Monday, August 22, 2016


Never too late to learn something new about nutrition

Since May, I have had the pleasure of working with Brenda Viens. She is a young, enthusiastic, knowledgeable registered dietitian. I didn’t think there was much that a 20-something dietitian could teach me, an experienced registered nurse who has been grocery shopping and cooking for my family for 40-plus years. I was so confident, I challenged Brenda to tell me “five things I didn’t know about nutrition and healthy eating.”

Here is what she came up with:

Lycopene is a fat soluble antioxidant that supports cardiovascular health, and may suppress tumor growth. You may not know that lycopene protects the tomato against ultraviolet rays and that new research suggests it may do the same for us. In one study, participants who consumed a lycopene-rich product experienced less erythema after sun exposure. Applying sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are still the most effective ways to avoid sunburn, but eating lycopene-rich tomatoes and tomato products may just provide a little extra protection.

Prepared mustard is not just a flavorful and low calorie substitute for mayonnaise. My grandmother had a tiny jar and spoon just for making mustard. She used this condiment for anything from sandwiches to steak and she would occasionally massage it on her joints. Mustard seed has strong anti-inflammatory properties and a topical application of the crushed seeds has a warming effect that suppresses joint and muscle aches.

Turmeric, the spice that gives mustard and Indian dishes a vibrant golden color, also has potent anti-inflammatory properties and has been used for thousands of years as an alternative therapy for joint and muscle aches. Try adding turmeric to soup, or mix it with a little olive oil then drizzle over chicken or fish. An added bonus is that sprinkling turmeric on your toothbrush is a natural way to whiten your teeth.

Unrefined and virgin oils are always a better choice compared to refined oils, right? It depends on how you use them. Extra virgin olive oil and other unrefined oils, such as flaxseed oil, are smart choices for salad dressings but should not be used for sautéing. Why? The antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals that contribute to the health benefits of unrefined oils are damaged when exposed to high temperatures. Therefore, unrefined oils have a low smoke point. Oil heated past the smoke point begins to produce fumes and free radicals that are harmful to your health. So look for the smoke point on the label and select oils that have been refined for high heat such as: canola, peanut, safflower and vegetable oils.

• Ever heard of a guilt-free “cookie dough?” This yummy, low calorie, egg-free treat is meant to be spooned right out of the mixing bowl. Blend until creamy: one 14 ounce can chickpeas, 1½ cups softened dates (or sweeten to taste with ¼ - ½ cup honey), a splash of vanilla extract, ¼ cup nut butter, a pinch of salt, ½ tsp cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons quick oats (optional). Thin with milk to desired consistency, and then fold in dark chocolate, dried fruit, or nuts. Serve with apple slices, celery sticks, or whole grain crackers.

I made the cookie dough recipe and it was delicious. My husband was surprised when I told him it was made from chickpeas. Brenda has taught me that no matter how experienced you are, it’s never too late to learn something new about nutrition and healthy eating.

Alice Facente is a community health education nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal health care provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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