April 30, 2007
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, two antioxidants that help prevent cells from damage that often leads to cancers and other mutations. Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties, making it particularly helpful in decreasing risks of arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin A is particularly helpful in maintaining our respiratory system in order. The latest research indicates that the cells lining the lungs of people with low intakes of vitamin A lose the ability to battle disease-causing microorganisms.
Smokers – pay special attention! A chemical in cigarettes known as benzapyrene has been linked to vitamin A deficiency, thus leaving lungs and bronchii especially vulnerable. Although everyone needs vitamin A, smokers in particular need to monitor their intake.
A medium sweet potato only packs 100 calories, but provides 438% of our vitamin A and 37% of our vitamin A needs and, when eaten with its skin, 5 grams of fiber (15% of the recommended daily amount). And, by contributing 18% of the daily potassium we need and practically no sodium, it is definitely a vegetable to have in your “anti-hypertension” arsenal.
To clarify some confusion, the terms “yam” and “sweet potato” are (incorrectly) interchanged. Many grocery stores refer to sweet potatoes as yams. A real yam looks has a rough exterior and, insider, is white and very starchy.
Baked sweet potatoes with a little olive oil and salt (or cinnamon if you want to bring out its sweetness) are quick, delicious snacks.
For a sinless treat, cut a sweet potato into thin wedges, drizzle with olive oil, flavor with salt and pepper, toss on a cookie sheet and heat in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Prepare to taste just how sweet healthy eating can get!
* Know your leaves: A salad made with iceberg lettuce, which is basically crunchy water, will lack taste and nutrients. Instead, experiment with baby greens, mesclun mixes, and spinach as salad bases. If you like iceberg's texture, mix it with more nutritious greens.
* Make it filling with fiber: Add chickpeas, kidney beans, sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds, and/or a tablespoon of flaxseed to up your salad's fiber content.
* Call on Roy G. Biv: Foods' vitamin and mineral contents vary by color (ie: yellow and orange are great for Vitamin A and C, while green ones are good course of Vitamin E). So, a spinach/broccoli/green pepper/pea salad doesn't offer as much nutrition as as a spinach/cauliflower/red pepper/carrot one.
* Give it a protein boost: A salad with nothing but vegetables and fat-free dressing is a diet pitfall, since the lack of protein and fiber won't satiate you. Be sure to add at least one main source of lean protein (ie: grilled chicken breast, tuna fish, egg, tofu, tempeh, nuts, or beans).
* Say yes to (healthy) fats: In order to absorb all those nutrients, you will need fat. Best ways? Add some sliced avocado, replace fat-free dressing with an olive-oil based one, or use healthy add-ons like sunflower seeds, almonds, and beans.
* Sweeten it up: Don't be afraid to experiment with flavors. Strawberries, mangos, pears, apples, and orange slices can turn a "blah" salad into a gourmet treat.
April 29, 2007
-- Greg Mason, California
Although I wanted to take away the "eighth world wonder" mystique that often surrounds juicing, I want to clarify that there is a place for it in a healthy diet for healthy individuals.
My concern stemmed from the fact that a good number of people I have spoken with have told me they get their recommended two daily servings of fruit by juicing -- rather than eating -- them.
As I mentioned, this is worrisome because juicing doesn't provide us with fiber (which the average adult in the United States doesn't get enough of).
That being said, I don't have a problem with fresh fruit juices if they accompany high-fiber foods (i.e.: a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, a salad with legumes and a variety of vegetables, air-popped popcorn, pumpkin seeds, or even two tablespoons of ground flaxseed stirred into the juice) and are not used in place of fresh fruit.
In order to get flaxseed's nutritional benefits, we need to break its shell. If not ground, flaxseed will simply pass through our digestive system completely undetected. What a shame!
However, all is not lost. If you have a coffee grinder, you can use it to turn your whole flaxseeds into ground flaxseed meal.
Once grounded, flaxseed spoils quickly, so be sure to eat it right away (and store the rest in the refrigerator).
If this is your first time consuming this wonderful food, start off slowly. Too much too soon can make an unexperienced body feel bloated.
With that out of the way, enjoy! I'm sure you will make flaxseed a staple in your kitchen.
When it comes to total cholesterol, you ideally want a number below 200. If you are between the 200 and 240 mark, you are in the "caution" zone. Anything above 240 is cause for concern.
When it comes to HDL (the "good cholesterol" that takes extra cholesterol lingering around in places where it shouldn't be back to the liver for processing), you want as high a number as possible. Anything below 40 is low (and indicates a higher risk of developing heart disease), whereas a number between 40 and 60 is OK. For maximum heart-healthy benefits, though, you want a number above 60.
Onto the "bad cholesterol" (LDL). You definitely want this low, since high numbers up the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Less than 100? Perfection! Between 100 and 130? You're still in safe territory. If you are between 130 and 160, consider yourself warned. If between 160 and 190, you are just a few numbers away from real trouble. If your LDL is above 190, this is a threat to your cardiovascular health that needs to be addressed.
You could have eaten a McDonald's double cheeseburger and saved yourself 10 calories!
Not only does tea -- whether green, white, black, or red (also known as oolong) -- have as much as 1000 (yes, one thousand) percent more antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables, it also gives our bodies a huge detoxifying boost.
White tea is the least processed, since its leaves only undergo air-drying. Green tea leaves are steamed and dried, while black and red tea ones undergo a fermentation process. Although a few healthy compounds are lost during processing, all teas are nutritional champs in their purest form (i.e.: brewed as opposed to a Snapple drink, which is basically sugar and water with a little tea thrown in).
All teas have high amounts of natural plants antioxidants known as polyphenols and cachetins, which look for cell-damaging free radicals and prevent them from doing further damage, thereby helping decrease our risk of cancers and blood clots.
There's more! Numerous studies have shown that having 2 cups of tea a day can help lower total and bad cholesterol and slow the growth of tumors.
A little Nutrition 101: bad cholesterol (LDL) is especially dangerous when it oxidizes as a result of exposure to free radicals and becomes particularly sticky (not a good quality in something that deposits in our arteries). Luckily, antioxidants, as their name suggest, prevent oxidizing and make it harder for bad cholesterol to reside in our arteries as hard plaque.
Tea also has antioxidants known as flavonoids, which, research suggests, may help prevent blood clots.
A 2004 study by the UCLA Department of Urology found that green tea extract in particular slowed down the multiplication of bladder cancer cells.
Great news for women -- a December 2005 study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden concluded that two cups of tea a day decreased a woman's risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 46 percent.
Bagged teas have the highest amount of antioxidants, and to ensure these compounds end up in your, dunk the bag several times while the tea steeps for at least 3 minutes.
Don't think you have to drink tea by itself to get benefits. One common myth perpetrated by tea purists is that the addition of milk cancels out much of its health benefits, which is entirely
Tea does bind with iron, so it's recommended you consume tea between meals rather than with them to make sure you are fully absorbing the iron in your food. If you insist on tea to accompany your meals, I recommend adding some lemon to it, since vitamin C aids with iron absorption.
It is worth noting that these wonderful health properties do NOT apply to herbal teas, which are not made from the same leaves as the above-mentioned teas.
April 28, 2007
We begin with cholesterol. Our livers and cells produce about 80% of our body's cholesterol, a precursor to hormones like estrogen and testosterone and necessary for producing vitamin D out of the sunlight that hits our skin. That being said, cholesterol is not essential (meaning it is not necessary to get additional amounts from our diet).
There are four types of cholesterol, but the two you want to think about are low density (LDL) and high density (HDL). The four variations combined make up what is known as your total cholesterol.
LDL is the bad (or "lame") cholesterol. What's so bad about it? Well, the higher your LDL cholesterol, the higher your risk of strokes, heart attacks, and blood clots.
Why is this? LDL cholesterol ends up being deposited on the walls of our arteries, where it turns into hard plaque and restricts bloodflow.
HDL is the good (or "healthy") cholesterol that helps prevent plaque deposits by taking them to the liver for processing and removal when it spots them.
If your body were a town, LDL would be the litterbugs and HDL would be the sanitation workers.
Now, it is true that genes play a somewhat significant role in this. Some people -- no matter how healthy they eat -- have high levels of LDL, while others can go through life eating junk and still boast high HDL numbers.
Although the drug companies would love for all us to be on statins (cholesterol-lowering medication), the majority of us are in that middle area where our cholesterol profiles can be modified by diet.
Let's get this straight once and for all. It is not cholesterol in foods that raises our bad cholesterol, but saturated fat, found only in animal products (except those that are non-fat). So, when a package of bread boasts a "cholesterol-free" label on it, you can reply back, "well, duh!" and dismiss it as semi-dishonest marketing rather than groundbreaking nutritional information.
So how do you lower cholesterol? Physical activity is a must, but when it comes to food, your best weapon is soluble fiber (found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oatmeal), which bundles up and flushes out excess cholesterol.
(Note: physical activity does not have to mean a busy gym or loud spinning class. Simply increasing the distance you walk every day is enough to have an effect on your cholesterol levels).
Back to the nutrition factor. Going low-fat is NOT the answer to lowering your cholesterol. Rather, you want to go smart-fat. Monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, and flaxseed) are helpful at maintaining our good cholesterol levels (a low-fat diet can actually lower it). Remember, the goal isn't just to lower bad cholesterol, but to increase the good one, too.
Tomorrow we'll finish up this segment with some numbers to help you make sense of your next blood lab results.
April 27, 2007
Many fitness buffs swear by juicing. I’m sure you’ve seen at least one late night infomercial where an 80-year-old with bundles of energy pitches a “revolutionary product” in which you insert an orange and an apple and just seconds later, voila, you have fresh juice!
These same people want you to believe that juicing is the absolute best way to get your nutrients. They’re wrong.
Although juicing will provide you with all the antioxidants (cancer-fighting compounds) in fruits, it lacks something very important – cholesterol-lowing and digestive-system-cleaning fiber.
(For clarification purposes, I am referring to juice you make by inserting a whole fruit into a juicer, not pre-packaged ‘juice drinks’ that are nutritional black holes).
Fruits hold a large portion of their fiber on their skins or peels, which you can not get in juice. Similarly, the fiber in an orange is found in the white strands that contain each individual orange segment. You certainly won’t be getting that in liquid form.
Additionally, if you are looking to maintain or lose weight, you are much better off eating an actual piece of fresh fruit than drinking its juice. Not only will the fiber in the whole fruit help make you feel full, you will also consume less calories.
For instance, 1 cup of apple slices provides 57 calories. A cup of apple juice? 120. The cup of apple slices would also give you 3 grams of fiber, whereas the juice has none.
If you are given the choice between regular or diet soda and fresh fruit juice, the latter is of course the best option. However, it falls short of being the nutritional powerhouse that is a whole fruit with all its components.
Let’s start with some very basic nutritional info for this fruit. Half an avocado provides 160 calories, 14.7 grams of fat, 6.7 grams of fiber, and 487.4 milligrams of potassium.
To put it into perspective, that’s a banana’s worth of potassium and as much fiber as two slices of whole grain bread.
Many people get hung up on the fat (when eating a 2,000 calorie diet, the recommendation is that your total fat intake not surpass the 65 gram mark).
As you will soon read in issue 4 of Small Bites, though, all fat is not created equal.
The fat in avocados is a tremendously healthy one known as monounsaturated fat – the same one that largely makes up olive oil.
Avocados even beat olive oil when it comes to their proportion of a specific monounsaturated fat known as oleic acid.
Oleic acid (sometimes referred to as “omega-9”) has been shown to lower total and bad cholesterol while simultaneously increasing good cholesterol. Even better, it is a great defense against the development of atherosclerosis (the collection of fatty deposits in our artery walls that restrict bloodflow).
Remember that there are three components that help us feel satiated: fat, fiber, and protein. Avocados are high in fiber and fat, so just half of one (160 calories) included in a meal will satisfy your hunger for quite a while.
Take something like pretzels -- which have no fat, almost no fiber, and very little protein. You could eat 500 calories’ worth and still feel like gnoshing on something.
Please do not fall prey to the notion that “eating fat makes me fat”. It is entirely untrue. Excess calories lead to weight gain. Because there are 9 calories per gram of fat (as opposed to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrate), it is a more concentrated source of calories, but, for example, if you eat copious amounts of rice (a fat-free food), you will most certainly gain weight.
A study published in the March 2005 issue of Annals of Oncology, a European medical cancer research journal, provided some promising results – oleic acid (abundant in avocados) drastically cut down the levels of a gene that appears to be responsible for the onset of breast cancer.
There’s more! I recently mentioned that fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) can not be properly absorbed by the body unless we accompany them with some kind of fat (hence their name).
Avocados not only already have vitamins A, E, and K, they are also a tremendous tool to help us absorb nutrients from other foods.
In fact, a team of researchers at
When it came to eating a salad with high amounts of alpha and beta carotene (compounds found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables which our body converts into Vitamin A), people who included avocados in this salad absorbed 8.3 more times alpha carotene and 13.6 times more beta carotene than those who skipped the fat!
Avocados are also high in lutein, a fat-soluble pigment which helps keep eyes, hearts, and – in men’s case – prostates healthy. Our body does not make lutein, so it is imperative we get it from our diet.
Avocados, much like bananas, ripen very quickly. If you are planning to prepare a meal with the avocado you buy today, be sure lightly press your thumb against it to test for its softness. Otherwise, go for one that is a little hard and allow it to ripen in your kitchen – at room temperature – for a few days.
Even kitchen-phobes have no excuse for not enjoying this delicious fruit – all you need is a cutting board and knife.
April 26, 2007
Leave a guess in the "comments" section and be sure to check back on Sunday for the answer.
A few ways to remove approximately 100 calories from your day:
- Snack on 2 ounces of grapes (39 calories) rather than 1 ounce of raisins (85 calories).
- Enjoy a salad with 1 medium-size 2 ounce fresh tomato (11 calories) instead of 1 ounce of sundried tomatoes (83 calories).
- Instead of 7 regular Tostitos chips (140 calories), have 10 baked Tostitos chips (55 calories). Even better, enjoy them with 2 tablespoons of salsa (9 calories) rather than the same amount of cheese dip (60 calories).
- At a Thai restaurant, go for a summer roll (89 calories) instead of a spring roll (200 calories).
- You can't go wrong with a can of tuna. But packed in water (191 calories) is better than oil (339 calories).
- Make your grilled cheese sandwich on a George Foreman grill and save yourself a tablespoon of butter (102 calories).
- Forego a typical 1 ounce serving of croutons in your salad (122 calories).
- In the mood for ice cream? Get a scoop in a cup (0 calories, of course) rather than a chocolate-dipped waffle cone (160 calories).
- When dining out, ask for your salad dressing (200 calories) on the side. Then, dip your fork into the salad dressing before each bite. You'll very likely have half of it left over after finishing your salad.
- If you're indulging on dessert, ask for a brownie (290 calories) without a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top (140 calories).
- At Starbucks, pass on whipped cream for your grande drink (100 calories).
No wonder 10 million Americans are living with osteoporosis (progressive bone loss that greatly increases the risk of fractures) and 18 million are currently at risk of developing it.
Even the pickiest of eaters approve of their non-intrusive flavor and consistency.
Since flaxseed's highly healthful contents are protected by a thick shell, the best way to eat -- and easiest way to buy -- it is as a milled or ground product.
Whereas the outer shell passes undigested through our body, the center is much more easily absorbed -- and offers some powerhouse nutrients.
Two tablespoons of flaxseed provide 4 grams (20 percent) of fiber and almost 150% of the omega-3 fatty acids we need in just 95 calories!
You might have heard a lot about omega-3 fatty acids (they have replaced whole grains as the new “hot topic” in nutrition).
Let's do a little "Omega 101," shall we?
Omega-3's are wonderful essential fatty acids (yes, 'wonderful' and 'fatty' can be in the same sentence!).
Why? It has amazing anti-inflammation properties (and thus a strong defense against asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and migraine headaches) and helps prevent the formation of blood clots (thereby decreasing our risk of heart attacks and strokes).
The newest research on omega-3's has also shown a link between their consumption and the slowing down of bone loss, especially among pre-menopausal women.
Although omega-3' are often linked with fatty fish like salmon, flaxseed have lots of alpha linoleic acid, the precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid (the omega-3 found in fatty fish).
Omega-3's are essential, meaning the body can not produce them on its own (unlike cholesterol, which we make on a daily basis and thus do not need to get from our food).
However, the average adult in the United States is consuming 1.6 grams of Omega-3 fats a day -- falling way short of the recommended minimum of 2.85 grams a day set forth by the American Heart Association.
That is not all flaxseed has to offer, though. High in the mineral magnesium, it is a good nutritional tool to combat asthma symptoms and keep blood pressure stable.
Flaxseed is also high in special plant compounds named lignans.
Women should pay special attention, since lignans contain phytoestrogens, an estrogen-like hormone that, in several studies, has been shown to decrease the formation of cell mutations related to the onset of breast cancer. One specific phytoestrogen in flaxseed known as SDG successfully ceased the formation of mammary tumors in rats.
In fact, a study published in the February 2004 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that just one ounce of ground flaxseed every day over a 4-month period raises breast cancer protective hormones.
No matter what your sex, the insoluble (digestive-system-cleaning) and soluble (bad-cholesterol-flushing) fiber in flaxseed is worth raving about.
Remember, though, they are "all-star", so they also offer a special type of soluble fiber called mucilage which functions as a natural laxative.
Here is the easiest part: all you need to do is buy ground flaxseed meal (sold at many commercial supermarkets and health food stores).
Even if you are unable to boil water without screwing up, you can add flaxseed to your diet. Sprinkle it on cereal, oatmeal, soups or salads, blend it into smoothies, or mix it with yogurt.
Be sure to store flaxseed in the refrigerator once opened, though, since it spoils quickly and loses its nutritional properties if left out at room temperature once opened.
Flax all, folks!
April 25, 2007
Two recent studies -- one published in the August 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association and another in the August 2005 issue of Hypertension research journal -- concluded that three and a half ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks was enough to warrant a ten percent drop in blood pressure of participants!
Allow me to be a party pooper for one paragraph. Three and a half ounces of dark chocolate provide 550 calories and alone surpasses our maximum recommended amount of artery-clogging and bad-cholesterol-raising saturated fat.
Although the media loves to publish results of studies like these and make pretend chocolate is now a health food, the truth isn't that simple.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure, try keeping it in check by eating fresh fruits and vegetables as well as raw nuts and seeds and low or non-fat dairy products. These foods are high in potassium, a mineral that does its part in keeping blood pressure within normal ranges.
Now, if you are a healthy dark chocolate lover who has three ounces of it A WEEK along with daily servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low fat animal products, I certainly won't stop you.
This new section will take a look at what some celebrities have credited their weight loss to and help you decide whether they are in-the-know or clueless.
Let’s take the American Idol hopeful turned global superstar Kelly Clarkson.
Last summer, Kelly was showing a slimmer body and credited part of her weight loss to substituting soda with Vitamin Water.
She was quoted on Entertainment Tonight as saying: “Why I love the Vitamin Water campaign is… a lot of kids just down soda and it's not good."
(insert sound of record coming to a screeching halt here).
Mind you, at the time she said this, Ms. Clarkson had just inked a sweet (no pun intended) deal with Glaceau, the makers of Vitamin Water.
For whatever reason, many of us tend to take celebrities at their word and think, “hey, they look good! If I do that, I’ll probably look better too.”
Let’s say you indeed followed the singer’s advice and replaced your daily 20 ounce bottle of regular soda with one of Vitamin Water.
A 20 ounce bottle of Coca Cola provides 243 calories and 67 grams (16 ¾ teaspoons) of sugar.
The same amount of Vitamin Water contains 125 calories and 32 grams (8 teaspoons) of sugar.
Sure enough, it’s not as bad as the 20 ounce soda, but it is an identical match to the nutritional profile of a can of regular Coke.
If Kelly thinks kids “downing a lot of soda isn’t good”, why is she advertising a product that is essentially a can of Coke with a few vitamins thrown in?
Anytime you see an artificial drink with such a high amount of sugar, ask yourself: “would I ever add 8 teaspoons of sugar to an 8 ounce glass of water?” The answer is probably no.
I am not advocating the complete shunning of sugar. However, downing the equivalent of 8 teaspoons in one beverage is excessive.
And, if you are truly looking to replace a soda habit with something lower in calories and sugar, my recommendation is flavored seltzer water, which is 0 calories and has 0 grams of sugar.
So while Kelly Clarkson might be part of pop music’s royalty, I wouldn’t look to her for nutrition advice.
At just 10 calories and 2 grams of sugar per bottle, Propel distances itself from the sugary concoction that is regular Gatorade. My only issue lies in it being billed as “fitness water”. Seriously, why? Because it contains 10% of our recommended calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin E intake and a measly 4% of our vitamin B12 suggested consumption?
I can’t help but find it ironic that a product whose second ingredient is “sucrose syrup” (a fancy name for “syrup made from sugar”) is linked to fitness.
According to the Propel website, “research shows you’ll drink more and hydrate better when your beverage is lightly flavored.” I don’t know what study they are referring to that researched this phenomenon (I get the feeling it was an informal poll). But, couldn’t Diet Cherry Coke also use that same ‘research’ to support their products?
I would much rather you get 10% of your vitamin C needs from an actual food. It’s really easy – any of these will do the trick: 2/5 of an avocado, 1 banana, 1 cup of carrots, or ½ a cup of watermelon or pineapple.
Similarly, 10% of our vitamin E recommended intake is better coming from 1 ounce of peanuts or one mango.
Again, if you find the taste of Propel satisfying, there is nothing inherently unhealthy about it, but I also would not call it a health product.
Plain water accompanied by a fruit will hydrate you just as well while providing many more nutrients.
A tall soy chai latte contains very little fat (just 2% of the saturated fat we are allowed a day) and will set you back 210 calories.
Most of these calories come from the 36 grams (9 teaspoons) of sugar. Unfortunately, Starbucks only uses vanilla-flavored soymilk for their products (if they used plain soymilk, you would save yourself a teaspoon of added sugar).
If you were to get a tall black tea soy latte, you would save 70 calories and 14 grams (3 ½ teaspoons) of sugar.
A daily soy chai latte is a sugar overload, in my opinion. However, if you thoroughly enjoy this drink two times a week, I wouldn’t be overly concerned.
On your soy chai latte days, though, be more aware of your sugar consumption (i.e.: replace a pastry with whole wheat toast, and skip dessert after your meals).
Before we continue, let me disclose the following. I have been a pescatarian (vegetarian who eats seafood) for nine years now. That being said, I am not on some sort of vegetarian inquisition, attempting to make the whole world give up meat.
In fact, from a nutrition standpoint, I don’t have a problem with diets that include meat products as long as they are lean and prepared in a healthy way and the overall diet includes plenty of plant-based sources of nutrients.
And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Despite being familiar with meat alternatives, I myself didn’t try tempeh until a few months ago. I was instantly hooked. I loved the nutty flavor and texture, and its nutrition even more so.
Tempeh has been an Indonesian staple for approximately 2,000 years and is now making its way into mainstream US culture. In fact, many commercial supermarkets across the country offer it alongside their tofu and faux meats.
Its partly so nutritious because it is a whole food which undergoes very little processing, meaning its health properties remain intact.
To make it, soybeans are cooked and then fermented with a special agent. The fermented product is then incubated until a patty or thin cake is formed. Raw tempeh looks moldy, but it is 100% safe to eat.
There are many ways to prepare it. My favorite is to cut it into small strips, which I then sautee, and put in a salad. It also makes for an excellent stir-fry ingredient.
Just how good is tempeh, you ask? Half a cup provides 210 calories, 19 grams of protein (a little less than half a chicken breast), 7 grams of fiber (the equivalent of two medium apples) and 550 milligrams of blood-pressure stabilizing potassium (slightly more than a medium banana).
That half cup also contains 30% of the recommended amount of riboflavin, a B-vitamin that, among many other tasks, oversees our liver’s detoxifying process.
Tempeh also delivers all of soy’s isoflavones (plant derived compounds) in one tasty package.
Since so many of soy’s health benefits are targeted to women, let me throw this tidbit out to my male readership. One of soy’s isoflavones, genisten, has been shown to lower our risk of colon cancer (for best results, it is recommended to consume 12 ounces of whole soy products a week).
Genisten is so powerful that not only does it prevent the spread of malignant cells, studies also suggest it interferes in such a way that it sets off their own self-destruction!
Curious for a taste? Lightlife offers several varieties of tempeh -- including my favorite, with added flaxseed (another all-star I will discuss soon), that offers 11 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein per serving.
If you’re grocery shopping this week, pick up some tempeh and sizzle some strips at brunch time. It might just be the new bacon for you!
April 24, 2007
Many special coffeehouse drinks come with outrageous amounts of calories, fat, and sugar.
If a Starbucks Frappuccino is calling your name, consider the following statistics:
A tall coffee frappuccino with no whipped cream comes in at 200 calories, 1.5 grams of cholesterol-raising saturated fat (8% of the maximum amount recommended) and 33 grams (8 teaspoons) of sugar.
A grande caramel frapuccino with whipped cream and caramel provides you with 390 calories, 10 grams (50%) of saturated fat, and 46 grams (11 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar.
Curious about a Venti? Let's look at a strawberries and creme blended frappuccino with whipped cream of that size. That would come out to 750 calories, 8.5 grams (45%) of saturated fat, and 117 grams (29 1/4 teaspoons!) of sugar.
I'm afraid Dunkin' Donuts doesn't fare much better.
Their Vanilla Bean coolatta contains 450 calories, 15 grams (75%) of saturated fat, and 73 grams (18 1/4) teaspoons of sugar.
Your absolute best bet is to order an iced latte -- just coffee and milk (a grande with non-fat milk provides 200 calories, 0 grams of saturated fat, and only naturally-occurring sugars found in milk). You really can't go wrong.
After all, if coffee and milk are sufficient during the winter months, why must that turn into liquid candy when the temperature goes above 70?
Perhaps in the land of unicorns and fairies. In the real world? Not so much.
This myth has been around for ages, and many who have lost weight credit their success to consuming all their calories before a certain time of night.
Let's examine the facts. How do we gain weight? We consume (eat) more energy (calories) than we can burn in a given day. Let's break this down further:
- We all have what is called a basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- Our BMR reflects how rapidly our bodies burn calories while we are in a state of complete rest. (yes, we even burn calories while we sleep!)
- If you are looking to lose weight, you want to increase your BMR so your body is able to burn more calories.
- How do you do this? By eating small, frequent meals so your BMR is constantly running, and by performing weight-bearing exercises (whether it’s to bulk up or simply tone your muscles).
- The more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR.
- When you starve your body, it has no idea when its next meal will be. So, if you go a whole day without eating, your body doesn’t know you are looking to lose weight. It just thinks you are in shortage of food. So, it goes into self-preservation mode and slows everything down in order to store energy, including your BMR.
It's simple, really. In the same way that we gain weight by having a great input (calories) than output (burning), we lose weight by doing the exact opposite. So, if you spend the last three hours of the day without having any food, of course you are going to lose weight.
In fact, the people who usually mention the "no eating after x time" rule are those who tend to binge-snack before going to bed. If you find yourself regularly hacing a pint of ice cream while watching Conan and suddenly stop doing so, you are now saving yourself 500 calories. Do that for a week and you'll easily lose approximately one pound of fat!
Similarly, if you are having two donuts for breakfast, a king-size Snickers bar as an AM snack, two slices of pepperoni pizza for lunch, and a can of Coke and a bite-size bag of Cheetos in the afternoon, you will most likely gain weight, even if no food passes your lips after 6 p.m.
Extra calories will become fat no matter what time you consume them.
The key to successful and permanent weight loss is not found in gimmicky solutions given by celebrities, but by you having an understanding of food and your behaviors and habits with it.
Answer will be revealed Thursday. Feel free to leave your guess in the "comments" section at the end of this post.
These colorful root vegetables are super abundant in antioxidants known as carotenoids. Remember, anytime you see the word antioxidant, you need to associate that with “cancer-fighter”.
One famous carotenoid found in carrots is beta-carotene, which gets turned into Vitamin A in our livers. And what is Vitamin A good for? A lot of things, including keeping lungs, eyes (Vitamin A helps absorb light into our eyes), and skin healthy.
A 14-year Dutchy study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 found that people with high risks of developing macular degeneration of their eyes -- the leading cause of blindness for adults over 60 in the United States -- had that risk decreased by 35% when they consumed diets high in beta-carotene.
Carrots have SO much beta-carotene that the body can’t turn all of it into Vitamin A. The rest stays in its natural antioxidant form and sticks around as an immunity-system booster, making sure any free radicals (cancer-causing chemicals) are slowed down.
Next time you’re grocery shopping, keep in mind that the more orange the carrot, the more beta-carotene it contains.
That’s not all. In 1989, a team of biochemists at Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan discovered that a carotenoid in carrots known as alpha-carotene played a significant role in slowing down the growth of many tumors.
Meanwhile, falcarinol, which is actually a natural pesticide produced by carrots, has been found to be quite powerful in lowering our risk of colon cancer.
One cup of carrots only clocks in at 30 calories but provides 650% of our Vitamin A and 20% of our Vitamin C needs, 4.5 grams of fiber, and 12% of our recommended potassium intake.
Before you break out the baby carrots and fat-free dip, though, here is some Nutrition 101.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Two important things to take from that. First, fat-soluble vitamins are stored for longer periods of time than water-soluble ones.
Vitamin C, for instance, is water-soluble. Have too much in one day and the body will urinate the excess rather quickly. It is important to consume water-soluble vitamins in a consistent fashion, since the body isn’t able to hold on to them for very long. Have a lot of Vitamin A one day and not as much the other and you’re still OK, since the body can hold it in the liver for a few days.
Most importantly, though, the body needs fat in order to absorb fat-soluble vitamins. So, when eating carrots, pair them up with healthy fats (whether it’s dipping baby carrots into hummus or adding some avocado to your spinach and carrot salad).
If you can’t get into the whole baby carrot snack habit, worry not -- cooked carrots offer even more nutrition than their raw counterparts. Research has shown that heat increases the antioxidant activity of Bugs Bunny’s staple.
April 22, 2007
There are times, though, when fruit is hard to find (on the road) or the setting isn't too convenient (i.e.: peeling -- or eating -- an orange in class or your car can get quite messy).
Luckily, the people at Sensible Foods are here to help. Their line of crunch-dried (a drying method they have patented) fruit snack pouches provides the equivalent of half a cup of fresh fruit -- that's 1 of your 2 recommended daily servings.
Cherry Berry is my favorite flavor, combining apples, cherries, blueberries and strawberries. If you're in a more exotic mood, their Tropical Blend flavor should hit the spot, with its mix of apples, pineapples, mangos, and bananas.
If you look at their nutrition label, you will see anywhere from 14 to 16 grams of sugar. This would normally be cause for a red flag, as 16 grams of sugar (the amount in three Oreo cookies) are equal to 4 teaspoons of the sweet stuff. But, worry not, these are naturally occurring sugars, not added ones at a factory.
If you find that you aren't consuming a lot of fruit, this product from Sensible Foods (containing nothing but dried fruit) is a great one to have in your office drawer for a morning snack or to accompany plain yogurt or unflavored oatmeal.
For more information, please visit the Sensible Foods website.
One way to get optimal nutrition while helping our planet is by purchasing produce from a local farmer's market.
Not only will you be getting food grown within a proximal geographic location (meaning it has not been sitting in a truck for days, slowly losing more and more vitamins and minerals), you will also be reducing the amount of fuel needed to get your produce.
For instance, if you are living in New York City, you could very well go to a supermarket and get commercial strawberries (shipped in from Mexico) or you could head to your local farmer's market for some delicious ones grown in your same state.
If you live in Seattle, you could buy commercial apples flown in from Argentina -- 10,000 miles away -- or ones brought in from just a few miles away.
After eating local produce, you might find it hard to buy that same item from a standard supermarket again. Flavors are more intense, and things spoil a lot slower (remember, when you buy most produce from a grocery store, you're getting it as much as two weeks after it was picked at a farm).
I find that eating locally 100% of the time becomes very limiting. For instance, avocados do not grow on the East coast of the United States, but that does not mean I will never eat them. Similarly, oranges in the United States come from two places: California and Florida.
The key is to buy locally when the option is presented to you. Feel free to enjoy a Florida orange in Iowa, but try to get your own state's crops from a local farmer. Your body -- and the environment -- will be grateful for the help.
That's right. Twenty-five percent of children ages 2 - 19 in the United States are clinically overweight or obese.
In 1975, approximately 10,000,000 (or 12.5%) of children ages 2 - 19 fell into these two categories.
Let's hope our current number won't double by 2035....
This staple of Incan culture (their army swore by it and considered it as valuable as gold) is a nutritional powerhouse which is finally sharing shelf space with rice, cous cous, and pasta at general supermarkets after years of taking a backseat in specialty health food stores.
Quinoa is not really a grain; it actually belongs to the same family of dark leafy green vegetables as spinach, but due to its texture and cooking method, it is referred to as a grain (thus, it is technically a pseudograin).
And what a pseudograin it is! Quinoa, like soy, is a complete plant protein (meaning it contains all eight essential amino acids; many plant proteins lack the amino acid lysine).
Containing very high levels of blood-vessel-relaxing magnesium -- half a cup provides 50% of the daily requirement for a 2,000-calorie diet -- quinoa helps treat hypertension and, some recent research suggests, migraine headaches.
One cup of cooked quinoa packs 503 milligrams of potassium -- another key mineral in preventing hypertension and offsetting the problems of too much sodium. To give you an idea, that's as much potassium as a large banana (15% of the recommended amount)!
This South American superstar leaves many others grains in the dust.
Compare one cup of quinoa with one cup of white rice:
Fiber (grams): 4
Protein (grams): 9
Potassium (milligrams): 503
Fiber (grams): 0.6
Protein (grams): 4.3
Potassium (milligrams): 55
It gets even better! Quinoa is a prebiotic, meaning it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in our intestinal tracts. The healthier our bacteria, the better chance we have of warding off infections and fighting back and disease-causing bacteria.
And, as if all that wasn't enough, quinoa is gluten-free, so celiacs can enjoy it -- and all its benefits -- with no side effects.
Interested in trying some? Hunt down quinoa in your local supermarket or health food store (in the same aisle as rice) and go to town.
Cooking it is easy. Simply mix in a pot with water, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the water is evaporated.
-- Nuria Net, Editor of nyremezcla.com and self-confessed chocoholic
Antioxidants (substances that help prevent the formation of cancer-causing chemicals in our bodies) became buzz-worthy in 2004, and the media couldn't resist but jump on the "Hey, chocolate has antioxidants!" train.
That is a semi-true statement. In reality, all chocolate is not created equal.
Let's start with the basics. It is not chocolate that holds all these properties, but cocoa BEANS that contain large amounts of an antioxidant named procyanidin, which helps maintain the connective tissues surrounding our joints, organs, and muscles. It's a great defense against rheumatoid arthritis (painful swelling of the joints).
Cocoa beans also contain a group of antioxidants named phenols which have been shown to help reduce blood pressure.
Here is the catch. The more processed the chocolate, the less cocoa (and the more butter and sugar) it has. In conclusion, milk chocolate -- the type found in commercial chocolate bars -- is not a good source of antioxidants. Not only does milk chocolate have a small percentage of cocoa beans in it, but milk itself cancels out a lot of procyanidin's strength.
To make sure you are getting some health benefits from your chocolate, look for those labeled "75% cocoa" or "85% cocoa". "Dark chocolate" is not enough (to get that classification, chocolate must be comprised of at least 35% cocoa beans... not enough to really warrant any health claims in my book).
Remember, no one ever developed rheumatoid arthritis from NOT eating chocolate. Although chocolate containing high percentages of cocoa beans has more antioxidants and less sugar than milk chocolate, it is still high in calories and saturated fat (the type that clogs your arteries).
But, if you happen to be a dark chocolate lover, you can enjoy it with a smile, knowing your (small) nibbles come with an added health benefit.
Their entire selling point is that their products offer some of the precious minerals we lose when exercising heavily, among them potassium. Keep in mind that we should be getting approximately 4,000 milligrams of potassium a day as you read the following.
When looking past the smoke and mirrors, we find that:
* 22 grams (5 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar
* 47 milligrams of potassium (a measly 1%!)
* 21 grams (5 1/4 teaspoons) of sugar
* 45 milligrams of potassium (again, just 1%!)
In other words, don't buy the hype. If you are an avid exerciser and need to replenish fluids and minerals, make sure to drink water after physical activity and chow down on any of the following within 30 minutes of working out: fresh fruit, raw nuts, tuna/grilled chicken/peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, and non or low-fat dairy.
April 20, 2007
Apart from packing four grams of fiber into just 80 calories, apples contain a flavonoid (plant pigment) named quercetin, which happens to be one of the top prostate cancer and heart disease warriors.
A famous Finnish study (published in 1996 in the British Medical Journal) that tracked the nutrition habits of 5,000 adult men and women over a 20-year period found that those who frequently ate foods with high levels of quercetin had a 30 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular complications.
Another flavonoid named phloridzin -- found exclusively in apples -- has been found to slow down bone loss during menopause. Just one a day, every day, is enough to help preserve bone structure.
Antioxidants are substances that help prevent the formation of free radicals (cancer-causing chemicals) in our bodies, and apples are loaded with them! Apples are such superstars that they come in at #2 in the "Fruits With The Highest Amount of Antioxidants" chart.
Back to fiber for a second. Apple skins contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber that brings on a feeling of satiety, helps the liver produce less bad cholesterol, and flushes out dangerous metals like lead and mercury out of our bodies.
The fruit itself has insoluble fiber, which keeps yucky stuff -- including free-roaming bad cholesterol -- moving in the digestive tract.
The healthiest way to eat an apple is raw and with its skin on. Apple juice is a black hole of nutrients and can't even begin to compare to to the crunchy goods that grow from trees.
April 19, 2007
In fact, if you manage to clear your plate in less than 3 hours, you get your $35.95 back, a free Denny's Beer Barrel Pub T-shirt, and your name on a Hall of Fame board.
In January of 2005, Kate Selnick of Princeton, New Jersey downed that 96-ounce beef patty in 2 hours and 54 minutes. Did I mention she was 19 years old and 100 pounds when she became state champion?
From a nutritional standpoint, though, Kate is a big loser. In one sitting, Kate downed 7,200 calories and 7500% of her daily sodium needs and 720% of her recommended saturated fat (the type of fat that clogs your arteries) intake. To give you a frame of reference, she ate the equivalent of 24 McDonald's cheeseburgers in less than 3 hours!
Click on this post's title for more photos (and directions to the pub!).
20,500,000 : the number of __________________ in the United States.
Answer revealed this Sunday. Feel free to leave your guess in the comments section.
April 17, 2007
Eggs' bad reputation stems from the false belief that foods high in cholesterol raise our blood cholesterol. Although an egg is certainly very high in cholesterol -- a large one provides 71% of the 300 milligrams of cholesterol we are allowed on a daily basis -- this shouldn't be reason to worry. It's actually saturated fat -- found in meats and whole dairy products -- that raises our bad cholesterol.
A large egg contains approximately eight percent of the saturated fat we are permitted, which is not too high, especially considering its wealth of nutritional bonuses.
The majority of their nutrition is found in the yolk, which, ironically, is the part people fear since it contains all the fat (egg whites are pure protein). However, what many people don't know is that the yolk contains a special kind of fat that prevents fat and cholesterol from building up in our livers. Pretty nifty, huh?
The yolk also provides a tremendously high amount of choline -- a nutrient our body can not produce on its own that is vital for brain health.
And, at just 80 calories a pop, eggs provide 7 grams of protein. Even better, the protein in eggs is the absolute best (yes, even better than meat, chicken, or pork) because it is 100% bio-available. In other words, our bodies are able to use it all (for instance, we only absorb 79% of protein from chicken, meaning that 21% is considered waste and excreted).
For clarity's sake, the brown and white varieties are nutritionally identical. The color of an egg simply depends on the breed of hen that is laying it.
The best way to eat an egg is as simply as possible -- hard-boiled and chopped into a salad is a great way to add a wealth of nutrients and not a lot of calories.
And don't you dare call it a soda! According to the marketing gurus, Diet Coke is a "sparkling beverage".
Jumping on the Vitamin Water bandwagon about five years too late, Coca-Cola will now offer their classic diet soda with 15% of the recommended amounts of niacin, B6, and B12, and 10% of the magnesium and zinc daily values per each eight ounce can.
Despite a massive push by vitamin companies, most of us do not need extra dosages of vitamins and minerals if we eat in a balanced and healthy fashion.
I would only really advocate extra dosages to people with absorption deficiencies or, in the case of Vitamin D, to people whose exposure to sunlight is limited (we can't rely on food alone to get our Vitamin D needs).
It is very rare for healthy adults to be deficient in the vitamins and minerals present in Diet Coke Plus.
Niacin, by law, must be added to all bread products, a staple in most everyone's diet. B6 and B12 are mainly found in protein-rich foods, and given the protein overload in the United States diet, there is little reason to worry about these two vitamins.
Zinc is found in many animal products and is also added to nearly all ready-to-eat cereals, which millions of people have for breakfast.
Keep in mind, too, that you can get the same amount of zinc in Diet Coke Plus in just one ounce of pecans, or a cup of yogurt.
Ironically, Diet Coke still contains phosphoric acid, which, as I explained in issue two of Small Bites, decreases our blood calcium levels. Now THAT'S a mineral many people, especially women, are not getting enough of.
If you enjoy Diet Coke, feel free to continue to have it once in a while. However, do not for a second think this new product is a health food.
If you're a Pepsi fan, you too can have unnecessary extra vitamins and minerals when their very own Tava drink is released later this year.
Since I decided to keep each edition solely focused on the article at hand, I now have several never-before-published (tantalizing!) reader questions.
The following (along with my answers, of course) are all in reference to the premiere issue on fiber.
You mention whole grain breads being good sources of fiber. What about multi-grain breads?
Multi-grain breads sure have good PR! Their healthy-sounding name makes them seem like nutrition superstars, but in reality, they leave a lot to be desired. All multi-grain really means is that a bread is made up of several different grains (i.e.: wheat, barley and oats).
Unfortunately, the vast majority are but a mere combination of heavily refined (and therefore, fiber-free) grains. Just because a loaf of bread is sprinkled with sunflower seeds and soy dust does not make it a healthy choice.
If you are looking to get fiber from commercial breads, go for ones whose first ingredient is "100% whole (insert grain here) flour".
Finding whole grain breads at restaurants is difficult, unless you are going to establishments that are centered around healthy eating. Otherwise, prepare for waiters who think that "wheat" and "whole wheat" bread are the same thing (they aren't; wheat bread is white bread with food coloring, whereas whole wheat bread is the fiber all-star).
I didn't know fruits contained a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber. Do some fruits have more of one type than another?
Not really. Most fruits' fiber breakdown ends up as half insoluble and half soluble. However, most insoluble fiber is found on skins, whereas soluble fiber is in the actual fruit.
This is why I highly recommend thoroughly washing fruits with edible skins and taking a bite. Don't commit a nutrition crime; put the knife down and let the apple keep its skin!
If the goal is to get more fiber, why not just take a few Metamucil pills each day?
Do you also ask your dentist, "if the goal is to have a brighter smile, why not just whiten my teeth once a month instead of brushing them every day?"
Not only do Metamucil pills turn fiber into a "foreign thing I force down with water", they also lack the benefits of fiber-rich foods -- nutrients! Foods high in fiber offer plenty of vitamins and minerals, which you absolutely can not get from a fiber supplement.
Besides, why gobble down a capsule when you can get your fiber in the taste of chickpeas, raspberries, or oatmeal?
The other day at the supermarket I saw Teddy Grahams made with whole grains. The box even mentioned "5 grams of fiber per serving". Does that mean Teddy Grahams have more fiber than an apple?
Those food companies sure are smart. The more they confuse you, the better off they are.
What you saw was indeed Teddy Grahams made with whole grains. Can you catch the misleading statement?
Some people may read that and think, "a healthy cookie," when it could simply mean that whole grain flour makes up one percent of each cookie (literally making the product one "made WITH whole grains" as opposed to "a whole-grain product").
As for the "5 grams of fiber per serving", what you actually read was "5 grams of whole grains per serving".
One gram of whole grains is NOT equal to one gram of fiber. We should ideally be getting at least 48 grams of whole grains a day, but nobody thinks on these terms because food labels don't provide this information.
This is just Nabisco attemping to confuse consumers while making a nutritionally empty product seem like a healthy choice.
The only factor you need to be thinking about is grams of fiber (you ideally want anywhere between 35 and 50 grams a day).
And, trust me, if you're looking to get your fiber fix from a box of Teddy Grahams, you're in deeper trouble than you think.