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Bitter, but better for you; and a perfect side dish for holiday meals.

Photo: Bigstock

Photo: Bigstock

Brussels sprouts come from a family of vegetables called crucifers. They are called the flowering part of the plant grows in the same of a cross. Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts contain high amounts of glucosinolates, plant nutrients known to fight cancer. Brussels sprouts have a special combination of four specific glucosinolates that set Brussels spouts apart from other crucifers in their cancer fighting capacity. These glucosinolates also make Brussels sprouts bitter. Research shows that Brussels sprouts kill more human cancer cells than all other cruciferous vegetables ( They also contain high levels of vitamins C, A and K, as well as folic acid and dietary fiber.

Brussels Sprouts are best when freshly harvested, and should be cooked within a day or 2 of bringing them home.When shopping look for bright green sprouts with tightly wrapped leaves. If they look wilted or have a cabbage scent they have been around a long while after harvest and have lost most of their sugars and nutrients  (Robinson, 2013).

Steaming Brussels sprouts releases their nutrient power. It is only when they are old and overcooked that they off a strong sulfur smell. This smell and their bitterness may be why many Americans often leave them out of their daily vegetable choices.

I like to steam sauté Brussels sprouts in 1/3 cup of water and a tablespoon of butter. I add a little caraway seed and then serve them with a Dijon and maple syrup sauce. Delicious!


  • Robbins, J. (2013). Eating on the wild side. Little Brown  & Co: New York.
  • The World’s healthiest Foods http://



Kale belongs to a family of plants known as crucifers named for their four-petal flowers that are arranged in the shape of a cross.

Like all crucifers, Kale contains cancer fighting compounds called glucosinolates.Though they make kale bitter, glucosinolates are the reason that kale is such a superstar in vegetable nutrition. The crucifers with the most glucosinolates are kale and Brussels sprouts.

Photo Credit: Lisa Missenda

Photo Credit: Lisa Missenda

Kale has a combination of phytonutrients that make it uniquely equipped to fight inflammation. Kale has an extremely high ORAC rating (oxygen radical absorbance).

Kale is rich in vitamins A, C and K as well as iron and calcium. In fact, one serving of Kale has more calcium than 6 oz. of milk and more fiber than three slices of whole wheat bread (Robinson, 2013).

Kale is best when eaten fresh. Raw kale has more nutrient value than cooked; and when cooking it is best to steam or sauté it just long enough for the leaves to wilt. Overcooking will give it a strong sulfurous odor (Robinson, 2013).

Best when freshly harvested, the longer it is stored in the refrigerator, the more bitter it becomes, and it loses close to 80 percent of its health benefits. Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist, hardy stems. Leaves should be fresh and green, never wilted.



  • Robinson, J. (2013). Eating on the wild side. Little Brown & Co: New York.
  • The World’s healthiest Foods http://

Here are some random thoughts on apples that you may not have considered….Image

Sometimes when a person eats fruit, they end up with a bloated stomach. This is a sign that the fruit is fermenting while it travels through the digestive system. Apples, however, contain a malic and tartaric acids which prevent them from fermenting in your stomach so they are less likely than other fruits to cause bloating.

Apples are best stored in the refrigerator. Thy do better in the dark and in cooler temperatures. Like other fruits, apple skins give off ethylene gas. When storing apples in the refrigerator; keep them away from your carrots because this gas will give your carrots a bitter taste. (Robinson, 2013).

Read more about apples from these resources:

Robinson, Jo (2013-06-04). Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (p. 229). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Wood, R. (2010). The new whole foods encyclopedia. Penguin Group: New York., NY.

Serves 6, approximately 1 ¼ cups each, 148 calories) This soup has a rich flavor and is super delicious. Preparing butternut squash isn’t the most fun. First, it’s difficult to cut into. I use a large knife and my lemon juicer to tap on the top of it….


Lemon juicer

Tap the top of the knife

Tap the top of the knife

Second, it “sweats” a sticky, sappy substance that stays on your hands like Elmer’s Glue (R) while you are working with it.  But, I have to say, its well worth it!

My classmate Josh Smith, MS serving up Butternut Apple Soup at St. Vincent de Paul's Church in Baltimore MD. Photo by Darriel Harris

My classmate Josh Smith, MS serving up Butternut Apple Soup at St. Vincent de Paul’s Church in Baltimore MD.
Photo by Darriel Harris


  • 1 large butternut squash, about 2-3 lbs, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-2 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 6-8 large chunks (in my house we use fennel)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled (if you are shy about garlic, use 1-2 cloves, but don’t leave it out!)
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, quartered, and cored
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Mild chili powder
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

How to make it:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large roasting pan, combine the squash, apple, onion, garlic, and oil. Season with salt to taste and sprinkle with chili powder to taste. The more chili powder, the more “bite.” Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until veggies are tender and lightly browned. In a food processor, combine half of the roasted veggies with 2 cups broth and puree until smooth. Repeat with the remaining veggies and heat over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Add more broth as needed if soup is too thick. Add more salt and chili powder if needed for more bite.

Butternut squash is rich in beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. The beta carotene in the squash is more able to converted and used by the body as vitamin A when it is cooked with some kind of fat, so don’t leave out the olive oil!

The most colorful apples are the ones that have been exposed to the greatest amount of sunlight and therefore contain more phytochemicals that benefit your health (Robinson, 2013). In her recent book Eating on the Wild Side Jo Robbins talks about how apple trees are trimmed so that more of the fruit is exposed to sunlight making the apples rich in color. The more color they have, the more phytonutrient value (see

Photo by Rick Ruggles

Photo by Rick Ruggles

Choose organic or locally grown apples. The Environmental Working Group lists apples as having some of the highest levels of pesticides on them when compared to other fruits and vegetables. Organic apples are pesticide free. Many times locally grown apples are also organic, but farmers in smaller orchards and farms often cannot afford to go through the organic certification process, so they don’t have the organic label. The best thing to do is to ask the farmer how he or she harvests the apples when you see them at the farmers’ market. Also, locally grown apples are fresher and are grown in smaller orchards that use smaller amounts of harmful pesticides.

Choosing organic also helps to protect the natural habitat in which apples grow. Apples need bees and other insects for pollination – excess pesticide use can negatively effect crops, habitat and bee populations.

See the following sources for more information:

The Environmental Working Group 

The Organic Center 

Robinson, Jo (2013-06-04). Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (p. 229). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Wood, R. (2010). The new whole foods encyclopedia. Penguin Group: New York., NY.

Last Sunday, my classmate Josh Smith and I gave a presentation at a parish in downtown F&F-KM-Teach-DSC_4757Baltimore organized by the Baltimore Food and Faith Project, supported by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future. While I did mention this in my previous blog, I did want to give a shout out to the good work of the Baltimore Food and Faith project — working with faith communities, religious schools, and faith-based organizations to address social and economic justice in the food system as well as ecological care.

Josh and I were welcomed by a fantastic group of people eager to learn more about how to combine making healthy food choices with more sustainable living.

F&F_apple-chop_4734On the menu were 50 lbs of apples donated by the Baltimore Orchard Project, an organization dedicated to bringing productive fruit trees and fresh fruit to neighborhoods throughout Baltimore;  by doing so, they are working with local neighborhoods and faith communities to create a greener and healthier city, and more resilient neighborhood communities.


Over the past couple of months I have been doing food demonstrations educating people on how to increase the benefits of particular foods through cooking techniques. So far I have averaged about one demonstration a month. Each one I put together helps me to gain the supervised hours I need to get my license to practice as a nutrition specialist in the state of Maryland.

Back in July, my classmate Maureen and I led a fermentation workshop. We were able to share what we’ve learned regarding the benefits of eating fermented foods. Participants went home with fermented kefir, sauerkraut, ketchup, and fermented fruit and vegetable drinks known as kvasses.

In August I did a cooking demonstration at the Mt Rainier’s Farmer’s Market. There I tried to emphasize quick and easy recipes that involved many of the vegetables sold at the market. There was quite a bit of interest. I am sure that had nothing to do with the free food samples. To learn more about that day – please go to my YouTube page and see the slide show

September I hosted a canning party  where we canned applesauce and some spicy salsa. Canning is a great option if you have a garden and want to enjoy the fruits of your harvest later in the year.

Just last weekend I gave a workshop at a church in Baltimore on apples – how to serve them fresh and cook them in both savory and sweet dishes. For me, the best part of the workshop was when the 5-year old boy wanted to be the first to try the green smoothie made of kale, ginger, banana and apple, and then he immediately asked for seconds!

I have been lining up engagements throughout October and November. If you know of a group that’s eager to learn, perhaps we can arrange something!

If you live on the anywhere in the northern US you know that apple season is here! Many varieties of apples are ready for harvesting.Farmers Market-112

Nutritionally speaking, apples are rich in flavonoids, a class of phytochemicals that act as antioxidants and protect the body against cancer. They are also rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants (Wood, R., 2010).  Quercitin, a major component of apple peels, has been associated with a decreased risk in type II diabetes in a number of nutritional studies (Boyer & Liu, 2004).

Why eat foods rich in antioxidants?

If you cut open an apple and leave it on the counter for an hour, you’ll see that it “ages;” it discolors and softens and becomes less appealing to eat. This browning process is called oxidation; it is akin to what takes place in your body when “free radicals” are allowed to multiply and travel liberally.

Free radicals are oxygen and nitrogen based molecules with unpaired electrons; they are produced by a number of metabolic processes in the body. Left on their own free radicals attack healthy cells trying to find an electron to make them complete. Antioxidants help to keep the peace – they prevent free radicals from destroying other cells by giving them a positive electron and neutralizing them  before they can harm other cells.

Studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants can help prevent cancer and chronic diseases, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and asthma. (Boyer & Liu, 2004 and Hyson, 2011).

Fresh apples with the peels on contain the most phytochemical value.  Be certain to wash the skin thoroughly. When baking, don’t throw away the peels, use them in your dish to add fiber and phytonutrients.


Boyer, J. and Liu R. H. (2004). Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition Journal 2004, 3:5. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-3-5

Hyson, D. A. (2011). A comprehensive review of apples and apple components and their relationship to human health. Advances in Nutrition 2(5): 408–420. doi: 10.3945/an.111.000513

Robinson, Jo (2013-06-04). Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (p. 229). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Wood, R. (2010). The new whole foods encyclopedia. Penguin Group: New York., NY.

So, while the labels placed on foods should be helping us to make better choices, sometimes they offer contradictory statements that are open to interpretation.

I live in the Washington DC area where we have a number of grocery stores that feature health foods. Yes Organic Market, My Organic Market, the Tacoma Park-Silver Spring Coop, and of course Whole Foods all carry a number of whole foods and supplements to support health – which is not to say that every single thing that is sold in these stores is healthy. And it’s often in these stores where label reading is somewhat more complicated.



As consumers we sometimes are fooled into thinking that foods that sport labels saying they are “natural,” and “organic” are automatically healthy.  But actually, under Food and Drug Association (FDA) policy, food manufacturers can use the label “natural” when the product has no synthetic and artificial ingredients. The organic label requires that the product meet the standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Organic Program. Nothing in the FDA guidelines or the USDA’s standards test for the health supporting qualities of the product in question.



Defined by regulation, the Label “healthy” means that the product must meet certain criteria, which limits amounts of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium that the product can contain. Additionally, the food must contain minimum amounts of vitamins, minerals or other beneficial nutrients.

So the next time your mouth starts watering when you see some kind of frozen confection that is “organic” and “all natural,” don’t assume you’re making a healthy choice. Remember to read past those claims that suck you in! Read the label and especially take note of the sugars and fats you might be taking in (in the name of virtuous eating)!

Read more at: 

Related posts:



The body builds and breaks down bone in a dynamic process that acts to distribute calcium where blood and tissues most need it. As the body ages, more bone is broken down than is built, resulting in normal bone loss. Osteoporosis is characterized by losing too much bone and/or your body’s ability to make bone such that it becomes brittle and easily broken. Under a microscope healthy bone looks like a honeycomb; with osteoporosis, bone density and strength are lost as the hollow spaces of the honeycomb become much larger. 

It is true that one of the risk factors for osteoporosis is a diet low in calcium. Other risk factors include:

  • Age – after 50 risk increases
  • Being female (more women are affected than men)
  • Menopause
  • Family history
  • Low body weight or being small and thin
  • Broken bones
  • Loss of height
  • Not enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Not enough fruits & vegetables in the diet
  • Too much protein, sodium and caffeine
  • An inactive lifestyle in the diet
  • Smoking
  • Consuming too much alcohol
  • weight loss
  • Medications and diseases that cause an increased risk

Obviously, some of these risks are preventable and others are not. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits and sources of calcium are key to the prevention of osteoporosis. Exercise is also key. Here are some lifestyle tips that you should consider if you fear you might be at risk:

  • Movement and the influence of gravity play a key role in the body’s process of building bones. It’s important to get 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise like walking, jumping, jogging or running most days of the week, and muscle strengthening exercise 2-3 days per week.
  • Balance exercise like yoga, tai chi and dancing can also help prevent falling.

Other lifestyle choices that lead to better bone health include:

  • Limiting caffeine intake to 3 cups or less per day because caffeine can promote calcium excretion; and carbonated caffeine drinks may interfere with phosphorus/calcium balance.
  • Limiting alcohol intake to less than 2-3 drinks per day is also important because excess alcohol can lead to bone loss, and excessive drinking can promote loss of balance and falling.

Additionally, – vitamin D and calcium supplementation may be needed. If you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia, diet plays a big role and there is plenty of nutritional therapies that can help.

Contact me to make an appointment:

Stay tuned for other posts on mineral and vitamin support for bone health.


Risk factors from the National Osteoporosis Foundation website: and from the National Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center 

Health & Nutrition Counseling

An integrative approach to health and nutrition which includes Earth consciousness.


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