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    Archive for the ‘monounsaturated fat’ Category

    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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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: “I’ve Got Hummus Coming Out Of My Ears!” Dip

    almonds-spoonAs much as I love hummus, there are times when my tastebuds beg for a change.

    This delicious — and super easy — dip is a top-notch, phytonutrient-rich alternative.

    YIELDS: 2 cups (8 servings)

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup raw almonds
    1/2 cup raw walnuts
    1/4 cup onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves
    1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    6 Tablespoons water

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse for 20 – 30 seconds.

    NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION (per 4-tablespoon serving):

    153 calories
    5.5 grams heart-healthy monounsaturated fat
    1 gram saturated fat
    150 milligrams sodium
    3 grams fiber
    5 grams protein

    Excellent Source of: Manganese, vitamin C, vitamin E

    Good Source of: Copper, magnesium, riboflavin

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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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    You Ask, I Answer: Aluminum & Plastic Wrap

    aluminum-foil-00A lot has been written and said about the negative effects of aluminum – especially in regard to Alzheimer’s disease.

    Is there any evidence that aluminum in cooking foil and and deodorant is present in levels high enough to cause concern?

    While we are on the subject of foils and wraps – is cling-film plastic something we should be wrapping our food in?

    Lastly, is it true that micro-waving food wrapped in cling-film is yet another way to slowly kill yourself?

    — Jake Shields
    Valley Stream, NY

    Great questions — let’s cover them one at a time.

    The connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease is still being determined.

    What we do know is that the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease contain much higher concentrations of aluminum than those of individuals who do not have the neurodegenerative disease.

    What we don’t know is whether those high concentrations of aluminum cause Alzheimer’s disease or if they are a manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease.

    If you look at the scientific literature, there is no clear consensus either way.

    As far as aluminum intake from the diet is concerned, we know that acidic foods cooked in aluminum pots absorb higher amounts of the metal than non-acidic foods.

    We also know that a very small percentage of the aluminum in aluminum foil can be leached into foods when exposed to high heat (e.g.: a baked potato wrapped in foil).

    As with anything else relating to nutrition, it is important to keep context in mind.

    I, for instance, use aluminum foil in my cooking approximately once a month (there’s a particular dish I make that requires me to cover it in foil during the first 15 minutes of cooking).

    I don’t worry about it, in the same way that I would not be concerned if someone with consistently nutritious habits eats a large Big Mac value meal once a month.

    If lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease is a concern, there are more established things you can do:

    • Follow a heart-healthy diet (rich in monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids)
    • Engage in strenuous physical activity three or more times a week
    • Continually challenge your brain (whether it’s by doing crossword puzzles or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand)

    These three things all help to lower risk either by keeping certain parts of the brain active or by keeping arteries healthy.  Remember, the health of your arteries has a significant effect on your neurological health — the brain needs adequate blood circulation to remain in tip-top shape.

    Remember, too, that many over-the-counter antacids contain very high amounts of aluminum (about twenty or thirty times as much as you would from cooking with aluminum pans).

    As far as clingwrap goes, studies have found that foods high in fat can absorb plasticides in traditional clingwrap (which is made from polyvinylidene chloride, also known as PVC).

    While pretty much all clingwrap was once made from PVC, alternative varieties made from low density polyethylene are becoming more common.

    These newer varieties do not leach plasticides and are considered microwave-safe.  Of course, you can always  err on the side of caution and heat food in other containers (glass, ceramic, etc.)

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    You Ask, I Answer: Lard

    lard2I believe it is Rick Bayless who often says that lard (rendered at home, not hydrogenated shelf-stable lard) is lower in saturated fat than butter.

    Is this true?

    — Kristin MacBride
    (Location Unkown)

    That is true.

    Ounce per ounce, lard has more total fat than butter, but roughly a third of the saturated fat.

    Additionally, lard has twice the amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in butter (although both pale in comparison to olive oil).

    Lard is by no means healthy, but it is the lesser of two artery-cloggers.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Exercise

    Is exercise enough?

    I know plenty of long distance runners that subsist on ice cream and candy bars, even well into their middle-age, and have perfect health.

    Can exercise overcome poor dietary choices? If so, to what degree?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    Exercise in itself is NOT enough.

    Sure, exercise can help with cardiovascular heath, respiratory health, and musculoskeletal maintenance, but you also need proper nutrition to keep all systems running properly.

    Exercise does not provide Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, monounsaturated fats, or phytonutrients.

    How do you know these long-distance runners who subsist on junk are in perfect health? Have you seen their blood labs?

    Just because someone is thin and has a six pack does not necessarily mean they are in perfect health. They could have high blood pressure, low bone density, and low intakes of most vitamins and minerals.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Vegan Sweet Potato Mash

    Here’s a super quick, tasty, and healthy recipe perfect for Thanksgiving dinner!

    I made this last year for my guests and it received wonderful reviews.

    YIELDS: 5 servings

    INGREDIENTS

    4 medium sweet potatoes
    ½ cup orange juice (ideally freshly squeezed from two whole oranges; if not, store-bought works)
    ½ tsp. kosher salt
    ¼ tsp. cinnamon
    ¼ tsp. ground ginger
    ¼ tsp. nutmeg
    ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

    INSTRUCTIONS

    Rinse sweet potatoes and cut into medium to large cubes. Leave the skins on!

    Steam until soft (approximately 30 – 40 minutes. You can also boil them, but steaming retains more nutrients)

    Transfer steamed sweet potatoes to a medium bowl and mash with fork.

    In a pot over medium heat, mix together the sweet potato mash with the orange juice, salt, and spices.

    Once well mixed, transfer to bowl, top with extra virgin olive oil.

    Mix lightly with spatula. Enjoy!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    190 calories
    1.4 grams saturated fat

    273 milligrams sodium

    3 grams fiber

    Excellent source of: Vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, potassium, monounsaturated fat

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    You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil Potato Chips

    What are your thoughts on potato chips fried in olive oil?

    I saw some at the store and wondered if you thought they were a better snack than regular potato chips.

    What oil are regular potato chips fried in, anyway?

    — Richard Faenza
    Los Angeles, CA

    Most commercial potato chips are fried in cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, or peanut oil.

    The reason behind that is simple — they have high smoke points. This means they can be heated at a higher temperature than other oils without their flavor being affected. Music to a cook’s ears!

    Regardless of the type of oil potato chips are cooked in, you usually get 10 grams of fat per 1 ounce serving.

    Potato chips fried in olive oil aren’t as great as they may sound.

    Sure, olive oil contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than cottonseed oil, but you should not be looking to potato chips to increase your heart-healthy fat intake.

    Besides, from a caloric standpoint, they are identical to any other potato chip.

    If you enjoy the taste of these chips, enjoy them as a treat.

    Don’t, however, think of them as a “healthy” potato chip alternative. Extreme heat takes away a good percentage of olive oil’s antioxidant and healthful properties.

    This is not to say olive oil transforms into a “bad” oil, but rather that using olive oil for deep frying is not a heart-healthy move.

    If you are looking to incorporate more monounsaturated fats into your diet, I would much rather you chomp on some peanuts, add some avocados to your sandwich, or simply dress your salad with olive oil.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil Potato Chips

    What are your thoughts on potato chips fried in olive oil?

    I saw some at the store and wondered if you thought they were a better snack than regular potato chips.

    What oil are regular potato chips fried in, anyway?

    — Richard Faenza
    Los Angeles, CA

    Most commercial potato chips are fried in cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, or peanut oil.

    The reason behind that is simple — they have high smoke points. This means they can be heated at a higher temperature than other oils without their flavor being affected. Music to a cook’s ears!

    Regardless of the type of oil potato chips are cooked in, you usually get 10 grams of fat per 1 ounce serving.

    Potato chips fried in olive oil aren’t as great as they may sound.

    Sure, olive oil contains a higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than cottonseed oil, but you should not be looking to potato chips to increase your heart-healthy fat intake.

    Besides, from a caloric standpoint, they are identical to any other potato chip.

    If you enjoy the taste of these chips, enjoy them as a treat.

    Don’t, however, think of them as a “healthy” potato chip alternative. Extreme heat takes away a good percentage of olive oil’s antioxidant and healthful properties.

    This is not to say olive oil transforms into a “bad” oil, but rather that using olive oil for deep frying is not a heart-healthy move.

    If you are looking to incorporate more monounsaturated fats into your diet, I would much rather you chomp on some peanuts, add some avocados to your sandwich, or simply dress your salad with olive oil.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nut Butters

    I am allergic to peanuts, so peanut butter is out of the question for me.

    Of all the other nut butters, which is the most nutritious?

    — Danielle Spolner
    San Francisco, CA

    All nut butters share similar nutritional profiles.

    Peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, and soynut butters all offer protein, healthy fats, and between 175 and 200 calories in a 2 tablespoon serving.

    One big plus about almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butters is that they are only available in natural form (meaning they exclusively made of crushed nuts and, in some cases, salt), whereas some brands of peanut and soy butters add partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and sugar.

    That said, there are a few differences worth pointing out.

    Almond butter is the most caloric, but it also offers the highest amount of monounsaturated (heart healthy) fat, vitamin E, and manganese. Of all the nut butters, it has the lowest protein content (4 grams per serving.)

    Cashew butter offers the same amount of calories as peanut butter but offers the least amount of vitamin E per serving (2 percent of the Daily Value.)

    Sunflowerseed butter is very similar to peanut butter, but offers half the monounsaturated fats.

    Soy butter is the highest in protein and lowest in calories. It also, however, provides the lowest value of monounsaturated fats.

    Since the differences are quite minimal, I suggest you simply pick the one you enjoy most.

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    In The News: Seeking Health? Look to the Mediterranean

    The question of “ideal diets” is a hot topic in the nutrition field.

    Although many dietitians agree that a Mediterranean style of eating — ” rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals [mainly whole grains], fish, olive oil and, yes, a bit of red wine with meals” — is optimal, you are bound to run into individuals of the opinion that good health is achieved by eating liberal amounts of saturated fat and protein while shunning carbohydrates.

    The British Medical Journal is helping shed light on this cloudy matter with one of the largest meta-analysis studies ever conducted, compiling “a dozen of the most methodologically sound of these observational studies, which included over 1.5 million people followed for up to eighteen years, analyzing cardiovascular consequences and some other important health outcomes.”

    End result? The Mediterranean diet was found to have the lowest rate of cardiovascular disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

    To quote directly from the study, “greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significant improvement in health status, as seen by a significant reduction in overall mortality (9%), mortality from cardiovascular diseases (9%), incidence of or mortality from cancer (6%), and incidence of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (13%).”

    Although the Mediterranean Diet is no longer an accurate name (the younger generations in these countries are eating too much processed food and too many calories, as evidenced by rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes), this particular way of eating does many things correctly.

    Among them? Focusing on minimally processed foods high in fiber and phytonutrients, including heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats), and keeping added sugars to a minimum.

    Although this is termed a “Mediterranean” diet pattern, it contains many parallels to the diet of one of the healthiest countries — Japan.

    This bit of “news” simply confirms what dietitians have been recommending for decades: stick to a desirable caloric range while making sure to eat your fruits and vegetables, keeping an eye on saturated and trans fat intake, choosing healthy fats, and avoiding added sugars whenever possible.

    I am also of the belief that since this kind of eating pattern cuts down on empty calories, it makes sticking within a desired caloric range a little easier.

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    Quick & Healthy Recipes: Vegan Spinach-Walnut Pesto

    Here is a different spin on traditional pesto I often whip up at home.

    It omits cheese (you’re welcome, vegan and lactose intolerant readers), replaces pinenuts with walnuts for an Omega-3 boost, and adds some spinach for extra nutrition.

    YIELDS: 6 servings

    INGREDIENTS

    3 garlic cloves
    1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
    1/2 cup spinach leaves
    1/3 cup raw walnuts
    1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 teaspoon salt (preferably coarse sea salt)
    Pepper, to taste
    1 cup water
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)

    INSTRUCTIONS

    1. Place whole garlic cloves in food processor. Pulse until diced.
    2. Place rest of ingredients (except water) in food processor.
    3. Pulse; add water and pulse again.

    IMPORTANT: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer, rather than the refrigerator.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving)

    220 calories
    1.5 grams saturated fat
    14 grams monounsaturated (heart healthy) fat
    190 milligrams sodium
    4.5 grams fiber
    7 grams protein
    350 milligrams ALA Omega-3 fatty acids

    Excellent Source of: Vitamin A, Vitamin K, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, B vitamins

    Good Source of: Vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber

    Although you can obviously drizzle this over some pasta (preferrably whole wheat; be sure to include roasted red peppers for a wonderful complementary taste), I also recommend using it as a topping for seitan, tofu, or grilled chicken.

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    Quick & Health(ier) Recipes: Vegan Peanut Butter Pie

    Standard peanut butter pie recipes call for generous amounts of cream cheese and frozen whipped topping, resulting in rather decadent nutrition values.

    You’re usually looking at 455 calories, 8 grams of saturated fat (40% of a day’s worth!) and 30 grams (almost 8 teaspoons) of added sugar per slice.

    As much as I love a decadent dessert, wouldn’t it be nice to savor a rich, silky slice of pie that doesn’t pack quite a stomach blow?

    Well, feast your eyes on the following recipe for a vegan peanut butter pie which cuts back on calories, sugar, and saturated fat — but certainly not on taste.

    Before anyone scrunches up their nose and declares it “gross,” you should know that peanut butter pie lovers are shocked when I tell them the slice of pie they are raving about doesn’t contain a single drop of cream cheese or Cool Whip!

    VEGAN PEANUT BUTTER PIE
    Yields: 1 pie (8 slices)

    INGREDIENTS

    1 16-ounce package of silken tofu
    3/4 cup smooth, natural peanut butter
    2 Tablespoons soymilk (unsweetened or plain is best)
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

    DIRECTIONS

    Add ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth.

    Scoop onto 9″ pie shell (bonus points if it’s oat-based or 100% whole wheat!) and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per slice)

    335 calories
    2.5 grams saturated fat
    12 grams sugar
    11 grams protein

    That’s 120 less calories, two thirds less saturated fat, and half the sugar of a standard recipe.

    Better yet — the peanut butter is a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

    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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