Fun In the Sun: The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

From Medical News Today  |  By Megan Ware

 …at least in sensible doses, exposure to the sun is important for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and for supporting the immune system, lung function, heart health, the brain and nervous system. It may also protect against cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. It’s all thanks to the Vitamin D our bodies synthesize through exposure to the sun, sensible sun exposure that is.

Estimates indicate that 5 to 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week allow most people to produce sufficient vitamin D, but vitamin D breaks down quickly, which means stores can run low, especially in winter.

Good food sources of Vitamin D include swordfish, salmon, tuna canned in water, eggs, fortified skim milk and sardines.

To read more about the health benefits of Vitamin D, click here.


Paula Recommends ...Avocado Zucchini Soup

This refreshing good-for-you soup combines crisp zucchini and creamy avocado for a delicious side or meal in and of itself. Fiber from summer squash and the avocado's healthy monounsaturated fat helps you fill up and stay fuller longer.  - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

For the soup
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups chopped zucchini (about 2-3 medium-sized)
1⁄2 cup thinly sliced green onion, divided for soup and some for salsa
1 medium Hass avocado
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
3⁄4 cup unsweetened plain almond milk

For the cucumber salsa
1 cup peeled, seeded, diced cucumber (medium sized)
1 1⁄2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 1⁄2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided half for soup and other half salsa.
Salt to taste

1. In large saucepan over high heat, combine broth, zucchini and 1⁄4 cup onion. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce heat and let simmer 6 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. To make the salsa, in a small bowl combine cucumber, remaining onion, cilantro and 1 Tablespoon lime juice. Season with salt to taste. Toss well, cover and refrigerate.
3. In blender, combine zucchini mix, avocado, cumin, remaining 1 Tablespoon lime juice and almond milk. Cover and puree until smooth. Leaving soup in blender container and refrigerate.
4. When ready to serve, re-blend soup. Add additional almond milk or broth for thinner consistency, if desired. Pour into serving bowls. Top with salsa and serve.

Makes 4 (1 cup) servings

Nutritional information per serving: 108 calories, 7.5g total fat (1g saturated fat),  10g carbohydrate, 3g protein; 5g dietary fiber, 285mg sodium 

Go Garlic!

From Medical News Today |  By Christian Nordqvist

Excerpt: 'Garlic has been used all over the world for thousands of years. Records indicate that garlic was in use when the Giza pyramids were built, about 5,000 years ago. Richard S. Rivlin wrote in the Journal of Nutrition that the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 BC), known today as "the father of Western medicine," prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion, and fatigue. The original Olympic athletes in Ancient Greece were given garlic - possibly the earliest example of "performance enhancing" agents used in sports.'

Garlic is now widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart. It is also used today by some people for cancer prevention and for its anti-inflammatory effects. For more information, including examples of scientific studies from peer-reviewed academic journals about the therapeutic benefits (or not) of garlic, click here.


All About Tomatoes


Technically a fruit, tomatoes are often considered a vegetable. Either way, they are a great source of lycopene, a plant compound that has been linked to heart health, cancer prevention and protection against sunburns. Lycopene is most abundant in the skin of ripe tomatoes and generally, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. But that’s not all, this delicious fruit is also full of Vitamin C (antioxidant), Potassium (for blood pressure control and cardiovascular health), Vitamin K1 (for bone health) and so much more. For the complete scoop on just how great tomatoes are for your health, click here.

Paula Recommends ...Zucchini and Onion Frittata

Presenting a delicious, nutritious take on a zucchini and onion frittata, just in time for summer’s favorite squash. Zucchini is a good source of vitamin C along with fiber and potassium. Well-known in the Mediterranean diet, the frittata can be enriched with a variety of seasonal vegetables and/or cheeses to create your own personal dish. Try tomatoes, leeks, mushrooms, asparagus …use your culinary imagination. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Cooking spray, preferably olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
8 oz. zucchini (1 medium), cut into 1/8-inch rounds
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut cross-wise into thin slices
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Coat large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat.
2. Sauté onion until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Mix in garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes, until onion is lightly browned. Transfer contents of skillet to plate to cool.
4. Coat skillet again with cooking spray and return to heat. Using tongs, spread and turn zucchini to slightly brown slices on both sides. Add to onion mixture. Wipe out skillet.
5. In mixing bowl, whisk eggs and whites until well combined. Mix in cheese, salt and pepper. Add vegetables and basil, and mix with fork to combine with eggs.
6. Add oil to skillet and evenly coat. Set over medium-high heat. Pour in egg mixture, spreading zucchini and onion in an even layer. As eggs start to set, use wide spatula to lift frittata around edges while tilting skillet slightly so liquid egg flows out and under the edges.
7. Cook until frittata is soft brown on bottom and set except in center, about 8 minutes. Off heat, invert large plate over skillet. Pressing it firmly in place against the skillet, invert the two so frittata falls from pan onto plate.
8. Slide frittata back into skillet and cook to lightly brown bottom, 1-2 minutes longer. Slide frittata onto serving plate. Serve immediately, or cool frittata to room temperature before serving. Cut into 4 wedges, and serve.

Note: This frittata also can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 138 calories, 9g fat (2g saturated fat),  5g carbohydrate, 9g protein; 1g fiber, 419mg sodium 

Paula Recommends ...Strawberry Chia Smoothie

This blend of fruit, milk and seeds is chock full of protein, calcium, vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber. That's why we also call it a Superfood Smoothie and a great way to start the day or to refuel after a workout. Strawberries contain ellagic acid, which may act as an antioxidant and decrease inflammation. Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, rich in omega-3s and a good protein source. It's a delicious and satisfying quick-fix with the same amount of fiber as a bowl of oatmeal …all for less than 250 calories.  - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

3/4 cup skim milk
4 teaspoons chia seeds
1 cup fresh strawberries (or frozen is fine)
1 Tablespoon strawberry all-fruit spread, or to taste if desired
2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In blender, place milk and chia seeds and let sit while measuring remaining ingredients.
2. Add strawberries, (a few ice cubes if using fresh strawberries), preserves, orange zest, ginger and vanilla to blender.
3. Whirl on high speed until smoothie is blended and creamy, about 1 minute.
4. Pour smoothie into tall glass and serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional information per serving: 249 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat),  44g carbohydrate, 9g protein; 9g dietary fiber, 90mg sodium 

Paula Recommends ...White Bean & Yogurt Green Goddess Dressing

It's summer time and the livin' is delicious ...and nutritious! Fresh herbs are everywhere and they, along with the white beans in this recipe pack a huge a plant-based health punch. From preventing the growth of cancer cells and keeping your heart healthy to helping manage arthritis and reducing inflammation, wellness never tasted so good. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Note: Dried herbs are stronger than fresh. When using dried herbs crumble or crush them to release flavor. Use 2x to 3x times more fresh than dried. Add fresh herbs at the end of cooking. 

1 small garlic clove, halved, green shoot removed
1⁄2 cup cooked white beans (drained and rinsed if using canned beans)
1⁄2 cup whole milk or 2 percent Greek yogurt or regular yogurt
1 ice cube (if using Greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Process garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until minced garlic is adhering to sides. Stop processor and scrape down.
2. Add beans, yogurt, ice cube, tarragon, parsley and chives and process until smooth.
3. With machine running, add lemon juice, salt and olive oil and process until mixture is smooth.
4. Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Scrape into a bowl. Serve as a dip or use with crisp salads

Note: It’s a bit too thick for delicate lettuces like spring mixes.

Nutritional information per serving: Serves 8. Per serving: 70 calories, 5g fat (2g saturated fat, 1g polyunsaturated fat, 2g monounsaturated fat), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 4g carbohydrate, 2g protein; 1g dietary fiber, 6 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste) 


Paula Recommends ...Gluten Free Chocolate Walnut Brownies

This sweet treat is chock full of healthy fats (walnuts and olive oil) phytochemicals (dark chocolate, cocoa, maple syrup) fiber, protein, and deliciousness while keeping added sugar to a minimum. Plus, they are dairy and gluten free.
- Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
8 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao) chopped
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄2 teaspoon coarse salt
2/3 cup almond flour
1⁄2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Brush an 8-inch square baking pan with oil. Line with parchment, leaving overhang. Brush parchment with oil
3. Melt half of chocolate in a heatproof bowl; whisk in oil, sugar and syrup. Remove from heat.
4. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, then cocoa, baking soda and salt
5. Fold in flour and remaining chocolate
6. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with walnuts
7. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30 minutes
8. Let cool completely on a wire rack
9. To serve, cut into 16 2-inch squares

Nutrition information: per serving (1 brownie): 206 calories, 16g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 17 carbs, 3g protein, 2 g fiber.

Paula Recommends ...Chocolate Coconut Cake

A little whipped cream and a pile of luscious berries completes the transformation of this healthier take on a decadent dessert for a special occasion. The coconut flour adds interesting flavor and makes this treat gluten free. Cocoa powder is a good source of protein, potassium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. Eggs add protein and sugar is kept to about half the recommendation for daily added sugar. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

½ cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
6 Tablespoons butter
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 ½" x 4 ½" loaf pan or an 8" square cake pan.
2. Sift together the coconut flour and baking powder, mixing to combine; set aside.
3. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter with the cocoa, stirring until well blended.
4. Whisk the sugar, salt, vanilla and eggs into the butter cocoa mixture. Add the coconut flour and baking powder, whisking until smooth.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
6. Bake the loaf or cake until set, and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. This will take 35 to 45 minutes for the loaf pan, or 30 to 35 minutes for the square pan.
7. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely. The cake is easiest to slice when it’s completely cool.

Note: Prep time: 15 minutes. Bake time: approximately 35 minutes. Total prep time: approximately one hour.

Nutritional information: Makes 12 servings. Per serving: 165 calories; 9 grams fat (5 grams saturated fat);  18 grams carbohydrate; 4.6 grams protein; 3.2 grams dietary fiber; 153 milligrams sodium