Is it okay to hate Quinoa….and chia??

Is quinoa better than brown rice?
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Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is it me or is every other popular blog post recipe about something made out of chia or quinoa? Luckily, I like both… well, quinoa more than chia since I’m allergic to the latter. Still, what if you have never tried either OR if you have and don’t like them? is it even necessary to force yourself to try these so-called super foods? Well, let’s figure out why they’re super, shall we? Foods with that label typically have a higher concentration of antioxidants than on other foods in their category (fruit, vegetable, grain).

Take¬†quinoa¬†for example; can’t you just stick to brown rice and get the same benefits? Well, first: congrats on making the switch from useless, diabetes instigating white rice to it’s browner sister.¬†¬†Off the top of my head I know that brown rice is high in fiber but this handy infographic from the Prevention.com blog spells out why quinoa wins the competition. ¬†Hint: quinoa has more protein , fiber, and folate per cup than the same amount of brown rice.

Verdict: give quinoa a try. You might not like its nutty flavor as a newbie but you can start by mixing it with your brown rice or buying it that way. You can also cook it in low sodium chicken stock to add more flavor if you like.

The chia seed¬†is not only high in antioxidants but this little Mayan powerhouse is also high in protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Wait, didn’t we JUST fall in love with flax seeds for the same reasons? well, chia has higher amounts of the aforementioned nutrients than flax does AND you can eat the seeds whole ( flaxseeds need to be ground up in order to be absorbed). People that like chia usually sprinkle it on other healthy foods or mix it into liquids to make chia pudding as¬†the seeds turn gelatinous when¬†wet.

Basically, the ideas is that chia seeds can make a healthy meal even healthier by boosting its nutrient content but here is the catch I ¬†found:¬†There IS so much as too much of a good thing when it comes to the fat soluble vitamins ¬†(chia has 15 IUs of Vitamin A), allergy potential ( I got a bad rash) and tummy troubles ( chia with a side of bloating, anyone?). ¬†In short, try it sparingly first before throwing yourself wholeheartedly into it. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb for most “fad” foods!

Final Verdict: as our world gets smaller (AND bigger) new foods that make eating more interesting and beneficial will come and go. Your goal is to enjoy your meals while getting the most out of them nutritionally. Foods like quinoa and chia can boost your nutrient level quicker than their more traditional counterparts so explore your options.

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3 Types of Fats that will get you glowing by Spring

Fat is good for you!
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Fat is good for you!

Fat is good for you!

Ever heard the saying: eat more fat to lose more fat? Yes, hopefully you have heard by now that a diet too low in fat can lead to overeating because you don’t feel full without fat. A diet too low in fat can also mean that your skin and hair don’t have that healthy glow you wish it had. I’m vain and like to eat far too much to not have plenty of healthy fats in my diet. Key word : healthy!

The Science

Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K; that’s why salad dressing was invented ( make your own or stick to oil and vinegar). ¬†Antioxidant rich healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones which provide omega 3s that support the body, brain, skin cell structure AND fight inflammation. Unsaturated fats are good in general because they lower cholesterol levels due to their structure: MUFAS have at least one double carbon bond ¬†and PUFAS have more than one double carbon bond. Plus, ever notice how ¬†when you cook certain meaty dishes there is a “skin” of fat on top? Yeah, ¬†that is saturated fat and imagine globs of that in your arteries or clogging up your pores. Unsaturated fats don’t harden at room temperature and have less calories.¬†*¬†Some¬†saturated fat is good for healthy cells but we’re talking minimal amounts. Not to mention, saturated fat is basically found in meat and animal by-products. At this point, we can’t dispute the science that a diet with too much meat and not enough vegetable is no bueno for long term health.

What to eat

MUFAs are found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olives and vegetable derived oils.

PUFAs are found in fish, seafood and vegetable derived oils.

Healthy sources of saturated fats are peanuts, coconut, palm oils and low fat dairy. 

If you read my blog then you know I advocate choosing real foods over fake ¬†every time. That includes real fats over low fat versions of food too. My reasoning is that I stay satiated longer when I have the real thing than I do when I don’t which keeps me from over eating. ¬†so no, I don’t believe in low fat as proven by my pantry filled with¬†coconut and olive oil ¬†and my snack of almonds, flaxseeds and walnuts. My advice? Use your vegetable oil sometimes but use the oils above liberally WITHIN A HEALTHY DIET and your skin and health will thank ¬†you.

Check out the handy chart below from the University of Michigan’s website.

Selected Sources of MUFA with Serving Sizes
(Listed highest to lowest MUFA content)

Oils
(serving size:

1 tsp)

Nuts
(serving size)

Seeds
(serving size)

Butters (serving size)

Other 
(serving size)

Olive oil
Canola oil
Peanut oil
Sesame oil
Walnut oil
Soybean oil
Flaxseed oil
Grape seed oil
Mustard oil

Macadamias
(2-3)
Hazelnuts (5)
Pecans
(5 halves)
Almonds (7)
Cashews (6)
Pistachios (17)
Brazil nuts (2)
Peanuts (9)
Pine nuts (50)
Walnuts
(4 halves)

Sesame seeds
(1 Tbsp)
Pumpkin seeds
(47 seeds)
Ground flaxseed
(1 Tbsp)
Sunflower seeds
(3 Tbsp)

Almond butter
(¬Ĺ Tbsp)
Cashew butter
(¬Ĺ Tbsp)
Peanut butter
(¬Ĺ Tbsp)
Tahini/sesame paste (2 tsp)
Sunflower seed butter
(2 tsp)

Avocado
(2 Tbsp or 1 oz)
Black olives (8)
Green olives (10)

Selected Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
(listed highest to lowest omega-3 content)

Oils
(serving size : 1 teaspoon)

Nuts and seeds
(serving size)

Flaxseed oil*

Flaxseeds (1 Tbsp)

Walnut oil

Walnuts (4 halves)

Canola oil

Pecans (5 halves)

Soybean oil

Pine nuts (50)

*Should be consumed raw and not used in cooking

Turkey (sausage) & kale soup

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I got this idea from a friend, Mindy T., who showed off the pretty kale she grew and made into turkey sausage stew. I don’t have any leftover turkey so I’m using spicy turkey sausage but if you do, use it!

I’m using my crockpot but the recipe I’m using is from

TheKitchn.com

Will let you know how it turns out but I can’t imagine ¬†that it will be bad, especially in frigid temps!

The 4 Thanksgiving Food Commandments

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ImageBaked, broiled, roasted, toasted, sauteed, brined, pulled, toasted, aged, savory, sweet…the food preparation is afoot…and endless! Do you have your eating plan ready? Hope so! Otherwise you could be getting upwards of 3,000 calories at that dinner table. Thou shalt avoid feeling guilty or bad at all costs. So let’s avoid all of that nonsense with some pre-ememptive damage control, shall we?

Rest:. I know it’s tempting to start the party early the day before but alcohol can interfere with your sleep. A tired brain and body = an increased craving for high fat high sugar foods.¬†

Quench:¬†Thirst can mimic hunger AND lead to a wicked hangover. Start drinking water well before you start eating and in between cocktails if you’re boozing.¬†

Green:¬†Eating in courses can be really helpful and starting with the salad course will ensure that you get the vegetables in and don’t gobble ¬†up the rest out of hunger. Think of it as the foundation for the rest of your favorites.¬†

Be Picky:¬†It’s a just a day so don’t get crazy, folks. You WILL see food again!! That being said, pick the dishes you very rarely get to enjoy as your indulgences and watch the portions. Personally, I think it’s best to pick 1-2 of your most favorite items and ¬†call it a day.¬†

 

 

 

 

A review: Paleo Pumpkin Bars (Clean Eats the Zoo)

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Paleo Pumpkin Bars Review

Paleo Pumpkin Bars Review

Happy Fall, ya’ll! The weather has cooled considerably here even in just the last two days which for me means I can really get into the swing of my favorite season. For me that means trips to pumpkin patches with my dog-child and Friends With Kids, apple picking in beautiful upstate NY, scarves, jeans, sweater coats, reds and gold touches in my decor and pumpkins everywhere and in EVERYTHING. So now that I’ve decorated and my house smells downright yummy, it was the perfect time to add some pumpkin action and I chose to do it with these Pumpkin Bars from the family at CleanEatstheZoo.com. ¬†Seriously, this family is an inspiration in a lot of ways which you can read about here.

Now full disclosure: I don’t claim to subscribe to any particular “diet”. Instead, I eat to prevent spikes in my blood sugar and blood pressure since type 2 diabetes and hypertension runs in my family. My nutrition goal is also to preserve my hard earned muscle mass, keep excess fat at bay and maintain my energy levels for this crazy schedule I have. Sometimes this leads to¬†Paleo friendly diet¬†¬†because nothing saps my energy more than grain based carbohydrates but I also try to limit my intake of animal fat and have been know to love my fat-free Greek yogurt which Paleo is not a fan of. If anything, I believe in clean, wholesome eating using foods found in nature and not labs. But enough about me, let’s chat about these pumpkin bars!

I was tempted to improvise a few times but baking is a science and well, I’m not a good enough cook or baker to get cocky. You have to spend the dough to make the (non) dough for these bars but you can find some savings here.

Review: 5 Forks Up! So delicious and filling.

The crust was the most troubling part for worry worts like me because it doesn’t cling together the way grain based doughs do. Remember that almond meal or flour is nothing more than very finely ground almonds. When I tried to press mine together before baking it seemed crumbly at first but all I did was add another couple TBSP of coconut oil and it was fine. A long setting time is true for all grain-free flours, by the way so don’t skip that part ( this recipe called for leaving it to cool for quite some time after baking) and don’t fret.

Hypertension: Not just for the elderly

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Well, folks, we are in the middle of October already which means it is almost the beginning of “eating season” as I like to call it. A friend of mine notes that Fall is harvest season, a time when we have gathered crops for hundreds of years. She rationalizes and some literature does agree that since our bodies have changed very little since olden times, we are programmed to slow down during this time and eat more of the harvested crops. Sounds somewhat logical but as I get older, it becomes more difficult to undo the damage we do to ourselves by overeating or making poor food choices.¬†

I was prompted to write about the subject of hypertension when another friend of mine told me he suffers from it. His news came as a surprise to me because he is a young man in his early 30s. Just so we know what we are talking about here, hypertension is defined as chronically elevated blood pressure over 139/80. Like diabetes, there are 2 types of hypertension: essential which has no medical explanation and secondary which is caused by another disease. One of the dangers of persistent diabetes is that it is a risk factor strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, aneurysms and renal failure. Even moderate elevation of blood pressure can take years off your life and when left unchecked hypertension can do irreparable damage to vital organs.
Something to note about hypertension is that it does not always have symptoms which is why they call it “The Silent Killer”. Many people, young and old, die suddenly from complications of hypertension they never knew they had or did not manage. However, some known symptoms to watch for are:¬†
  • Unexplained but severe headache
  • Nausea with headache¬†
  • light-headedness/dizziness
  • sudden or gradual blurred vision
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain¬†
**If all of these symptoms happen together suddenly and acutely, go to the hospital immediately. If they are accompanied by weakness, they might indicate a stroke.
Risk factors that contribute to hypertension:
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Race ( Black people have it more often than whites and get it younger)
  • Socio-economic history ( poorer people lower quality foods)
  • Heredity
  • Gender ( usually men get it more than women!)
Changeable behaviors that spike hypertension:
  • Diet/Salt intake: some people are sensitive to salt which spikes their blood pressure. Lowering salt intake can lower their blood pressure. Did you know that a) Americans take in 10-15 times more salt than they need (b) Most prepared foods contain much more than the recommended serving of sodium so read food labels carefully. Add extra flavoring to your own food with spices and sea salt which might be better for you and does not require a heavy hand.¬†
  • Alcohol use: drinking more than a couple of drinks a day can spike blood pressure.
  • Obesity: obese people are 2 to 6 times more likely to develop HBP and those who gain weight mostly around their middle (central obesity) are at a greater risk for heart attack.
  • Inactivity: being sedentary can lead to obesity which can lead to HBP.
  • Drugs: diet pills, amphetamines, and even cold/allergy medications can raise blood pressure.
  • Birth control pills: some contraceptive pills can contribute to high blood pressure in some women.
As with all diseases, preventing or managing hypertension requires self awareness and education. It is said that 35% of how we age is genetic and the other 65% is lifestyle so as you face the buffet table this holiday season make the best choice for your longevity.

Protein and the healthy diet

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You know,  all of us mean well with our efforts of self improvement. For the most part we aim to improve our well-being  by making the right dietary and health choices. To that end some of us become vegetarian, vegan and follow macrobiotic diets. These are all valid attempts at doing what is best for our bodies and environment. However, it is important to note that following a strict diet that focuses on certain foods can have negative effects if important complementary exchanges are not made. All of the aforementioned diets are carbohydrate focused and while carbs are good, protein also plays a vital role in our bodies

(Whitney, Sizer).

Within our bodies proteins support growth and maintenance, build enzymes and hormones, build antibodies, provide energy and glucose, and promotes blood clotting. However, a person’s health and the quality of protein consumed determines that person’s response to protein. The body can handle whole proteins which it then breaks down into pieces and digestibility is important to measuring protein’s quality. The human body hasn’t changed much since the early years of cave dwelling so for reasons beyond our control, animal based proteins are easier to digest and absorb with the proteins of legumes coming in next.¬†
If you consume a well balanced, well-fed diet then you’re probably getting enough of ¬†protein in your diet and additional supplement is unnecessary. ¬†In fact, over supplementation can cause serious kidney problems. Unfortunately, many vegetarians complain of feeling tired and run down due to too little dietary protein. Animal proteins are complete and smaller amounts tend to keep us satiated longer.¬†
Some vegetarians underestimate the amount of complementary proteins they have to eat to maintain adequate levels.¬†Proteins become complementary when they are combined to contain all the essential amino acids the body needs i.e. rice and beans. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to eat these complementary meals together as long as you do eat them throughout the day.¬†

Aging Gracefully through Healthy Living

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¬†¬† It seems that American consumers are constantly reminded to live in fear of ¬†their mortality through the media these days. Television commercials, magazine advertisements, and billboards hawk a steady flow of products and medicines that claim to slow down or completely erase the aging process. Now let’s be real, they all can’t possibly be true. But ask yourself: ¬†would you want to actually stop or slow down the natural aging process? In what sense? Well, if you answered yes or maybe then you might be interested to know that diet and exercise can do just that.

Exercise: 

I know you’ve seen them: those eternally youthful elderly folks flitting around your gym looking spry and being 20 years younger than you expected. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the look that good AND exercise? Definitely not! According to the textbook Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies, exercise has been shown to :
  • Reduce Cardiovascular diseases ( nothing says old like a heart attack)
  • Reduce the risk of some cancers including colon and breast cancers.
  • Improve mental functioning ( Alzheimer’s in your family? get moving)
  • Increase bone density and lessened risk of adult bone loss in the future (blonde, short, and small boned? pump that iron!)
  • Give a more youthful appearance, healthy skin, and improved muscle tone!
  • Promote faster wound healing and resistance to infection.
  • Give a feeling of vigor and belief in one’s abilities.
  • Increased muscular strength and endurance while decreasing depression.
Simply put, the “use it or lose it ” mantra is especially true in physical fitness. Why walk if you can run? Balance is key but why sit still if you can move? why waste your body’s potential in favor of sedentary living? Ask yourself: if you feel like moving around is difficult now, what will it be like when you get older?

Diet:
If you have eyes and ears then you have seen and heard the rumors about “super-foods” that can stave of everything from aging to illness. How much truth is behind those claims and what are super foods? Well, they are defined as those unprocessed foods rich in anti-oxidants¬†. These antioxidants are great for us because they lower cholesterol, increase fiber intake, defend our cells against damage and reduce inflammation, a precursor to chronic diseases. The happy side effect to all of that help is a more youthful appearance and a highly functioning system! Some known examples of super foods are are:¬†
  • Blueberries
  • Garlic
  • Beans
  • Bananas
  • Enzymatic foods like Papaya, kiwi and Pineapple
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oats
  • Tea
  • Citrus foods
  • Salmon:¬†
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Soy
  • Yogurt
  • Walnuts

Preventative eating

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Ahh so summer is winding down for us up here in the north which is a bittersweet moment. The relentless heat is easing it’s way into cooler temperatures (albeit more briefly and not so cool down south!) but that also means the approaching end of the outdoor fun that summer brings. Oh well, each season brings it’s own pleasures, right? I, like a lot of people, tend to eat more healthily in the warm weather. Weather is a factor in appetite development as the heat tends to suppress the urge in most people. A suppressed appetite combined with a love of outdoor activity and suddenly staying lean might not seem as hard. In the summer. But then there is winter and the opposite becomes true: colder weather can increase appetite development.
The lack of sunshine during colder months has been shown to decrease the production of the feel good chemical, serotonin. Serotonin modulates mood, appetite, aggression, anger, sleep, and metabolism so obviously it is a crucial component of staying mentally and physically balanced. Carbs are necessary for proper brain function but it matters which kind you consume. Complex carbs are slow to digest and consist of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Simple carbs are quickly digested and consist mainly of foods and drinks with added sugars like molasses, honey, or high fructose corn syrup. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) and is the reason why so many of us crave easily digested simple carbohydrates which acts as a quick fix when serotonin dips. This quick spike in blood sugar is the problem that comes with the consumption of simple carbohydrates because this occurs as sugars are released immediately into our blood-stream. Continuous spikes in blood sugar causes Insulin Resistance . You know that drowsy, bloaty, depressed feeling you get after eating a meal of simple carbs? those are symptoms of IR and weight gain, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes can be the result. *It should be noted that those who spend too much time indoors can suffer from this same loss of serotonin. Spending just 30 -60 minutes in the sun can help to boost your serotonin levels so go soak up what’s left of the summer!
Monitoring your serotonin and insulin level is just one strategy in maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. Here is more information to help you out:

        
Face the Facts:
  1. Carrying extra weight is like being in debt, you will have to pay for it in the future so don’t take on any more.
  2. Poor health is cumulative and yo-yo dieting is detrimental to your heart health. Small lifestyle changes now can prevent major health setbacks in your future.
  3. The major thing that over-fat/obese people ( more than 20 pounds over weight) in common: they don’t eat enough. Going too long between meals puts the body in starvation mode so that the very next thing you eat is stored as fat. Survival is the body’s main objective and some body fat is crucial for survival.
  4. Sedentary people take longer to clear glucose from the bloodstream. The longer it takes you to clear glucose from your bloodstream,  the more likely you will suffer from a chronic disease like diabetes in the future  ( Journal of the American Medical Assoc.).  Daily Exercise solves this problem.
  5.  Alcohol can decrease metabolism by 30%! Drink in moderation ( wine preferably).
Special Tips
  1. Food labels are there to help you. Pay special attention to serving size, sugars, salt and fat content. Saturated fat should not exceed 2.5 grams per serving!
  2. Snacks should not exceed 150 calories and meals should not exceed 400.
  3. Exchanging your dairy and fatty foods for their low-fat versions is an easy way to start eating healthily. 
  4. When choosing a snack first ask yourself ” am I hungry or thirsty?”. Perceived hunger is sometimes dehydration. Then ask yourself “have I had enough fruit or veggies today?” before proceeding.
  5. Fiber rich foods (fruit & veggies, oats) keep you fuller longer so  aim for 25g daily.
  6. Juices and sodas are weight busters. Stick to water and teas (flavored and plain). 
  7. Restaurant meals contain staggering amounts of fats and sugars so cook at home as much as possible.
  8. Know your trigger foods and do not keep them in the house. Alcohol and foods high in fat, salt and sugar are well known triggers for most people. However, over deprivation will most likely lead to bingeing. Aim for treating yourself with one special indulgence on the weekends. Just know you might have to work it off!
  9. Ask for support from your team (spouse, family, friends) and don’t succumb to peer pressure from those members who are not on the path to good health. Be a leader not a follower.
  10. Your body never outgrows the need for sunshine, good food and exercise.  Treat is as your most prized possession.
Exercise tips:
  1. Building muscle mass will help you burn fat over the long run. Cardio burns fat at the moment. Combine the two and you have a winner.
  2. Just because you exercise does not mean you cannot suffer health problems. Proper nutrition is fundamental for overall health (esp. heart health).
  3. Squeeze as many footsteps into your day as possible to prevent weight gain. Park farther away, take the stairs all the way or halfway up.
  4. Exercise doesn’t have to happen in the gym but requires consistency. Aim for getting some in everyday.