Tuesday, October 29, 2013

White vs Sweet...Which Potato is Healthier?

Potatoes (as well as corn, peas, and winter squash) are starchy vegetables, meaning they provide high amounts of carbohydrates and nutrients just like grains,  and are higher in calories and sugar than non-starchy vegetables.

Sweet potatoes, not to be confused with yams, are rich in carotenoid pigments-an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are higher in fiber than white potatoes, similar in potassium, and a good source of vitamin C, B6, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.

White potatoes are still a good source of fiber, have a higher amount of protein, and are a good source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, B6, magnesium, iron, and folate.

Both potatoes have similar calories, fat, and glycemic index rating.

So why do potatoes have such a bad reputation?
Mostly because we eat too much and do not prepare them in healthy ways. Eating sweet potato fries has little to no benefit over eating regular French fries. Both are laden with oil and are stripped of the insoluble fiber found in the potato's skin. Loading potatoes with marshmallows, sugar, butter, sour cream, or bacon certainly doesn't contribute to a healthy meal either.

Keeping the potato as close to its natural state as possible, and eating 1 serving (about 1/2 cup) at a time will provide a healthy, low fat, nutrient rich vegetable to any meal. Potatoes are even helpful for people looking to lose weight. While higher in calories than nonstarchy vegetables, the insoluble fiber in the skin adds roughage to the diet, and the soluble fiber in the flesh of the potato slows digestion and provides satiety, helping you to feel full longer.

White and sweet and potatoes offer many health benefits. With the sweet potato coming up a bit stronger in nutrient content, white potatoes offer alternative nutrients the sweet potato does not. Eating a variety of sweet and white potatoes contributes to an overall healthy eating plan.

Health-full Cooking:
Pierce a clean sweet potato several times with a fork
Drizzle olive oil and place in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes or until tender
Enjoy plain or sprinkled with cinnamon

Cut a clean white potato into cubes
Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, pepper, garlic, and crushed rosemary
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until tender

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are you Juicing?

A friend of mine received a very interesting memo from her son's school the other day. Water was not to be packed for snack or lunch anymore. Water is not a source of nutrients, only 100% juice will be allowed. Somewhere between laughing from the absurdity and contemplating a call to the school board I realized we are so inundated with "healthy information" we have thrown common sense out the window. Are people really so confused they believe juice is essential? Or even scarier that water is bad for us? Let's set the record straight.....

Juicing collects a concentrated amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidents. The most common nutrients found in juice are vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Some juices will even be fortified with additional nutrients like calcium and vitamin D which is an added benefit. Unfortunately many other vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidents, and phytonutrients found in the skin of fruits and vegetables are left behind. This is why it is so beneficial to balance between juice and whole produce as part of a healthy diet.

Technically juicing is a type of processing and can degrade the nutrients extracted from the fruit or vegetable. Without a protective skin the juice is more likely to loose nutritional value the longer it sits. It is best to drink your juice fresh than storing it for days at a time.

Many Internet claims suggest juice is better absorbed from the lack of fiber, reduces cancer risks, boosts immunity, and aids in weight loss. It is important to note most Internet claims are not substantiated with scientific evidence-based research which takes years to establish. It is also important to note whether juiced or whole....fruits and vegetables are great for you and have amazing health benefits to prevent chronic disease! Just don't follow fads, look for solid truth.

Juice is a concentrated source of calories and natural sugar. Typically juice will be higher in calories and will not fill you up as much as a whole fruit. (Think about which would fill you up more: 1 orange or 1/2 cup of orange juice?) If you are trying to loose weight this is important to keep in mind. The fiber in an orange will leave you more satisfied on fewer calories.

Maybe you are looking to cut down on fiber. Juice can be a good alternative to whole fruits and vegetables while maintaining a good intake of vitamins and minerals. This is especially helpful to my marathon and triathlon clients before a big race.

Kids do not NEED juice! Kids do need regular sources of fruits and vegetables. If your kids will not eat whole fruits and vegetables than juice is a good alternative to get more nutrients into their diet. It is important to drink juice in moderation since it can lead to tooth decay, obesity, and displace other essential nutrients. It is best to limit juice to 4-6oz/day in kids 1-6 years old, and 8-12oz/day for older kids and adults.

Juice can quickly raise blood sugar levels. This can be helpful if your blood sugar is low, but could quickly lead to sugar crashes similar to eating a candy bar. Drinking juice with a meal that includes some protein, fat, or fiber will help slow the absorption and limit the effect juice has on your blood sugar levels.

Last but not least..........

We do not NEED calories 24/7. The human body amazingly stores nutrients and allows us to go many hours without taking in calories while still managing to running efficiently. In fact, constantly taking in calories throughout the day can cause kids to be less hungry at meals for important nutrients like protein and healthy fat. It can also lead to weight gain, obesity, and tooth decay.

Water aids in digestion, prevents constipation, transporting nutrients, regulates body temperature, maintains electrolyte balance, and is involved in almost every bodily process. Fluoridated water prevents tooth decay and is especially important for kids. Water is an essential non-caloric nutrient needed for life. While juice contains some water, vitamins, and minerals it is not a replacement for water...nothing is a replacement for water. Juice does have a place in a healthy diet when consumed in moderation, and can be a substitute for some fruits and vegetables in our diet...not a substitute for water. Just like all things in life.....use common sense and keep everything in moderation!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is upon us, and so our seasonal produce begins to change. Local corn, tomatoes, and peaches are quickly replaced with local apples, mushrooms, and squash. Autumn produce offers a range of earthy flavors and varying textures to satisfy the most discerning palate. Tonight I took advantage of the beautiful acorn squash I came across at a farmers market earlier today. Rich in vitamin C, beta carotene, fiber, manganese, B6, potassium, and vitamin K; acorn squash has amazing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Even more exciting is this vegan friendly recipe is power packed with protein! Each squash if stuffed with quinoa, a complete protein grain that dates back thousands of years. 1 cup of quinoa has about 8g of protein...that's more protein than 1 egg and about as much protein as a cup of milk. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

3 Acorn Squash
1/2 lb Baby Portobello Mushrooms (Roughly Chopped)
1 Small Yellow Onion (Diced)
Pinch of Thyme
1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup Quinoa
2 Cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth (Or No Sodium if Desired)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Optional: Parmesan Cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut each acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp to form a bowl. I also cut a little off the back side so the squash would sit upright and not tip over. Place the squash in a baking dish with the "bowl" facing downward. Fill the baking dish with about 1 inch of water and place in the oven. Cook 30-40 minutes or until tender.

In a sauté pan or medium size saucepan heat olive oil. Add the onions and mushrooms, then sprinkle with thyme and ground pepper. Stir frequently and sauté about 6-8 minutes or until mushrooms become tender. Add the quinoa and broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Keep covered and cook about 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

Remove the finished squash from the oven and carefully scoop the quinoa mixture into each squash bowl. If desired top with cheese and pop back into the oven for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve to your guests and enjoy! This recipe serves 6.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Heart Healthy Beef

You do not need to eliminate beef to reduce fat in your diet. The American Heart Association is certifying extra-lean cuts of beef that can fit into a heart-healthy lifestyle. Retailers can display the AHA certified mark to promote the health benefits of meat and help shoppers quickly identify those meats which are low in saturated fat. More may be added but currently 7 cuts are being certified:
  • Sirloin Tip Steak
  • Bottom Round Steak
  • Top Sirloin Stir-fry
  • Top Sirloin Steak
  • Top Sirloin Kabob
  • Top Sirloin Filet
  • Boneless Top Sirloin Petite Roast
 Extra-lean cuts of beef are defined as a 3.5oz serving (about the size of a deck of cards) that contains less than 5g total fat, 2g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol.

Lean cuts of beef are defines as a 3.5oz serving (about the size of a deck of cards) that contains less than 10g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, and 95mg cholesterol.

While the grocery store may make it easy to find heart healthy cuts of meat, there are several cuts that are notorious for being high in fat and very popular in restaurants. These cuts should be limited and consumed in smaller amounts:
  • Filet Mignon
  • Porterhouse Steak
  • Skirt steak (Flank Steak)
  • NY Strip Steak
  • T-bone Steak
  • Rib-eye (Prime Rib)
 There are many other strategies for reducing fat in beef and promoting a healthier lifestyle such as:
  • Marinate meats in vinegar, wine, or citrus juices to help tenderize the beef. Add herbs and spices to add extra flavor without adding salt
  • Look for meats labeled as “loin” or “round” as these are typically lean
  • Choose grass fed beef since it is often lower in saturated fat, cholesterol, and higher in omega-3’s
  • Meats listed as “Select” or “Choice” instead of “Prime” typically has less fat
  • Choose meats with the least amount of visible fat
  • Cut off visible fat before cooking
  • Choose the lowest % of fat in ground beef
  • Drain cooked ground meat by rinsing in hot water and blotting with a paper towel
  • Eat in moderation-limit beef to 6oz at a time and not everyday
While beef can be a good source of protein, iron, zinc, B12, B6, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, and selenium there are many other meat sources that are also low in fat and great sources of nutrients. Look to incorporate some of these other sources in your diet:
  • Skinless Chicken Breast
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Pork Top Loin Chop
  • Pork Sirloin Chop
  • Skinless Turkey Breast
  • Cod
  • Light Tuna canned in water
  • Halibut
  • Salmon
As you can see beef can fit into a heart healthy lifestyle and can contribute to your overall health. Following strategies to help limit total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol can be easy especially if you look for the American Heart Association certified mark. Try replacing your usual high fat beef cuts with lower fat beef cuts and experience how easy eating healthy can be.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Drink to Good Health

Staying healthy isn't just about the food we eat, but also the beverages we drink. Believe it or not water is the MOST important nutrient for our body. Involved in almost every process and function within the body, losing even 1% of our body water can result in decreased athletic ability, thirst, and reduced productivity.

Water is an amazing resource that regulates our body temperature, maintains electrolyte balance, lubricates our joints, transports nutrients and chemical messengers throughout our body, and flushes toxin from our body.

Water carries oxygen to our muscles and brain, helping them work harder and us to perform at our best.

Water keeps us looking young by maintaining moisture in our skin helping to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

We can even lose weight from staying well hydrated. Not only is water zero calories but staying well hydrated helps our body metabolize fat more efficiently.

Every day we lose water through sweat, breathing, and going to the bathroom. We lose even more when we exercise or are in a hot environment. We need to replace fluid losses in a timely manner and can use a basic formula to estimate our daily needs. Try to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces. (For example if you weigh 160lbs your goal is to drink  80oz or 10 cups of fluid each day.)
While really any fluid counts towards your daily goal (juice, soda, coffee, ice cream, soup) I like to recommend drinking primarily water, and consume the other sources in moderation.

How can you add more water into your everyday life?
Drink a cup of water when you wake up and with each meal
Replace 1 cup of your usual soda or juice with water instead
Carry a water bottle with you
Add citrus fruit or cucumber to flavor your water
If you do drink juice water it down to reduce calories and sugar intake
Drink before you feel thirsty

What about during exercise?
It is recommended to rehydrate every 15-20 minutes by drinking about 6-12oz. Water is the best source unless you are exercising greater than an hour. Athletes working out greater than an hour can benefit from extra electrolytes and sugar to help replenish glycogen stores. Drinking a sports drink instead can help athletes maintain their stamina and perform better than water alone.

Can you drink too much water?
Of course...drinking too much water, just like eating too much of one food, can make us sick. Consuming too much water is mostly a concern for ultra distance and endurance athletes...such as marathon runners and ironman triathletes. Drinking too much water without enough electrolytes can cause lower than normal sodium levels called hyponatremia. Just remember to drink in moderation and not go overboard with the water bottle.