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    Archive for November, 2009

    Healthify Your Baked Goods!

    toolsI find that certain weekend mornings are practically tailor-made for a muffin-and-coffee breakfast.

    Sipping freshly brewed coffee and biting into homemade baked good on a cloudy autumn morning, watching the colorful foliage slowly float down from tree branches, is simultaneously comforting and delectable.

    While many commercial baked goods are nutrition horror cliches (copious amounts of white flour, sugar, and unhealthy fats), homemade varieties can get a nutritional boost in a variety of ways.

    These tips can be used when making muffins, brownies, and cookies:

    1) Go whole or go home

    Gone are the days when “whole grain baked goods” meant a dense, rubbery concoction akin to an E-Z Bake Oven creation.

    The key to making light and fluffy 100% whole grain baked goods is to utilize either whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat white flour.

    You can fully replace a recipe’s white flour with either of these varieties.

    Not only will the end result be higher in fiber, it will also contain more selenium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

    2) Go alternative

    Alternative flours can be quite pricey, but they’re a lot more affordable if you make them yourself!

    Instead of purchasing oat flour (which, depending where you live, can be hard to track down), make your own by processing quick oats in a food processor.

    FYI: One and a half cups of quick cooking oats yields one cup of oat flour.

    Oat flour is high in soluble fiber (the kind that helps lower cholesterol and provides a feeling of fullness more quickly) and rich in phytonutrients.

    One other FYI: oat flour can only replace, at most, half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.

    Another favorite alternative flour of mine is almond meal.

    You can also make this at home by pulverizing raw almonds in a food processor or coffee grinder until they achieve a powdery consistency.

    Like oat flour, almond meal can replace up to half of the wheat flour in a given recipe.

    Like whole almonds, almond meal is a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin E, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    You can even replace half a cup of flour in a recipe with half a cup of pure wheat germ for added fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

    3) Get saucy

    Unsweetened applesauce is a healthy baker’s ally.

    You can replace anywhere from one half to three quarters of the fat called for in a recipe with unsweetened applesauce and no one will be the wiser.

    The applesauce won’t disrupt flavors, but will add plenty of moisture to your baked goods.

    4) Sprinkle away

    Whenever I make pancake or muffin batter, I like to add two or three tablespoons of oat bran and ground flaxseeds.

    Not only do they impart a hearty and nutty flavor, they also add extra nutrition in a pinch.

    5) Sugar?  Think Beyond The White Stuff

    When it comes to sweetening, think natural first.

    Raisins, blueberries, bananas, and fresh pineapple add sweetness — and great flavor — to recipes while also delivering nutrition.

    In my experience, you can halve the added sugar (whether in the form of white sugar, brown sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.) in conventional recipes and still have a tasty baked good.

    When reducing sugar, make up for it by adding nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla, almond, and/or coconut extract to the batter.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Tofu Concerns

    iron-source-edamame-soybeans-lgI am a vegetarian and eat tofu, but I am hearing two things about tofu that are bothering me.

    1) Tofu has large amounts of antibiotics or other additives dangerous to the human body.

    2) In order to make tofu and fulfill the global need for tofu, the Brazilians have undertaken an incredible rate of slash and burn to clear fields to make way for planting of soybeans.

    What are your thoughts?

    — Barlow Humphreys
    Westchester, NY

    1) Tofu does not contain antibiotics.

    The use of antibiotics only comes into play with animals that have them mixed into their feed.

    Non-organic tofu contains pesticides, but there are no “dangerous additives” in soy products.

    2) Brazil is one of the world’s top producers of soy.

    It is certainly true that the increased demand for soy (along with corporate-owned genetically modified soy crops that can practically grow anywhere) have led to a staggering amount of deforestation there.

    That said (and please do not take this to mean I am dismissing that as unimportant) — meat production takes an even larger toll on the environment, as it requires the use of more land, significantly more water usage, and creates a larger amount of waste.

    One way to “pitch in”, from an environmental standpoint, is to purchase soy products made exclusively from soybeans that are not genetically modified, since non-GMO soybeans are usually grown more responsibly.

    Although over 90 percent of the world’s soybeans are genetically modified, most of those are used to make soy by-products (ie: soybean oil, soy protein isolate) used in processed food.

    When it comes to soy products, I recommend prioritizing tempeh (fermented soy) and edamame (picture alongside this post), as these are the most nutritious and less processed varieties.

    Next on the list are tofu and soy-based dairy products.

    Processed foods made largely with soy protein isolates (ie: soy chips, soy bars, soy burgers, soy protein powders) should be considered “occasional treats”.

    Soy can only be considered a health food when it is consumed in a minimally processed form.  A sprinkle of soy dust on a corn chip is hype, not health.

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    Numbers Game: Hearty Whole Grains

    MF-M26826A review of  major heart health studies published in the Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases journal found that people who consume at least 2.5 servings of whole grains a day have a _____ percent lower risk of developing a cardiovascular disease than those who eat two (or less) servings of whole grains a week.

    a) 12
    b) 30
    c) 5
    d) 21

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    You Ask, I Answer: Carbohydrate Content of Fruit

    plantainOut of curiosity, does a fruit or vegetable’s ripeness factor in its carbohydrate value?

    — Kate Redfern
    Via Facebook

    No.

    A piece of fruit contains the same amount of carbohydrates regardless of its ripeness.  A green plantain is not lower in carbohydrates than an overly ripe yellow banana.

    Prior to ripeness, carbohydrates in fruit exist mostly as starch.

    With time, that starch naturally converts into sugars.

    Since all carbohydrates (whether in sugar or starch form) contain 4 calories per gram, caloric content is not affected by this change.

    Contrary to what many people believe, the sweeter taste of ripe fruit does not mean extra carbohydrates or extra calories.

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: Liz Hurley Pinpoints The Cause of Bloating… NOT!

    VNSAYM3elizabeth_hurleyMany thanks to Small Bites reader Sara Zuba for forwarding along this article from London’s Daily Mail newspaper, which details actress Elizabeth Hurley’s “diet secrets”.

    For starters?  In order to “keep her famously svelte figure,” Hurley now opts for vodka and seltzer over white wine.

    Mind you, she doesn’t “like vodka that much” and thinks it initially “tastes like medicine”, but anything to look svelte, right?  Insert eyeroll HERE.

    Not to mention, the caloric difference between a vodka drink and a glass of wine isn’t exactly earth-shattering.

    A 1.5 ounce serving of vodka with whatever amount of seltzer water she’s adding contains 103 calories.

    A 5-ounce serving of wine, meanwhile, provides 120 calories.

    We’re talking about 17 fewer calories — the amount found in two cashews.

    She then pulls this bit of nutrition advice from seemingly out of thin air:

    “‘I used to drink an awful lot of coffee, but I was told after the age of 40 you have to be careful with coffee and wine.  Apparently, that can be one of the reasons older women get bloated around their stomach.”

    Absolutely untrue.  There is nothing intrinsic in coffee that promotes bloating or the collection of adipose tissue around the stomach area.

    Perhaps the most disturbing — and, sad, really — part of the article is this reference to something Hurley said back in 2002:

    “Following the birth of [her 7-year-old son] Damian, she revealed how she only eats one meal a day and often goes to bed hungry”

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    In The News: Chocolate Milk Good For The Heart?

    ni-milk-0607p16-mChocolate milk certainly appears to be this week’s A-list beverage.

    Not only is an expensive campaign championing its virtues, the New York Times claims it may help reduce inflammation.

    In case you’re wondering what inflammation has to do with health, many degenerative diseases are intensified, if not directly caused, by cellular inflammation.

    So does chocolate milk deserve such health claims?  Depends on your definition of chocolate milk!

    The study referenced by the New York Times was conducted by Spanish researchers and recently published in the renowned American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Alas, a review of the study reveals that participants weren’t exactly drinking chocolate milk.  They were drinking skim milk with cocoa powder.

    As far as I’m concerned, this is an “apples and oranges” situation.

    The 40 grams of cocoa powder that certain participants were drinking on a daily basis contained 7.6 grams of fiber, as much potassium as a medium banana, and a high amount of polyphenols and flavonoids.

    Commercial chocolate milk, meanwhile, offers less than a gram of fiber per eight-ounce serving, significantly less potassium, and very little in the way of flavonoids (the cocoa in chocolate milk is alkalized, which drastically reduces flavonoid content).

    These are two very different beverages!

    If it’s cocoa’s health benefits you are looking for, you are better off utilizing it in its whole form, like in this delicious dessert recipe.

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    Where Do You Stand on the Chocolate Milk Controversy?

    4415_Raise-Your-Hand

    Update (1/20/12): My stance on this issue has since solidified. I fully support chocolate milk bans at schools. In short, children consume excessive amounts of sugars, and chocolate milk only contributes to that amount. It is important to consider the “view from 30,000 feet” and realize that fixing school lunch goes well beyond the chocolate milk issue, but this is an easy step we can take to lower added sugar intake in school cafeterias.

    Over the past few days, the nutrition blogosphere has fervently discussed the latest controversy — the “Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk” campaign.

    Led by the Milk Processor Education Program and the National Dairy Council, the program aims to “keep chocolate milk on the menu in schools nationwide”, in light of “lunch advocates [who] are calling [to remove chocolate milk from the lunch line, a decision that could] cause more harm than good when it comes to children’s health.”

    The repertoire of widgets, colorful handouts and downloadable documents make it clear that a significant amount of money has been invested in this campaign.

    If that wasn’t enough, there is also a partnership with the National Football League and this slick promotional video that features Registered Dietitians and celeb-moms Angie Harmon and Rebecca Romijn vocalizing their support for keeping chocolate milk in schools.

    So, what to make of this?

    Nutrition professionals across the country have vastly different feelings on the matter.

    One side of the debate is succinctly explained in Dr. Marion Nestle’s top-notch blog, Food Politics.

    Dr. Nestle states:

    “The rationale for the campaign?  If you get rid of chocolate milk, kids won’t drink milk.  You will deprive kids of the nutrients in milk and contribute to the “milk deficit.”   After all, this rationale goes, chocolate milk is better than soda (Oops.  Didn’t we just hear something like this relative to the Smart Choices fiasco?).”

    She also adds that this “it’s all about the children!” campaign is about something else — profit.

    Specifically, Dr. Nestle states, “schools represent sales of 460 million gallons of milk – more than 7% of total milk sales — [and slightly more than] half of flavored milk is sold in schools.”

    Other nutritionists, however, see this campaign as one that takes the important step of “looking at the big picture.”

    While they realize chocolate milk is not an ideal beverage, it is a better alternative than sodas or sugar-laden fruit drinks.  If chocolate milk is the only way a child will drink milk, they argue, then it would be a true shame to have it removed from school cafeterias across the country.

    I am absolutely torn.

    As regular readers of Small Bites know, I have my issues with The Dairy Council.  I find it troubling that, due to their large budget and forceful lobby, they have managed to convince an entire nation that the only way to get calcium in one’s diet is through dairy products.

    Approximately three quarters of African Americans and Asian Americans are lactose intolerant; many of them are not aware that calcium is found in broccoli, bok choy, almonds, and chickpeas.  Due to the Dairy Council’s influence, many educational pamphlets fail to mention non-dairy sources of calcium!

    In fact, this campaign fails to mention that chocolate soymilk offers the exact same nutrients.

    That said, chocolate milk is far from calcium-fortified junk.

    Apart from the popular mineral, chocolate milk also offers potassium, magnesium, vitamin D (fortified), riboflavin, and vitamin B12.  It is very different from a calcium-fortified Kool Aid drink.

    A standard cafeteria-size carton of chocolate milk contains 12 grams (a tablespoon) of added sugar.  That amounts to 48 more calories than non-flavored milk.  I simply can’t muster much emotion over 48 extra calories (assuming, of course, that chocolate milk consumption is kept to one 8-ounce carton a day).

    Similarly, 12 grams of added sugar are not a big deal in a diet that is otherwise not sugar-laden.  Sadly, the average US teenager consumes six tablespoons of sugar on a daily basis!

    So, in that sense, since any decrease in added sugar intake is positive, why not slash an entire tablespoon by getting rid of chocolate milk?  Then again, why not focus on the nutrition-void, sugar-filled junk that is also available at school cafeterias?

    By the way, what has been missing from a lot of the articles and blog posts I have read is this: a chocolate milk ban is absolutely meaningless if, during their lunch period, students can purchase a bottle of Snapple iced tea (added sugar count: 3 tablespoons!) from a vending machine.

    While I very well may eventually take a firm stand either “for” or “against” keeping chocolate milk in schools, I am currently undecided.

    For the time being, I want to open the floor for discussion.

    What do you think?  Is chocolate milk worth worrying about?  Why or why not?

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    You Ask, I Answer: Why Isn’t a Multivitamin Enough?

    Get_the_Right_MultivitaminsThis morning, my 13 year-old son asked me why I always want him to have a healthy breakfast.

    I explained that I wanted to make sure he got the vitamins and minerals his body needs.

    His response was: “Well, why can’t I just have two Pop Tarts and [a multivitamin]?”

    I didn’t really know what to say to that!  What would you have said?

    — Teresa Womell
    (Location withheld)

    “Because as long as you’re living under MY roof…”

    No, kidding.

    Truth is, your initial answer backed you into this corner.  You mentioned that eating healthy foods is important in order to get necessary vitamins and minerals.

    While that is certainly an important part of the equation, nutrition goes far beyond vitamins and minerals.

    Foods also offer phytonutrients, flavonoids, and antioxidants — chemical compounds that offer a variety of health benefits.

    Take an orange, for example.  It is a great source of vitamin C, folate, thiamin, and potassium.

    That’s fabulous in its own right — but there’s more!

    Oranges also offer approximately 150 phytochemicals and over 50 flavonoids that help lower our risk of heart disease, several cancers, and high blood pressure!  You simply can not get that from a supplement.

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    ‘Tis The Season… to Supplement!

    0805p44c-vitamin_d-mIf you live north of the Georgia stateline (or, for European readers, north of Naples), it’s time to purchase vitamin D supplements.

    Remember that from late October to mid April, the sun rays involved in vitamin D production (UVB rays) don’t reach you if you live above that particular longitude.

    Aim for 1,000 to 2,000 International Units of vitamin D a day.

    The popularly-quoted official triple-digit recommendations have not caught up with the multitude of recent top-notch research studies that clearly indicate we need at least 1,000 International Units a day.

    By the way, it does not matter if your supplement is made up of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3.

    Also, keep in mind that certain foods — milk, dairy-free milk alternatives, and cereals — already offer some supplemental vitamin D.

    Below are two Vitamin D-related questions I have received and are worth sharing:

    Are tanning beds a good way to get UVB rays during these next few months?  (Kate R., via Facebook)

    No.  Tanning beds aren’t an exact replica of the sun.

    Many of them contain higher amounts of UVA rays and significantly lower amounts of the vitamin-D-producing UVB rays.

    The risks far outweigh the benefits.

    Is cod liver oil a good way to supplement vitamin D? (Adam L., via Facebook)

    While cod liver oil has long been passed down as a “healthy food to give your child” tip from one generation to the next, the consensus among nutrition professionals is that it is not the optimal source of vitamin D.

    The concern revolves around cod liver oil’s extremely high vitamin A content.

    Since vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, extraneous amounts are stored, rather than excreted (as is the case with vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin).

    Taking in the 1,000 – 2,000 International Unit Vitamin D recommendation via cod liver oil delivers an exorbitant amount of vitamin A.

    This is especially problematic in light of research that shows vitamin D’s bioavailability is diminished in the presence of high amounts of vitamin A.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    PecanHeart_E2A heart-healthy diet gets approximately 16 percent of its calories from monounsaturated fats and roughly 10 percent from polyunsaturated fats (including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).

    Although all foods contain a combination of different fats, you definitely want to give priority to those highest in monounsaturated fats:

    • Almonds
    • Avocados
    • Cashews
    • Peanuts
    • Pecans
    • Pine nuts
    • Olives/Olive oil
    • Sunflower seeds

    How, then, do you figure out what these percentages mean in terms of grams of fat?

    Let’s assume you consume, on average, 1,800 calories a day.

    Sixteen percent of 1,800 calories = 288 calories.

    Each gram of fat contains nine calories.  Therefore, to figure out how many grams of fat are in 288 calories, divide by 9.

    In this case, 288 divided by 9 = 32 grams.

    Therefore, someone who consumes 1,800 calories should aim to get 32 grams of fat from monounsaturated fats.

    Following these percentage, roughly 18 grams (10 percent) should come from polyunsaturated sources (this includes Omega-3 fats, like those found in walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish), and no more than 16 grams from saturated fats.

    (Note: I abide by Mediterranean diet guidelines that recommend 30 to 35 percent of calories from fat)

    A whole small avocado,  for example, adds the following to your day:

    • 15 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 2 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 3 grams saturated fat

    A small order of cheesecake ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery breaks down like this:

    • 2.5 grams monounsaturated fat
    • 3.9 grams polyunsaturated fat
    • 13.7 grams saturated fat

    That said, there is no need for you to do multiple-step math calculations in your head.  Simply know your different fat sources and choose the healthiest ones, keeping appropriate portions in mind, whenever possible (i.e.: guacamole, rather than nacho cheese dip, at a Mexican restaurant).

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    In The News: Surprise! A Faddish, Unhealthy Diet Gets Press

    img_PizzaKingEarlier this morning, New York City-based dietitian Keri Gans Tweeted a link to this article on the Tampa Bay FOX affiliate website.

    The piece, titled “Eat nothing but pizza, and lose weight?” is all shades of horrible.

    In summary, a man by the name of Matt McClellan (who, oh so coincidentally, owns a pizza shop) went on a 30-day, 2,500-calorie “nothing but pizza” diet and significantly reduced his weight, body fat percentage, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

    Sigh.  Let’s dissect a few things.

    “He eats eight slices total for a full day of nutrition. That’s 2,500 calories.”

    Alright.  If a steady diet of 2,500 calories resulted in 25 pounds of weight loss over the course of a month (which, personally, sounds exaggerated), then what we are looking at is not “pizza makes you thin”, but rather the ever-classic “eat less, lose weight.”

    Keri Gans’ comment when posting this link on Twitter was, “I wonder what he was eating before.”

    Precisely!  If Mr. McClellan’s regular diet consisted of 3,800 calories a day, then, yes, 2,500 calories (no matter what food it comes from) WILL result in weight loss.

    “Matt says he boosted his good cholesterol and lowered the bad and dropped 25 pounds.”

    Again, this is regardless of the pizza.  The improved cholesterol and blood pressure levels can simply be attributed to the weight loss.

    PS: Had Mr. McClellan’s 2,500-calorie diet consisted of healthy fats, he would have probably seen even more changes with his blood cholesterol levels.

    “He also boosted his workouts to 60 minutes a day, every day. One day, Matt does cardio; the next he works with weights.”

    Bingo!  So, in essence, we have someone who is consuming fewer calories and exercising more.  So… why am I supposed to be surprised that this led to weight loss and a healthier blood lipid profile?

    “In the future, Matt says he’ll publish a book on his pizza diet plan and wants to tour the country in an RV to promote it. Matt hopes to challenge Subway’s Jared to prove pizza can be the healthiest fast food on the planet.”

    No, thanks.

    The problem with these senseless diets is that they focus solely on weight loss, rather than total nutrition.

    A significant reduction in calories will always result in weight loss.  However, an unbalanced meal plan (such as a 30-day pizza-fest) does not fully meet vitamin and mineral requirements.

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    Liquid Bombs

    photo_nutrition_BV339aLet’s say you decide to treat yourself to a sweet concoction at Baskin Robbins.

    Your goal is to choose something that will satisfy your sweet tooth without overloading on calories and added sugar, so you figure ordering a small size of any treat will do the trick.

    Think again! Check out these mind-blowing nutrition figures.

    Remember, these numbers are for the smallest sizes available.

    Small Vanilla Shake (made with light ice cream)

    • 560 calories
    • 10 grams saturated fat
    • 0.5 grams trans fat
    • 450 milligrams sodium
    • 16 teaspoons added sugar

    To recap: 60 more calories than a large order of McDonald’s fries, as much saturated fat as 4 teaspoons of butter, and 6 more teaspoons of sugar than a can of Coca Cola.

    Small Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Shake

    • 750 calories
    • 20 grams saturated fat
    • 1 grams trans fat
    • 15 teaspoons added sugar

    That’s 210 more calories than a Big Mac, a day’s worth of saturated fat, and as much added sugar as 4 Pop Tarts.

    Small Strawberry Shake

    • 560 calories
    • 15 grams saturated fat
    • 1 gram trans fat
    • 14 teaspoons added sugar

    This offer 40 fewer calories than three soft beef tacos from Taco Bell!  You can get that same amount of saturated fat in 10 tablespoons of sour cream, and just as much added sugar in 12 Oreo cookies.

    Small Reduced-Fat Mint Oreo Shake (made with light ice cream and low-fat Oreos)

    • 620 calories
    • 9 grams saturated fat
    • 350 milligrams sodium
    • 18 teaspoons added sugar

    Small size, light ice cream, and low-fat Oreos — sounds harmless, right?  This contains 80 more calories than half a pint of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream, as much saturated fat as a half cup of shredded Cheddar cheese, and as much added sugar as 18 chocolate Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins.

    Small Mango Fruit Blast

    • 440 calories
    • 20 teaspoons added sugar

    Don’t be fooled by the 2 grams of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat.  This smoothie contains 130 more calories than a large soda from McDonald’s.  As for the two grams of fiber?  They are tacked on with food starch, which does not provide the same healthful properties as the fiber found in food.

    Even the more reasonable options at Baskin Robbins have a few problem areas.  Consider a small soft-serve Cappuccino Blast, which clocks in at:

    • 280 calories
    • 6 grams saturated fat
    • 140 milligrams sodium
    • 4 teaspoons added sugar

    While the calorie, sodium, and added sugar values are okay, the saturated fat content is a tad bit high, and the presence of partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list isn’t very promising.

    This makes two things very clear:

    1. Calorie labeling needs to happen on a national level, so these figures cease to be surprising
    2. Perhaps we should really consider if a 16 ounce beverage can truly be called “small”!
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    You Ask, I Answer: Toxins in Potatoes

    800px-Potato_sproutsOne of my nieces came back from a health and nutrition retreat last week and showed me some of the literature she was given.

    One page [was titled] “Common Foods That Cause Disease”.

    One food on the list was potatoes.  According to [the author of the article], potatoes should be avoided because they are full of toxins that accumulate in the body and cause cellular damage.

    It also said the skin is the most unhealthy part because it is full of these toxins.

    I eat potatoes (baked, with the skin on) twice a week.  Should I cut down?

    — Manuela Cedeño
    San Juan, PR

    Absolutely not.

    I certainly hope your niece did not plunk down a lot of money for this retreat, particularly if the rest of the information she was given was as inaccurate and unnecessarily alarming as this.

    It is true that potatoes — mainly the skins — contain two toxins known as chaconine and solanine.

    As with many other grains, fruits, and vegetables, potatoes have these toxins as defense mechanisms against pests.

    Humans are certainly not immune to these toxins.  A high enough dose will result in death.

    Let’s now do what the author of that article didn’t — leave sensationalism at the door and apply all this information to the appropriate context.

    1. The potatoes we buy at supermarkets have had their chaconine and solanine levels tested.  In order to be sold commercially, they must contain minimal amounts.
    2. When commercial potatoes develop high levels of these toxins, three very unpleasant things will tip you off.  They will have a green tint underneath, or on, the skin, already be sprouting (as shown in the accompanying photograph, and impart an off, bitter taste.
    3. Neither of these toxins accumulate in the body.  They are excreted (remember, one of our kidneys’ functions is to get rid of toxins!)
    4. Neither of these toxins have ever been linked to cellular damage of any kind.
    5. In the off chance that you consume a high amount of either of these toxins, you will experience diarrhea, vomiting, and dizziness.  Trust me, this is by no means a “silent health problem”
    6. As for that dose that can result in death — you would need to eat, in one sitting, approximately a pound and a half of potatoes that not only have that funky green color to them, but also taste very bitter.

    By all means keep eating baked potatoes twice a week.  As long as they are topped in a healthy manner (ie: two teaspoons of olive oil OR a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese OR two tablespoons of salsa), they are a wonderful addition to any diet with their high fiber content along with several vitamins and minerals.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Oat Flour

    5106PF2KV9L._SL500_AA280_PIbundle-5,TopRight,0,0_AA280_SH20_I have a question [in regards to your recent post] about oat flour.

    I can tolerate wheat just fine, but if I were to replace whole wheat flour with oat flour in my baking, would I end up with a more nutritious product?

    — Nicole Clanham
    (City withheld), CO

    Let’s first do a simple comparison.

    One cup of whole wheat flour contains:

    • 407 calories
    • 15 grams fiber
    • 16 grams protein
    • 121% Daily Value of selenium
    • 228% Daily Value of manganese
    • 14% Daily Value of potassium
    • 41% of manganese

    A cup of oat flour, meanwhile, provides:

    • 444 calories
    • 12 grams fiber
    • 15 grams protein
    • 57% Daily Value of selenium
    • 258% Daily Value of manganese
    • 12% Daily Value of potassium
    • 81% Daily Value of manganese

    Alas, no mind-blowing differences.

    There are, however, some added bonuses to oat flour (especially if you make your own by grinding rolled oats in a food processor).

    1. More soluble fiber than any other grain.  Remember, soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol levels and triggers fullness more quickly.  Insoluble fiber — which whole wheat flour contains lots of — helps keep things moving through our digestive system.
    2. Exclusive antioxidants and polyphenols believed to promote heart health and lower diabetes risk.

    As great as that is, you can not fully replace the whole wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour.

    Since oat flour does not contain gluten, a baked good made entirely with it will not rise.

    “Wait a minute,” you may be saying.  “I thought you said oats were not safe for people on gluten-free diets!  What do you mean it doesn’t have gluten?”

    Allow me to explain.  Oats are intrinsically gluten-free.  However, many are cross-contamined in factories that also process wheat.  While the minimal contamination is significant enough to cause problems for an individual with celiac, it is not enough to have an effect on the baking process.

    Feel free to substitute half the wheat flour in a recipe with oat flour, though.

    As I always like to say, keep nutritional context in mind.  Oat flour in an otherwise unhealthy recipe (loads of sugar and calories) is a moot point.

    The best way to get oat’s health benefits is by preparing unsweetened oatmeal (and adding your own fruit and nut toppings) or adding quick-cooking oats to yogurt or a smoothie.

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    Nutrition Tunnel Vision

    foThe folks at Fiber One can’t stop bragging are very proud that their original cereal offers 14 grams of fiber per half-cup serving.

    Their over-confidence, however, has resulted in advertising tactics that are the epitome of nutrition tunnel vision.

    Take the Fiber One comparison tool.

    It stacks up a half-cup of Fiber One with a variety of foods, and indicates how much of that given food needs to be consumed to match the amount of fiber in their cereal.

    Numbers are unfairly tweaked for optimal effect (i.e.: although a standard serving of nuts weighs one ounce, the folks at Fiber One decided to use half-ounce servings for this tool, thereby making eleven, rather than five and a half, nut servings add up to 14 grams of fiber), and the message is ultimately misleading.

    If you go by this tool, Fiber One is a “better” choice than broccoli, carrots, blueberries, oatmeal, popcorn, and prune juice (the last one is no shocker — no juice has fiber!).  Since when do foods get judged solely by fiber content?

    Unlike Fiber One, those “inferior” foods offer exclusive and unique phytonutrients and antioxidants not found in the high-fiber cereal (and, unlike Fiber One, they don’t contain artificial sweeteners).

    A breakfast consisting of a cup of oatmeal, a banana, and a handful of almonds adds up to a still-very-worthy 8 grams of fiber and delivers an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants — certainly more than a bowl of Fiber One with milk.

    The almonds offer — among other things — vitamin E, magnesium, and monounsaturated fat.  The oatmeal is a wonderful source of LDL-cholesterol-lowering beta glucans.  And, the banana is a good source of delphinidin, a naturally-occurring pigment that helps lower cancer risk.  Start your day off with a bowl of Fiber One and some milk and you’re missing out on all that nutrition!

    I also await the day when Fiber One ditches the obnoxious “Cardboard no.  Delicious yes.” tagline.

    The grammar teacher in me wants to add the necessary missing punctuation marks.  The nutritionist in me finds the “fiber tastes like cardboard” message ridiculously old school — and untrue.

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