Tag Archives | Essentia Health – St. Joseph’s Medical Center

#Essentia Health Tips | Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


It is the A to Z time of summer: August brings an overabundance of zucchini.

Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


Zucchini is exploding in our gardens and filling up stands at farmers’ markets. What do we do with this green veggie and its close cousin, the yellow summer squash?


A popular option is zucchini bread. Recipes often add a lot of sugar and then we top the bread with high saturated fat butter. This tasty treat does not promote the health benefits of this summer garden gem.


One cup of sliced or spiralized zucchini is a great source of potassium. It has 295 milligrams, which is higher than an orange at 240 milligrams. We need 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day to insure our heart beats well, our blood pressure is under control and we metabolize our food well. Zucchini also is a great source of the “eye vitamin” known as lutein. Lutein is one of two major carotenoids found as a color pigment in the human eye. It is thought to function as a light filter, protecting eye tissues from sunlight damage. 


Zucchini has recently become popular in the foodie world. “Zoodles” or zucchini noodles, are the internet’s favorite pasta substitute. The lean green spirals are thin slices of zucchini, styled to mimic the look of pasta. Zoodles are popular in low-carbohydrate menu plans. While one cup of pasta has 200 calories and about 40 grams of carbohydrates, a cup of zoodles has only 20 calories and about five grams of carbohydrates.   


Using zoodles instead of pasta is an easy way to boost the amount of vegetables we eat. Vegetables insure that we get the needed vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients to ward off cancer, heart disease, diabetes, eye disease and other chronic diseases. 

Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 87 percent of Americans do not get the recommended two to three cups of vegetables. Adding spiralized vegetables, starting with this season’s zucchini, can get us closer to this goal.


Spiralizing gives a new and enticing look that is pleasing to the eye and we know that we eat first with our eyes.


There are hand spiralizers and table-top spiralizers. Hand models are less expensive but only do thin swirls. Table-top models, which cost $25 to $40, usually come with multiple blades to make fancy fun shapes, including ribbons and half-moons. Small to medium zucchinis work best with the spiralizers. For a huge zucchini, try a hand-held julienne peeler to make straight thin zoodles that look like fettucine. You can also try a potato peeler to test this concept before purchasing a new device. I tried a hand-held spiralizer and the julienne peeler. I’m thinking about purchasing a table-top model to experiment with a variety of vegetables and add more eye appeal to my vegetable presentations.


A simple meal to try is zucchini spirals topped with your favorite spaghetti sauce. It works well to warm the zoodles in a frying pan. Heat a skillet with a little olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the zoodles and pepper to taste. Sauté the zoodles for one to two minutes, until slightly soft. Remove from the pan and place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Allow the paper towel to soak up the extra moisture for about two to three minutes. Then divide the noodles on plates and top with the sauce.


Try zoodles in Zucchini Caprese Salad, a cold salad. Or cook them in Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peppers, a recipe that I adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s “Spiralize This” cookbook. Zucchini Noodles with Chicken in Peanut Sauce is a delicious way to fill up with less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per serving and plenty of protein and vegetables. 

So, try a new twist on zucchini this summer.


 Essentia Health Tips -Try a new twist on zucchini with “Zoodles”

Zucchini Caprese Salad

2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash, spiralized (about 2 cups)

1 green onion, thinly sliced

16 grape tomatoes, cut in half

6 large fresh basil leaves, torn in small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pepper to taste

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped in small chunks


Mix vegetables and basil in a medium bowl. Combine olive oil, vinegar and pepper; mix well and then add to vegetables. Top with chunks of cheese and serve. 


Nutrition facts

Serving size, 1 cup; calories, 125; total fat, 8.5 grams; saturated fat, 3 grams; cholesterol, 20 milligrams; sodium, 95 milligrams; potassium, 270 milligrams; carbohydrates, 5 grams; fiber, 1.5 grams; protein, 6 grams. 


Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peppers

2 small to medium zucchini, spiralized to make 6 cups of zoodles

1 large red pepper, cut into very thin strips

1 large yellow pepper, cut into very thin strips

2 tablespoons low-sodium teriyaki sauce (less than 150 milligrams sodium per tablespoon)

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon sambal oelek chili paste

1 ¼ pound fresh boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Chopped cilantro for garnish


Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini noodles, Boil for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Drain again.


In a small bowl, combine teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, cornstarch and chili paste. Stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.


Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and coat the pan. Add chicken strips and brown on both sides, for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.


Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, garlic and ginger; stir. Add peppers and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Return chicken to pan. Add zucchini noodles and sauce mixture. Stir together until noodles are heated through and coated with sauce. Serve garnished with cilantro. 


Note:  Peppers could be spiralized if you have a table-top spiralizer.


Nutrition Facts (calculated using Asian Fusion Low Sodium Teriyaki Sauce)

Serving size: 2 cups; calories, 300; total fat, 9 grams; saturated fat, 0.5 grams; cholesterol, 80 milligrams; sodium, 250 milligrams; potassium, 750 milligrams; carbohydrates, 18 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein, 36 grams. 


Zucchini Noodles with Chicken and Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1 ½ cups)

1 cup red cabbage, shredded

1 large red pepper, very thinly sliced

2 medium to large zucchini, spiralized (8 cups)

2½ cups fresh chicken breast, cooked and shredded


Peanut Sauce

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger

1-2 teaspoons hot chili sauce


Prepare peanut sauce first by combining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until peanut butter has melted. If too thick, add 1-3 tablespoons of hot water. Remove from heat.


Over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil and garlic in a large skillet. Add carrots, cabbage and pepper slices. Cook for about 5 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add zucchini noodles and shredded chicken to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour peanut sauce over chicken and vegetable and toss until well coated. May be garnished with cilantro, chopped green onions or sesame seeds.


Nutrition facts

Makes 6 cups; serving size, 2 cups; calories, 320; total fat, 14 grams; saturated fat, 2.5 grams; cholesterol, 65 milligrams; sodium, 230 milligrams; potassium, 620 milligrams; carbohydrates, 18 grams; fiber, 4 grams; protein 28 grams.



#Esssentia Health Tip: Swimmer’s Itch Getting Under your Skin?

Swimmer’s itch is an uncomfortable but harmless skin rash that you can’t see when you step out of the water after a swim, but boy, can you feel them later.

Swimmer's Itch

What is Swimmer’s Itch?

Swimmer’s itch (cercarial dermatitis) – also known as “duck itch” or “lake itch” – is microscopic parasites lurking in lake water, capable of causing a skin rash that’s itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable.
The critter responsible for causing the annoying temporary rash is a flatworm with a complex life cycle. The worm begins in the intestinal lining of water animals such as ducks, geese, beaver and muskrat, according to the Minnesota DNR. The worms lay eggs inside the host animal and the animal excretes the eggs into the lake water.
The eggs then hatch and the parasites swim around in search of a snail, a second host. They live inside the snail until it releases them back into the water, where they seek yet another host. This is when they often come across a human and burrow into the skin. People aren’t suitable hosts, and the parasite soon dies. But the itching is already underway, spurred by the body’s immune system.

Should I seek treatment for swimmer’s itch?

Physician assistant Melisa Palmer who cares for patients at the Essentia Health Urgent Care and Convenient Care Clinics in Baxter and Brainerd says, “It will normally clear up on it’s own, however to ease the discomfort use antihistamines, anti-itch cream or take an Epsom salt/baking soda bath. Seeking medical attention is necessary only when not alleviated by over-the-counter remedies.”
Swimmer's Itch Treatment
Not everyone who comes in contact with the parasite reacts. Some people show no signs of swimmer’s itch. But for those unlucky souls who do, the symptoms can be quite annoying – though ultimately harmless. Red welts are a telltale sign. So is the can’t-stop-scratching feeling that can last for 2-7 days.
Essentia offers three convenient locations for walk-in care 7 days-a-week when the unexpected happens: Convenient Care located at both the Baxter and Brainerd Cub Foods, respectively located at 417 8th Avenue NE in Brainerd and 14133 Edgewood Drive in Baxter. These locations are open 8am-8pm; and Urgent Care, located at the Essentia Health Baxter Clinic 13060 Isle Drive in Baxter, open MondayFriday 8am-8pm and on weekends from 9am-4pm.
 ***shared with permission from Essentia Health press release

Dental pain ruining your weekend? Essentia Health to partner with area Dentists for pain relief

Essentia Health and Brainerd Lakes Area Dental Offices are Working together for solutions to emergency dental care.

The Emergency Department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center can now offer patients with emergency dental problems more than antibiotics and pain medications. Patients can also get a referral to a local dentist to treat the underlying problem.

Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center

The Brainerd hospital is partnering with seven local dental offices and the United Way of Crow Wing and Southern Cass Counties in a project called “Help Crow Wing County Smile.”  The community collaboration is aimed at helping patients who lack the ability to pay for dental care or who rely on state or federal medical insurance to get connected to the place the patient can receive the care they need – a dentist office.

“Many people on Medical Assistance can’t get dental care so we become their only resource,” explains Terry Wurtzberger, director of St. Joseph’s Emergency Department. She estimates 25-35 patients visit the department each month due to dental emergencies. Another 10-20 patients go to Urgent Care in the Baxter Clinic.

Dr. Kevin Dens, a Baxter dentist, began researching the problem when he served on the hospital’s board and also on the board of the Minnesota Dental Association, where he now serves as president.

“The emergency department is not equipped to deal with dental problems,” Dr. Dens explains. “They can’t address the underlying problem. By the time people have pain, the decay is so deep into the teeth that it is a major problem.”

Dr. Dens helped recruit six other dental offices to treat patients who come to the Emergency Department and don’t have their own dentist. Those patients are referred to a participating dentist and make their own appointments.

Low reimbursement rates have prompted some dentists to quit accepting patients on government programs, which has reduced access to dental care. That has contributed to the number of people seeking emergency dental care at hospitals, Dr. Dens says.

To help launch the program, the Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation contributed $15,000 to a pilot project in which the United Way partially reimburses the participating dentists for their services when they accept these patients. In addition to Dr. Dens and his son, Dr. Chris Dens, at Cosmetic & Family Dentistry, the participating dental offices are Dr. Paul Perpich, Lakes Country Dental, Design Dental, Edgewood Dental, Lakes Dental Care and Winegar Dental.

Patients that are referred for emergency dental care through “Help Crow Wing County Smile” are asked to given back to the community an hour of volunteer time in exchange for each $25 worth of dental care they receive. The United Way coordinates the giving back part of the program through their online volunteer hub, Get Connected?, at volunteer.unitedwaynow.org.

“We want to offer the best solution for the patient, the hospital and the dentist,” says Dr. Dens. “We want to make a difference and help people cope with dental problems.”


“We’re trying to help people connect with the right care at the right time with a dentist,” says Jessica Martensen, the Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic manager who also worked on the project. “We’ve come together with dentists to see how we can help our community.”



No Need to Cry-Let’s Celebrate the Onion

Guest Post By Bonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

onion recipe

The onion is a hardy vegetable that can be planted right now. It does well in cool climates and can be planted five to six weeks before the final spring frost date, which is early June here in the Northland. You can plant seeds or small starter bulbs.

Onions are the third largest fresh vegetable industry in the United States, according to the National Onion Association. Per person consumption is about 20 pounds per year, which translates to more than 450 semi-truck loads of onions used each day.

There are two main kinds of onions, fresh and dry. Fresh onions include green onions, also known as scallions, and sweet onions, such as Vidalia, that are availablein spring. Dry onions, also known as storage onions, can be yellow, white or red. Dry onions usually have a stronger, more pungent flavor.

The onion’s strong flavor and odor come from sulfuric compounds. These compounds cause our eyes to tear. To keep tearing to a minimum, refrigerate an onion for 30 minutes before cutting and leave the root end on as long as possible, which reduces the release of the sulfuric compounds.

Onions provide a little vitamin C, folate, calcium and potassium. Onions are high in flavonoids, the antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals and suppress inflammation in our bodies. One flavonoid is quercetin, which has been linked to protection from lung cancer and asthma.

For some people, onions can increase the symptoms of gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and irritable bowel syndrome. Onions, especially when eaten raw, can bring on symptoms of GERD or heartburn because the valve between the esophagus and stomach does not to close well, allowing the acid from the stomach to come up into the esophagus. Some people can tolerate cooked onions or onion powder better than raw onions.

For those with irritable bowel syndrome, onions are a source of fructans that need to be broken apart by an enzyme in the small intestine. If they don’t have enough of this enzyme, the fructans continue into the large intestine where they ferment and result in gas, bloating and/or diarrhea. Avoiding all types of onion is best. Try adding onion flavor by sautéing large pieces of onion in oil, removing them and then only using the flavored oil.  This doesn’t work with soup because fructans are soluble in water and remain in the soup.

Here are two recipes featuring onions.

Marinated onions are a great addition to sandwiches and salads. Try different onions, such Vadalia onions for something sweeter or red onions to add some color.

Marinated Onions

1 medium onion

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey or granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Peel and thinly slice onion. Separate into rings. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well blended. Add onions. Shake to coat onions. Refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Nutrition facts

Serving:  About 6

Calories:  40

Total fat: 2 grams

Saturated fat: 0 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol:  0 milligrams

Sodium: 1 milligram

Potassium: 35 milligrams

Carbohydrate:  6 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Protein: 0 grams

French onion soup is usually very high in saturated fat and sodium but this one is more heart-healthy.

The traditional soup uses toasted French bread but whole-grain bread makes it more nutritious.


French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups thinly sliced sweet Vidalia onions

4 cups thinly sliced red onions

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon ground pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

6 cups unsalted beef stock (140 milligrams sodium or less per cup)

½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

3 slices whole-grain bread, toasted and cubed

¾ cup shredded Swiss cheese

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, pepper and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in wine, broth and thyme, bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Preheat broiler. Place 8 ovenproof bowls on a pan. Add 1 cup of soup to each bowl. Add ½ slice of toast cut into cubes and then top with 2 tablespoons of Swiss cheese. Broil for 3 minutes until cheese begins to brown.

Nutrition facts

Servings: 6

Serving size: 1 cup

Calories: 195

Total fat: 7 grams

Saturated fat: 3 grams

Trans fat: 0 grams

Cholesterol: 13 milligrams

Sodium: 250 milligrams

Potassium: 150 milligrams

Carbohydrates: 21 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Protein: 10 grams

Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health.

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