Have you ever been so blessed by a massive harvest that you become overwhelmed? I know the feeling! Sometimes you just have so many fresh veggies that you become worried about using them all before they go bad. Believe me, this is a problem. However, you can turn your problem around if you follow these tips on preserving and keeping your harvest fresh for longer.
There is nothing more delicious than a juicy tomato picked from a homegrown tomato vine. I can remember plucking and eating fresh tomatoes, warm from the summer sun, from my grandparents garden. My grandparents ran a little country market in Iowa and grew some of the biggest and tastiest tomatoes ever. How did they do it? Here are a few of their time-tested tips that they happily shared with anyone who visited their market.
Beans are a staple crop in home gardens around the world. They are robust, easy to start, and a delicious garden vegetable that can be canned and preserved for later enjoyment. But have you ever wondered if there was anything that you could do to maximize your bean plant’s performance and increase your yield? In fact, there are some really easy, time-tested tricks that can help you have a huge harvest of your favorite beans.
Just as the foods you eat influence your heart, kidneys, liver and all other major organs, your brain is also impacted by what you put in your body. Treat it right, and you may be able to stave off future neurological complications, including the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Study finds link between diet and brain size
If you look at the available research, there are numerous studies that show a clear connection between a nutrient-rich diet and brain size, as well as brain function. This is particularly the case when eating a Mediterranean diet.
This month, a new study was published in Neurology. After studying 4,213 people in the Netherlands, it was found that diet may have a profound effect on the brain. The average age of these participants was 66 years old (none of the participants were living with dementia at the time of the study).
After filling out a questionnaire based on their intake of 400 items in the past month, the researchers focused their attention on diet quality. More specifically, they examined the participants’ intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grain products, nuts, fish, dairy, tea, unsaturated fats and oils, processed and red meat, alcohol, salt, and sugary beverages.
The participants were then each ranked based on the quality of their diet. They were given a score between zero and 14. The average score was seven. Following this analysis, all participants underwent an MRI scan. Measuring a number of metrics, the average brain volume was found to be 932 milliliters.
After adjusting for other variables (sex, education, age, smoking, and physical activity), it was found that a higher diet score was linked to a larger brain volume. In previous studies, those with a greater brain volume were shown to have higher levels of cognition.
Overall, those who consumed a healthier diet had an average of two more milliliters of total brain volume in comparison to those who did not eat a healthy diet. To put this in perspective, a brain volume that is 3.6 millimeters smaller equates to one year of aging.
These five foods can help reduce brain shrinkage
The study above is not the first of its kind and it won’t be the last. In fact, past research shows that a diet rich in key vitamins, minerals, and fats can stop the brain from shrinking. In comparison, eating “junk food” has the opposite effect.
Starting today, consume more of the following five foods while maintaining a balanced, active lifestyle.
1. Wild-caught fish
Unlike farmed fish, wild-caught fish is not as heavily exposed to toxins, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals. Known to offer the body and mind essential omega-3 fatty acids, fish may also reduce brain shrinkage. In one key study, it was found that adults who took fish oil, who had not yet developed Alzheimer’s, experienced less brain shrinkage and cognitive decline in comparison to those not taking fish oil.
2. Dark leafy greens
It was recently found that kale and other dark leafy green vegetables may help keep the brain up to 11 years younger. As published in Neurology, older people who ate at least one serving of leafy greens daily, experienced lower rates of decline on tests of thinking skills and memory. High in folate and B-12, these B-complex vitamins have been shown to reduce brain shrinkage across time.
3. Olive oil
A staple of the Mediterranean diet, quality olive oil has been shown to protect brain tissue. Not only has it been attributed to less brain shrinkage, but also healthier neurons. Loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties, olive oil is also believed to reduce the risk of genetic mutations in the brain.
Nuts provide your body with a range of key nutrients, including healthy fats and vitamin E (which is high in hazelnuts and almonds). Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health, and just one-quarter of a cup provides nearly 100 percent of your daily recommended DHA (an omega- 3 fatty acid found in the human brain, skin, retina and cerebral cortex). Brazil nuts are also highly recommended.
When it comes to inflammation, blueberries can act as a natural line of defense. Also, based on their high concentration of antioxidants, these little nutritional powerhouses are believed to protect brain cells from damage. The research shows that the regular consumption of blueberries is linked to increased blood flow to the brain. It has also been found that blueberries help protect against (and in some cases reverse) cognitive loss due to brain injury, stroke, and normal aging.
When it comes to your neurological health, it is also important to note that there appears to be a significant connection between heart and brain health. This means that you should address and properly manage any cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension and diabetes.
On that note, I’m going to leave you with this quote from T. Colin Campbell, one of my favorite American biochemists. He is also a nutrition educator and once said, “Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.”
Feed your body and mind what it needs, and it will help you take care of the rest!
– The Backyard Vitality Team
Perhaps you have grown theme gardens before like butterfly, tea, salsa, or salad gardens. But have you ever considered growing your very own energy garden? An energy garden is packed with homegrown goodness that can give you just the right amount of energy before a hard workout.
I love sweet potatoes; they are a highly nutritious and delicious root vegetable. Known as Ipomoea batatas, sweet potatoes are not only one of the best vitamin A sources, but they are also packed with vitamin B5 niacin, thiamin, and carotenoids. Research has also uncovered a host of therapeutic benefits in sweet potatoes. They contain anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties. Sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to any meal and can even help keep your skin healthy.
How do you like your coffee? Maybe a little cream, a little cinnamon, honey, or perhaps a few mushrooms? Maybe I had you at cream, cinnamon, and honey…but lost you at the mushrooms. Believe it or not, fans of mushroom coffee rave about benefits like increased energy, stress reduction, better sleep, and clear thinking. But does it work?
Mushrooms and herbs are known as adaptogens that help the body recover from short and long-term physical and mental stress. Research shows that adaptogens can boost immunity, combat fatigue, improve mental acuity, and reduce anxiety and depression.
What are super mushrooms?
Super mushrooms, or “magic,” non-trippy mushrooms, have been used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine to tackle many ailments and support the immune system. Today, mushrooms are one of the most scientifically studied superfoods. Researchers are finding out mushrooms have incredible health benefits for the brain, immune system, hormones, energy levels, mood, and cognitive function.
These powerful mushrooms are ground up and added to many things such as coffee and tea. Let’s take a closer look at the top adaptogenic mushrooms often included in coffee blends, along with their health benefits.
Reishi is known as the drug-free option for Xanax. Also known as lingzhi, reishi mushrooms are known as the “mushroom of immortality” and have powerful adaptogenic impacts on the body and mind. Reishi is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. People have been drinking reishi tea for thousands of years to boost immunity and longevity. These immune-boosting fungi contain compounds that promote cells involved in immune system function. Because they have analgesic properties, reishi mushrooms help the body relax and wind down. Research also shows that reishi mushrooms can help you fall asleep faster and sleep better by promoting high-quality, deep, slow-wave sleep. Studies also show that reishi mushrooms can reduce blood sugar in persons with diabetes and reduce excess fat storage.
Chaga mushrooms are best known for their inflammation-busting properties. Packed with antioxidants, these fungi go right to work, fighting inflammation and gobbling up free radicals. Like reishi, Chaga mushrooms help to fuel the immune system. Research shows that these mushrooms can be used to prevent aging of the heart, fight viral infections, and can even possibly be used to treat cancer.
For brainpower, including memory, creativity, clarity, and concentration, lion’s mane mushrooms are a great choice. This fungus stimulates the production of nerve growth factor (NGF), a vital bioprotein in the maintenance, health, and regeneration of brain neurons. Research shows the power of these mushrooms in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Do you currently fuel up on pre-workout stimulants to help you get through your workout? Cordyceps is a natural pre-workout fuel that is not a stimulant but rather an adaptogen that supports the adrenal glass and helps your body stay energized all day long. Also, cordyceps increase cellular oxygen absorption, boost strength and stamina, improve performance during exercise, and hasten recovery from a hard workout. Like other mushrooms, cordyceps is rich in antioxidants and anti-aging properties.
Make mushroom powder
The good news is that you can make nutritious mushroom powder. After dehydrating mushrooms, place them in a food processor or blender. Process into fine powder and store in a clean jar with a lid. If you want extra fine powder, use a mesh strainer to separate any larger mushroom pieces. Place the larger pieces back into the blender or food processor. Add mushroom powder to your favorite soups, smoothies, broth, sauces, gravy, yogurt, and more for a nutritional boost.
Eat mushrooms whole
Adding more whole mushrooms to your diet is an excellent way to reap all of their tremendous benefits. Just be sure always to choose organic. Toss mushrooms into salads, pasta dishes or grill them with other veggies for a delicious summer side dish.
So, whether you enjoy them in a coffee or tea blend, superfood powder, or whole, mushrooms are a spectacular superfood loaded with vitamins and minerals and adaptogenic properties you don’t want to miss.
Here’s to eating more mushrooms,
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener
Not everyone is thrilled with the idea of eating fungus. However, mushrooms’ nutritional value is second to none, and researchers are learning more each day about their many benefits.
If you love cucumbers as much as I do, you will be thrilled to know that doing a few simple things results in twice the amount of cucumbers and an extended fruiting season. I know this sounds almost too good to be true, but trust me, these little tweaks do work, and I would love for you to give them a try and let me know all about your harvest.
Did you know that cultivating the right combination of plants close to each other can make your garden blossom from mediocre to outstanding? Companion planting is an ancient gardening practice that has been making a comeback for one simple reason… it works. Planting a diverse mixture of plants, including annuals, perennials, flowers, and veggies, makes for a much healthier garden and, often, a tastier harvest. On the flip side, planting the wrong combination of plants can result in an unhealthy garden and a mediocre or even poor harvest.