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    Archive for May, 2007

    Numbers Game: Frito-Lay High

    An April 2007 investigation by the Institute of Medicine revealed that ________ percent of high schools in the United States sell “junk food” (high-calorie, high-fat, sugary snacks and/or beverages) either in vending machines or snack stores.

    a) 71
    b) 98
    c) 87
    d) 75

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and check back on Sunday for the answer!


    Blanch & Shock At Your Next Party!

    Here’s a quick — but very cool — trick for your next dinner soiree.

    To bring out the rich, deep colors of vegetables (i.e.: broccoli), all you need to do is blanch and shock them. The whole process takes approximately one minute!

    To blanch, bring salted water in a pot to a rolling boil. Then, drop your vegetables in, uncovered, for approximately 45 seconds. This will not only heighten color, but also remove bitter flavors. Plus, since the total time spent in water is minimal, water-soluble vitamins (B and C) will not be lost.

    Shocking involves stopping the cooking process (leaving the vegetables crunchy, like, say, for a crudite) by draining the vegetables and immediately placing them in an ice bath (only long enough to cool them; you don’t want any freezing action).

    You’ll be surprised at the difference this short technique makes in the presentation of your food! In fact, when you try it out, leave one raw vegetable out to compare to the blanched and shocked ones and see for yourself.


    All-Star of the Day: Cinnamon

    Although we often look to actual food for nutrition, don’t forget about spices – especially cinnamon!

    Ready for a surprise? Just one tablespoon of cinnamon (18 calories’ worth) adds 4 grams of fiber to your day (as much as a large apple), along with 56% of our daily manganese needs, 8% of the calcium we should be getting each day, and 13% of our recommended daily value of iron!

    (By the way, I wouldn’t recommend downing a tablespoon of cinnamon in one gulp, but rather sprinkling a teaspoon over two or three of the things you eat throughout the day).

    Isn’t that incredible? There are even more surprising health properties to this delicious condiment.

    Cinnamaldehyde – the compound responsible for the unmistakable taste of cinnamon – contains anti-inflammatory properties (great news for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis as well as when it comes to lowering the risk of developing blood clots).

    If you’re looking for a gastrointestinal champ, add cinnamon to some plain yogurt – the healthy bacteria in your colon will absolutely love it. Recent research suggests cinnamon is one of the best foods (not just spices, but foods) that help in the decrease of harmful intestinal bacteria and fungi.

    A 2003 study conducted in Pakistan by the United States Department of Agriculture (published in the December 2003 issues of Diabetes Care) even saw a noticeable decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels of subjects who just had half a teaspoon of cinnamon every day! Specifically, subjects lowered total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent, and LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 7 to 27 percent!

    When consumed in high amounts, cinnamon can be toxic, so don’t begin to measure out cinnamon in cups. Just one teaspoon a day is enough to see certain benefits.


    Nutrition History: Healthier Breads

    Look at the food label for any grain product (even the most refined of breads) and you’ll always see 4 B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate) and iron listed.

    Thiamin(B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3), are bread’s enriched vitamins, while iron is its enriched mineral. Meaning, the flour lost these nutrients while undergoing the milling process, so they are added back in.

    The requirement of replenishing these nutrients stems from the Enrichment Act of 1942, an initiative to lower the rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies at the time.

    In February of 1996, the Food & Drug Administration required that folic acid (the bioavailable version of folate, another B vitamin) be added to all grain products,in an effort to lower rates of neural tube defects (research unequivocally demonstrated that babies of women who consumed low levels of folate during the first trimester of pregnancy had a higher risk of being born with neural tube defects.)

    Folate is not originally found in the endosperm of grains (which is the only part white bread is made from), so it is put in via fortification (added on), rather than enrichment (added back).

    Since folate is a B vitamin (which is water soluble), it is crucial to get the required amount every single day.

    Whole grains naturally contain folate, so they do not need extra amounts.

    Quick lesson on whole wheat vs. white or regular wheat bread:

    Whole wheat breads use all 3 parts of the wheat shaft: the germ, bran, and endosperm
    Refined wheat breads only use the endosperm (thus completely missing out on nutrients found exclusively in the bran and germ, such as vitamin E and selenium).

    Fortunately, the folate initiative has worked! Since the fortification of folate to breads, cereals, and pastas, neural tube defects have decreased by 25 percent in this country.

    Why bread products? They are widely consumed by people in the United States, regardless of age, socioeconomic level, or ethnicity.

    That being said, commercial breads are not the best sources of folate. Spinach, asparagus, and all sorts of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc.) provide more substantial amounts of this crucial B-vitamin.


    You Ask, I Answer: Gatorade

    Is it a good idea to have Gatorade to replenish body fluids if you are doing a long workout (more than 2 hours) at high intensity? I think it definitely helps. What do you recommend?
    — Anonymous

    Great question! My main issue with sports drinks is that many people believe – mainly due to marketing tactics – they are always necessary.

    If you are exercising moderately for less than 45 minutes, water will do just fine.

    Now, if you are exercising at high intensity for more than 2 hours, then yes, a sports drink would be a good idea, mainly to keep fatigue at bay and replenish lost electrolytes.

    More casual exercisers need to realize that the 90 calories burned during 20 minutes of speed walking don’t mean a thing when followed by a 110-calorie bottle of Gatorade!


    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to figures by the United States Department of Agriculture, calorie consumption in the United States per capita increased 20 percent between 1982 and 2000.

    Puts the ever-increasing obesity epidemic in context, don’t you think? Simply put, everyone in this country has been eating more in the past twenty years than ever before.

    Once again, calories are calories. Notice the study doesn’t mention “more carbs”, “less protein”, or “more meals after 9 PM”.


    You Ask, I Answer: Salmon

    I read in your latest newsletter that wild salmon offers more nutrition than farmed salmon. It’s more expensive, though! Should I just switch to another type of fish altogether, even though I love salmon?

    — Pam Lowen
    Las Cruces, New Mexico

    While it is true that other types of seafood — such as shrimp and tuna — offer the same heart-healthy Omega-3 fats found in salmon, you don’t necessarily have to make the switch.

    Although wild salmon is more expensive than its farmed counterpart, there is a solution — canned salmon!

    All canned salmon is wild, making it an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one can alone covers your entire day’s worth of recommended Omega-3 intake.

    There’s even ANOTHER benefit to eating canned salmon. The soft, edible fish bones are a good source of calcium (one 4 ounce can provides 20% of our recommended daily calcium needs). Great news to those who are lactose intolerant or just do not like dairy.

    Not only is canned salmon less expensive, it’s also ready to eat and makes a great addition to lunchtime salads. Go ahead — think outside the tuna can.


    Simply Said: "Cholesterol Free"

    Ah, this sneaky tactic unfortunately works on many consumers every year.

    A “cholesterol” free label with bright capital letters will jump out from some food packaging, and some people put that item in their shopping carts virtuously, believing they are choosing a healthier product.

    Not necessarily! All “cholesterol-free” means is that that particular product is not an animal product or by-product, as those are the foods that naturally contain cholesterol.

    For instance, a package of Oreo cookies will advertise itself as “cholesterol free”. Fair enough, but 3 of those cookies contain 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 3 1/2 tablespoons of added sugar, and practically no vitamins and minerals.

    Meanwhile, a can of salmon, while not cholesterol free, offers a mountain of nutrients (including heart-healthy fats) that an Oreo cookie could never dream of offering.

    And, remember, our blood cholesterol is not affected by the cholesterol found in foods. Shunning shrimp, salmon, or lean meats in favor of cholesterol-free processed food will not do you any favors.


    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Suzanne Sommers

    Suzanne Sommers — and a handful of other Hollywood starlets — proclaims that the secret to weight loss and overall well-being lies in “food combining”.

    In other words, they do not eat protein, carbs, and fat during the same meal.

    Otherwise, they claim, stomach acid is neutralized and unable to absorb nutrients. In turn, food sits in the stomach, rots, and builds up as toxic material in our colons, resulting in weight gain.

    Followers also believe that about three fourths of calories should come from fruits and vegetables, and the rest from carbs and protein. Dairy is not allowed. Oh yeah, and you can eat nothing but fruit until noon. Furthermore, if you want protein, you have to wait a few hours following your “starch only” meal.

    I’m all for Hollywood stars entertaining us, but why do some feel the need to become “experts” in subjects they just don’t have a clue about?

    First of all, every bite of food we eat goes through our digestive system and ends up getting excreted at some point.

    If, by chance, someone is constipated and waste IS temporarily stuck, the easy solution lies in consuming more insoluble fiber (the type found in whole wheat products as well as the skins of fruits and vegetables) and water, not by eating a steak at 2 PM and potatoes at 4 PM.

    Secondly, apart from fruit (which is 100% carbohydrate), oils (which is 100% fat) and animal meat (which is 100% protein), most foods are made up of a mixture of nutrients.

    For instance, 2% milk has fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Whole grain breads have a little fat, some protein, and mostly carbs. Even lettuce has traces of protein!

    Let’s analyze some claims made by Spice Williams, a proponent of food combining:

    “Fruits (especially tropical fruits) have God-given digestive enzymes that will help to clean out the residue left over from the food you’ve eaten the night before. “

    What helps to clean out residue from our digestive systems is fiber, not digestive enzymes. Besides, digestive enzymes are already in our bodies; we don’t need to get them from food.

    While fruit is one way to add fiber to your diet, so is sprinkling flaxseed in a smoothie, or topping a whole grain English muffin with natural peanut butter. And those are just as God-given, in case anyone of faith is wondering.

    “Fruits seem to have magical healing and cleansing powers. They travel through the digestive tract very quickly (within an hour) which is why it’s so important not to eat them with any other food group. When you combine a fruit with, say for instance, cereal or waffles, it ends up getting held up in the stomach, unable to move through the “pylorus” (the exit opening of the stomach) and into the small intestine where it undergoes the little digestion it requires. When this happens, bacterial decomposition follows, and the fruit begins to ferment and turn into wine!”

    If I were a betting man, I’d bet my life savings that Ms. Williams has never taken a biochemistry class. First of all, there is nothing magical about fruit’s “powers”. They have a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals along with a high fiber and vitamin content, so of course they are going to help our bodies’ systems be healthy.

    And yes, because fruits are simple carbohydrates, they travel quickly. All that means is they are a great snack to have about an hour before exercising, because their fuel is pretty much instantly up for grabs.

    Lastly, our bodies are not wine-making factories. Our cells don’t go around stomping on fruit in little barrels with spigots.

    I also wonder if Ms. Williams even took a basic nutrition course, seeing as how she lists “milk” under proteins. Anyone with two eyes can read a nutrition label and see that all milk contains protein as well as carbohydrates (and fat, unless it’s skim).

    “When you mis-combine your meals by mixing animal protein with, say, carbohydrates high in starch, your stomach begins pouring in both alkaline and acid, and unfortunately they neutralize each other. It’s a stalemate, and since the stomach maintains a 104 degree temperature, what you end up with is sort of an “oven” where the undigested meat and starch begins to ferment, rot and putrefy, causing the undesirable symptoms of gas, flatulence, headaches, bloat, sleepiness, diarrhea, constipation, etc. We’re talking about a real mess, and if it continues over the years, undigested food will begin to pile up and ultimately clog your colon and intestinal tract (your life lines to health).”

    Our stomach is the same temperature as the rest of our bodies — approximately 98.6 degrees (not 104 as Spice claims, or 115 as other food combining advocates point out). Even if it were, since when does heat make food rot?

    Additionally, flatulence is a normal human process. Passing gas (regardless at which end of the body it happens) several times a day is not a symptom of illness or food rotting in your stomach.

    And one more thing — if, according to these food combining followers, food that is incorrectly combined piles up in our colon, then wouldn’t many of us supposedly have decades’ worth of food stuck in our colons? That’s physically impossible!

    I’d also like to let Williams know that sometimes combining foods helps with nutrient absorption. For instance, vitamin C (found in many fruits) helps us absorb non-heme iron (found in beans, grains, and vegetables).

    Our bodies are smart. They can tell the difference between proteins, fats, and carbs, and activate the necessary enzymes to absorb the required nutrients.

    We have evolved to the point where we can eat different kinds of foods in one sitting without worrying that we are giving our bodies just too much to do. What isn’t smart is to follow a fad diet that is very low in vitamins D and B12 as well as iron and zinc, and is based in fiction.

    The only reason why anyone would lose weight on this diet is because they are being severely restricted with their food choices.

    When it comes to weight loss, the main concept to always remember is: a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Two hundred calories are two hundred calories, whether they come from peaches or pizza, whether you eat them standing up or sitting down, or at 7 AM or 1 AM.

    As for Suzanne Somers — nutrition expert is one role I would never hire her for.


    All About Fat

    The fourth issue of Small Bites was sent out to subscribers this past Friday.

    It is now available for public viewing here. Enjoy!


    Numbers Game: Chew on This

    According to figures by the United States Department of Agriculture, calorie consumption in the United States per capita increased ________ percent between 1982 and 2000.

    a) 5
    b) 10
    c) 15
    d) 20

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Monday for the answer!


    Sex & The Ziti

    The concept of aphrodisiac foods has fascinated the world for approximately 5,000 years.

    According to lore, certain foods increase sexual desire and potency, mostly based on their provocative shapes and textures. For instance, the word “avocado” comes from the Aztec “ahuactl” (which translates to “testicle”), hence the belief that avocados are a great form of culinary foreplay.

    In reality, there are no foods worthy of an x-rating.

    That said, here are some thoughts to keep in mind when sharing dinner with a hottie you want to have for dessert.

    Avoid crucifeous vegetables (i.e.: broccoli and cauliflower), beans, and undercooked starchy vegetables, which will result in an increase of gas.
    B vitamins, iron, zinc, and healthy fats all help contribute to the production of sex hormones. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean meats are the best sources of these nutrients, so be sure to have them every day. The less processed your diet, the more of these nutrients you’ll get!
    Pineapples and bananas contain bromelain, an enzyme which some studies indicate helps increase male libido. In order to reap these benefits, though, these foods should be consumed several times a week.
    Avoid heavy foods (i.e.: cream-based sauces, rich stews) that take a long time to digest and lower your energy levels.
    • For men concerned with their taste, having fruits like pineapple every day will sweeten things up. On the contrary, meat and dairy products tend to give a more acid, sour taste.


    You Ask, I Answer: The Glycemic Index

    What’s your take on the glycemic index as a way to monitor “good” and “bad” foods?
    — Anonymous

    Thirty years after it was first researched and introduced to mainstream nutrition, the glycemic index is making a comeback.

    The glycemix index (GI) is a ranking that lists foods based on their effect on our blood sugar levels. Foods that spike up our blood sugar following consumption are ranked higher, while those that help maintain blood glucose levels receive a lower number.

    Many low-carbers constantly refer to the GI, and will make statements like, “I don’t eat potatoes. They’re way up there on the glycemic index!”

    Oh, the horror! If anyone ever tells you that, your nutrition BS alarms should go off.

    Yes, it is true that foods largely composed of carbohydrates (especially refined ones) will raise our blood sugar more than those that mostly consist of fats and/or protein. That doesn’t necessarily make them less healthy, though.

    For instance, according to the glycemic index, a croissant, ketchup, and ice cream are a better choice than cooked carrots. Thus, this tool does not take into account that ice cream and croissants have high levels of cholesterol-raising saturated fat and not a trace of fiber, ketchup is a high-sodium condiment, and cooked carrots offer a wealth of nutrients.

    Additionally, I’m of the thought that the glycemic index oversimplifies foods. For instance, a baked potato scores high on this chart because the assumption is that you are eating it by itself. Have it as a side dish to accompany any protein (whether animal or vegetable), and the glycemic index of that potato becomes lower!

    Similarly, cooking methods affect foods’ GI numbers. Pasta scores lower when al dente, and potatoes result in a lower number if they are refrigerated prior to being eaten.

    Remember, when it comes to weight management, the main thing you truly need to keep tabs on is your caloric intake. Three thousand calories of food will make you gain weight, whether they come from lettuce leaves or ice cream (obviously, because lettuce leaves offer practically no calories, you would need to eat a LOT of them to even get 100 calories).

    Although the glycemic index is definitely helpful for people living with diabetes (who need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day), I don’t consider it an effective weight management tool for the average person.


    Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Zone Bars

    “Energy bars,” “health bars,” “protein bars.” No matter what you call them, 90 percent of these are just extra calories and sugar under the guise of health foods.

    I recently received a handful of e-mails specifically asking me about Zone bars. I am not a fan; in fact, I consider them worthy of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” label.

    Let’s take the chocolate-peanut butter flavor.

    Yes, it contributes high amounts of a number of vitamins (big deal, the large majority of us do not need them if we eat a balanced diet) but that comes with 210 calories, 360 milligrams of sodium (15% of the maximum allotted amount), 0 grams of fiber, and 13 grams (a little more than 1 tablespoon) of added sugar.

    Scan the ingredient list and you’ll find that the “peanut butter fudge” is a chemical concoction composed of corn syrup, sugar, AND high fructose corn syrup.

    Interestingly enough, many people refer to these bars as a snack they eat when they are “good” and keeping an eye on their weight. Time to go back to the drawing board, I’m afraid.

    Those 210 calories would be much better spent on food that is less artificial and offers more nutrients.

    For instance, dipping slices of a medium-sized Granny Smith apple into 1 tablespoon of a natural nut butter provides 177 calories, 4.5 grams of fiber, and absolutely no added sugar.

    Plus, both of these foods contain naturally occurring antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant compounds), which offer health benefits that pale in comparison to a bar’s added vitamins.

    Similarly, if you are in a munchy mood, you can enjoy FIVE cups of air-popped popcorn. You’ll only take in 150 calories, but enjoy the benefits of six grams of fiber!

    If you are on the run and a Zone bar is the only thing you can get your hands on, it is definitely preferable to a pack of Reese’s peanut butter cups or a bag of Lay’s potato chips. However, there is no need to make this a daily staple in your quest to eat better.


    Numbers Game: Answer

    Losing 10 pounds of excess weight lowers your risk of developing Type 2 (adult on-set) diabetes by 30 percent.

    Similarly, although scarier, gaining 10 pounds increases your risk by thirty percent.

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