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    Archive for the ‘fat’ Category

    For the Most Part, One Size Does Fit All

    Often times, the pail of cold water that gets dumped on a fiery nutrition debate is the “one size does not fit all!” mantra. That is to say, one particular manner of eating can make person A feel great but person B feel sluggish and tired, and both experiences are legitimate. To a certain degree, I co-sign on this. Some individuals are grazers, others are “three square meals” types; some people like to eat breakfast right upon waking, some don’t really feel hungry until an hour after. Fine with me.

    Approaching nutrition from a completely individualist lens, however, takes away from the fact that there are certain truths that apply to everyone, and should be strongly recommended across the board:

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    American Heart Association – Selling Out Health to the Highest Bidder

    When it comes to heart health, there are specific nutrients to encourage (monounsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber — both soluble and insoluble) and limit (sodium, added sugar, trans fats, oils high in omega-6 fatty acids [corn, cottonseed, soybean], and refined grains).

    It has also been well established in the scientific literature that certain phytonutrients — naturally occurring substances in plant foods that confer their own health benefits —  offer cardiovascular protection.  Some examples include quercetin (in apple skins, red onion, and broccoli), ellagic acid (in strawberries and grapes), and lignans (in flax seed, sesame seeds, and barley).

    Alas, most of the products in your local supermarket that feature the American Heart Association’s stamp of approval (officially known as the “heart-check mark”), don’t prioritize heart-healthy nutrients and compounds.  In fact, they condone foods high in nutrients that are damaging to our cardiovascular health.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein Bar Guidelines

    zero impact barWhat things should I look for in a protein bar?  I use them when I’m on the go at times when I know I will need something, but don’t want to do fast food.

    — Tammy Edwards
    (Via Facebook)

    Wonderful questions.  When it comes to protein bars, I am “on the fence”.  Allow me to explain.

    On the one hand, I don’t think they are terrible and should be shunned.  Sure, there are some horrific protein bars out there (and, in a little bit, I will give you specific parameters to help you choose the better ones), but a smart choice can make for a great snack or meal replacement in a pinch.

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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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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutritional Content of Homemade Almond Milk

    Measure-and-soak-almondsIs there any possible way to calculate the nutritional information (calories, fat, fiber, etc.) when making homemade almond milk?

    It’s been asked across the web a few times and I was wondering if maybe you knew of a way to do so.

    — Daniel Clausen
    Location Unknown

    Here is how I would calculate it:

    1. Look up nutritional information for whatever amounts of almonds you put into blender (i.e.: 1 cup)
    2. Measure how much almond meal is left at end of process.
    3. Look up nutritional information for that amount of almond meal, keeping in mind that since there is some water in that meal, figures are going to be slightly lower (ie: 1 cup of almond pulp may be 80% meal and 20% water or so).
    4. Subtract nutritional values of almond meal from whole almonds and, voila, you have estimated nutrition facts for your homemade batch!

    Let’s do an example right now!

    Let’s suppose you made 6 cups of almond milk using 1 cup of almonds.  That amount of whole almonds amounts to:

    • 827 calories
    • 72 grams of fat
    • 17 grams of fiber

    Let’s say you then have one cup of almond meal left.  One cup of ground almonds contains:

    • 549 calories
    • 48 grams of fat
    • 11.2 grams of fiber

    However, since this is almond pulp (almond meal with some absorbed water) let’s decrease those figures slightly to 500 calories, 40 grams of fat, and 9 grams of fiber.

    That means the batch almond milk you just made contains:

    • 327 calories
    • 32 grams of fat
    • 6 grams of fiber

    Divide those figures by six (since you made six cups and we want to determine how much you are getting per cup) and you come up with:

    • 55 calories
    • 5 grams of fat
    • 1 gram of fiber

    Commercial almonds milks have a higher almond to water ratio, so they offer half the fat content.

    To put that “5 grams of fat” figure into context, it’s equal to half a tablespoon of almond butter.

    One of the wonderful things about making your own batch of any nutmilk is that you can tailor it to your palate and nutritional needs.

    PS: A higher-fat version of almond milk is a wonderful way to add heart-healthy monounsaturated fats to your diet!

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    Grading the Gurus: Walter Willett

    0901p88c-walter-willett-lWHO IS HE?

    Dr. Willett is the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and has been chair of the Harvard Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology since 1991.

    He is also the author of 2005’s Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy and 2007’s Eat Drink, and Weigh Less.

    WHAT IS HIS MAIN MESSAGE?

    Dr. Willett’s main points are:

    • Healthy fats should not be feared; they are an important part of a healthy diet.
    • A diet that gets more than 30 percent of calories from fat is perfectly okay as long as those fats are plant-based.
    • Potatoes and table sugar are essentially the same thing.  Potatoes should be limited, much like refined grains.
    • Nuts and legumes are preferred sources of protein.
    • Many dietary recommendations are based on politics (i.e.: “for calcium, eat dairy”) rather than a comprehensive understanding of science.
    • Exercise and physical activity are the foundation of health.

    Dr. Willett created his own version of the food pyramid, which perfectly illustrates these — and a few other — viewpoints.

    WHAT I LIKE:

    Dr. Willett is not afraid to think outside the box and, armed with substantial research-based evidence, question standard dietary advice (i.e.: “dairy is the best source of calcium.”).

    I greatly appreciate his strong defense of healthy fats, emphasis on whole grains and plant-based protein, and the importance he places on daily physical activity.

    Compared to other well-known male doctors who delve into nutrition matters, Dr. Willett is in no way gimmicky, does not endorse or partner up with questionable famous “experts”, and, in my opinion, is the one who most stays true to his convictions.  Refreshing — and admirable!

    His research experience is substantial; throughout his career, he has published approximately 1,100 articles dealing with nutrition and health matters in various peer-reviewed science journals.

    WHAT I DON’T LIKE:

    I wish Dr. Willett were more specific with his fat recommendations.

    For example, he groups all plant-based oils (including soy, olive, and peanut) in the “healthy fats” group.

    This troubles me because there is a clear hierarchy.  Soybean, safflower, and sesame seed oil are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and therefore not as healthy as olive and peanut (high in monounsaturated fat) or flax oil (high in omega-3 fatty acids).

    Similarly, Dr. Willett classifies all saturated fats equally, even though those in coconuts and cacao are healthier than the ones in full-fat dairy and red meat (especially from cows that subsist on corn).

    My main gripe with Dr. Willett’s dietary advice, though, is his view on potatoes.

    Per his food pyramid, potatoes are placed in the same “use sparingly” category as white bread, white rice, white pasta, soda, and sweets.  I find this to be grossly inaccurate and misleading.

    BOTTOM LINE:

    Dr. Willett is very familiar with — and knowledgeable about — nutrition issues.  Like Dr. Marion Nestle, his epidemiological background enables him to analyze and apply clinical studies appropriately, and his consideration of the relationship between food politics and dietary advice adds a powerful “oomph” to his message.

    Although I find his views on potatoes unnecessarily alarmist and extremist, his overall nutrition message is interesting, multi-layered, and scientifically solid.

    GRADE: A-

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    You Ask, I Answer: Blotting Pizza

    1ac994d5f3191bc6_pizza-blotI need to ask you something that has been bugging me for a few years.

    Whenever I get a slice or two of pizza here in New York City, I always get some napkins and blot the surface.  It’s not that I am calorie-phobic, but a lot of pizzas seem way too greasy.

    The napkins always absorb a lot of liquid,so am I getting rid of a lot of calories this way?

    — Paul (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    Pizza blotting is not a waste of napkins, but it also doesn’t decrease calorie content by that much.

    One of the problems with your specific situation (where you are ordering a slice of pizza that had been cooked earlier in the day, which is then reheated) is that most of the fat in the cheese has already been absorbed.

    The most successful blotting occurs with fresh pizzas right out of the oven, which contain more liquified fat on the surface.

    In your case, you are removing anywhere from 2 to 4 grams of fat (18 to 36 calories) from your slice.  Blotting a fresh-out-of-the-oven slice could result in the removal of up to 50 calories.

    Remember, though, that most New York City pizza slices are outrageously big.  A plain cheese slice can clock in at 800 calories!

    PS: You can save roughly 100 calories by leaving the end portion of the crust on your plate.  I find that a good number of pizza places have tasteless, overly doughy crusts that aren’t worth the calories.

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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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      You Ask, I Answer: Calculating Calories in Deep-Fried Foods

      Fried Calamari 500How do you calculate caloric intake from deep fried foods?

      For example, if I have french fries, how many calories are from the oil? 

      When things are deep fried, there is still oil left behind afterwards, so it’s not as if all of it gets soaked into the food.

      — Tony (last name withheld)
      Brooklyn, NY

      This can get quite complex.

      First of all, certain qualities of oil can affect how much of it gets absorbed into a food.

      For example, if a food is deep fried in oil that has not reached a high-enough temperature, it will absorb more fat (and taste more greasy.)

      Additionally, since oil that is reused and reheated multiple times  chemically breaks down, it can be difficult to get it to a high enough temperature without sacrificing its quality.  A restaurant that reuses its oil will produce deep-fried food that is greasier and, therefore,  higher in calories.

      If deep frying is done optimally (unusued oil heated at the right temperature in which food is cooked for a very short period of time), very little oil absorption takes place.

      However, once you add breading or starchy coatings to foods (as is the case with pre-frozen, ready-to-fry french fries), fat absorption increases significantly.

      Since there are so many variables, this can truly only be figured out in a nutrient laboratory via detailed nutrient profile analysis. 

      For what it’s worth, a large order of McDonald’s fries provides  two tablespoons (250 calories’ worth) of added oil.

      The best “take-home tip” I can provide here is to always make sure the oil you stir-fry food in is sufficiently  hot (to minimize oil absorption).

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      When NOT To Go Skim

      product_sc_whiteIf you are a regular skim milk drinker and optimal nutrition is your goal, there are certain times when low-fat (1%), reduced-fat (2%), or soy (rather than skim) is the way to go.

      Although all milk in the United States is fortified with vitamins A & D, non-fat milk is a rather useless vehicle for it.  Why?  Vitamins A and D are fat-soluble, meaning they need to be consumed along with a small amount of fat (3 or 4 grams usually suffice) to be absorbed.

      If at any point in the day you are drinking non-fat milk without any other source of fat, you are much better off opting for a low-fat variety.

      Remember, an 8-ounce cup of low-fat milk only contains 14 more calories, 1.8 more grams of fat, and 0.9 more grams of saturated fat than that same amount of skim milk.

      If you enjoy the taste of soy milk, make yourself a vegan latte.  A cup of soy milk contains enough fat to help you absorb fat-soluble nutrients.

      Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your dairy consumption:

      • Accompany your fat-free morning latte with a healthy fat (i.e.: 1 tablespoon of the nut butter of your choice on whole grain toast)
      • Not a fan of sipping coffee between bites of food?  Make your coffee with low-fat, reduced fat, or soy milk
      • If you only like your oatmeal with non-fat milk, throw in some raw almonds or walnuts in there to help you absorb vitamins A and D
      • If you only enjoy fruit smoothies made with non-fat milk, add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to add that important small amount of fat
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      You Ask, I Answer: Milk Recommendations

      dohmhnews8-06-coverI’m curious if you know why the New York City Department of Health’s recent campaign about [weight gain from drinking] soda and sugar sweetened beverages encourages people to drink low fat milk instead of skim milk.

      — Kate Bauer
      (Location Unknown)

      Since I was not involved in the creation of the campaign, I don’t know the answer, but I theorize that it relates to the recent trend to embrace a small amount of fat (in beverages) as a way to enhance satiety.

      The calorie and saturated fat difference between low-fat and skim milk is negligible.

      In fact, if the extent of someone’s milk consumption is a quarter cup in their morning coffee, I don’t have an issue with the use of full-fat milk.

      A quarter cup of whole milk only provides 37 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat.

      Recommendations to switch to low-fat or fat-free milk are only useful when a person’s milk consumption is high or in situations where a beverage contains a significant amount of milk (ie: a 24-ounce latte or smoothie).

      In most situations, I find it more effective for people to focus more on what they are eating along with their morning coffee than the type of milk they use.

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      You Ask, I Answer: Fat-Soluble Vitamins

      olive-oil-bottlesHow much fat do you need to eat in a meal to ensure proper absorption of vitamin A?

      — Corey Clark
      (Location withheld)

      Great question!

      There’s nothing more frustrating than eating a nutritious meal only to completely miss out on the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.

      Remember, vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble.  They need fat to be absorbed; eating them in a completely fat-free meal (ie: salad with fat-free dressing and vinegar) is an exercise in futility.

      To ensure you are absorbing these nutrients at maximum capacity, be sure to consume them with at least 4 or 5 grams of fat.

      That should not be a hard task.  The following foods provide that amount of fat:

      • 1 teaspoon oil
      • 8 almonds
      • 1.5 ounces salmon (equivalent to a mere HALF deck of cards!)
      • A quarter of an avocado
      • Half an ounce of cheese
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      Quick & Healthy Recipes: Creamy Cashew-Vanilla Whip

      How’s this for a super easy recipe — the only skill needed is turning on a blender.

      One of my favorite ways to eat this is to layer it with berries, bananas, and raw buckwheat in a big bowl, especially in the Summer.  On cooler days, it’s also delectable as an oatmeal topping!

      YIELDS: 1.5 cups

      INGREDIENTS:

      • 1 cup raw cashews
      • 2 pitted dates
      • 1/2 cup cold water
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract/powder (or 1 vanilla bean)
      • 2 teaspoons coconut oil

      DIRECTIONS:

      Combine all ingredients in blender (or food processor) until a smooth consistency is reached.

      For best flavor and texture, refrigerate for a few hours before consuming.

      NUTRITION INFORMATION (per 2 Tablespoon serving):

      125 calories
      30 milligrams sodium
      3 grams protein

      Excellent Source of: Copper, magnesium, manganese

      Good Source of: Potassium, zinc

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      Numbers Game: Unlocking the Secret

      A reduced-fat Oreo cookie contains _______ fewer calories than a regular Oreo cookie.

      a) 3
      b) 12

      c) 26

      d) 51

      Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer.

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