Thursday, January 30, 2014

Heart Healthy Marinara Sauce

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, C, E, and lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment that acts as an antioxidant. Unlike most nutrients, lycopene increases in concentration when cooked and processed. Cooking tomatoes and serving it with some fat, such as olive oil, greatly increases its bioavailability and absorption into the blood stream. Among the many health benefits of consuming tomatoes, such as reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, no research has proven its effectiveness. Regardless, tomatoes are considered to be one of the world's most healthiest foods and enjoying it on a regular basis is encouraged. Below is a recipe for my favorite Heart Health Marinara Sauce...Enjoy!

1 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 Yellow Onion, Minced
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
28 Ounce Can of Organic No Added Salt Whole Tomatoes
Handful of Fresh Basil

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic; sauté until onions are transparent and tender. Add the can of tomatoes and use a spoon to crush the whole tomatoes. Toss in a few pieces of torn basil and stir occasionally until sauce is hot and begins to thicken, about 12 minutes. Before serving add some additional fresh basil and optional sprinkle of low fat cheese.

For added health benefits I used a pasta that includes a 1/2 serving of vegetables in each serving of pasta.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We stopped eating salt.....but are we getting enough iodine?

So you stopped cooking with salt and avoid eating salty foods like it's the plague. Reducing salt has been a hot topic, promoting reduced risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attach, atherosclerosis, and even some cancers. According to the CDC, Americans consume 3,436 mg of sodium daily which is far too high for good health. The American Heart Association recommends we consume less than 1500 mg of sodium daily....that's about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Our bodies need about 180-500 mg of sodium to sustain life, far below the American Heart Association's recommendations making it easy to meet our minimum sodium needs. With such low sodium intake, are we getting enough iodine too?

Iodine is an essential mineral needed for the production of thyroid hormone which controls our metabolism. A deficiency in iodine can lead to a slowed metabolism, goiter, infertility, even improper bone development, brain development, and mental retardation in a growing fetus. In the 1920's the United States began adding iodine to table salt in order to prevent iodine deficiency. Today an iodine deficiency is very rare in the United States. Our bodies need about 150 micrograms daily, 220 micrograms for pregnant women, and 290 micrograms for breastfeeding women. 1/2 teaspoon of iodized salt has about 200 micrograms, 1 baked potato with the skin has about 60 micrograms, and 1 cup of milk has about 56 micrograms.

Research does show about 75-90% of the salt Americans consume comes from processed foods that do not contain iodized salt. Cutting back on processed foods is a great start to remove sodium from your diet without worrying about cutting out too much iodine. If you currently use sea salt look for brands that are also fortified with iodine to help increase your intake, and use it sparingly like regular table salt. You can also receive iodine from other food sources such as wild fish and shellfish, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and vegetables grown in iodine-rich soil. Many multivitamins also contain iodine too. The American Thyroid Association recommends women of childbearing age, especially when pregnant and breastfeeding, supplement 150 micrograms of iodine daily; this is generally found in prenatal vitamins. It is always important to discuss supplements with you physician prior to taking them.

Americans are very unlikely to become iodine deficient when eating a well balanced diet. Restricting sodium could increase the risk of iodine deficiency, however many health benefits of reducing sodium far outweigh a high sodium diet. Cooking with minimal amounts of iodized salt, focusing on wild seafood, consuming adequate amounts of dairy and vegetables, and considering a multivitamin supplement with iodine can help reduce iodine deficiency risks.

To all my triathletes, marathoners, endurance athletes and heavy sweaters....these guidelines apply to the general population and do not address the likely need for you to supplement extra sodium in your diet. Replacing losses from sweat, especially in hot weather is critical. Not consuming adequate sodium and can lead to very serious health complications. If you exercise beyond 1 hour, sweat excessively, or have salt streaks on your body you will need additional sodium in your diet. Work with your physician and sports dietitian to determine your sodium needs and if adding a salt supplement is warranted during your training.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Can Too Little Fat be Harmful?

A coworker of mine explained they were giving their diet a complete overhaul for the New Year. Starting today they would be limiting their fat intake to 10% of their diet and consuming mostly fruit and vegetables. While I am a HUGE advocate for eating whole foods and lots of fruits and veggies...restricting fats isn't as helpful as some people think.

Fats have a bad reputation; eating too much can lead to weight gain, clogged arteries, heart disease, diabetes, even cancer. We are constantly being told to decrease our fat consumption. But is it possible to eat too little fat to stay healthy?

Fat protects our internal organs by providing cushioning from trauma and stress. It is an insulator and helps our body stay warm. Fat is the largest energy reserve in our body and gives us energy especially during long endurance events. Fat transports fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) from the digestive tract into our bodies and to our cells for utilization. It is essential to form hormones needed to regulate bodily processes. Fat keeps us feeling full and satisfied from a meal. Fat also wraps around nerves within the body and brain to help send electrical messages and maintain cellular communication.

Our bodies can make some fat from the carbohydrates and protein we eat, but we cannot make two essential fatty acids that are necessary for good health. The essential fats are called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fats help regulate blood pressure, reduce inflammation, promote healthy blood clotting, increase immunity, protect the heart, are needed for growth and development, and possibly increase cognitive function and memory. These unsaturated healthy fats should make up the majority of our diet. They can be found in nuts, seeds, soybeans/tofu, fish, shellfish, whole grains, nut butters, sunflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and olive oil.

Saturated fats and trans fats are typically considered the "bad" fats found in meat, whole milk, and baked goods. Believe it or not our bodies do need a small amount of saturated fat to work properly. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 7% of total calories. Most healthy fats such as nuts, avocado, and olive oil do contain a small amount of saturated fat so it is easy to obtain some in your diet.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting total fat intake to less than 25-35% of total calories, obtaining most from unsaturated sources. If you are sticking to a 2000 calorie diet that is about 3-5 Tbs of fat daily. That does not just include cooking oils and salad dressings. That total includes any fat found within the food you eat. Most breads, some vegetables (like avocados), dairy, eggs, fish, and meat contain fat to contribute to your daily total.

With the start of the New Year focus on healthy eating habits on a day to day basis, and try to avoid extreme diets that limit essential nutrients. Eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, and beans can help promote a healthy lifestyle and optimal health.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Low Calorie Snacks

Low Calorie Snacks
Healthy snacking can aid in weight loss by keeping your metabolism running high. Snacks help add extra nutrients into your diet, keep your blood sugar steady, and your energy levels elevated. The key is to select snacks that will fill you up without adding lots of calories. Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are high in fiber to add bulk without the added calories.
·       Apple and glass of skim milk
·       1 cup Edamame
·       3 cups light popcorn
·       1 packet oatmeal (low sugar)
·       1 cup baby carrots with 2 Tbs hummus
·       1 cup sliced melon (or berries) with 2 Tbs plain nonfat yogurt mixed with 1tsp honey
·       ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with 4oz crushed pineapple
·       1 ounce mixed nuts
·       4 stalks of celery filled with low fat cottage cheese mixed with dill and chopped scallions
·       2 cups salad sprayed with lemon juice and ground pepper
·       8oz low fat Greek yogurt with flaxseed
·       1 cup vegetable sticks with 1 Tbs salsa, nonfat Ranch dressing, or 1/3 cup hummus
·       1 cup low sodium chicken, tomato, or vegetable soup
·       2 rice cakes with 1 Tbs peanut butter
·       5 whole wheat crackers with ¾ oz low fat cheese or ½ cup tuna
·       1 cup steamed vegetables