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    Archive for the ‘honey’ Category

    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Oil-Free Autumn Buckwheat Granola

    Buckwheat is technically a seed (and, despite its name, wheat & gluten-free)

    I love this granola for several reasons; it offers something different by not being oat-based, it doesn’t contain any added oils (gets all its healthful fats from whole foods), it’s a delectable combination of crunchy and chewy, and it captures all the flavors of autumn.  Enjoy!

    Continue Reading »


    Honey, We’ve Got Problems!

    top-chef-logoAnother season of Top Chef, another post about their misrepresentation and apparent ignorance of nutrition (remember a few seasons back when the ‘cheftestants’ were instructed to create a low-carb dish that contained whole grains?).

    This week’s “quickfire” challenge — inspired by host Padma Lakshmi’s 2-month-old baby and head judge Tom Colicchio’s 8-month-old addition to his family — asked the competing chefs to create an adult dish along with a baby-friendly pureed version.  Granted, two-month-olds don’t consume anything beside breast milk or formula, but I’ll let that slide.

    One of the favorite dishes?  This one (check out slide #11) by judge favorite Angelo Sosa.    The ingredients: poached tuna, fenugreek, tomatoes, soy sauce, and honey.

    Yikes!  Honey in baby food?  Red flag!

    Babies under twelve months old should never be fed honey, as they could develop a lethal condition known as infant botulism (honey can contain spores that, in babies’ delicate digestive tracts, can multiply and release a botulinus toxin).

    This honey blunder was not mentioned on the show (if it was mentioned by the judges during filming, it was certainly abandoned on the cutting room floor), nor does it pop up anywhere on the show’s website.

    Bravo legal department: I highly suggest you add a disclaimer to this dish’s photograph, or you could be on the receiving end of one nasty lawsuit.  You’re welcome.


    You Ask, I Answer: Antioxidants in Honey & Maple Syrup

    maple_syrupDespite the fact that calorie-wise they are similar to white sugar, I have heard that honey and maple syrup might possibly be superior sweeteners based upon the fact that they contain significant amounts of antioxidants.

    Any truth to the matter?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    Maple syrup and honey do indeed contain some antioxidants, but you need to remember context.  They are both sources of added sugar and, for the most part, empty calories.

    Yes, maple syrup contains manganese and zinc, but it (along with honey) provides no fiber, protein, or fats — all essential for satiety.

    Ergo, you are looking at empty calories.  Two hundred calories of maple syrup or honey will not satisfy hunger in the same way 200 calories of nuts or beans do.

    Since the goal with all added sugars (white, brown, honey, maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.) is to minimize intake, antioxidant content is a moot point.

    Ideally, added sugar intake should be limited at two tablespoons per day.  This amount of either honey or maple syrup won’t provide much in terms of antioxidants.


    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Spicy & Decadent Satay Marinade

    peanut-sauce-lrgThis delicious Thai-inspired marinade is extremely easy to make and imparts wonderful flavors.

    Although traditionally paired with chicken, I have only had this marinade with tofu and tempeh, where it works wonderfully!

    Don’t let the long ingredient list dissuade you — preparation is super quick.

    YIELDS: 1 cup (4 servings)


    2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
    1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew; natural and unsalted recommended)
    2 Tablespoons canned coconut milk
    2 medium garlic cloves
    1 Tablespoon dried ginger
    2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
    2 teaspoons Thai chili peppers, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 cup basil leaves
    2 teaspoons chili powder OR cayenne pepper
    1/4 teaspoon cumin
    2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
    2 Tablespoons lime juice
    1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    5 teaspoons water


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

    To get optimal flavors, marinade food for at least 4 hours, covered, in refrigerator.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    198 calories
    5 grams saturated fat (see note, below)
    300 milligrams sodium
    2 grams added sugar

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, monounsaturated fat, niacin

    Good Source of: Magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E

    NOTE: The saturated fats in this recipe come exclusively from the nut butter and coconut milk. Coconuts’ saturated fat is less atherogenic than that of full-fat dairy. Additionally, if using peanut or almond butter, their saturated fats are packaged along with extremely heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.


    A “Touch” Of Honey… And A Whole Lot More!

    ServeImageOne of Kellogg’s newest products is its Special-K low-fat granola.

    I came across it for the first time in the supermarket today and got such a kick out of its misleading advertising that I must share it with you.

    The front of the box states:

    “Touch of honey”

    I don’t know about you, but when I hear that something is sweetened with a “touch of honey”, I assume honey is the only sweetener used (and used in low amounts, no less).

    A look at the ingredient list reveals the following (I bolded certain ingredients for effect):

    Whole grain oats, sugar, corn syrup, oat bran, rice, honey, soluble wheat fiber, modified corn starch, soy grits, molasses, corn flour, natural flavor, salt, acacia gum, soy protein isolate, oat fiber, evaporated cane juice, malt flavoring high fructose corn syrup, niacinamide, reduced iron, BHT (preservative), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), thiamin hydrochloride (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin A palmitate, folic acid, ferrous fumarate, calcium pantothenate, vitamin D, vitamin B12.

    Sugar, sugar everywhere!  There are no less than seven different sweeteners — including honey — in this product.

    There most certainly is a “touch of honey”, along with a touch of sugar, corn syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, malt flavoring, and high fructose corn syrup.

    The sugar content isn’t anything extravagant (9 grams — or slightly over 2 teaspoons — per 3/4 cup serving), but it’s well beyond a “touch” of sweetness.  For what it’s worth, you get the same amount of sugar from a three-quarter-cup serving of Fruity Pebbles!

    Remember — and I will never tire of saying this — that the use of honey as a sweetener does not make a product healthier, lower in sugar, or less caloric.


    You Ask, I Answer: Raw Honey

    I thought that the claims about honey being an “immune enhancer” were referring primarily to raw/unprocessed honey.

    Is there enough difference between processed and unprocessed honey to make a difference?

    — Kristin
    Via the blog

    The topic of raw honey is quite convoluted.

    For one, there is no legal definition of what raw honey is, meaning there is no set of criteria manufacturers must meet to label their honey as “raw.”

    The consensus among raw honey enthusiasts, however, is that raw honey is completely unfiltered and unheated, and sold as it exists in the beehive (wax and the occasional bee leg included).

    Apart from offering a much different taste from the honey sold in conventional supermarkets, advocates claim raw honey is healthier due to the presence of pollen and living enzymes.

    This is where the “unheated” part becomes controversial. After all, raw honey crystallizes and must be heated in order to liquify for consumption.

    The raw honey crowd claims this is irrelevant, since they make sure not to heat raw honey past the 105 degrees Fahrenheit mark (the “magic number” for raw foodists, since this is the temperature where the enzymes they so desperately crave are killed.)

    Let’s discuss.

    First up, pollen. Raw honey-ers believe the flower pollen found in local raw honey is great for allergy control, as it allows the consumer to create a tolerance — and not develop allergies to — local pollen.

    However, the vast majority of pollen allergies in humans relate to grass, not flowers.

    As far as living enzymes in raw honey, I simply don’t see the relevance to human nutrition.

    Enzymes creates by bees don’t play any role in human physiology or metabolism.

    Besides, enzymes are proteins, so they get broken down during digestion anyway.

    For what it’s worth, this small, 36-subject study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology in 2002 didn’t find any difference between raw honey and a placebo when treating symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.


    Say What?: Sweet (In)justice

    Although Top Chef is one of my favorite competition-based reality shows, the two previous seasons have led to blog postings in which I express my frustration at the contestants’ and producers’ misunderstanding of basic nutrition concepts.

    This current season is no exception.

    This week’s “quickfire challenge” — a 45 minute challenge that grants the winning contestant immunity at the episode’s elimination ceremony — consisted of making a sugar-free dessert.

    Before introducing the challenge, host Padma Lakshmi showed the contestants a cart loaded with the various sugars found in the Top Chef pantry — white, raw, confectioners’, brown, etc. — which she wheeled out of the kitchen once the challenge began.

    “This will be interesting to watch!” I thought.

    Well, the first red flag went up when the concept of sugar-free desserts was referenced in the context of producing healthy, low-calorie options.

    Really? Because, often times, sugar-free varieties of cakes and pies use higher quantities of fat — mainly saturated — to make up for lost texture and taste.

    Consequently, it is not at all odd to find that a slice of sugar-free cake has just as many calories — if not more! — as the traditional version.

    Although “sugar-free” can sometimes be healthier and lower-calorie (i.e.: quick-cooking plain oatmeal is a healthier, lower-calorie alternative to pre-sweetened varieties,) you should never automatically make that connection in your head.

    Then, once the challenge was underway, I saw contestants using honey and agave. Oy.

    Apparently in Top Chef land, the word “sugar” is taken very literally — it only refers to a granulated sweetener that comes in large bags.

    Honey and agave are forms of sugar.

    Yes, it usually takes less agave to match the same level of sweetness of a certain amount of sugar, but a dessert made with agave or honey is NOT sugar-free!

    One contestant even used a chocolate coin in her dish. I immediately thought she would be disqualified, since any chocolate product contains sugar. Alas, the judging panel didn’t seem to have a problem with that.

    Top Chef execs: how about consulting with a Registered Dietitian when creating rules for nutrition-related challenges?


    You Ask, I Answer: Honey

    I have heard claims that honey is an “immune enhancer” and was wondering what your thoughts are on that.

    — Dennise O’Grady
    Bay Head, NJ

    Those types of claims bother me because they are so vague.

    What, exactly, does the term “immune enhancer” mean? For example, is a fruit drink chock full of sugar but fortified with a day’s worth of Vitamin C more of an “immune enhancer” than a fruit containing a quarter of a day’s worth of the vitamin?

    It is true that, due to its antimicrobial and enzymatic properties, honey can be helpful when dealing with certain conditions, like sore throats.

    Similarly, it can be useful — albeit messy — for treating external wounds like scrapes and burns.

    However, extrapolating that information and claiming honey works wonders for the entire immune system is quite a stretch.

    Besides, I take issue with attributing health properties to sweeteners because it encourages their abundant consumption.

    I find it very irresponsible when self-proclaimed “nutrition experts” point out that honey contains vitamin C, and forget to mention that to get just three percent of the vitamin C daily value, you need to consume an entire cup of honey.

    That’s 1,031 calories!

    That cup of honey also contains five percent of the daily value of zinc and a measly two percent of the daily magnesium requirement.

    Ironically, these are two minerals that many honey-pushing “holistic experts” provide as “proof” that honey is “better” than sugar.

    I can’t bring myself to get excited over a food that barely delivers two percent of the daily value of most vitamins and minerals in a half cup (515 calories).

    In my mind, honey is simply another sweetener. If you like it in your tea in place of sugar, there is no reason why you should stop consuming it.

    If you are specifically looking to boost your immune system, though, I suggest you simply focus on the basics — get enough sleep, be as physically active as you can, and limit nutritionally void junk food.


    In The News: Sneaky Sugar

    Earlier this week I spoke with Terri Coles of Reuters.com about the prevalence of sugar in the standard U.S. diet.

    In essence, my standpoint is as follows: sugar in and of itself in limited quantities is not a problem.

    What raises the red flag are the massive amounts being consumed — i.e.: a single muffin at Starbucks surpasses the daily maximum recommendation — partially because they contribute nothing but excess empty calories that do not satiate.

    It’s a simple concept — the less satiated you are after a meal, the sooner you will feel hungry and want to consume more calories.

    Unfortunately, keeping added sugar intake to recommended levels is difficult since food manufacturers like to put it in everything (especially in its ultra cheap form — high fructose corn syrup).

    When consumed in moderate amounts, I don’t have a problem with sugar (remember, “sugar” means regular white sugar, brown sugar, honey, evaporated cane juice crystals, or any other fancy synonym).

    It is an ingredient that has been consumed for tens of thousands of years.

    I definitely consider it safer than Splenda, aspartame, or any other Franken-sweetener concocted in a laboratory.

    In fact, I never understood sugar phobia.

    The fact that some people refuse to eat fruit (due to the naturally occurring sugars), but have no problem eating a bowl of heavy cream sprinkled with artificial sweetener absolutely blows my mind.

    Before I started studying nutrition, I experimented with Atkins.

    Their bars — which use sugar alcohols as sweeteners — not only taste awful, I also remember the not-so-pleasant gastric side effects.

    These days, I’ll gladly take three Hershey’s kisses over any low carb faux sweet treat.


    Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Bubble Tea

    Asian cuisine is often associated with an aura of health and balance. This doesn’t strike me as particularly weird, since traditional Asian diets are lower in saturated fat and less processed than those of Western countries.

    However, the Americanization of Asian food has resulted in sushi rolls dowsed in mayonnaise and covered in over-sized tempura shrimp as well as Chinese food that often surpasses McDonald’s worst offenders in the sodium and saturaed fat categories (If General Tso ate his chicken every day, he probably suffered a massive heart attack at 25).

    One “healthy” Asian drink that continues to increase in popularity is boba, affectionately known on these shores as bubble tea.

    Quite the rage in Los Angeles and New York, this drink consists of tea, milk, sugar or honey, and 30 or 40 tapioca balls. It is consumed via a thick, colorful straw that allows the sweet, gummy tapioca balls to fly into your mouth and deliver quite a unique sensation.

    Bubble tea can be comprised of black, green, or white tea, either plain or flavored in a variety of ways (ie: mango, sesame, coconut, etc.)

    Before I understood much about nutrition, I considered this a light, refreshing, exotic treat. In fact, I lived exactly half a block away from an amazing bubble tea “house”, which basically turned into my home away from the dorms.

    I might as well have visited McDonald’s.

    Consider a standard 12 ounce serving of bubble tea.

    Four ounces of whole milk provide 73 calories
    Eight ounces of black tea provide 2 calories

    One tablespoon of honey provides 64 calories

    Here comes the pearl-clutching shocker.

    Each tapioca ball packs in approximately 10 calories. Multiply that by 30 and you get… 300 calories of pure starch!

    A little addition brings the total to 439 calories, and approximately 50 grams of sugar — almost two soda cans’ worth!

    That’s calorically equal to two grande skim caramel macchiatos or two 10 ounce cups of Dunkin’ Donuts Hot Chocolate.

    Bubble tea is one of my favorite indulgences and I encourage everyone to try it at least once in their lifetime, but consider it a high-calorie, high-sugar treat and not your daily dose of tea antioxidants.


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