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    Archive for the ‘avocado’ Category

    The Handy Dandy Cooking Oil Comparison Chart

    A few weeks ago, Andrew Wilder of the Eating Rules blog asked me if I wanted to help build a cooking oil comparison chart that would help people make sense of the wide array of choices. The topic of cooking oils is one I am very passionate about, so I gladly jumped at the chance.

    The chart — a real visual treat! — can be downloaded here, but I encourage you to read this blog post first, as it explains the science behind the results (and contains some very important FYIs).

    Continue Reading »

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spiced Lentil & Quinoa Bowl with Avocado Dressing

    lentejas_-lensculirnarisI consider this a perfect year-round dish.

    In the cold winter months, the warm lentils and quinoa, along with the spices, make for a comforting dish.

    Once summer hits, I love this as a cold salad!

    This is also one of those meals that keeps you full for a very long time, as it combines heart-healthy fats, soluble fiber, and protein.

    Don’t be let the long steps fool you; this is a very simple recipe.  The lentils and dressing can both be prepared while the quinoa cooks.

    By the way, if you don’t have a food processor (or don’t feel like taking it out, using it, and cleaning it), you can always replace the dressing with some fresh avocado slices.  Even if you don’t have avocados handy, the lentil and quinoa combination in itself is delicious!

    YIELDS: 4 servings (1 cup quinoa + 1 cup lentils + 2 TBSP dressing)

    INGREDIENTS (Quinoa):

    2 cups quinoa
    4 cups water
    Pinch of salt

    INGREDIENTS (Spiced Lentils):

    2 TBSP olive oil
    1 cup onions, chopped
    1/2 cup carrots, shredded
    1/2 cup red pepper, diced
    1/4 cup green pepper, diced
    1 cup mushrooms, chopped
    2 T garlic, minced
    1/2 t cumin
    1/4 t cinnamon
    1/2 t curry powder
    1/3 t salt
    1/4 t paprika
    1/8 t black pepper
    1 cup dried lentils, rinsed (any color; if you can find sprouted dried lentils, even better!)
    3 cups water
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice

    INGREDIENTS (Avocado Dressing):

    1 large avocado, pitted
    2 t lime juice
    1 garlic clove
    2 t ginger
    1/4 t salt
    1/4 c water

    INSTRUCTIONS (Quinoa):

    In a small pot, combine quinoa, water, and a pinch of salt.

    Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer until all water evaporates.

    Fluff quinoa with fork.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Spiced Lentils):

    In a large pot, heat olive oil.  Once sufficiently hot, add onions, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, and garlic.

    Stir frequently over the course of 2 minutes over medium-high heat.

    Add spices.  Stir frequently for 2 more minutes.

    Add lentils and water, stir and bring to a boil.

    Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring two or three times.

    Turn off stovetop, uncover, add lemon juice, and stir one more time.

    INSTRUCTIONS (Avocado dressing):

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and process until evenly combined.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    538 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat
    450 milligrams sodium
    15 grams fiber
    18 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fats, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, zinc

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Heart-Healthy Ranch Dip

    ranch-dressingIt’s only the second day of December and, as is probably the case with many of you, I have already received a handful of invitations to holiday parties, potlucks, and meals.

    If you’re looking to whip up a quick, healthy, and delectable contribution to an event over the next few weeks, I recommend you take no more than ten minutes to make this knock-out, nutritious ranch dip.

    FYI: you can turn this into a dressing by adding an additional third cup of water.

    YIELDS: 3 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    1/2 cup raw cashews (OR raw sunflower seeds OR avocado, although avocado will yield a greener color)
    1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons water
    1 small garlic clove
    4 teaspoons lemon juice
    1/3 teaspoon salt
    Light sprinkle of black pepper
    3/4 teaspoon onion powder
    3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 Tablespoon dry dill, finely chopped
    2 teaspoons dry parsley, finely chopped
    1.5 teaspoons dried chives, finely chopped

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    In blender, mix cashews/sunflower seeds/avocado, water, garlic clove, lemon juice, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder until evenly mixed.

    Empty mixture into bowl.

    Add chopped dill, parsley, and chives; fold into dressing until evenly spread out.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving, made with cashews):

    115 calories
    1 gram saturated fat
    240 milligrams sodium

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    You Ask, I Answer: Food Exchange Lists

    3607-1I know that 1/8th of an avocado is considered one serving of fat but considering it’s also a vegetable, does it have a vegetable exchange as well?

    If I were to add a serving of avocado to my sandwich, is that a serving of vegetables in addition to a serving of fat?

    I’m confused about exchange lists.

    — Cate (last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    Here’s some good news — unless you have diabetes (or provide nutrition counseling to diabetes patients), you don’t need to be familiar with exchange lists.

    Exchange lists group foods by nutritional composition rather than by the nutrients they offer (which is how the food pyramid classifies foods).  They were especially formulated to ease meal planning for people living with diabetes, who have to carefully monitor — and distribute — their intake of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

    Exchange lists classify foods as:

    • Starches
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Very lean/lean/medium fat proteins
    • Non-fat/low-fat dairy
    • Fats

    Nutrition students often times get tripped up when they first learn about the food pyramid and exchange lists, since they can be easy to confuse.

    In the food pyramid, for instance, an avocado counts as a fruit serving (it is not a vegetable).  In the exchange lists, avocado is considered a “fat”.

    Similarly, while a slice of Swiss cheese falls under the “dairy” category in the food pyramid, the exchange lists classify it as a “medium-fat protein”.

    Why?  Cheese, ounce by ounce, has a similar protein and carbohydrate content to meat.

    In the exchange list, a “very lean” protein is one that, per serving, offers 35 calories and no more than 1 gram of fat.  Lentils, egg whites, and turkey breast all fall into this category.

    When figuring out what category the foods you eat fall into, go by food groups, not exchange lists.

    In your case, half a cup of avocado is considered a fruit serving.  Avocados are not considered part of the food pyramid’s “added oils and sugars” tip since an avocado contains a whole lot more than fat — it is also a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

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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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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Bananacado Shake

    Most of us avocado-banana-420-420x0are accustomed to eating avocado in its savory form, usually as guacamole or part of a salad.

    In some parts of the world — especially Indonesia and the Philippines — avocado is commonly included in sweet concoctions.

    Fret not: although this delicious breakfast smoothie utilizes avocado to achieve a creamy texture, its taste goes unnoticed.  The key is to use very ripe fruit in order to provide a good amount of sweetness.

    This is one of my favorite breakfast foods whenever I’m in a rush.  The combination of healthy fats, fiber, and protein keeps me full through most of the morning!

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 small avocado, sliced (or one half of a large avocado)
    1 medium frozen banana (previously sliced and stored in Ziploc bag)
    1/3 cup frozen strawberries OR frozen peaches OR frozen pineapple
    1 cup milk of choice (choose unsweetened varieties if using non-dairy milk)
    1 scoop (or 1/2 scoop) unflavored protein powder (ONLY if using low-protein milk, like almond milk)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 Tablespoon oat bran or psyllium husks

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Place all ingredients in blender and process until evenly combined.

    For optimal texture, blend for at least 20 seconds.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION:

    441 calories (460 if using 2% dairy milk, 485 if made with low-protein milk + protein powder)
    2 grams saturated fat (3 grams if using 2% dairy milk)
    15 grams fiber
    180 milligrams sodium
    0 grams added sugar
    12 grams protein (24 if made with low-protein milk + 1 scoop protein powder)

    Excellent Source of: Folate, manganese, monounsaturated fatty acids, pantothenic acid, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K

    Good Source of: Magnesium, vitamin E

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    You Ask, I Answer: Side Effects from Fish Oil Capsules?

    sealogix_oil2Are you aware of any side effects resulting from ingesting fish oil capsules?

    Specifically, a relative of mine is very sensitive to many compounds (a number of prescription drugs in particular). Her (highly regarded) general practitioner advised her to start fish oil supplementation, possibly in connection with high cholesterol.

    Since taking the supplements, she has experienced itchiness, has developed some sores (similar to psoriasis) and says that she has experienced cuts more frequently with higher than normal bleeding from the cuts.

    Have there been any studies conducted that point to such possible side effects?

    — Bill M.
    Via the blog

    This is actually a two-part question.

    Before I go any further though, let me make something very clear.  Clearly, your relative’s body is sending her a message — “these supplements do not agree with me.”  She needs to listen to that above everything else.

    Side effects to fish oil supplementation have indeed been reported and are mentioned in the literature.

    The itchiness and sores could very well be the result of a fish oil allergy or, if she is taking these supplements in capsule form, possibly an allergy to an ingredient in the capsule shell.

    If it is the latter, than switching to a liquid supplement would resolve that issue.

    What worries me most, however, is the excessive bleeding.

    Although omega-3 fatty acids have anti-clotting, blood thinning properties (which are a good thing!), I suspect such a dramatic effect may be the result of the fish oil working in conjunction with something else.

    Does she take a daily aspirin?  Similarly, is she currently on Coumadin, blood pressure medications, or any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs?

    If the answer to any of those is ‘yes’, she needs to tell her general practitioner immediately and stop taking fish oil supplements.

    In the meantime, while this gets sorted out, she can take the following nutrition-related steps to help lower her cholesterol:

    • Increase her intake of soluble fibers (oatmeal, beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables)
    • Make an effort to make most of her fats monounsaturated (by consuming avocado, olive oil, peanuts, and sesame seeds)
    • In the event that she is allergic to fish oil, consume omega-3 fatty acids from other sources (ground flaxseed, walnuts)

    Even if she eventually gets the green light to resume fish oil supplementation, the above-mentioned steps are absolutely worth keeping in mind.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fats in Avocado

    hass avocado openIs the fat contained in avocado 100% good?

    How much fat is too much?

    — Coco (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Avocados are largely made up of healthy monounsaturated fats, hence its status as a nutritional darling.

    However, there is no such thing as a “perfect” fat.

    The “downside” to avoados, for example, is that they offer a fair share of omega-6 essential fatty acids and practically no omega-3 fatty acids.

    Although both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are essential (meaning we must get them from our diets), the typical US diet is too high in the omega-6 variety and too low in omega-3s.

    People — and diet books written mostly by quacks — love to characterize foods as “100% good” or “100% bad”, but nutrition is more complex than that.

    Avocados are an absolutely wonderful addition to the diet (the fact that they are high in omega-6 does not make them “bad”), but they should not be your only source of fat.

    Look to other sources for omega-3 fatty acids (flax, hemp, walnuts, fatty fish, brown kelp seaweed).

    Remember, too, that different fats offer a variety of different antioxidants and polyphenols.

    Olives and olive oil, for example, offer a high amount of monounsaturated fats along with exclusive components that have been found to benefit cardiovascular health.

    How much fat is too much?  Again, it depends on what kind of fats you are speaking about.  Here are some general guidelines:

    • The majority of your fat intake should come from monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids
    • Saturated fats are okay in smaller amounts (for healthier saturated fats, look to coconut and cacao).
    • Avoid trans fats at all costs

    Remember, too, that most foods are a combination of different fats.  Avocados and olive oil contain some saturated fats; similarly, bacon contains a fair share of monounsaturated fats.

    In general, you can safely have up to forty percent of your diet come from fats (remember the hierarchy, though!)

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    You Ask, I Answer: Avocado Oil

    avocadoAs far as nutrition is concerned, is dressing a salad with avocado oil the same as adding sliced avocado to it?

    — Jennifer Garvez
    (City withheld), CA

    Absolutely not.

    Although avocado oil is a wonderful source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (especially oleic acid), slices of avocado provide a lot more nutrition.

    A 120-calorie tablespoon of avocado oil contains vitamin E, lutein — a carotenoid that helps combat macular degeneration — and unique phytonutrients that, in preliminary clinical studies, have been found to significantly slow down — and in some cases halt — the growth of certain pre-cancerous cells.

    Half an avocado, meanwhile, clocks in at 115 calories and provides all those components along with:

    • 4.5 grams of fiber
    • 18% of your vitamin K needs
    • 15% of your daily folate requirement
    • 10% of your vitamin C and potassium needs
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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Not-Really-Chocolate Dip

    This is one of my favorite desserts to make for guests.

    It takes no more than five minutes to prepare, is rich in body and flavor, and makes for some surprised looks when you tell your guests the “secret” ingredient (which, believe it or not, is impossible to taste)!

    I like to serve this as a dessert dip with fresh strawberries, sliced bananas, and whole grain graham crackers.

    YIELDS: 1.25 cups (ten 2-tablespoon servings)

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 medium avocado, ripe
    1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder
    1/3 cup sweetener of choice (I prefer to use agave nectar for its subtle flavor)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
    5 Tablespoons water

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Combine all ingredients in food processor.

    2. Process until mixture is smooth in texture and uniform in color.

    3. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    72 calories
    1.1 gram saturated fat
    2.5 grams fiber
    5.5 grams added sugar

    Enjoy!

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Avocado Smoothie

    I’m fairly certain I could have an avocado once a day for the rest of my life and never tire of the delicious nutty-flavored fruit.

    Some people enjoy the taste of an avocado but not the texture, so this smoothie is a great way to get a no-mush fix packed with nutrients and healthy fats!

    YIELD: 1 smoothie

    INGREDIENTS:

    1/2 cup milk of choice (dairy, unsweetened soy, unsweetened almond, unsweetened rice, etc.)
    1/4 cup frozen bananas
    1/2 cup frozen strawberries
    1/4 cup frozen blueberries
    1/2 Hass avocado
    1 Tablespoon wheat germ
    1 Tablespoon oat bran
    1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
    1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

    NOTE: For a less thick smoothie, add extra milk or water, depending on your specific caloric preference.

    DIRECTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend for 20 – 30 seconds.

    NUTRITION FACTS:

    381 calories
    18 g fat (2 grams saturated fat)
    15 grams fiber
    3 grams added sugar (if made with plain soy milk)
    11 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid.

    Good Source of: Copper, folate, potassium

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Light & Crunchy Salad

    I made up this recipe last night based on ingredients I came across in my refrigerator and pantry.

    The result — a perfect summer salad chock full of taste and nutrition.

    It makes for a great barbecue side dish!

    The following recipe serves 4:

    SALAD INGREDIENTS

    8 cups mesclun mix
    1 avocado, sliced
    1 15.5 oz can of chickpeas (preferably low-sodium)
    ½ cup red onions, diced
    1 cup red pepper, diced
    1 cup green pepper, diced
    ¼ cilantro, chiffoned

    DRESSING (Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette) INGREDIENTS:

    4TBSP extra virgin olive oil
    1.5 TBSP balsamic vinegar
    2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice
    1 TBSP oregano
    Salt, to taste
    Pepper, to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Mix salad ingredients in large bowl.
    Pour dressing over salad ingredients.
    Toss.
    Enjoy!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (PER SERVING)

    363 calories
    25 grams fat (19 grams monounsaturated, 1.5 grams saturated, 4.5 grams polyunsaturated)
    200 milligrams sodium
    12 grams fiber
    8 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, iron, fiber, folate vitamin B6, manganese

    Good Source of: potassium, phosphorus, magnesium

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Scientific Advisory Committee, 93 percent of the United States population does not meet the daily requirement for Vitamin E.

    Since Vitamin E plays an important role as an antioxidant, low intake levels allow free radicals more of an opportunity to advance cellular damage.

    It is worth nothing that this statistic is not relaying that 93 percent of the population has a vitamin E deficiency.

    However, failing to meet daily requirements still has health consequences.

    Adults need 15 milligrams (22 International Units) a day, and can rely on seeds, nuts, oils, and vegetables as good sources.

    Take a look at this table, outlining the percentage of the daily value contributed by some foods:

    Fortified cereals (1 cup): 50 – 70%
    Almonds (1 oz.): 40%

    Sunflower seeds (1 oz.): 30%
    Peanut buter (2 Tbsp.): 20%

    Tomato sauce (1/2 cup): 15%
    Avocado (1 whole): 15%

    Olive oil (1 Tbsp.): 12/5%
    Broccoli (cooked, 1/2 cup): 6%

    Spinach (cooked, 1/2 cup): 6%
    Mango slices (1/2 cup): 6%

    Collard greens (cooked, 1/2 cup): 5%

    Why swallow a pill when you can eat delicious foods in the name of health?

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