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#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

Essentia Health Smarts | Blueberries are packed with nutrition

July even brings blueberry festivals in the Northland. Iron River, Wisconsin, celebrates blueberries on July 22-23 while Ely, Minnesota, celebrates July 28-30.

Blueberries are often featured in desserts and sweets such as blueberry muffins and blueberry pie. The added sugar may negate their health benefits.

This summer, stretch your taste buds and try blueberries in other ways. A simple, easy desserts is a Red White and Blue parfait. Try a chicken salad that adds these superstars to a main dish. Whip up some blueberry lime salsa for a great snack with chips or pair it with grilled chicken or grilled salmon.

Red, White and Blue Parfait

1/3 cup fresh blueberries
3 large fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon granola

Wash blueberries and strawberries; remove all stems. Cut strawberries into smaller pieces. Layer half the strawberries in a small glass, top with 3 tablespoons blueberries then 1½ tablespoons vanilla yogurt. Repeat layers. Top with granola.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Calories: 90
Total fat: 1 gram
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 5 milligrams
Sodium: 10 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 18 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 2 grams

Blueberry Chicken Salad

2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh chicken breast (about 1 pound), cooked and cubed
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup fresh red pepper, chopped
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
5-ounce container of lemon Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Leaf lettuce

Wash blueberries and set aside 1/4cup to be used for garnish. In a large bowl, combine chicken, celery, red pepper, onions and remaining blueberries. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, mayonnaise, olive oil and thyme. Add dressing mixture to chicken mixture. Gently toss to coat. Add in parsley. May be served on a lettuce leaf and topped with blueberries.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Serving size: 1¼ cup
Calories: 275
Total fat: 8 grams
Saturated fat: 1 gram
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 1 milligram
Sodium: 65 milligrams
Potassium: 270 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 20 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Protein: 39 grams

Blueberry Lime Salsa

1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
5 medium strawberries, stems removed
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ avocado, chopped

Combine blueberries, strawberries, onion, lime zest, juice and cilantro in a food processor or blender. Pulse to the consistency that you like. Scrape salsa into a bowl and fold in chopped avocado. Serve with whole-grain tortilla chips or grilled chicken or fish.

Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Calories: 20
Total fat: 1 gram
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Trans fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 15 milligrams
Potassium: 60 milligrams
Carbohydrates: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Protein: 0 grams

Bonnie Brost of Essentia HealthBonnie Brost, licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health


Essentia Health Smarts | Pump up your potassium!

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

Potassium is an essential mineral for our bodies, but many of us are not getting enough in the foods we eat.

Potassium is important for our bodies to digest food efficiently and help avoid constipation. It helps build strong muscles and makes them properly relax and contract. Potassium keeps our hearts beating correctly and our blood pressure in a good range. It also helps lower our risk for kidney stones and bone loss.

The Institute of Medicine at the National Academies of Science recommends adults get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. We should consume two to three times more potassium than sodium for our bodies to function well. But many of us have this ratio upside down. The average American gets only 2,500 milligrams of potassium daily while consuming 3,450 milligrams or more of sodium.

If we are healthy, it is almost impossible to consume too much potassium because our kidneys control how the mineral is eliminated. If we eat a lot of potassium, more is eliminated. When kidneys are damaged, or when certain medications are taken, potassium balance can be affected.

Too little potassium, or hypokalemia, can cause weak muscles, abnormal heart rhythms and higher blood pressure. Too much potassium, or hyperkalemia, may cause dangerous heart rhythms and needs to be addressed by your health care provider. It’s important to know that you can be deficient in potassium even if the level is normal in your blood. That’s because we need potassium throughout our body, not just in our blood.

Fortunately, potassium is found in a wide range of foods. Here are some good sources:

foods with potassium

  • Vegetables: broccoli, peas, dried beans, tomatoes, potatoes (especially their skins), sweet potatoes and winter squash
  • Fruits: citrus fruits, cantaloupe, bananas, kiwi, prunes and dried fruits.
  • Milk, and yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Meats: Red meats, chicken
  • Fish: salmon, cod, flounder and sardines
  • Soy products, including veggie burgers


If your potassium level is too high in your blood, choose lower potassium foods. It is impossible to eat a potassium-free diet. Just eliminating a few of the higher potassium foods will usually help.


Potassium supplements are not recommended, unless prescribed by your health care provider. A supplement could affect your heart rhythm. Getting more potassium from food is the better option, unless you are on a medication that warrants a potassium supplement.

It is hard to accurately estimate our potassium intake since nutrition labels on foods don’t include the mineral. A good resource is the USDA food database, which you can find on the internet.

Here are some high potassium foods with an estimate of the amount of the mineral found in each:



Broccoli, cooked                       1 cup                                        460 milligrams

Brussel sprouts, cooked             1 cup                                        500 milligrams

Mushrooms, cooked                  ½ cup                                       280 milligrams

Potato, baked with skin              1 medium                                  925 milligrams

Rutabaga, parsnips                   1 cup                                        560 milligrams

Spinach, cooked                       ½ cup                                       420 milligrams

Sweet potato, baked                 1 medium                                  450 milligrams

Tomato, raw                              1 medium                                  290 milligrams

Tomato sauce or puree              ½ cup                                       400-550 milligrams

Winter squash                           1 cup                                        500 milligrams



Avocado                                   ¼                                              245 milligrams

Banana                                     1 medium                                  425 milligrams

Cantaloupe                               1 cup                                        430 milligrams

Kiwi                                          1 medium                                  240 milligrams

Orange                                     1 medium                                  240 milligrams

Prune juice                                ½ cup                                       370 milligrams

Raisins                                     ¼ cup                                       270 milligrams

Strawberries, raw                       1 cup                                        250 milligrams


Meats and fish

Beef, cooked                            3 ounces                                   270 milligrams

Chicken, cooked                       3 ounces                                   220 milligrams

Fish: cod, salmon, perch            3 ounces                                   300-480 milligrams

Pork, cooked                            3 ounces                                   350 milligrams


Other foods

Lentils, cooked                         ½ cup                                       365 milligrams

Beans and peas, cooked           ½ cup                                       300-595 milligrams

Nuts, seeds                              1 ounce                                     200-300 milligrams

Milk                                          1 cup                                        350-380 milligrams

Soy milk                                   1 cup                                        300 milligrams

Yogurt, plain or fruited               6 ounces                                   260-435 milligrams


Bonnie Brost is a licensed and registered dietitian at Essentia Health

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