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  • Archive for the ‘monounsaturated fat’ Category

    The Fallacy of “Better” Peanut Butter

    Much has been written about unnecessary additives (i.e.: modified cornstarch, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup) in many commercial peanut butters.

    People are often surprised to learn that only 60 percent of reduced-fat Jif peanut butter is peanuts; the other forty percent includes corn syrup solids, soy protein, and hydrogenated oils. “Natural” Jif, meanwhile, is 90 percent peanuts; the remaining ten percent composed of palm oil, sugar, and molasses.

    The best thing you can do from a health standpoint is eat real peanut butter; that is to say, 100% ground-up peanuts (varieties that only contain peanuts and salt are fine too; some quick math reveals they contain roughly 99.5% peanuts and 0.5% salt).

    Over the past few weeks, I have been asked via e-mail and Twitter about niche peanut butter brands that claim to be “better” and “healthier” versions. Despite their self-described hoopla of nutritional superiority, they manage to remove one of peanut butter’s most healthful components.

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    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).

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    The Ultimate Olive Oil Guide

    The various health benefits of extra virgin olive oil are no secret, but many Americans don’t know they are very likely purchasing ‘faux’ olive oil, or olive oil which offers very few of those well-publicized healthful compounds. I absolutely despise nutritional and food rip-offs, consider this the ultimate olive oil guide — or what you can no longer afford to NOT know.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    champion_nutsThe vast majority of large-scale, long-term studies on nut consumption conclude that an individual who consumes one ounce of nuts five times a week has, on average, a 35 percent lower rate of developing coronary heart disease than someone who consumes less than an ounce per week.

    This can be attributed to a few factors:

    • All nuts contain a few grams of fiber
    • Some nuts (i.e.: walnuts) are high in omega-3 fatty acids, while others are good sources of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (i.e: hazelnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds)
    • Nuts are a good source of vitamin E
    • Nuts are commonly consumed as a snack, often in place of nutritionally empty foods (i.e.: pretzels, rice crackers, cookies, etc.)

    There is absolutely no reason to avoid nuts (or nut butters) or consider them “occasional treats”.

    Plus, keep in mind that a serving of nuts is larger than you may think.  Consider these examples:

    • 23 almonds
    • 33 peanuts
    • 49 pistachios
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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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    The Omega-6 Problem

    Many food products proudly advertise their omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content.

    I partially understand why.  Unlike other fats (like omega-9 fatty acids), we must get these two polyunsaturated ones from our diets.  That is precisely why they are known as essential fatty acids.

    As I have mentioned in previous posts, our present omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is completely off-balance, largely in part to highly processed diets that contain significant amounts of plant oils high in omega-6 fatty acids.  Since soy is a subsidized crop, soybean oil is an inexpensive by-product commonly used in low-nutrition, low-cost snack foods.  Corn and cottonseed oils are also very high in omega-6, while offering negligible amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.

    While saturated and trans fats are constantly mentioned in the realm of degenerative diseases (especially cardiovascular ones), dietary advice should also recommend limiting omega-6 fatty acids.

    While I do not think saturated fats are absolutely harmless, I certainly do not consider all of them (remember, there are many different saturated fats) to be horrible fats we must avoid like the plague.

    What is most interesting, though, is a simple look at consumption patterns over the past forty years.

    Among 18 – 44 year olds in the United States, saturated fat consumption clocked in at 30 grams per day in 1970, and 27.8 grams per day in 2005.

    Omega-6 fatty acid intake, however, was at 9 grams per day in 1970, and almost doubled to 17 grams by 2005.

    High intakes of omega-6 fatty acids have been linked to cellular inflammation — one of the main factors behind a substantial number of degenerative diseases.

    This is why I think everyone should prioritize omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, then consider healthier saturated fats (like coconut and cacao), and leave omega-6 fatty acids and less healthy saturated fats (like that in cheese, pork, and chicken skin) last.

    Although omega-6 fatty acids are essential, they are so prevalent in so many foods that you would have to try extremely hard (and eat a significantly and dangerously limited diet) to not meet your daily requirement.

    I want to finish by making sure the main points of this post are understood:

    • Omega-6 fatty acids are NOT intrinsically unhealthy.  We need to consume a certain amount every day for optimal health.
    • Very healthy foods are good sources of omega-6 fatty acids.  I am not advocating total avoidance of foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids.
    • However, our consistently higher intakes of this particular fat need to be curbed, since more is certainly NOT better.

    FYI: in reference to this post’s accompanying photograph, there is no reason to ever supplement omega-6 in pill form.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    fruit_vegAccording to figures from the National Cancer Institute, thirty percent of all cancer cases can be attributed to tobacco, while 35 percent are caused by dietary factors.

    While it is true that one explanation for increased cancer rates over the past 100 years is the mere fact that we are living longer, it is also abundantly clear that as diets have become hypercaloric and largely composed of highly processed and refined foods, our cancer risk has significantly increased.

    The thousands of clinical studies that have looked into the effects of diet on cancer point to these factors being most important for cancer risk reduction:

    • Maintaining a healthy weight
    • Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables
    • Prioritizing monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids
    • Strictly limiting added sugars and trans fats
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    You Ask, I Answer: Peanuts vs. Tree Nuts

    peanuts-peeledA peanut butter sandwich is as American as apple pie.

    What are your thoughts on peanut butter, though?

    I’ve been hearing that peanuts, which I know are actually legumes, aren’t as healthy as tree nuts.

    Should I be making my sandwiches with almond butter instead?

    – Fred (Last name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    I don’t have any issues with peanuts or peanut butter.

    When it comes to nuts (and, yes, for the sake of this post we’ll treat peanuts as such), my recommendation is to always have one serving of some nut every day.

    One serving is made up of 13 walnuts halves.  In the case of almonds, that’s 23 individual pieces.  If you’re talking pistachios, you’re looking at 49 kernels!

    The issue with nuts is that you could label any one as “better” or “worse” than the next, depending on what criteria you use.

    Consider these lists I compiled:

    FIBER CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios: 3 grams
    • Brazil nuts, walnuts, peanuts: 2 grams
    • Cashews: 1 gram

    PROTEIN CONTENT (per ounce)

    • Peanuts: 7 grams
    • Almonds, pistachios: 6 grams
    • Cashews: 5 grams
    • Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts: 4 grams
    • Pecans: 3 grams

    MONOUNSATURATED (heart-healthy!) FAT (per ounce)

    • Hazelnuts: 12.9 grams
    • Pecans: 11.5 grams
    • Almonds: 8.7 grams
    • Brazil nuts, peanuts: 6.9 grams
    • Cashews: 6.7 grams
    • Pistachios: 6.6 grams

    OMEGA 3: OMEGA 6 RATIO (per ounce)

    • Walnuts: 1:4
    • Pecans: 1:20
    • Pistachios: 1:51
    • Hazelnuts: 1:89
    • Cashews: 1:125
    • Brazil nuts: 1:1,139
    • Almonds: 1:2,181
    • Peanuts: 1:5,491

    All of them, meanwhile, are good sources of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese.  Calorie amounts range from 155 (cashews) to 195 (pecans).

    I always recommend varying your nut intake since each variety contains unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that have been linked to an array of health benefits.

    Peanuts, for example, are a wonderful source of resveratrol (the same antioxidant in red wine and grape skins), while pecans contain high amounts of beta-sisterol, a cholesterol-lowering phytonutrient.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Apple-icious Curry Dressing

    43219_RED_APPLE(Recipe adapted from Ani Phyo’s Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen.)

    This dressing couldn’t be easier to make.  It is also full of nutrition and delivers a delicious and unique taste that will immediately win you over.

    Although the book features it as a salad dressing (where I am sure it works just fine), I personally love it drizzled over a bowl of brown rice, oven-roasted chickpeas, and steamed broccoli and kale.

    YIELDS: 6 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 medium apple (preferably Red Delicious or Golden Delicious), chopped
    1 clove garlic
    2 Tablespoons onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon curry powder
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon cumin
    1/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend/process until color is uniform and consistency is smooth.  For a thinner consistency, add a small amount of water.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    162 calories
    2.3 grams saturated fat
    200 milligrams sodium

    Good Source of: Manganese, monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, vitamin K

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Lentil Paté

    Red Lentils 002Due to their stellar nutrition profile, hearty texture, and unique flavor, I am a die-hard fan of lentils.

    Though they are often prominent in soups and casseroles, they also go well as a dip for crudité or heart whole grain crackers.

    This lentil paté is especially wonderful served warm in the winter months.

    YIELDS: 8 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
    2 medium garlic cloves, diced
    1 small carrot, peeled and shredded
    1/3 cup red pepper, chopped
    1 cup dry lentils, rinsed (I think red lentils look nicer for dips, but feel free to use brown)
    1 1/2 cups water
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/2 teaspoon paprika
    3/4 teaspoon cumin
    Pepper, to taste
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, carrot, and red pepper.

    Cook the vegetables until soft, stirring frequently.

    Add lentils and water.  Bring contents to a boil.

    Lower heat to a low simmer and cook until no more water remains in pot.

    Add salt and spices.  Stir until well-combined and cook, still over simmer, for two minutes.

    Pour contents into food processor, add lemon juice, and puree until smooth.

    Feel free to add more spices after pureeing, if you deem it necessary.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    123 calories
    0.8 grams saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    8 grams fiber
    6 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: B vitamins, copper, magnesium, manganese, monounsaturated fats, pantothenic acid, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C

    Good Source of: Iron, phosphorus, zinc

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    What’s for Lunch? Snacks!

    otlMany people I speak with mention that they quickly tire of repetitive lunches.

    Day after day of wraps or sandwiches with a side of chips or baby carrots is certainly a recipe for boredom.

    One of my boredom-beating tactics?  Make a “snack lunch”!

    This is one of my favorite ways to eat lunch, since it is very easy to construct in a nutritious fashion (it’s perfect for lazier days when I don’t feel like dicing, chopping, and stirring!) and allows you to satisfy multiple cravings at once.

    Here, for example, is the snack lunch I ate today:

    • 1 small Granny Smith apple
    • 1 ounce Gruyere cheese
    • 1 ounce whole grain crackers (I love the Mary’s Gone Crackers brand — they are thin, ultra crispy, and made with quinoa, sesame seeds, and brown rice)
    • 3 Tablespoons fresh salsa
    • 1/3 cup baby carrots
    • 3 Tablespoons hummus
    • 2 Tablespoons raw almonds
    • 1 Tablespoon raw walnuts
    • 1 Tablespoon raw cacao nibs

    Deliciousness aside, this combination racks up a more-than-worthy nutrition profile:

    • 710 calories
    • 6.6 grams saturated fat
    • 660 milligrams sodium
    • 16.5 grams fiber
    • 20.5 grams protein

    Additionally, it is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and hundreds of top-notch phytonutrients and antioxidants.  It’s also a good source of B vitamins, phosphorus, vitamin E, and zinc.

    Added bonus?  The almonds and walnuts contribute heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, respectively.

    Depending on your particular calorie needs, you can tailor this meal by increasing or reducing the amounts of certain foods.

    Do you have a favorite “snack lunch”?  Post it in the “comments” section and inspire other Small Bites readers!

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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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    Numbers Game: What The Heart Hearts

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

    a) 8, 8
    b) 5, 13
    c) 23, 4
    d) 16, 10

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

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nuts & Cholesterol

    nuts1240705690Are there any nuts that help lower cholesterol, or are they all bad?

    They are high in fat, right?

    – Greg (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    When it comes to lowering cholesterol with food, there are three particular nutrients to keep in mind:

    • Soluble fiber
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fats

    The above nutrients are ones you want to consume more of.  Ideally, you don’t want to simply add them to what you are already eating, but rather eat them in place of less-healthy foods (i.e.: refined carbohydrates, foods made with corn and cottonseed oil, etc.).

    In regards to your question: nuts are an absolutely wonderful food that I encourage everyone to have a serving of every single day.

    Almonds and Brazil nuts are the nuts with highest amounts of soluble fiber per ounce.  Walnuts, meanwhile, have more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of Alpha-Linolenic Acid) than any other nut.  The monounsaturated fat category is dominated by peanuts.

    This is not to say other nuts are inferior; others have certain phytonutrients and compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

    While we’re discussing these three nutrients, check out this list of best sources (which includes some foods not mentioned above):

    • Soluble fiber: barley, figs, kidney beans, oat bran, oatmeal, pears, psyllium husk
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, halibut, sea vegetables, scallops, walnuts, wild-caught salmon
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts, peanuts olive oil

    Great news about soluble fiber — every gram of soluble fiber (when consumed in a consistent, daily basis) is linked to a 1 or 2 point reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Above all, please undo the “fat is bad” mantra that has pervaded the American dietary landscape for the past two decades.  Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats not only lower total and LDL cholesterol, they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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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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