Is it Better to Crush or Chop Garlic? We’ve Got Your Answer!

Let’s talk about garlic, shall we? Most people know and understand that garlic can add flavor and nutrition to their plate. But what’s the best way to prepare garlic? Should you throw it in whole, mince it, chop it, press it? A customer recently came into the store asking which was better. After hearing that chopped garlic was better than crushed or pressed garlic, it got my dietitian sense all a tingling. So I began to research the topic at hand.

3 Garlic Cloves

Here’s what I found out:

When it comes to garlic, there is a whole lot of “he said she said” going on. In reality, it probably doesn’t really matter which way you prepare your garlic, as long as you’re doing something to break it down.

 

Related: Recipe for Healthy Garlic: Crush Before Cooking

If you’re wondering why, it is actually pretty simple. When you crush, chop, mince or slice your garlic, you stimulate an enzymatic process that converts alliin, a phytonutrient, to allicin, a compound which many of garlic’s health benefits are attributed to. The real kicker? To get the health benefits of this conversion, you actually have to let your garlic sit for about 10 minutes prior to adding it to your dish. Being the impatient dietitian that I am, I can confess that I very rarely let my garlic sit at all. I usually just toss it right in to whatever I’m cooking. Whoops! Apparently my attempt at convenience comes at a price I’m afraid.

Luckily, there is a relatively easy way to incorporate this recommendation. Instead of adding your garlic at the beginning of your meal prep, add it towards the end. Not only will this improve the health benefits of the dish, but it doesn’t require you to sit around and wait for your garlic to breath.

Related: What’s New and Beneficial About Garlic

As for best garlic flavor, that’s probably up to you. I couldn’t find any research that really showed one method was better than the other. After doing a little digging, it seems as though some chefs believe pressing or crushing garlic allows for better flavor to be released while others think a press makes for lousy flavor. Its very inconclusive. In my opinion, crushing garlic may also allow for better release or stimulation of the enzymatic process needed, but that’s purely my own conjecture. Even if it is “better” its probably a very small difference than prepping garlic any other way.

So in the end, I’ll let you decide the best way to break down your garlic. No matter the route you choose, just remember to let it sit for a bit or consider adding it at the very end of your cooking prep.

How do you prep your garlic? Any studies out there that show otherwise?

From Vine to Glass: The Journey of a Welch’s Concord Grape

With all the technical difficulties we’ve been experiencing over the past few months, I haven’t had the opportunity to share with you my most recent adventure! An adventure that took me through a vineyard, to a processing plant, and finally out to dinner. It was all in effort to see how Concord grapes become Concord juice, or as it is often better known, Welch’s® 100% Grape Juice.

Thanks to Welch’s®, I had the opportunity to travel over to Pasco, Washington and visit one of their Concord grape vineyards. Living in Michigan, I often drive by vineyards here when traveling to the West side of the state; however, the vineyards and climate are a lot different over in Pasco Washington area. Plus, I’d never actually walked through a grape vineyard before or rode through one. I got to do both on this grape adventure.

Kati in the Vineyard
In the Vineyard!

As we traveled from vineyard to plant, we were able to follow the grapes in their own journey from field to bottle. It was a really interesting experience and I loved hearing all about the process from one of the family farmer’s who works daily to ensure quality exists among Welch’s® grape products. Farmer Jeff Grow shared all sorts of great insight. Everything from how the harvesting process evolves to best practices for pruning and shaping the grape vine. I learned so much that I probably could begin my own grape orchard. Okay, that might be a little of a stretch, but I did learn a lot about Concord grapes and where they come from.

Grape Harvesting
Observing the grapes being removed from the vine.

I also learned a lot about their nutritional properties. I already knew about the polyphenol content of grapes since I’m avid wine lover and tend to always be on the look out for ways to justify my favorite food consumptions, but it was interesting to hear about where the polyphenol content in grapes lie and the importance of releasing those compounds through the juice making process.

Although it may seem like the benefits of a Concord grape lie within its flesh, when it comes to polyphenol content, that is actually not the case. In fact, 21.6% of the total polyphenol content can be found in the skin of the grape with another 77.3% found in the seeds. This is interesting because in their natural berry state, the skin and seed of the fruit aren’t often consumed. Even if they are, most people don’t chew the skin or seed well enough to efficiently release the polyphenols present there. That’s why the juicing process is so important. By crushing the grapes whole, the polyphenols remain within the juice. Applying heat and utilizing enzymes in the process also help further extract the polyphenols from the seeds and skin.

If you have yet to hear about polyphenols, these components work as antioxidants and are relatively abundant in the diet. In addition to Concord grapes, wine, chocolate, tea, and coffee are often referenced for their rich polyphenol content. Most research has shown strong support for the role polyphenols can play in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.

After seeing the grapes on the vine, we were able to follow them to the processing plant. It was here where we watched the grapes become juice and took a tour of the entire facility. It was fascinating to see the various stations the grapes traveled through.

Its Grape Juice
Heating up the juice to further extract polyphenols

After seeing the process from start to finish, we even got to taste a glass of freshly made juice. It was delicious!

Fresh grape juice
Fresh grape juice at the end of our tour

It was overall an amazing behind-the-scenes experience. I really enjoyed learning more about the process and meeting members of the Welch’s® family.

And as any self-respecting group of dietitians would do, we ate an amazing dinner together. Our Welch’s® inspired dinner was amazing! I loved how each course had Concord grapes featured. What a creative way to wrap up the event! It also serves as a great reminder that the uses of juice go far beyond your glass.

Harvest Dinner Menu
Our Amazing Harvest Dinner Menu!

In fact, if you are looking for a few unique ways to add 100% grape juice to your day, here are a few ideas that were shared by fellow dietitian, Robin Plotkin, RD, LDat the event:

  • Cook your rice or quinoa in it!
  • Add a splash of juice to your favorite homemade salad dressing. Consider using 2 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, and 1 part juice.
  • Make ice pops!

Aren’t these suggestions great? I love that this not only allows you to incorporate a nutrient-rich ingredient into a dish you may already love, but it allows you to play around with the overall taste of such dishes. We often omit the importance of taste when we discuss healthy eating, but its incredibly important. After all, if a nutrient-rich food doesn’t appeal to your taste buds, it probably won’t be incorporated into your meal plan all that often. What a shame! Keep it healthy, keep it flavorful, and keep it fun.

For more information about Welch’s® or the health benefits of 100% grape juice, be sure to visit http://welchs.com. 

What do you think? Can 100% grape juice be incorporated into a well-balanced meal plan? 

Disclaimer/Disclosure: Although I was not compensated for this post, my accommodations for this adventure were provided and organized by Welch’s® and FoodMinds. The opinions expressed are mine alone. This is information we here at Around the Plate thought you should know. For a full list of our disclosure and disclaimer policies, please visit our legal page

Keep Healthy Eating Flavorful in 2015 with these Eight Flavor Trend Predictions

We talk about it all the time. If the nutritious foods you’re eating aren’t flavorful, odds are good you won’t be eating them for very long. Taste tends to win out over time, but luckily there are always new ways to ensure the foods you eat aren’t just good for you, but flavorful too. Thanks to the McCormick Flavor Forecast Report, you’ll be ready to enhance your favorite dishes with a few new, trendy flavors that are sure to keep meals interesting all year long.

Shawarma Seasoning
credit: McCormick, 2015 Flavor Trends

In the report, 8 flavor trends are highlighted. They include:

Global blends on the move. Get a new kind of spicy heat with Japanese 7 Spice (Shichimi Togarashi) or warm up your grilled meats with Shawarma Spice Blend. Either way, you’ll be adding unique flavor with strong global influences into your next dish.

Middle Eastern Mezze. Packed with zesty herbs and seasonings, these dips and spreads are another great way to incorporate tastes from across the globe into your next meal.

Sour + Salt. Seasoned salt was great, but how about sour seasoned salt? Pairing up salt with things like pickled ginger, sour cherry, dried mango and lemon zest can give your dishes great flavor and enhance both brightness and texture along the way.

Smoked Spices. Grab your smoking gun! Its time to get smokin’. Not only is smoking spices just fun, it also deepens their flavor and aroma. This is a great way to add richness to your meals and even drinks.

Umami Veggies. There are four basic flavors we’re told we can taste – sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. But the Japenese word “umami” often refers to a “fifth taste” – the meaty or savory taste often accompanying some of our favorite veggies. Mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and nori are just a few foods with umami and can be a great way to satisfy that fifth taste desire.

Liquid Revolution. Ever thought about adding herbs and spices to your smoothie? How about your favorite sauce?  Adding bold flavors to your favorite dressings, sauces, marinades, juices, and smoothies is a trend we’re pretty excited about because it can completely revolutionize the flavor profile of your dish or drink. Its also an easy way to make less enticing foods more appealing. In fact, this may just be the “secret ingredient” in your favorite dish you’ve been looking for.

Flavor Worth the Wait. Slow cooked meals continue to prove popular – but this time not just for convenience. Instead, slow cooking is highlighted because it allow flavors to develop and truly come together for a unique experience.

Classic spiced cookie flavors take new form in decadent, imaginative desserts that redefine “milk and cookies.”

Cookies Reimagined. Get ready to rethink your plate of milk and cookies! Decadent, flavorful desserts are expected to take the stage in 2015. Here’s hoping healthier cookies are also in the mix.

If you’re noticing a strong, bolder flavor vibe, you’re right; there seems to be an increase in demand for more intense flavor experiences and these trends deliver just that. From restaurant dishes to those made in your home, don’t be surprised if you start seeing some of these trends come to fruition. For the past 15 years the Flavor Forecast has predicted trends that have changed the way people eat. We here at Around the Plate hope these trends inspire you to eat healthier and happier each day.

Not quite sure how to incorporate these trends into your day? Download the full forecast and grab recipes for each of the trends mentioned here.

Which trend are you most willing to try or incorporate into your meals? 

Want to Embrace a Vegetarian Lifestyle? Get Started with our New Printable!

Did you know that behind the scenes here at Around the Plate we have an amazing group of dietetic students who work diligently on all sorts of projects and tasks? Earlier this month our students were asked to speak to another group of students about how to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle.

Related: College Students Need More Veggies

Although “going vegetarian” may equate to giving up meat in some circles, it can actually be a little more complicated than that. Mostly because whenever you omit nutrient-rich foods from your meal plan, discovering ways to ensure you still get those nutrients in proper amounts can be somewhat tricky. For example, giving up lean chicken breast and replacing it with a bag of potato chips isn’t really going to do your meal plan any favors. Luckily, eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich way can be done when embracing a vegetarian lifestyle. Not only that, but you may find the overall quality of your meal plan improving because you’re incorporating more plant-based foods into your day.  Multiple studies have shown that incorporating these sorts of foods into your day can be helpful in improving overall health – after all, plant based foods are LOADED with good-for-you  nutrients!

To help you get all the nutrients your body needs while following a vegetarian meal plan, we’ve created an easy to use printable just for you! Pair up foods from each category for meal planning success and enjoy tasty, delicious meals day in and day out.

Vegetarian Guide

Even if you aren’t “going vegetarian,” you may still find it beneficial to incorporate more plant-based foods into your regular meal plan. It is a great way to add a little extra boost of nutrition to your day and a wonderful way to add a little diversity to your meals.

Don’t believe us? Here are a few great articles touting the benefits of plant-based eating:

Plant Based Diet for Heart Health

7 Reasons to Choose a Plant Based Diet

The Benefits of Taking on a Plant-Based Challenge

 

Let’s Define Healthy Eating, Shall We?

We talk a lot around here about healthy eating, but it recently came to my attention that we may not all necessarily share the same definition. With so many different meal plans and diets out there, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that definitions vary; however, it is important that we’re all on the same page as we move forward together in our healthy eating journey.
 Cooking in the Kitchen
Although its possible for individuals to eat well by incorporating a variety of different foods and techniques, I believe we should have a standard, basic guideline to begin with. That way when we start to get off track, we know how to get back to where we want to be.
Many different organizations have made their fair attempt to define this sometimes subjective term. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), healthy eating means:
  • aiming for an energy balance and a healthy body weight
  • limiting energy consumption from total fats, with most of our intake coming from unsaturated fats instead of saturated fats
  • consuming more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts
  • consuming as little simple sugars as possible
  • making sure our salt is iodized, and limiting our total consumption of salt/sodium
  • consuming enough vital amino acids to provide “cellular replenishment and transport proteins”
  • consuming essential quantities of vitamins and minerals
  • avoiding directly poisonous and carcinogenic substances
  • avoiding consumption of foods that are contaminated with human pathogens

Similarly, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 outlines what a healthy eating plan should look like by emphasizing:

  • incorporation of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk products
  • inclusion of lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs and beans
  • low sodium, low fat, low cholesterol and added sugar foods
  • proper calorie intake

But if all of these guidelines seem a little too overwhelming, we could also point out Michael Pollan’s very simple definition of “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants.” My definition falls somewhere in the middle of all these guidelines being thrown in your direction. “Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods that taste great and try not to eat too many foods that contain too much added sugar, fat, sodium, or cholesterol.” Getting the right amount of food to meet your energy needs is important. So is getting a wide variety of nutrients into your day. By focusing on nutrient-rich, basic, simple foods and combining them at meals and snacks, you are setting the stage for a healthy, nourishing life. Remember, packaged foods that have little nutritive value, and yes, low-calorie foods are often in this category, are not going to do much for your body. Amp up the nutrition by sticking to the basic food groups and mixing and matching them to your heart and tastebuds delight. If you want to dig deeper into what healthy eating means or looks like here at Around the Plate, be sure to grab our healthy eating manifesto! Download it for FREE here!

Healthy Eating Manifesto