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    Archive for the ‘nuts’ Category

    Q&A Roundup #3

    Here are some more questions I have received from Small Bites readers over the past few weeks. Enjoy!

    If you would like to submit a question for these round-ups, you can do so via e-mail, Twitter, or the Small Bites’ Facebook page wall.

    Continue Reading »

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    Numbers Game: Munch Your Way To A Healthier Heart

    mixed-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 _____ percent lower rate of developing coronary heart disease than someone who consumes less than an ounce per week.

    a) 35
    b) 21
    c) 14
    d) 46

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

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    You Ask, I Answer: Canker Sores

    canker-soreI am very susceptible to canker sores.  I know they aren’t solely caused by [nutrition issues], but can I do anything from a nutritional standpoint to reduce their frequency?

    I have read that I should supplement lysine.  How much do I need, though?

    – Roxana (Last name withheld)
    Farmington, NM

    Canker sores are indeed tricky because they can be spurred by a variety of factors.  Sodium lauryl sulfate (the compound in most toothpastes responsible for foaming), for instance, can trigger canker sores in individuals who are prone to them.

    From a nutritional standpoint, supplementing lysine is only half the tale.

    Alas, let’s start at the beginning.

    Lysine is an essential amino acid found in high amounts in red meat, poultry, eggs, soybeans, cheese, and nuts.  Remember, “essential” means our bodies are unable to produce it, so we must get it from food.  Lysine is the only essential amino acid found in very low amounts in grains.

    The bulk of research on canker sores and amino acids goes beyond simply getting sufficient lysine, though.  The key is to simultaneously restrict one’s intake of another amino acid, though one that is not essential — arginine.

    Alas, peanuts, tree nuts and chocolate have very high arginine to lysine ratios.  While not everyone responds to this diet, many people are able to keep tabs on canker sores (both by reducing the number of outbreaks and by cutting short their duration) by drastically limiting their intake of nuts.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Salted Peanuts

    planters coctail peanutsWhat’s your opinion regarding salted vs non-salted peanuts? I personally prefer the non-salted type, but they’re hard to find.

    – Viola Tang
    Wheeling, IL

    When it comes to peanuts (and tree nuts, like almonds, cashews, and walnuts), salted versus unsalted is really a moot point.

    Whereas unsalted varieties offer 0 milligrams of sodium per serving (shocking, I know), salted ones only offer 115 milligrams per one-ounce serving.

    Let’s put that into perspective.  A hundred and fifteen milligrams of sodium is:

    • Slightly less than what you get in a slice of bread or a cup of cow’s milk
    • One third of the sodium content of an Au Bon Pain cinnamon scone
    • Less than half the sodium in one slice of a 12″ Domino’s cheese pizza
    • One fifth of the sodium in a Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin.

    So, then, why do salted peanuts taste so salty?  They are an example of foods that contain surface salt, which is more noticeable to the taste buds than the salt in sweet baked goods.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrition and Cancer Risk

    10_foods_berries_raychel_deppeWhat foods reduce the risk of cancer the most?

    – Ronald (Last name unknown)
    (Location unknown)

    In terms of overall cancer risk, it is pretty clear that diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seafood, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices appear to have a more protective effect than those high in red meat and dairy products.

    FYI: many people — nutritionists included — often forget the power of consistent intakes of herbs and spices, all of which are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants.

    That is not to say, of course, that cancer can be prevented simply by eating healthy, since other factors like stress, pollution, and genetics play a prominent role as well.

    Also, I am not stating that meat or dairy cause cancer.  As I have explained in previous posts, part of the dilemma with nutrition research lies in determining if a certain diet increases cancer risk because of what it is high in or because of what it offers little of.

    What is absolutely obvious, though, is that phytonutrients and biochemical compounds (like flavonoids and antioxidants) play crucial roles in cancer risk reduction, and diets low in plant foods offer much lower amounts of these compounds.

    I consider the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research two top-notch sources for information regarding nutrition and cancer.  Here are some of their conclusions based on reviews of thousands of large-scale long-term clinical studies:

    • Non-starchy vegetables are most helpful in reducing risk of mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and stomach cancers
    • Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, etc.)  have been found to be most effective against stomach cancers
    • There is also substantial evidence of garlic having a protective effect against colorectal cancer
    • Fruits (this includes avocados!) are implicated in risk-reduction of mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancers
    • Nuts and seeds have a protective effect against prostate cancer

    As you may suspect, one rather frustrating issue — at least for me — with large-scale nutrition research studies (the ones that receive significant funding and often make significant discoveries) is that, understandably, they tend to focus on commonly-consumed foods.  It makes sense; after all, it’s most helpeful to determine what effect mainstream dietary patterns have on health, since those literally affect tens of millions of individuals.

    However, this means that a lot of wonderful, but not as commonly consumed, foods chock-full of nutrition (think quinoa, maca, ginger, cumin, wild rice, goji berries, tempeh, kale, hemp seeds, etc.) are barely investigated.  Heck, even sweet potatoes have largely been ignored.

    It’s clear these foods have health-promoting properties and offer plenty of nutrition, but I wish there were more clinical studies looking at their effect on health.

    In conclusion, though, you can never go wrong with whole, minimally processed foods.

    Keep in mind my “dartboard” visual:

    • The center circle is for foods you want to eat on a daily basis.  This circle should be mainly made up of minimally processed plant-based foods.
    • The second outer circle is for foods that can be enjoyed four or five times a month.
    • The third outer circle is for foods that are best consumed no more than once or twice a month

    PS: One of my absolute biggest pet-peeves is rankings of healthy foods.  I consider articles or television segments which state that an apple is healthier than an orange, which in turn is healthier than a banana a complete joke.  The fact that a fruit has 10 percent more vitamin C than another does not make it superior (because, chances are, that other fruit contains unique phytonutrients).

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    You Ask, I Answer: Lack of Red Meat & Thyroid Problems?

    benefits-of-red-meat-295x300What is your take on doctors who tell women their thyroid issues are due to not getting protein from red meat?

    I have  heard some doctors say you can not get protein from beans, nuts and seeds?

    – Dennise O’Grady
    Via Facebook

    Yikes! Are some doctors really saying that?  I am absolutely mortified.

    I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised since the majority of doctors in this country don’t get a single MINUTE of nutrition education in medical school!

    In any case, any doctor that doles out this advice is so off the mark it’s not even funny.  Shame on them for being so misinformed.

    What do they even mean when they say you can’t “get protein” from beans, nuts, and seeds?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Beans, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein, which is easily absorbable by the human body.

    If they are referring to the fact that beans, nuts, and seeds are incomplete proteins (meaning they do not contain all essential amino acids), that is irrelevant — as long as a vegetarian or vegan includes other protein sources (ie: grains and vegetables), their diet provides complete proteins.

    Remember — the essential amino acids that are low in beans, nuts, and seeds are very much available in grains (and vice versa).

    If you ever come across a doctor who tries to make a connection between red meat intake and a healthy thyroid, thank them for their time, walk out of their office, and never look back.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Protein On The Go

    Got an idea for a source of protein for my daughter that I can take with me out and about during the day that doesn’t require refrigeration?

    – “n/a”
    Via the blog

    Nuts are always great; peanuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios are easily transportable sources of protein.

    Although all nuts should be stored in the refrigerator (to slow down rancidity of fats), it is certainly okay to carry some with you throughout the day.

    I am not a big fan of protein bars. The vast majority of them are loaded with added sugar and saturated fats.

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    Numbers Game: One A Day

    A single _______ provides 97.5% of the daily selenium requirement.

    a) Brazil nut
    b) cashew
    c) pecan

    d) almond

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

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    How many pistachio nuts make up a 1-ounce, 158-calorie serving?

    Answer: 49

    That’s more than double the amount of almonds that make up a 1-ounce serving!

    Although all nuts are wonderful additions to a diet and share similar caloric values per ounce (between 140 – 150 calories), pistachios stand out because it takes a LOT of them to add up to that weight.

    They are particularly helpful for people cutting back on total calories who psychologically need to see a lot of food in front of them to feel “properly full.”

    Consider this: you can get the same amount of calories in 49 pistachios in just three Oreo cookies! It also doesn’t hurt that you get 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and 7% of the Daily Value of iron.

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    Advertising Gone Nuts!

    A visit to my local CVS led to quite an interesting discovery — Planters’ new “NUTritious” line of products, advertised as “a distinctive line of snacking options that focus on specific wellness needs, all built with a better you in mind.”

    How sweet. Let’s look beyond the sensitive copy, though.

    Planters has always sold a variety of nuts — good sources of fiber, heart-healthy fats, and nutrients like vitamin E, selenium, and magnesium.

    So, nothing is broken and in need of getting fixed.

    I was very curious to see how exactly this new line would improve over products as “non junky” as peanuts or cashews.

    Let’s begin.

    First up — the Heart Healthy Mix, which “may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

    Already my “BS” meter went off. Not only can that statement be applied to any nut product, it’s also the kind of claim that is rally too vague to be of any use.

    Sure, nuts may reduce the risk of heart disease assuming that they are part of a diet low in saturated and trans fats and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And that you don’t smoke. And that you’re not 50 pounds overweight. I could go on…

    What is so special about this product I do not know. It is simply a medley of nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.) just as heart-healthy as the generic CVS brand.

    Next we have the South Beach Diet Recommended Mix, consisting of cashews, almonds, and macadamia nuts.

    What makes these three nuts more South Beach Diet “friendly” than, say, hazelnuts and walnuts? Beats me.

    The third product in the NUTrition line is the Energy Mix — “a natural source of energy.” So is Planters claiming that the other products don’t provide energy?

    This one includes a medley of nuts along with chocolate covered soynuts and honey roasted sesame sticks.

    Seeing as how all calories are a source of “natural energy” (you could make the case that a 1,200 calorie triple milkshake is “a natural source of energy,”) I have absolutely no clue what the point of this product is.

    The Digestive Health Mix (I hope you are rolling your eyes along with me by this point) “keeps everything moving” by combining “pistachios, almonds, tart cranberries, crunchy granola clusters, and sweet cherries.”

    Fair enough — but the fiber in any of the other mixes (or any serving of nuts, for that matter, no matter what the brand) also keeps things moving.

    What is completely absurd is the presence of high fructose corn syrup. How does that fall into Planters’ creating this with a better “me” in mind?

    I suppose companies will always be looking for the next great way to boost sales, but whoever thought up this new Planters line is, quite frankly, a nut!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Phytosterols

    Can you tell us more about this phytosterol fad I’m seeing lately in yogurt and multi-vitamins?

    What are phytosterols and why do we need them?

    Don’t we just get them from eating vegetables?

    Why would we need a supplement?

    – “gd”
    Via the blog

    Whereas cholesterol is a sterol (that is a steroid with an alcohol group attached, for any chemistry geeks out there) essential in maintaining cell structures in animals, phytosterols play the same role in plant foods.

    Not surprisingly, cholesterol is found only in animal products (meats and dairy) and phytosterols are exclusive to plant foods.

    The term “phytosterols” is actually an umbrella one that includes sterols (the three main ones being beta sitosterol, campesterol, and sitgmasterol) as well as stanols (naturally occurring plant compounds.)

    Clinical research has determined that 2 grams of phytosterols a day help reduce LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels by as much as 20%.

    This is due to the fact that they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the digestive tract.

    There are a few caveats, though.

    Although phytosterols are present in plant foods (mainly nuts, seeds, and their respective oils), you need a LOT of calories to reach that 2 gram (2,000 milligram) goal.

    For instance, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 55 – 60 milligrams, and an ounce of pistachios adds up to roughly 35 milligrams.

    And so came the development of functional foods (mainly yogurt drinks, like Promise Activ, and vegetable spreads) with high amounts of phytosterols added in.

    Advertisers were in hog heaven — now many of their products could be advertised as “cholesterol lowering.”

    However, phytosterols have only been proven effective in people with high cholesterol levels.

    In other words, I don’t see any reason why someone with a normal cholesterol profile would need to start consuming 2 grams of phytosterols a day.

    Additionally, even people who benefit from their consumption need to realize that this is another situation where more is not better, since phytosterols interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and compounds like lycopene.

    Remember, too, that nutrition is really about a combination of nutrients and components — not just two or three.

    I lean more towards the “the healthier your overall diet, the more nutrition you are getting” camp than the “eat whatever you want and down supplements and multi-vitamins” one.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

    I’ve become aware now (with your help) on how to find fiber and foods that are high in fiber but I’m wondering about the amount of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber in a lot of common “high fiber” foods.

    I would love for you to explain a little bit the different things each does and if you really need to try to balance between the two for the best health benefits or if, as long as you get enough fiber, you don’t really have to worry about the two different types.

    I ask this because I notice a lot of foods just state how much fiber they have but some bars (especially Gnu) go the extra mile to break down and show how much of each type they contain.

    – Andrew Carney
    Richmond, VA

    Great question.

    Remember that fiber is solely found in plant foods — meats and dairy do not provide it.

    With that in mind, let’s break it down.

    Soluble fiber is helpful with cholesterol reduction, providing a feeling of fullness for a significant amount of time, and stabilizing blood glucose levels.

    Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, keeps things moving through the digestive tract, making it an important factor in reducing the risk of colon cancer.

    Both are important and necessary.

    Oat bran is the best source of soluble fiber, while wheat bran is composed of solely insoluble fiber.

    Legumes, beans, and nuts are a mix of insoluble and soluble, as are fruits and vegetables (in the case of fruits, skins contain insoluble fiber and the actual fruit contains soluble).

    So, as long as you have a varied diet, you are getting sufficient amounts of both.

    The important goal to keep in mind is to have 25 – 35 grams of fiber a day from your diet.

    If you want to get a bit more technical, it is recommended you get at least 5 grams of soluble fiber a day for maximum cholesterol-lowering benefits.

    This isn’t all that much — a quarter cup of oat bran does the trick.

    Similarly, a medium pear provides 1.7 grams of soluble fiber, a peach 0.8, a mango 0.76, and a banana 0.6.

    Later today I will post a yogurt bowl recipe that meets the daily soluble fiber recommendation.

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    You "Ask", I Answer: You Bar

    I was wondering if you’ve heard of You Bar, which is a company that lets you customize your own bar and only uses natural ingredients.

    It sounds like a really cool idea.

    – Vincci Tsui
    Via the blog

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Vincci!

    I had never heard of You Bar until I read your message. Sounds right up my alley, too.

    You can basically make your own Lara/Clif Nectar/Pure bar by combining a variety of (mostly nutritious) ingredients to your liking (from dates to optional whey protein powders to dried fruits to a variety of nuts and seeds which you can specifically ask to be roasted, raw, or organic!)

    Sounds like a deliciously unique gift idea for a foodie or nutritious snacker in your family or group of friends.

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    (Really) South of the Border

    My week in Buenos Aires revealed several interesting tidbits on how nutrition and dieting are perceived in Argentina.

    I’ll begin with similarities I observed between the land of tango and the nation of apple pie.

    The absence of trans fats in a given food product is heavily advertised on packaging.

    Supersizing is not limited to the United States. Alfajores – a popular Argentine treat consisting of dulce de leche filling between two chocolate-coated cookies – have recently started to become available in triple-sizes! This extra cookie – and additional layer of dulce de leche – increases the caloric content by 75 percent.

    Vegetarian items are becoming more mainstream at supermarkets. From soy burgers to soy milanesas (a traditional food, basically breaded beef or chicken cutlets), going meat-free in the world’s beef capital is becoming a little easier. Soymilk is unheard of for all intents and purposes, though, as are seitan and tempeh.

    Fiber consumption is well below recommendations. Very few restaurants offer high-fiber vegetables as side dishes, beans and legumes are not staples, oatmeal is not a popular breakfast item, and whole grains are not consumed as often as they should be.

    Now, the differences.

    The gluten-free market is considerably larger in Argentina. Many supermarkets boast “gluten-free” sections or aisles, and popular gelaterias indicate which flavors are celiac-friendly.

    Protein is not the star nutrient it is in the United States. Unlike in the United States, you do not see any foods advertised as “high in protein” or “x grams of protein per serving!” Protein shakes and supplements are not popular.

    Nuts, seeds, and legumes are not heavily consumed. Not only are they expensive for the average Argentine, they are also not culturally significant.

    Despite being one of the world’s leading blueberry exporters, Argentines do not traditionally snack on this wonderful fruit.

    When it comes to fighting the common cold, zinc lozenges are not advertised (or even sold, really).

    For some odd reason, Omega-9 fatty acids are heavily advertised on foods containing them. I find this strange because Omega 9 is not essential (since our bodies are able to produce it).

    It is Omega 3 and 6 that we must obtain from the diet (although, as I have explained in the past, our Omega 3 to 6 ratio is scarily disproportionate).

    I’ll expand on some of these points over the next week. Also, look for a “Shame on You” post on Argentina’s latest hotshot weight-loss doctor soon.

    Share

    (Really) South of the Border

    My week in Buenos Aires revealed several interesting tidbits on how nutrition and dieting are perceived in Argentina.

    I’ll begin with similarities I observed between the land of tango and the nation of apple pie.

    The absence of trans fats in a given food product is heavily advertised on packaging.

    Supersizing is not limited to the United States. Alfajores – a popular Argentine treat consisting of dulce de leche filling between two chocolate-coated cookies – have recently started to become available in triple-sizes! This extra cookie – and additional layer of dulce de leche – increases the caloric content by 75 percent.

    Vegetarian items are becoming more mainstream at supermarkets. From soy burgers to soy milanesas (a traditional food, basically breaded beef or chicken cutlets), going meat-free in the world’s beef capital is becoming a little easier. Soymilk is unheard of for all intents and purposes, though, as are seitan and tempeh.

    Fiber consumption is well below recommendations. Very few restaurants offer high-fiber vegetables as side dishes, beans and legumes are not staples, oatmeal is not a popular breakfast item, and whole grains are not consumed as often as they should be.

    Now, the differences.

    The gluten-free market is considerably larger in Argentina. Many supermarkets boast “gluten-free” sections or aisles, and popular gelaterias indicate which flavors are celiac-friendly.

    Protein is not the star nutrient it is in the United States. Unlike in the United States, you do not see any foods advertised as “high in protein” or “x grams of protein per serving!” Protein shakes and supplements are not popular.

    Nuts, seeds, and legumes are not heavily consumed. Not only are they expensive for the average Argentine, they are also not culturally significant.

    Despite being one of the world’s leading blueberry exporters, Argentines do not traditionally snack on this wonderful fruit.

    When it comes to fighting the common cold, zinc lozenges are not advertised (or even sold, really).

    For some odd reason, Omega-9 fatty acids are heavily advertised on foods containing them. I find this strange because Omega 9 is not essential (since our bodies are able to produce it). It is Omega 3 and 6 that we must obtain from the diet (although, as I have explained in the past, our Omega 3 to 6 ratio is scarily disproportionate).

    I’ll expand on some of these points over the next week. Also, look for a “Shame on You” post on Argentina’s latest hotshot weight-loss doctor soon.

    Share

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