet, tart and gooey, these bars are a happy marriage of blondies and raspberry jam. And they’re just as good with your morning coffee as they are…

10 Health Benefits of Apples – Proven by Science (+ 5 Delicious Apple Recipes)

Apples are popular not just because of their simple, delicate flavors. While apples are delicious, and can span from very sweet to incredibly tart, they are also incredibly healthy.

Apples are loaded with healthy phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Phytonutrients are plant-based compounds that can only be obtained through eating fruits and vegetables. They’re typically very good for your immune system. Vitamins and minerals give structure to our bodies and the systems operating within. Antioxidants help our body function more efficiently and prevent oxidative damage, which is what makes us age.


Apples have been hailed for helping heal the body for centuries, but scientific method has only recently been able to extensively study the fruit. Many of the most important claims made about apples turned out to be true.

Apples can help with anything from repairing damaged tissues that can impair strength or vision, to maintaining a proper electrical current to the brain so it can communicate effectively.

Apples can help with anything from repairing damaged tissues that can impair strength or vision, to maintaining a proper electrical current to the brain so it can communicate effectively.

A particular nutrient of interest in apples is vitamin C. Scurvy – a deficiency of vitamin C – is a disease that often conjures images of swashbuckling pirates with missing teeth, bad gums, and scabbed arms. These are all symptoms of vitamin C deficiency, which often happened to seamen on long voyages when deprived of fresh food.

Why is vitamin C so important?

What’s the good thing about knowing the symptoms of scurvy? Almost everything vitamin C deficiency causes, can be reversed and, in healthy people, made even healthier – simply by eating a good supply of the vitamin Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and is responsible for a lot of the health benefits you’ll find in apples – stronger grums, healthier skin, and strong teeth just to name a few!

Considering apples are incredibly well-known for being healthy, it’s surprising how few nutrients they have in them. A lot of their nutritional value is from the single, potent vitamin/antioxidant that is vitamin C. Unfortunately, a huge number of people in modern society are deficient in vitamin C. 15 percent of the population in the United States is classified as deficient in vitamin C!

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the most well-known and commonly studied vitamins on the planet. It is responsible for a vast number of health-bolstering effects, and can even function on its own as an antioxidant.

Antioxidants prevent the symptoms of aging by fighting oxidative damage, which occurs during natural periods of stress. Oxidative damage gradually reduces the function of organs, tissues, and cells, causing the slow degradation of the human body.

Preventing this oxidation is the key activity – and appeal – of antioxidants. They fight the underlying cause of pretty much every type of natural aging, and can greatly extend the human lifespan. Vitamin C, in particular, is good at

  • Bolstering the strength and improving the appearance of your hair
  • Increasing the health of your teeth and gums
  • Strengthening your skin, making it appear young and healthy
  • Increasing the speed with which your body heals injuries

While apples have an impressive amount of vitamin C – around ten percent of our daily value per apple – and fiber – almost 4 grams of insoluble fiber, and half a gram of soluble – they’re also impressively low in other nutrients. They only have trace amounts of the B complex, biotin, vitamin E, chromium, copper, and potassium. The amount of these nutrients present isn’t enough to bother supplementing apples to fix a deficiency.

Antioxidants in apples and their effects on human health

It’s not just vitamin C that helps your body ward off the unpleasant symptoms of scurvy. You may wonder how else apples can help you, if their main nutrient is only vitamin C?

Despite having a very small profile of nutrients and minerals apples have a ton of components that bolster our abilities as humans. These aren’t vitamins and minerals, though – most of them are antioxidants.

  • Polyphenols

Polyphenols are divided into two subtypes – flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Many of the polyphenols in apples are found in the skin – so make sure you don’t peel them before eating them, or you’ll be peeling off a lot of the health benefits!

Apples are responsible for about a fifth of the total polyphenols consumed in the United States. Among apple’s polyphenols are

  • Quercetin glycoside, responsible for fighting atherosclerosis and maintaining healthy blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • Phloretin glycoside, another flavonoid commonly found in all varieties of apples, helps the body’s immune system function and helps excrete waste effectively and efficiently.
  • Chlorogenic acid speeds up your body’s metabolism while simultaneously slowing the absorption of fat, making it an ideal antioxidant for people hoping to lose weight.
  • Epicatechin is an antioxidant capable of mimicking insulin and can consequently improve heart health and help fight against diabetes.

Different varieties of apples will have different antioxidant capacities. Of these different varieties, even individual batches will have different amounts. It’s possible to pick-and-choose different types of apples for the specific types of antioxidants that you require for your own personal choice of diet.

The variance of antioxidants will not differ too drastically, so you can be sure that the health benefits listed below will apply to most – if not all – apples.

Here are the 10 health benefits of apples, as backed by science.

  1. Apples can help you lose weight
  2. Apples can reduce LDL cholesterol
  3. Apples can improve mental health and intelligence
  4. Apples can prevent heart disease
  5. Apples can help you breathe better
  6. Apples can fight different types of cancer
  7. Apples can prevent diabetes
  8. Apples help bolster the body’s immune system
  9. Apples are potent anti-inflammatory agents
  10. Apples can fight allergies

To read more in-depth about each of the listed benefits above, and to learn some delicious apple recipes, click here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and use the hashtag #CookingThroughLyfe to show us your healthy recipes!

11 Seemingly Good-For-You Foods That Aren’t As Healthy As You Think

The concept of eating healthy is a simple one: eat lots whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and stay clear of sweets. But successfully making that happen these days ― when so much of our food is packaged ― is a lot trickier than you might expect. Many go-to health food options are actually not as good for you as they seem. Are you being fooled by some?

Chances are, there are one or two items in the list below that are derailing your healthy-eating efforts. Check out what they might be and steer clear.

This big bowl of granola is too much to eat in one sitting.

1. Granola: A serving size of granola is a lot smaller than you think. If you’re filling a cereal bowl of the stuff with milk, chances are you’re taking in a lot more sugar than you want. Granola is better eaten sprinkled on top of yogurt than used in place of cereal. If you don’t want to give up your beloved granola entirely, try making your own. Homemade is better than store-bought because you know what ingredients are being put into it. Try a couple of these recipes, and you’ll soon be converted.

2. Agave: Whether or not agave is healthy is up for debate. But at the end of the day, it’s still added sugar to your diet. And too much sugar in any form is not recommended.

3. Bran muffins: We know it sounds healthy. What could be so bad about a food with bran in it? Sadly, the truth is that a muffin is still a muffin no matter what ingredients have been added to it. And that means it’s basically a cupcake with no frosting on it ― in other words, its loaded with added sugar and fat. Plus, most bran muffins contain more wheat flour than actual…

Can We Make Food Truck Menus Healthier?

Maybe you prefer a food truck classic like a Philly cheesesteak.

Or something a little southern, like brown sugar marinated fried chicken drowning in bacon gravy.

Whatever your tastes, you’re sure to find something to thrill your palate at one of the thousands of food trucks across the country.

While you’re reveling in spicy sauces and meaty juices, though, consider the finer details of your on-the-go meal.

“Most foods you’re getting when you go out to eat are not going to have the right balance of nutrients,” Dr. Deborah Cohen, physician scientist at RAND Corporation, told Healthline. “They are going to have too many calories, too much salt, too much sugar, and too much fat.”

This is as true for food trucks as it is for restaurants.

With some exceptions.

At Matcha Konomi, a food truck in Corpus Christi, Texas, customers line up for healthy favorites like matcha green tea latte and avocado toast.

Owner Michelle Fraedrick started the business when she realized most fast food options around town didn’t match her dietary preferences.

“Eating healthy and eating ‘real food’ is something I am very passionate about,” Fraedrick told Healthline.

Many public health officials would no doubt love to see a few more Matcha Konomis around the country. But they’d probably settle for food trucks offering one or two healthy meals alongside their best sellers.

Which is what Cohen and her colleagues attempted in Los Angeles, where thousands of licensed and unlicensed food trucks — known as “loncheras” — serve up tasty meals to hungry customers.

The big question is: Would food truck operators bite?

Study encourages healthier meals

In the end, Cohen’s team found 11 food trucks willing to participate in the study.

These few were “a forward-looking group, a progressive group of loncheras,” said Cohen. “They agreed that the customers they serve need to eat healthier.”

Food truck operators worked with nutritionists to create meals that met MyPlate guidelines for recommended amounts of protein, vegetables, and fruit.

Study workers helped the food trucks market these meals to customers, using the name “La Comida Perfecta” — the perfect meal.

Fraedrick thinks there is untapped need for nutritious fast food.

“I truly believe people are trying to move away from unhealthy foods — or…

10 Benefits of Blueberries – Backed by Science (and 4 Delicious Blueberry Recipes)

Blueberries are an amazing fruit, both in terms of flavor and their incredible nutritional profile. They’re jam-packed with antioxidants – polyphenols, catechins, flavonols – along with lots of essential vitamins and nutrients.

Blueberries are actually rated at a 9,621 on the ORAC scale. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) measures the efficacy of a certain food or herb on preventing oxidation. This makes them one of the highest scoring foods in terms of antioxidants in the entire world.


Here are 10 Benefits of Blueberries, as backed by science.

1. Blueberries can fight against aging
2. Blueberries protect you from neurodegenerative disease
3. Blueberries can help fight cancer!
4. Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other food
5. Blueberries can reverse DNA damage
6. Blueberries can help increase your body’s insulin sensitivity.
7. Blueberries are a vast source of cardiovascular benefits
8. Blueberries have been shown to make your brain function better
9. Blueberries have a significant impact on blood sugar
10. Blueberries can help your eyes function better

To read more in-depth about each of the listed benefits above, and to learn four delicious blueberry recipes, click here. 

Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and Twitter (@Lyfebulb) and use the hashtag #EatWell to show us your healthy recipes! 

To contribute a post to Lyfebulb please e-mail contact@lyfebulb.com

5 Delicious Veggies You’ve Never Heard Of—And Need to Try

Apples and spinach have you bored out of your gourd? Thanks to creative crossbreeding, there’s a handful of new fruits and veggies popping up at farmer’s markets and grocery stories—and they’re worth sinking your teeth into. (Cotton candy-flavored grapes, anyone?!) “Some of [these hybrids] even offer superior nutrition compared to their old school counterparts,” says Wendy Bazilian, RD, author of Superfoods RX Diet ($26, amazon.com). Break free of your broccoli-and-peas rut with these five fresh new ways to get your five a day. RELATED: Eat More Veggies: 5 Easy Raw Food Recipes

With a purple sprout base, leafy green top, and nutty, slightly sweet taste, Kalettes are the love child of kale and Brussels sprouts.Nutrition perks: This veggie mash-up has more protein and vitamin C than kale. And because Kalettes lack the bitter taste of Brussels sprouts and other leafy greens, Bazilian calls them “the perfect gateway veggie.” (Read: no cheese sauce necessary.)Prep tips: Toss trimmed Kalettes with olive oil, salt, and pepper; roast at 475 degrees for 10 minutes. The leaves will crisp up like kale chips. Or try this salad from chef Aaron Woo, owner of Natural Selection, a farm-to-table vegetarian restaurant in Portland, Oregon: Combine three cups of chopped Kalettes with one cup shaved fennel bulb and ¼ cup each toasted pine nuts and pitted, chopped green olives. Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette (one part lemon juice to one part olive oil; salt and pepper to taste) and top with grated Parmesan.RELATED: 13 Healthy Kale Recipes

Also called Pluots, these plum-apricot combos come in many different varieties, and have a firmer texture than plums.Nutrition perks: Plumcots pack more fiber than plums and apricots. They also offer a “double whammy of vitamins A and C,” says Brooklyn-based nutritionist and chef Jackie Newgent, RD, author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes ($27, amazon.com). Vitamin A plays an important role in immunity, while vitamin C protects against against cell damage.Prep tips: The next time you make salsa, swap out tomatoes for plumcots…

This Make-Ahead French Toast Will Make Hosting A Breeze

Laura Murray

Welcome to Cooking Without Recipes, in which we teach you how to make a dish we love, but don’t worry too much about the nitty-gritty details of the recipe, so you can create your own spin. Every day this week, we’ll be bringing you a staffer’s favorite weekend brunch recipe—the one they bust out to impress company without too much stress. Today, creative services’ creative director Sarah Salvatoriello her make-ahead fruit and nut baguette French toast.

Growing up as the daughter of a Home Ec teacher in a large Italian family, I learned that my house should be full of good food and good people at all times. When we had guests over for breakfast as a kid, my mom made a fruit and nut French toast that filled the air with sweet smells—a reminder that the fun from the night before wasn’t quite over yet. Now that I have a family of my own, when I find myself hosting unexpected overnight guests, I make sure to have a killer brunch ready to greet us in the morning.

My move is to make my mom’s make-ahead French toast with my own spin on it—she used pecans and…

Fruit fly study may help improve diabetes treatments

 An expert observes fruit flies trapped in jars at the Agrarian Health Services in Lima, Peru, in 2006. [AP File Photo]
An expert observes fruit flies trapped in jars at the Agrarian Health Services in Lima, Peru, in 2006. [AP File Photo]

Q: I keep hearing that fruit flies help researchers understand human genetics because they have very simple DNA. But lately I heard that studying fruit flies can help improve my Type 2 diabetes treatments. Really? — Fred W., Wilmington, Delaware

A: Yep. Those tiny, short-lived creatures are super-great mini-examples of how genes work in humans. They don’t provide everything, but they do serve as a model for human genetics and Type 2 diabetes.

As Groucho Marx said: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” And researchers have discovered that the fructose (fruit sugar) in a banana can mess with genes that control fruit flies’ insulin receptors and trigger the insects’…

12 Recipes to Try While Pomegranates Are in Season

Photo: Jennifer Causey: Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro

What can’t pomegranate do? Not only is the nutritious fruit considered a beauty superfood (you can even use it to make an exfoliating scrub!) but tart pomegranate can also add fruity pizzazz to your dips, salads, desserts, and more. Like blueberries, pomegranates are a great source of anthocyanins, good-for-you plant pigments that give fruits their bright red and blue hues and may help decrease blood pressure and prevent inflammation.

And while pomegranate seeds make a delicious snack on their own, if you haven’t cooked with the fruit before, you’re missing out. Whether you squeeze pomegranate juice into your salad dressing (it adds amazing tangy flavor) or garnish your favorite dip with juicy, crunchy pomegranate seeds, the fruit is extremely versatile and works well in many different kinds of dishes. Start experimenting with pomegranate with these tasty, nutrient-packed recipes.

Get your tang on with this mixture of whipped goat cheese and pomegranate seeds. Honey balances the sour flavors in the dip, while fresh thyme adds a slightly earthy feel. Serve this dip in endive leaves or with whole-grain crackers or crudités for a creamy-meets-crunchy appetizer idea.

Ingredients: Fresh thyme, goat cheese, heavy cream, pomegranate seeds, lemon zest

Calories: 65

Breakfast just got a lot more fun, thanks to these fruity and wholesome pomegranate-infused scones. Make these English-inspired baked goods for your next at-home brunch, dessert, or yummy companion to a cup of tea. Rolled oats and spelt take refined carbohydrates out of this recipe’s equation.

Ingredients: Whole milk, honey, unsalted butter, spelt flour, rolled oats, turbinado sugar, egg, pomegranate seeds, baking powder

Calories: 246

Take your holiday party to the next level with this tart beverage. It’s a low-calorie alternative to other overly sweet alcoholic mixes but still packs a fun, fruity punch during cocktail hour.

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