Vegetarian Diets for Longevity

Everyone wants to live forever and vegetarians as a whole live longer than the average American. Follow Registered Dietitians as they report on current trends and new research in how to stay healthy on a variety of meatless diets.

Early Summer; Garlic Scapes

garlic scapesOne of the delights of visiting your local farmers market is to observe the march of produce across the months, throughout the year. Each season provides an opportunity to discover extraordinary varieties of ordinary fare. Garlic scapes, with their wildly twisted shapes are a perfect, early summer example of this. As a member of the allium family, they are not only delicious but also have healthful properties, similar to garlic itself.

Throughout history, Allium sativum has enjoyed a reputation rich in folklore for its magical and medicinal properties. A member of the lily family, which includes onions, chives, shallots and leeks, garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants, appearing as a staple in the Sumerian diet according to Sanskrit documents written over 5000 years ago. Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman literature is rich with reference to garlic acting as an aphrodisiac as well as promoting health, courage and bravery.

Current research supports a role for garlic in enhancing immune function and improving health. Allium sativum is being studied extensively for its potentially protective role in the initiation, development and progression of cancer and heart disease. The beneficial compounds thought to be functioning in these processes are referred to as phytochemicals or plant chemicals and may be acting as antioxidants, tumor suppressants, or detoxifying agents. The compounds have been studied in several forms, as isolated supplements or as a whole plant. Not surprisingly, it has been the whole plant, delivered as part of a healthful diet, which has proven to be most effective in the process being studied. A vegetarian diet is rich in phytochemicals including indoles, phenols, isothiocyanates, flavones, coumarins, plant sterols and stanols, ascorbic acid, carotenes, retinols and tocophereols, which continue to be studied for their evident roles in supporting immune function and reducing the risk and effects of chronic disease.

The firm yet pliable slender green stems of garlic scapes, complete with unopened flower buds, have a fresh, mildly garlicky flavor and crisp texture. Scapes can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Sliced or chopped into a salad, their flavor is subtle and their crunchy texture holds up well with dressings.  Added to sliced sweet peppers and mushrooms for a quick stir-fry, they can top any cooked whole grain for a satisfying meal.

When cooked a bit longer, scapes become soft and quite mild, losing some of their initial twisted charm but imparting deliciousness quite unlike garlic, leeks or onions. Soup made from a few potatoes, vegetable broth, three or four hands-full of scapes and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper can be pureed into an elegant offering, served either warm or chilled, and topped with the garlic buds.

I’ve included a photo of gorgeous scapes, freshly picked from my good friend’s garden. Garlic scapes arrive and disappear quite quickly from early summer markets, so don’t miss out this spring!

Does eating a vegetarian diet help you live longer?

Therapeutic Use of Vegetarian/Vegan Diets in Chronic DiseaseResearch reveals that when a person chooses to follow a vegetarian diet they may find it reduces the risks of many chronic diseases.  A vegetarian diet may treat, improve, or reverse the following:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Digestive problems

Following a vegetarian diet may also provide beneficial results in the treatment for cancer and kidney disease.

Will a vegetarian diet  improve your health? Download our resource Therapeutic Use of Vegetarian/Vegan Diets in Chronic Disease (PDF) and experience the potential benefits of choosing a well-balanced vegetarian diet.

Seven Vegetarian Holiday Superfoods for the Gut

holiday superfoods

Have you heard that tart cherries are the new superfood? Along with nutmeg, apples, and cranberries, many classic holiday foods have wonderful health properties.

Today, the term “superfood” does not have a standardized definition and is mainly used by manufacturers as a marketing strategy. The trendy name suggests that these foods are hyper-concentrated with health-promoting substances beyond vitamins and minerals…but are they?

As vegetarianism and plant-based eating continues to grow so does the need to transform classic holiday meals into festive and celebratory affairs. Going to traditional holiday gatherings can turn into high-stress situations for vegetarians who don’t have the options they need. If you are still trying to figure out how to avoid “food FOMO” [fear of missing out] at holiday gatherings, check out these seven super foods that are brimming with seasonal flavor and have antioxidants and other health properties.

  • Asparagus: This Christmas tree colored powerhouse is more than just the vitamin A, C, E, and K it represents on the surface. Asparagus also contains prebiotic fibers for digestive and gut health and an amino acid called asparagine that may help maintain normal brain development and function.
  • Ginger: This herb adds an extra layer of protection during the flu season or that winter cold as it supports the immune system.  It is a potent anti-inflammatory, prokinetic (enhances movement of food in the gut) and classic antiemetic (prevents vomiting) that can be used for morning sickness orreducing bloating and gas after meals.
  • Cranberries: While it is mostly consumed on Thanksgiving Day, many indulge on this holiday side dish again for Christmas. In the late 1800s, this exceedingly tart fruit gained popularity to treat urinary tract complaints. Research revealed that cranberries keep bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder and urethra because of the powerful compounds called proanthocyanidins present in this superfood.
  • Cinnamon: The warm, sweet fragrance of cinnamon screams holiday baked dishes. It has also been used medicinally since ancient times. In modern Chinese medicine, cinnamon is thought to help circulative vital energy (qi) in the abdomen and through the body. Indian Ayurvedic healers use cinnamon primarily for digestive and menstrual complaints. More recently, cinnamon has been shown to have  blood sugar lowering effect and may help stabilize levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Artichoke leaves: in herbal medicine, artichoke leaves are considered “bitters” or herbs with properties that speed up digestive process. Artichoke leaves are also an excellent source of fructooligosaccharides, which are prebiotics that serve as the “food” for probiotics, and can help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol as well as support gut health
  • Turmeric: The plant part that is used in cooking is called rhizome. This spice is in the same family as ginger and contains compounds known as curcuminoids (collectively known as curcumin), which accounts for its characteristic bright orange color. This superfood may have protective effects against colorectal cancer, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease shown in some studies.

Whether you are new to vegetarianism or a veteran plant-eater, in today’s marketplace you have a wide selection of foods that can be used in many traditional holiday dishes and provide health benefits beyond the nutrition value. As an integrative dietitian and foodie, I encourage you to bring one new superfood dish to your holiday gatherings; this might be the new dish that catches your guests’ attention and becomes a new delicious holiday tradition.

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Vegetarian Myth Busters


Thinking about becoming a #vegan, #vegetarian, or switching to a #plant-based eating plan?

Do questions like this pop into your head?

  • Can I get enough protein?
  • Will my bones stay strong if I just eat plants?
  • Do vegan children grow properly?
  • Does soy cause breast cancer?

Discover the science based information that will inspire you to start creating vegetarian meals. Bust the myths — by downloading Vegetarian/Vegan Myths (PDF)  It provides information on how plant-based diets provide all the necessary nutrition for healthy diets free of animal food sources.

Already a #vegan or #vegetarian and want additional information about planning meals? Check out our FREE downloadable Resources on healthy meatless eating for all age groups.

Recommended Resources

Vegetarian Toddlers Preschoolers RDLooking for ideas to go Meatless? (PDF) Follow these tips for including meatless meals into your family’s diet.

View all of our free Vegetarian Nutrition resources

How to Become a Vegan

hummus saladA recent Harris Poll found that 47% of Americans eat at least one vegetarian meal a week.  Are you one of this growing number of people interested in eating more plant-based meals? Or maybe you just want to totally change your diet and become vegan? Either way download Eat More Plant-based Meals a resource that provides tips on how to make the changes easy, fun and sustainable.

  • Discover how to increase your plant-based meals, while keeping one or two of your life long favorites.
  • Learn how to stock your pantry and refrigerator with staples that will make it easy to eat plant foods anytime.
  • Check out the Nutrition Tips that provide incentives to make plant foods your preference.

Going Beyond Hummus: How to Incorporate More Legumes into Your Diet

Challenge yourself to add one new serving of legumes to your day!

Legumes are a class of vegetables including beans, lentils and peas. There are countless reasons to love legumes. For starters, they are nutrition powerhouses, rich in protein, fiber, iron, potassium and folate – all of which are important nutrients that our bodies need to function well. Legumes have one of the lowest carbon footprints of all the food groups and require about 19 times less water to produce than meat, making them a more earth-friendly option to add to your plate. Legumes are also very affordable with a serving of lentils costing just $0.10! And most notably, legumes are a very versatile food group. Utilize the tips below for ideas on how to include different legumes in your meals and snacks!

Here are some ways to include more legumes in your diet:

  • Try a bean burrito for breakfast, wrapped in a whole grain tortilla with avocado, salsa and sautéed veggies.
  • Add red lentils to pasta sauce – they cook to a soft consistency and your kiddos won’t even notice they’re there, they also thicken sauces for a heartier meal.
  • Create a chickpea salad by combining mashed chickpeas with a little vegan mayonnaise, mustard, chopped celery, carrots and spices of choice and you’ve got an easy lunch.
  • Use green lentils as a substitute for ground beef in your favorite recipes – try lentil sloppy joes and classic tacos!
  • White beans provide a creamy foundation for soups and more – blend with a little water and you’ve got a versatile “cream” to richen things up.
  • Throw leftover beans and lentils into the slow cooker with canned tomatoes, peppers, onions and chili seasoning for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
  • Use dried spilt peas, chopped vegetables and spices to make a spring-inspired soup.
  • Try a variation of hummus by substituting red lentils for the chickpeas and adding a dash of cinnamon and cumin. Or mash black beans with paprika and lime juice for a fun dip.

Challenge yourself to add one new serving of legumes to your day! And don’t forget to leave a reply below with your favorite ways to use legumes or any questions about including more legumes in your diet!

4 Ways to Celebrate Vegetarian Awareness Month

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month!

We invite you to celebrate plant-based nutrition with us all month long (all year long, let’s be honest) by sharing yummy recipes and helpful nutrition information.

Be sure to join the conversation on Twitter by following us @VNDPG

1. Pledge to eat vegetarian this month.

To reap the health benefits of a plant-based diet and reduce harm to the environment and animals, commit to eating meatless meals for the month of October!

We’ve got loads of helpful resources to support you during the process.

Still struggling? Contact a vegetarian registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you plan tasty plant-based meals and snacks that fit your nutrient needs and preferences.

2. Host a meal to share plant-based food with family and friends.

Connect with loved ones over a delicious meal loaded with whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit. What better way to introduce others to yummy vegetarian and vegan food than serving it to them?

Try some of these crowd-pleasing recipes perfect for fall:

African-Style Pumpkin and Peanut Stew »

Black Bean and Quinoa Chili »

Vegan Peanut Curry with Chickpeas and Sweet Potato »

Vegan Greek Pumpkin Pie »

Vegetarian Bolognese and Cheesy Polenta »

Vegetarian Slow-Cooked Boston Baked Beans »

3. Follow plant-based bloggers.

Here are some great bloggers who share their plant-based recipes and wisdom on their websites and social media accounts! Here are 10 to check out:

Deborah Murphy at »

Gena Hamshaw at »

Ginger Hultin at »

Ginny Messina at »

Jack Norris at »

Karla Moreno-Bryce at »

Kristina DeMuth at »

Stephanie McKercher at »

Sharon Palmer at »

Taylor Wolfram at »

4. Donate to animal advocacy and plant-based nutrition organizations.

here are several organizations that work on behalf of animals to improve the conditions on farms in America and make nutritious plant-based food more accessible.

Vegan Outreach »

Vegetarian Resource Group »

What is zinc? Why do I need zinc?

Zinc in Vegetarian Diets resourceZinc can be found all organs, tissues and fluids in the body. Zinc provides many functions including:

  • Optimal growth and development
  • Reproduction
  • Appetite
  • Taste ability
  • Night vision.
  • Proper function of the immune system.

Zinc is widely available from many types of foods, so deficiency is rare in North Americans including vegetarians.  The problem arises from phytate, a compound found in grains, nuts, and legumes that reduce our body’s ability to absorb zinc from these foods.

Download our FREE full-color Zinc in Vegetarian Diets resource and discover how to maximize the absorption of zinc from plant foods, choose foods high in zinc, and get menu ideas.

What Plant Foods Provide Iron?

  • Iron in Vegetarian Diets ResourceAre you finding enough iron in your vegetarian diet?
  • Do you know what foods help your body absorb the iron you eat?
  • Should you take an iron supplement?

Iron deficiency anemia is a worldwide problem and often vegetarian and vegan diets are viewed as at risk for this nutrient deficiency.  Use the resource Iron in Vegetarian Diets  to discover –

  • Evidence-based research on the iron status of vegetarians
  • The best plant sources for iron
  • How vitamin C increases iron absorption

Also available in the Iron in Vegetarian Diets  resource are the requirements for athletes following any type of  vegetarian diet.


Can a vegetarian get enough protein?

Vegetarian and vegan diets provide adequate protein when menu planning focuses on how much your body needs and which plant foods provide this essential nutrient. Protein is made of amino acids which are the building blocks for our muscles and many other structures in the body. So it is important to consume a wide variety of protein-rich plant foods in meals and snacks throughout the day.

Protein in Vegetarian and Vegan Diets RD ResourceThe free downloadable resource Protein in Vegetarian and Vegan Diets (PDF) provides the tools you need to consume plenty of protein from plant foods. Discover –

  • How to calculate the body’s need for protein
  • A chart listing Protein-rich Plant Foods
  • Tips on how to plan meals with adequate protein

Download this tool and learn the facts about getting adequate Protein in Vegetarian and Vegan Diets (PDF).

Are soy foods safe to eat?

  • resource-safety-of-soyfoodsCan men eat soy?
  • Does eating soy cause breast cancer?
  • Can I feed soy to my children?

If want the facts about eating soy foods, download the FREE Safety of Soy Resource. These easy to read fact sheet which will answer your questions about eating tofu, edamame, and veggie foods.

Did you know that soyfoods can reduce the symptoms of menopause?

Health Effects of SoyThere are many misconceptions about soyfoods, but numerous research studies confirm that soy is safe. Soyfoods like tofu, soymilk, miso, and tempeh provide significant amounts of isoflavones, a plant chemical that offers health benefits beyond the nutrients in food.

So how does soy help with menopause?  It’s in the isoflavones. Over 50 research studies reveal that women who consume isoflavone supplements cut in about half the number and severity of hot flashes.

Don’t wait print your copy of our FREE Resource Health Effects of Soy today!

Vegan/Vegetarian and diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CeD)*?

Eating a plant-based diet with CeD means your body has zero tolerance for gluten which is found in plant foods that are also rich in protein.  Wheat, rye, and barley are common in vegan and vegetarian diets but for optimal health a person with CeD must avoid them.

Combining Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten-Free DietsIf you are a vegetarian or vegan with CeD missing the key nutrients in these grains, means you must find other foods to meet your body’s needs. Download the free resource Combining Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free Diets (PDF) and discover the tools for combining a gluten-free diet with vegan or vegetarian food choices.

  • What foods supply Calcium and Vitamin D
  • Gluten-free Vegetarian foods high in Iron and Zinc
  • Hidden Sources of Gluten
  • How to increase your fiber intake

Find the tools you need when Combining Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free Diets (PDF), download it today!

*Celiac disease (CeD) is an autoimmune disease that should be diagnosed by a physician before eliminating gluten from your diet as that could cause a false test result.

Sprouts: Super, Simple, Nutritious and Healthy

What will grow fast and easy in any climate? What requires no soil or sunshine to grow? What provides an easy to prepare food that offers numerous nutrients and health benefits?


alfalfa sproutsSprouts first became popular in the 1970s as a healthy option for those striving to improve their food choices.  As the nutritional and health benefits of sprouts have become more known, bakers, chefs, athletes, food manufacturers and others are all looking at different ways to incorporate sprouts into popular foods.

Cereals, grains, lentils and legumes form the basis of vegetarian diets.  While continuing to be the time-honored choices for the preparation of meals with adequate protein, low in fat, and high in fiber, these same foods can be transformed into more nutrient-dense servings with the addition of sprouts.

What makes sprouts nutritious?

Sprouts are very nutritious, as they contain all the elements that a plant needs for life and growth.  The simple process of sprouting brings out many enzymes in germinated seeds, legumes, and grains, making them easier to digest.  It also increases the amounts and bioavailability of protein, vitamins and minerals, transforming them into nutrition powerhouses.  Overall, sprouts provide excellent quality nutrients and, by weight, are the rich sources of an array of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

Are there different kinds of sprouts?

Yes! Besides the more popular sources—namely alfalfa and beans, sprouts can also be obtained from many other grains, including wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, brown rice, etc., which we generally eat in their more traditional milled-flour forms.  Sprouting grains increases many of the grains’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in milled grains, such as lysine.

Where can I buy sprouts?

Finding ready to eat sprouts in regular grocery stores makes them very accessible.  Natural food stores and online stores usually offer a wider variety of sprouts, ready to be used or seeds, grains, and beans that can be sprouted at home.

How can I grow sprouts at home?

  • You can grow your own sprouts by following these simple directions:
  • Buy seeds, grains, lentils and beans that are guaranteed and look healthy
  • Start with small amounts
  • Measure ½ cup of item (seeds or grains or beans) you want to sprout.
  • Wash thoroughly and place the washed seeds in a glass jar for smaller sized seeds/grains or in a medium sized bowl for the larger sized beans
  • Add 2 cups of water, mix well, cover with a lid or thin piece of muslin cloth May need to add more water for larger sized beans- to allow for proper soaking.
  • Leave overnight at room temperature for adequate soaking to occur.
  • Drain out water and rinse the soaked seeds, grains or beans gently
  • Place the soaked, rinsed seeds, grains or beans in a glass jar for smaller sized items and the larger beans in a colander lined with paper towel or thin muslin cloth.
  • Set aside the glass jar, or colander at room temperature. Choose a spot with minimum or no direct light.
  • Repeat the rinsing and above step for 3 to 4 days for the smaller seeds and grains to complete sprouting. Larger beans will require about 6 days to sprout fully.
  • Store sprouts in glass jars or plastic containers in refrigerator.
  • Use the refrigerated sprouts within one week.

To preserve their maximum nutritional value eat sprouts raw in salads or as snacks Sprouts will enhance cooked dishes as well. The list below provides easy ways to include sprouts in your diet:

  • Eat them fresh and uncooked, as a snack
  • Steam and add spices of your choice
  • Stir-fry with other vegetables  (mung bean, alfalfa, radish, or other sprouts)
  • Add to tossed salads (alfalfa, mung beans, or mixed lentils sprouts)
  • Top sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts along with other vegetables and cheeses
  • Blend into fruit juices or shakes (mung bean, lentil, cereal or grain sprouts)
  • Stir into soups and stews (mung bean, lentil, cereal and grain sprouts)
  • Combine in rice dishes  (lentil, mung bean, fenugreek or other sprouts)
  • Mix into pancake or waffle batter (buckwheat, rye, wheat or brown rice sprouts)
  • Grind to a paste to make sandwich fillings
  • Top omelets or scrambled eggs
  • Incorporate into your favorite veggie burger mix
  • Add to vegetarian sushi and wraps
  • Mix with soft cheeses or salsa and serve as a dip

Buy sprouts next time on your next shopping trip and discover how easy they are to fit into any meal!

Want to learn more about sprouts?  Check out the following sources:

Finding Fiber in Whole Foods

When describing human characteristics I think we would all agree that intense curiosity about ‘the best’ of things is one most Americans could claim. Think about our obsession with discovering the ‘best’ new phone app or the ‘best’ current movie or even the ‘best’ sports drink. We, as Americans, love to feel as though we are on the cutting edge of new knowledge, especially when it comes to food and health.

Perhaps you’ve noticed the current focus on fiber in foods; occurring naturally or being added. It seems we should all agree that fiber is a good thing, right? However, I would suggest that focusing on a single food component like fiber is as short sighted as most of the other exclusionary food trends we have seen, such as the quest for sugar-free foods, low-fat foods, calorie free foods and vitamin enhanced (calorie-free, sugar-free) beverages.

By focusing on a single food component to enhance health, one misses the point. More to the point, one misses the opportunity to optimize food choices to truly enhance health in a reliable, scientifically supported way.

In nature, nothing happens in a vacuum. The same goes for establishing a healthful diet; no single nutrient is going to achieve that; nutrients work together within whole foods to deliver their best benefits. When you take something out of its environment, such as isolating fiber, it cannot convey the full benefit it would have otherwise. Fiber has a role in good health specifically because of its role among other nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc. occurring together in food.

Good sources of fiber also happen to be good sources of vitamins and minerals, and when combined with a variety of other fiber rich foods, are also good sources of plant protein.  Dried beans, whole grains and seeds offer a symphony of important nutrients as well as flavor, texture and satiety. My favorite winter ‘fast food’ is a bean and grain salad that I make with whatever vegetables are fresh and reasonably priced in the grocery store, combined with whatever bean and grain I feel like eating, from the staples in my pantry. Often I’ll add toasted sesame or pumpkin seeds if I have them. Mustard-laced homemade vinaigrette or simply a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon juice dress the salad very well. This is my ‘fast food’ because a large bowl of bean and grain salad will last several days and be hearty enough for lunch or dinner at a moment’s notice.

The salad pictured was made with small black beans, wheat berries, sesame seeds, blanched broccoli, celery, fresh green and red bell peppers, and red onions. However, you can use any beans you like; pinto, small white northern, Jacob’s cattle or red kidney are some that work well and taste great. Instead of wheat berries you might like to use quinoa, bulgur, wild rice or couscous. Almost any vegetables you and your family like will be good in this salad; use your favorites. You can add dressing to the salad as you are making it or just before you serve it. Additional flavor could come from fresh herbs, salt, or pepper.

To keep this process simple, soak the beans and grains in separate bowls the night before you need them. They can sit in the soaking water until you’re ready to cook. Alternatively, use canned beans and a quick cooking grain like quinoa. This is a one-dish meal you cannot go wrong with. Give your taste buds and imagination free rein and your whole body will respond with a smile!

Give Me the Flax

flax seedsMany of us hear about the health benefits of adding flax to our diets, but how do can that be accomplished. Of course it depends on your lifestyle, but since mine is pretty crazy I’ll give you some suggestions:

  1. First, I don’t take flax oil because it has a very short shelf life. Even in really good health food stores where you know the owner, you can get a bad bottle. Or you open it and don’t use it, and it goes rancid fairly quickly.
  2. Grind the flax instead; being a control freak, I want my flax to be cheap and fresh. I recommend purchasing an inexpensive coffee grinder and reserve it for flax grinding.
  3. Buy flax seeds, it doesn’t matter brown or golden, and keep them in the freezer or refrigerator. Grind as much as you will use in a week. For the three of us, I grind about a cup, and store it in an opaque container in the refrigerator.
  4. Flax does not change the flavor of food, so sprinkle it on your salad, oatmeal, soup and hide it burritos and lasagna.
  5. The recommended amount is two tablespoons a day so just use a little at a time throughout the day.
  6. If you are traveling, there are Flax Packs you can purchase in most health food stores. They sell two tablespoons of flax in a small bag. You can open them in the morning and put some in your smoothie, close them with a paper clip and use them with your lunch salad and toss on your sandwich, and you got the flax.

Beans by any other name are cancer fighters

vegetarian ironInteresting synergy of the Universe – I’m eating a healthy serving of pinto beans doused with substantial spoonfuls of salsa and open my mail.  Lo and behold, the Dry Bean Quarterly.  Now, you think I kid you, but you never know what finds home in a dietitian’s mailbox.

With many of us either eating to prevent or recover from disease, I was curious to read that eating beans reduces cancer risk.  In the Nurses’ Health Study II, eating common beans (as opposed to soybeans, which are oily) and lentils was associated with a significant reduction in breast cancer risk.  Significant in research is powerful – it might be a small change in a large population but the change rates high on the board.

Dr. Henry Thompson, the author of the Dry Bean Quarterly, did a pre-clinical trial of his own – just to see if the change in risk was real.  It’s keen that a food staple like beans that offers a rich source of protein, resistant starch (not as readily taken up in the bloodstream, thereby keeping blood sugar more constant), and soluble fiber can also keep our breasts cancer-free!  The results of his study showed that cancer cells were inhibited by eating beans.  Hence, he now recommends at least one-half cup of beans or lentils daily, and as much as 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans a day if you’re adventurous.  For more info, log onto

Beans, beans, good for your body, the you more you eat, the more you rest — with satisfaction that you’ve done a lot in preventing this disease.

Nightshade’s Sweet Treat

As daylight changes, subtly signaling the approach of fall, we can comfort ourselves against the loss of summer with anticipation of autumn harvest.

physalisThis is the time of year when a magical little golden fruit within a paper lantern package begins to appear in farmers’ markets. Once widely cultivated, ground cherries are enjoying new recognition as we rediscover their clean, sweet, citrusy flavor and explore the many ways to incorporate them into our late summer fare.

Ground cherries grow globally in warm to temperate climates; some being perennial, and others, annual fruits and are used for both culinary and ornamental purposes. North American ground cherries, physalis pruinosa, are one of more than a hundred different species, a quarter of which are native to the United States. Similar in appearance to orange/yellow cherry tomatoes, this fruit grows on a more stiff stemmed small shrub and has a papery covering, husk or cape. Physalis peruviana is a larger variety native to South America while Central America produces p. philadelphia. The latter’s fruit can be green, yellow, red or purple; the green fruit more commonly known as tomatillo or tomate verde. This last species is probably one of the oldest cultivated ground cherries in the Americas. P. alkekengi is the striking, large orange ‘Chinese lantern’ that appears in so many ornamental arrangements in the autumn.

The ground cherry is a member of the nightshade family, solanacea, which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. The immature plants contain solanine, a toxic substance that should not be eaten.

The flavor of ground cherries has been compared to strawberry but with distinctly unique tartness and subtle hints of pineapple and mango. They may be enjoyed raw, straight off the vine, dried, frozen or cooked into pies, jams, chutneys and sauces. The many uses for this versatile fruit are limited only by the cook’s imagination. If left in their husk, they will keep for up to 6 months in a well ventilated spot, although they also freeze well.

This fruit has the same healthful properties as tomatoes; low in calories but high in nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, especially those associated with the color orange. Its vitamin A, C and niacin content rank it among the most nutrient dense for fruit with these nutrients. One ounce has approximately 16 calories and 0.5 grams of protein. Based on a 2000-calorie diet, the RDA for vitamin A provided is 4%, vitamin C, 5% and niacin, 4%.

Native Americans as well as the American pioneers included ground cherries in their diets. The Chinese used them as a remedy for sore throats, coughs, fevers and abscesses.

The simplest way to use the cherry is to gently hold it between your index finger and thumb, near the stem-end. Applying pressure will help the fruit to pop out of its protective papery husk, straight into your mouth! If you really want to share this treat, slice it into a summer salad along with all the other vegetables and fruits ripening now; tomatoes, peaches, berries and herbs. Season with good quality olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and enjoy. Adding cooked grains and dried beans will take the salad to the level of entree.