This one goes out to all of you who really want to make jam, but just lack the time, energy, counter space, or mental fortitude for a large canning project.
Microwave jam is ready in under 20 minutes and makes one perfect little jar of jammy goodness. Here’s everything you need to know.
When I first stumbled upon Elise’s recipes for Microwave Strawberry Jam and Microwave Fig Jam, I thought, “No way.” No way that making jam could be that easy. No way that it could be as good as “real” jam.
Consider me a convert. I have now tried this microwave method with blueberries, peaches, and strawberries, and the results have been nothing short of jam heaven.
This jam is just as sweet and spoonable as any other homemade or store-bought jam. You can spread it on toast, swirl it into ice cream, or just eat it straight from the jar. No judgment.
This jam is ideal for whenever you have a few fruits going soft on the counter or if you scored an extra pint of berries at the farmers market. Two to three cups of chopped fruit or berries will give you about a cup of jam.
Since we’re not actually canning this jam – it goes straight into the fridge – you can use any kind of sugar you prefer. Regular sugar, honey, brown sugar, agave, and maple syrup all work well. Between 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup is usually enough to sweeten the fruit and give it a good jammy texture.
The microwave is really a perfect tool for making a small batch of jam like this. It cooks down a few cups of fruit very quickly and efficiently, making a concentrated jam in about 15 minutes of cook time.
The jam will bubble up quite a bit as it cooks and nearly quadruple in volume. Be sure to use a microwave-safe bowl with at least an 8-cup capacity and stir the jam every few minutes. Also, use oven mitts when removing the bowl from the microwave since it will become quite hot.
The only truly tricky moment comes in judging when the jam is done. In my experience, 15 minutes of total cooking time is a good average for most fruits. However, the jam will still look a bit syrupy and un-jammy at this point, so the temptation is always to cook it a little longer.
My advice is to resist that temptation. The jam is ready when the syrup coats the back of the spatula and falls in big, heavy drips back into the bowl. It will set more firmly as it cools, and cooking it longer can cause the sugar to crystallize and harden.
Don’t stress yourself out about it if you’re not sure – just let it cool and see how thick it becomes. If it’s still seems too loose, just stick it back in the microwave and give it another round of cooking.
Stash this jam in the fridge or the freezer. It will keep for several weeks in the fridge, or for about three months in the freezer.
Tips for Success!
- Chunky vs. smooth jam: Change up the texture of your jam just by chopping your fruit into larger or smaller pieces. For a smoother jam, you can also puree it before cooking, or mash the cooked fruit against the side of the bowl as you stir.
- Use an 8-cup capacity, microwave-safe bowl:The jam will bubble up quite a bit and quadruple in size as it cooks, so be sure to use a large bowl. Use oven mitts when moving the bowl from the microwave.\
- Stop cooking when the jam is concentrated, but still syrupy: The jam will still look slightly loose when done, but it will firm up as it cools. Resist the temptation to cook it for longer.
In a new Australian study, women who reported eating 1 to 2 ounces of beef or lamb a day were half as likely to have major depression or anxiety disorder compared to those who ate less than 1 ounce daily. That may be because beef and lamb in Australia are typically grass-fed, “which means their meat is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to be protective against anxiety and depression,” says lead author Felice Jacka, Ph.D., of Deakin University’s School of Medicine.
May protect your heart
When 36 people with high cholesterol following a diet of mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes ate 4 to 5.5 ounces of lean beef a day, they lowered their “bad” LDL cholesterol by about 10 percent, writes researcher Michael Roussell, Ph.D., in the January 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. What’s more, the fat content—called triglycerides—inside their HDL particles decreased, which may help HDL particles to better scavenge excess cholesterol and carry it out of the bloodstream. Roussell attributes his findings to beef’s unique fat profile. Beef contains two fats—stearic acid, a saturated fat, and oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil)—that have been shown to help improve cholesterol levels. However, beef also contains other kinds of saturated fat—like palmitic acid and myristic acid—that raise cholesterol.
- Many of our WHFoods provide you with carotenoids. These orange-yellow pigments offer you outstanding health benefits—but only if they are absorbed up into your cells. Intake of fat along with carotenoids greatly helps to improve their absorption. However, many of our best foods for obtaining carotenoids—for example, sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy greens—contain very little fat (less than 1 gram per serving). As a special step for improving carotenoid absorption from carotenoid-rich foods, researchers have experimented with the addition of avocado to meal choices including salads, side servings of leafy greens, side servings of carrots, or tomato sauce. The amount of avocado added has varied from study to study but averages approximately 1 cup or 1 small/medium avocado providing 20-25 grams of total fat. As expected, this added avocado has been shown to increase carotenoid absorption from all of the foods listed above. Anywhere from two to six times as much absorption was found to occur with the added avocado! But in addition to this increased absorption was a much less anticipated result in a recent study: not only did avocado improve carotenoid absorption, but it also improved conversion of specific carotenoids (most importantly, beta-carotene) into active vitamin A. (This unexpected health benefit of increased conversion was determined by the measurement of retinyl esters in the bloodstream of participants, which were found to increase after consumption of carrots or tomato sauce in combination with avocado.)Avocados do contain carotenoids, in and of themselves. And thanks to their fat content, you can get good absorption of the carotenoids that they contain. However, if you happen to be consuming an avocado-free meal or snack that contains very little fat yet rich amounts of carotenoids, some added avocado might go a long way in improving your carotenoid absorption and vitamin A nourishment. Salad greens—including romaine lettuce—and mixed greens like kale, chard, and spinach are great examples of very low fat, carotenoid-rich foods that might be eaten alone but would have more of their carotenoid-richness transferred over into your body with the help of some added avocado.
- The method you use to peel an avocado might make a difference to your health. Research on avocado shows that the greatest phytonutrient concentrations occur in portions of the food that we do not typically eat, namely, the peel and the seed (or “pit.”) The pulp of the avocado is actually much lower in phytonutrients than these other portions of the food. However, while lower in their overall phytonutrient richness, all portions of the pulp are not identical in their phytonutrient concentrations and the areas of the pulp that are closest to the peel are higher in certain phytonutrients than more interior portions of the pulp. For this reason, you don’t want to slice into that outermost, dark green portion of the pulp any more than necessary when you are peeling an avocado. Accordingly, the best method is what the California Avocado Commission has called the “nick and peel” method. In this method, you actually end up peeling the avocado with your hands in the same way that you would peel a banana. The first step in the nick-and-peel method is to cut into the avocado lengthwise, producing two long avocado halves that are still connected in the middle by the seed. Next you take hold of both halves and twist them in opposite directions until they naturally separate. At this point, remove the seed and cut each of the halves lengthwise to produce long quartered sections of the avocado. You can use your thumb and index finger to grip the edge of the skin on each quarter and peel it off, just as you would do with a banana skin. The final result is a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh, which provides you with the best possible phytonutrient richness from the pulp portion of the avocado.
- Recent research on avocado and heart disease risk has revealed some important health benefits that may be unique to this food. Avocado’s reputation as a high-fat food is entirely accurate. Our 1-cup website serving provides 22 grams of fat, and those 22 grams account for 82% of avocado’s total calories. And they do not necessarily provide a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat; you get less than 1/4 gram of omega-3s from one serving of avocado and 2.5 grams of omega-6s, for a ratio of 10:1 in favor of omega-6s. However, despite these characteristics, the addition of avocado to already well-balanced diets has been shown to lower risk of heart disease, improve blood levels of LDL, and lower levels of oxidative stress in the bloodstream following consumption of food. In one particular research study, participants in two groups all consumed a diet with the same overall balance, including 34% fat in both groups. But one avocado per day was included in the meal plan of only one group, and that was the group with the best heart-related results in terms of blood fat levels.Most researchers are agreed that the high levels of monounsaturated fat in avocado—especially oleic acid—play a role in these heart-related benefits. Nearly 15 out of the 22 grams of fat (68%) found in one cup of avocado come from monounsaturated fat. (And by contrast, less than 3 grams come from the category of polyunsaturated fat, which includes both omega-6s and omega-3s.) This high level of monounsaturated puts avocado in a similar category with olives, which provide about 14 grams of fat per cup and approximately 73% of those grams as monounsaturates. In addition to its high percentage of monounsaturated fat, however, avocado offers some other unique fat qualities. It provides us with phytosterols including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol. This special group of fats has been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits to our body systems, including our cardiovascular system. Not as clear from a dietary standpoint are the polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, or PFAs, found in avocado. PFAs are a group of fat-related compounds more commonly found in sea plants than in land plants, making the avocado tree unusual in this regard. However, the studies that we have seen on PFAs and avocado have extracted these PFAs from the seed (or pit) of the fruit, rather than the pulp. Since we typically do not consume this part of the avocado, the practical role of these PFAs from a dietary standpoint is less clear than the role of monounsaturated and phytosterols described above.
- Recent studies have analyzed the overall impact of avocado on the average U.S. diet, with some fascinating results. In one broad-based, national study, all participants who reported eating any avocado during the last 24 hours were compared to all participants who reporting eating no avocado during that same time period. The avocado-eating U.S. adults were found to have greater fiber intake (over 6 grams more for the day); greater potassium intake (439 milligrams more); greater vitamin K intake (57 micrograms more); and greater vitamin E intake (2.2 milligrams alpha-tocopherol equivalents more) than U.S. adults who ate no avocado. Interestingly, all of the nutrients listed above are nutrients for which avocado receives a rating of “good” on our WHFoods nutrient rating system! It’s worth adding here that U.S. adults consuming avocado also averaged 43 milligrams more magnesium, 5.6 grams more monounsaturated fat, and 3.2 grams more polyunsaturated fat. The study authors also noted that avocado eating was associated with better overall diet quality, as well as better intake of vegetables and fruits as a whole.
Broad-Based Nutritional Support
As described earlier in our “What’s New and Beneficial” section, U.S. adults who consume avocado average some important nutrient benefits, including intake of more potassium, vitamin K, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, and monounsaturated fat. In addition, they average greater overall intake of fruits and vegetables and have better overall diet quality. Due to their higher calorie content, avocados do not rank as high in our rating system as do other nutrient-rich foods with fewer calories. However, there are very few DRI vitamins or minerals not found in avocado! In this food you will find all B vitamins except vitamin B12; vitamin C (at 20% of our WHFoods recommended daily level in one cup); phosphorus, manganese, and copper at more than 10% of our WHFoods recommendation); and 8% of our recommended daily omega-3s.
In addition to these conventional nutrients, avocados offer a wide range of phytonutrients that are related to their unusual fat quality. Included in this category are the phytosterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol) as well as their polyhydroxylated alcohols. The major carotenoid found in the pulp of avocado is chrysanthemaxanthin. Other carotenoids in the pulp include neoxanthin, transneoxanthin, neochrome, and several forms of lutein. As mentioned earlier, avocado is also an especially rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids, and in particular, oleic acid, which accounts for over 60% of the total fat found in this food.
It would be wrong to conclude this nutritional support section without mentioning the improved absorption of carotenoids that can take place when very low-fat, carotenoid-rich food might otherwise be consumed in the absence of fat. As described earlier in our What’s New and Beneficial section, many of our best foods for obtaining carotenoids—for example, sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy greens—contain very little fat (less than 1 gram per serving). This absence of fat works against their absorption into the body, and the addition of a fat-containing food like avocado can change this situation pretty dramatically. Anywhere from two to six times as much absorption of carotenoids has been found to occur in these very low-fat, high carotenoid dietary situations. In addition, the combination of carotenoid-rich, very low-fat foods like carrots with a high-fat food like avocado has been shown to improve conversion of specific carotenoids (most importantly, beta-carotene) into active vitamin A. We think about this avocado health benefit as another component of its broad-based nutritional support.
Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between avocado consumption and blood fat levels, types of fat in the bloodstream, inflammatory risk in the cardiovascular system, and degree of cardiovascular protection against oxygen-based damage. The study results are consistent in showing benefits from avocado in all of these areas. Most of the benefits are associated with avocado consumption at least multiple times per week in amounts of approximately one cup. (Depending on the variety, one cup of avocado is approximately the same as the amount of pulp found in one small-to-medium sized avocado. Some studies also show benefits with smaller amounts of avocado in the 1/2-cup range.
A wide range of nutrients in avocado has been associated with these cardiovascular benefits. Included in this list would be: (1) avocado fats, which include very large amounts of the monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid, as well as the unusual phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, campesterol, and stigmasterol; (2) the antioxidant nutrients in avocado, including carotenoids like chrysanthemaxanthin, neoxanthin, and lutein as well as vitamin E and vitamin C; (3) anti-inflammatory components of avocado, including the carotenoids and phytosterols listed above as well as catechins and procyanidins (two families of flavonoids).
Risk of metabolic syndrome—which includes symptoms involving problematic blood fat levels and elevated blood pressure—has been shown to be reduced by intake of avocado. Many of the nutrients provided by avocado are likely to play a role in this important health benefit. Research in this area encourages us to think about avocado as being truly preventive in its cardiovascular health benefits, and worthy of consideration in many types of meal plans.
One important note about the cardiovascular benefits of avocado: most of the encouraging studies that we have seen do not simply “dump” avocado into a meal plan as some type of “add-on” food. Instead, avocado is integrated into a balanced diet with a controlled amount of fat, calories, and intake across food groups. There does not appear to be any requirement for the diet to be low fat, since avocado-containing meal plans that provide up to 34% of their total calories from fat have been shown to provide cardiovascular support. But treatment of avocado as an “add-on” food is not an approach that we have seen supported by large-scale research in this cardiovascular area.
Other Health Benefits
We believe that avocado is likely to provide you with health benefits in the areas of blood sugar control, insulin regulation, satiety and weight management, and decreased overall risk of unwanted inflammation. However, we would still like to see further expansion of research findings in these areas. With respect to blood sugar and insulin regulation, we have seen smaller scale studies showing reduced insulin secretion after a meal and improved regulation of blood sugar levels, but most of these studies have focused on the short-term situation following a meal rather than extended blood sugar regulation over weeks or months. Some of these studies have focused on the fiber content of avocado, which is more substantial than many people might think. (There are 10 grams of fiber in our one cup website serving.) Also investigated in this area has been the 7-carbon sugar called mannoheptulose (and its polyol form called perseitol). This sugar—unlike most sugars—may help suppress insulin secretion.
In the area of satiety and weight management, we’ve seen studies showing improved feelings of fullness and satisfaction after eating a meal that contained avocado, as well as decreased body mass index (BMI) and total body fat after six weeks of consuming a meal plan that contained 1.3 cups of avocado per day. However, we would also immediately note that participants in this study were required to follow a balanced meal plan with a restricted number of calories (about 1,700 calories per day). So we suspect that avocado can indeed be helpful to include in a weight management plan, but only if the overall plan is well thought out and takes the overall amount of food intake into consideration.
Avocado has clearly been shown to provide a wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Included here are both conventional nutrients like manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin E, as well as phytonutrients like unique carotenoids, flavonoids, and phytosterols. Most of the larger scale, human research studies that we have seen focus on the cardiovascular system and risk of oxidative stress and inflammation in this system. In terms of the whole body, however, and its many key physiological systems, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of avocado have been tested primarily in the lab or in animal studies. For example, numerous animal studies have looked at the impact of avocado intake on risk of inflammation in connective tissue and have speculated about the potential benefits of avocado for reducing human arthritis risk. Because of the promising nature of these preliminary studies, we look forward to new research involving large numbers of human participants and intake of avocado in a weekly meal plan.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Preparing Avocados
Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Next, take each of the avocado halves and slice lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. The use the California Avocado Commission’s “nick and peel” method to peel the avocado. Just take your thumb and index finger to grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, in exactly the same way that you would peel a banana. The final result will be a peeled avocado that contains most of that dark green outermost flesh that is richest in carotenoid antioxidants.
You can prevent the natural darkening of the avocado flesh that occurs with exposure to air by sprinkling with a little lemon juice or vinegar.
The Healthiest Way of Cooking Avocados
Many avocado recipes that you’ll find in cookbooks and on the Internet include avocado as an ingredient in its raw, unheated form. In the World’s Healthiest Foods recipes, we also favor this approach. We simply cannot think of a better way to preserve the health benefits made possible by avocado’s unique fats. If you do plan to use avocado in a recipe that calls for heat, we recommend that you use the lowest possible temperature and least amount of cooking time that will still work with your particular recipe. Our purpose in making this recommendation is to help you minimize damage to avocado’s unique fats. We’ve seen one research study showing that approximately 40 seconds of microwave heating on medium heat is a heating method that doesn’t significantly change the fatty acid profile of avocados. Sometimes we like to add avocado to a dish that has been cooked. This is a similar approach to some traditional Mexican recipes. For example, in Mexico they add sliced avocado to chicken soup after it is cooked. The avocado warms and mingles well with the soup but retains its nutritional concentration since it is not cooked.
How to Enjoy
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Use chopped avocados as a garnish for black bean soup.
- Add avocado to your favorite creamy tofu-based dressing recipe to give it extra richness and a beautiful green color.
- Mix chopped avocados, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice and seasonings for a rich-tasting twist on traditional guacamole.
- Spread ripe avocados on bread as a healthy replacement for mayonnaise when making a sandwich.
- For an exceptional salad, combine sliced avocado with fennel, oranges and fresh mint.
- For a beautiful accompaniment to your favorite Mexican dish, top quartered avocado slices with corn relish and serve with a wedge of lime.
In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, here is an in-depth nutritional profile for Avocados. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.
|Avocado, cubed, raw
(Note: “–” indicates data unavailable)
|GI: very low|
|BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES|
|Fat – total||21.99 g||—|
|Dietary Fiber||10.05 g||40|
|MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL|
|Total Sugars||0.99 g|
|Soluble Fiber||— g|
|Insoluble Fiber||— g|
|Other Carbohydrates||1.75 g|
|Monounsaturated Fat||14.70 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat||2.72 g|
|Saturated Fat||3.19 g|
|Trans Fat||0.00 g|
|Calories from Fat||197.91|
|Calories from Saturated Fat||28.70|
|Calories from Trans Fat||0.00|
|Vitamin B1||0.10 mg||8|
|Vitamin B2||0.19 mg||15|
|Vitamin B3||2.61 mg||16|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)||3.23 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.39 mg||23|
|Vitamin B12||0.00 mcg||0|
|Folate (DFE)||121.50 mcg|
|Folate (food)||121.50 mcg|
|Pantothenic Acid||2.08 mg||42|
|Vitamin C||15.00 mg||20|
|Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)|
|Vitamin A International Units (IU)||219.00 IU|
|Vitamin A mcg Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE)||10.95 mcg (RAE)||1|
|Vitamin A mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||21.90 mcg (RE)|
|Retinol mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||0.00 mcg (RE)|
|Carotenoid mcg Retinol Equivalents (RE)||21.90 mcg (RE)|
|Beta-Carotene Equivalents||132.00 mcg|
|Lutein and Zeaxanthin||406.50 mcg|
|Vitamin D International Units (IU)||0.00 IU||0|
|Vitamin D mcg||0.00 mcg|
|Vitamin E mg Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents (ATE)||3.11 mg (ATE)||21|
|Vitamin E International Units (IU)||4.63 IU|
|Vitamin E mg||3.11 mg|
|Vitamin K||31.50 mcg||35|
|INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS|
|Omega-3 Fatty Acids||0.19 g||8|
|Omega-6 Fatty Acids||2.51 g|
|14:1 Myristoleic||0.00 g|
|15:1 Pentadecenoic||0.00 g|
|16:1 Palmitol||1.05 g|
|17:1 Heptadecenoic||0.01 g|
|18:1 Oleic||13.60 g|
|20:1 Eicosenoic||0.04 g|
|22:1 Erucic||0.00 g|
|24:1 Nervonic||0.00 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids|
|18:2 Linoleic||2.51 g|
|18:2 Conjugated Linoleic (CLA)||— g|
|18:3 Linolenic||0.19 g|
|18:4 Stearidonic||— g|
|20:3 Eicosatrienoic||0.02 g|
|20:4 Arachidonic||— g|
|20:5 Eicosapentaenoic (EPA)||— g|
|22:5 Docosapentaenoic (DPA)||— g|
|22:6 Docosahexaenoic (DHA)||— g|
|Saturated Fatty Acids|
|4:0 Butyric||— g|
|6:0 Caproic||— g|
|8:0 Caprylic||0.00 g|
|10:0 Capric||— g|
|12:0 Lauric||— g|
|14:0 Myristic||— g|
|15:0 Pentadecanoic||— g|
|16:0 Palmitic||3.11 g|
|17:0 Margaric||— g|
|18:0 Stearic||0.07 g|
|20:0 Arachidic||— g|
|22:0 Behenate||— g|
|24:0 Lignoceric||— g|
|INDIVIDUAL AMINO ACIDS|
|Aspartic Acid||0.35 g|
|Glutamic Acid||0.43 g|
|Organic Acids (Total)||— g|
|Acetic Acid||— g|
|Citric Acid||— g|
|Lactic Acid||— g|
|Malic Acid||— g|
|Sugar Alcohols (Total)||— g|
|Artificial Sweeteners (Total)||— mg|
The nutrient profiles provided in this website are derived from The Food Processor, Version 10.12.0, ESHA Research, Salem, Oregon, USA. Among the 50,000+ food items in the master database and 163 nutritional components per item, specific nutrient values were frequently missing from any particular food item. We chose the designation “–” to represent those nutrients for which no value was included in this version of the database.
Source : www.whfoods.com