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    Archive for the ‘vitamin B6’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Amaranth

    Amaranth Grain crop 001A few days ago on Twitter you recommended we give alternative grains like amaranth a try.

    Can you tell me more about it?  How can it be prepared?

    — Will Reicks
    (Location withheld)

    Although amaranth can be eaten as a savory side dish, I prefer it as an alternative to oatmeal, especially since it has a porridge-like texture.

    I enjoy it topped with sliced bananas, chopped pecans, goji berries, and cacao nibs.

    Like quinoa and wild rice, amaranth falls into the “pseudo-grain” category, since it is technically a seed.

    Not only is it a completely safe food for those with gluten intolerances and wheat allergies — it also boasts a powerful nutritional profile.  One cup of cooked amaranth delivers:

    • 251 calories
    • 5 grams of fiber
    • 9 grams protein

    It is also an excellent source of iron, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, and delivers substantial amounts of calcium, copper, folate, selenium, vitamin B6, and zinc.

    Added bonus?  Amaranth contains exclusive phytonutrients that help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as a powerful group of antioxidants called betalains that help reduce cellular inflammation and, consequently, the risk of different cancers.

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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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    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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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Red Pepper Cream Soup

    red-pepperMy recent cream of mushroom soup recipe was such a hit that many of you have been asking for another “blend and heat” soup recipe.  I am happy to oblige!

    Here is a similar concoction that beautifully highlights the natural sweetness in red peppers and carrots.  Perfect for fall!  Like the mushroom soup, this is fairly hearty and filling, so you can simply follow it up with a light entree.

    YIELDS: 1 serving

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup water
    1/2 cup raw cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds
    2/3 cup raw red pepper strips
    1/4 cup raw green pepper, diced
    4 baby carrots
    2 Tablespoons raw onion, chopped
    1 Tablespoon chopped celery
    1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
    1 garlic clove
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/6 teaspoon salt
    Black pepper, to taste
    1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Combine all ingredients in blender and process until well combined.

    Transfer to small pot and heat on stovetop for 2 or 3 minutes.

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (for cashew variation):

    384 calories
    4 grams saturated fat
    400 milligrams sodium
    6 grams fiber
    13 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Copper, vitamin A, vitamin C

    Good source of: Folate, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, vitamin K

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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Five-Minute Creamy Mushroom Soup

    mushroomsI love a bowl of homemade soup on chilly days, but don’t always have the time (or patience) to make soup from scratch.

    Alas, this amazingly simple “chop, blend, and heat” recipe produces an out-of-this-world-delicious (and super healthy!) soup.  I’ve been hooked on this since day one.

    Since this soup is filling due to its share of healthy fats and protein, it can be perfectly paired with a salad or small sandwich.

    YIELDS: 1 – 2 servings

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 cup water
    1/4 – 1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
    1/4 cup chopped onion of choice (I use yellow)
    1 garlic clove (use 2 if you want it extra-garlicky)
    1 cup sliced mushrooms of choice (I use white)
    1/4 cup chopped celery
    1 Tablespoon lemon juice
    1/8 teaspoon salt or miso
    Pepper, to taste

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    Process all ingredients in blender.

    Transfer to pot and heat for 5 minutes.

    Serve and enjoy.  Top with cilantro or scallions!

    NUTRITION INFORMATION (per serving):

    358 calories
    4 grams saturated fat
    300 milligrams sodium
    3 grams fiber
    11 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    Good source of: Copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium.

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    You Ask, I Answer: What Makes Brown Rice Healthier?

    b6-brown-rice-lgWhy is brown rice considered so much better than white rice?

    The food labels for each one aren’t all that different.  Brown rice just has a little more fiber.

    So, what’s the big deal?

    — Jessica Bracanti
    (City withheld), CT

    As helpful as food labels can be in guiding our food choices, they barely tell the true tale of a food’s whole nutritional profile.

    You are right — strictly from a food label standpoint, brown rice doesn’t seem to have many advantages over white rice.  It’s what you don’t see on the food label that makes all the difference!

    Brown rice contains significantly higher levels of phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and vitamin E.

    If there were no enrichment laws (those which require that nutrients lost in processing be added back to refined grains like white rice), brown rice would also contain higher levels of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, and vitamin B6 than its white counterpart.

    Remember, though, that vitamins and minerals are only part of  a food’s nutritional profile.

    Since brown rice is a whole grain, it offers you its bran and germ components — and all their health-promoting phytonutrients and antioxidants..

    Some preliminary research indicates that specific components in rice bran oil lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Add to that to brown rice’s soluble fibers (which are also implicated in decreasing LDL cholesterol) and you have a heart-healthy one-two punch.

    These are the same fibers, by the way, that help achieve a longer feeling of fullness more quickly.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Nutrition Tips for Hair Loss

    hairlossI’ve damaged my hair over the past year from dyeing it — it’s thinner and I’m losing more than usual in the shower.

    Short of no longer putting chemicals on my hair, which is a given, is there anything I can take to help repair my hair and have it grow back healthy?

    Any vitamins, supplements, protein, etc?

    — Lexi (last name withheld)
    New York, NY

    If your hair loss was a result of nutritional inadequacy, you would be able to correct some of the damage through an appropriately balanced diet.

    Since your hair loss was caused by chemicals (rather than, say, extremely low calorie or protein intake), there isn’t a whole lot you can do from a nutritional standpoint.

    For what it’s worth, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and zinc all play an important role in hair growth and restoration, so make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of those nutrients.

    Here is a brief list detailing good sources of each:

    • Biotin: nuts, seeds, egg yolk
    • Vitamin B6: potatoes, bananas, shellfish, nuts, legumes, whole grains
    • Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, plant oils
    • Zinc: meats, shellfish, cashews, yogurt
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    Quick & Healthy Recipe: Flippin’ Healthy French Toast

    825101-FB~Sliced-Loaf-of-Bread-PostersI am often amazed at the many ways in which people desecrate French toast by turning it into a sugar-laden caloric bomb.

    I will never forget a restaurant in New York City’s Hell Kitchen neighborhood that served French toast coated in a thick layer of what appeared to be Golden Grahams cereal, only to then top that off with thick caramel syrup and powdered sugar.

    This recipe delivers a wide array of delicious flavors without the excess calories.  Make sure to serve with ripe fruits, as they are responsible for the sweetness of this dish.

    YIELDS: 4 slices (serves 2)

    INGREDIENTS:

    4 slices whole grain bread (frozen overnight)
    3/4 cup milk of choice (dairy, soy, almond, rice, hemp, etc.)
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    2 teaspoons coconut extract
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    2 teaspoons butter/oil/vegan ‘butter’ (for griddle)
    2 tablespoons vanilla powder
    2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    3/4 cup sliced strawberries
    1 medium banana
    1/4 cup raw walnuts, chopped

    INSTRUCTIONS:

    (The night before, store slices of bread in freezer.  This will allow them to absorb more liquid without falling apart.)

    Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

    In a wide bowl, mix milk of choice (I use unsweetened soymilk),  vanilla extract, coconut extract, and cinnamon.

    Dip bread slices in mix and set aside on small plate.

    Heat butter/oil/vegan butter (I use Earth Balance “butter” sticks) in griddle or pan.

    Once griddle/pan is hot, place bread slices.  Heat for 2 or 3 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

    Turn off heat and transfer bread slices to flat baking sheet (you may need to lightly coat with baking spray first).

    Pour any remaining mix on bread slices and top off with vanilla powder, shredded coconut, and cinnamon.

    Place baking sheet in oven.  After 7 minutes, flip bread slices over and heat for in oven for another 7 minutes.

    Serve and top with sliced strawberries, bananas, and walnuts.

    NUTRITION FACTS (for a 2-slice serving):

    460 calories
    4.4 grams saturated fat
    410 milligrams sodium
    10 grams fiber
    13 grams protein

    Excellent source of: Fiber, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin C

    Good source of: Copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium

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    The Cleanse That Makes No Sense

    I have recently come across a number of people asking me about — or telling me they were on — the Master Cleanse/Lemonade Diet, so I figured, “why not blog about it?”

    If you thought I was put off by proponents of food combining, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    It all begins with The Master Cleanser, published in 1976 by Stanley Burroughs, which should appear in the dictionary next to the word “hogwash”.

    Make that unhealthy hogwash.

    It simply consists of consuming nothing but an atrocious-sounding concoction of freshly squeezed lemon juice, maple syrup (oh, I’m sorry, Grade B maple syrup) and cayenne pepper six to twelve times a day for at least ten days.

    That’s right, the real hardcore cleansers are on this for up to 40 days!

    Sometimes, “laxative teas” are recommended as supplements, as is starting your morning off with a 32 ounce glass of lukewarm water and sea salt.

    Forget “Master Cleanse,” the real name should be “The Masochist Cleanse.”

    Proponents claims that this is the only way for your body to “detox” by releasing toxins stored in fat cells.

    The cleanse, they say, and particularly the cayenne pepper, “physically loosens” the impacted toxins in your colon that have been stuck to your intestinal walls for weeks… months… even years!

    Gasp! Shock! Eyeroll.

    Clearly, the proponents have never read about that wonderful machine known as the human body, which has two sets of organs (the kidneys and liver) for detoxifying purposes.

    The kidneys are responsible for the production of urine, which is basically the lump sum of all the waste and leftover junk from metabolic processes.

    There is no need to do any further detoxing.

    The best way to keep everything moving through your body is by consuming sufficient amounts of fiber and staying hydrated.

    This is, in essence, a very low calorie (and very disgusting) diet that adds up to roughly 1,000 calories a day.

    Proponents claim these three ingredients provide all the nutritional requirements.

    Really? The three ingredients offer no protein, monounsaturated fats, Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, folate, B6, or B12, approximately two percent of the daily value of vitamins A, E, and K, and a measly quarter of a day’s worth of potassium, iron, and calcium.

    The only nutrient obtained at or above the daily requirement is manganese.

    Like with all other very low calorie diets, you can expect to gain the weight back when you begin ingesting solid food and consuming more than 1,000 calories.

    File this one under “unhealthy liquid fasts that should be banished from mainstream culture.”

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    And The Most Unnecessary New Product Award Goes To…

    Snickers Charged.

    A “limited edition” Snickers bar sprinkled with caffeine, B vitamins, and taurine “to help get you through the day.”

    Snore.

    Okay, let’s break this down.

    A regular Snickers bar adds up to 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams (25% of a day’s worth) of saturated fat, and 30 grams (7.5 teaspoons) of sugar.

    Snickers Charged comes in at 250 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 25 grams of sugar.

    The lower values are simply because Charged is smaller in size than its regular counterpart. The folks at Mars Inc. have not gotten more health conscious.

    Anyhow, Charged tacks on 60 milligrams of caffeine, 250 milligrams of taurine, and 10 percent of the daily value Vitamins B6 and B12.

    Can you say underwhelming?

    That same amount of B6 can be obtained from half a cup of avocado, one can of tuna, a single ounce of sunflower seeds, one quarter of a chicken breast, a quarter cup of fortified cereal, or half a banana.

    As for B12? Ten percent of the daily value can be found in 1 egg, ¾ cup of milk, 1/6 cup of fortified soymilk, 1 ounce of cheddar chese, 1/5 cup of Cherrios, 1/12 cup of Total cereal, 3 ounces of chicken breast, an ounce of shrimp, or HALF an ounce of lean hamburger meat (remember, a serving is three ounces).

    Snickers Charged is not providing hard-to-come by nutrition.

    Besides, B vitamins in and of themselves do not provide energy.

    The amount of caffeine in this product is also nothing spectacular. A tall latte at Starbucks offers more.

    Drinking a cup of coffee with a regular Snickers basically provides the same caffeine total.

    Now let’s talk taurine.

    Although it is found in seafood, dairy, and meat, it is a non-essential amino acid. In other words, our bodies naturally produce it. There is no need to seek it out in the diet.

    One of its main roles is regulating the cellular transport of sodium and potassium ions.

    There is no scientific body of evidence linking it with central nervous system stimulation.

    Frankly, I’m more than ready for this whole “energy” functional food fad to burn out.

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    Soda 911

    After much buzz, Pepsi has finally launched Tava, its new “vitamin enhanced” calorie and caffeine-free sparkling beverage drink, largely aimed at the female 35 – 49 demographic.

    A lot of money and effort has been dedicated to Tava.

    It’s no surprise. Over the past two years, soda sales have been slipping.

    Consumers are instead reaching for just as sugary, but healthier sounding beverages like Vitamin Water or artifically sweetened drinks in fancy glass bottles containing trendy fruits like pomegranate and acai.

    Not surprisingly, soda companies are fighting back, no-holds-barred style.

    The New York Times recently profiled Tava’s alternative marketing strategybypassing traditional media and instead focusing on online advertising and music and art festivals in certain states (among them Colorado, New York, Washington, Florida, and Utah).

    Pepsi definitely spent a lot of time — and money — dressing up what is basically flavored sparkling water and aspartame with with lots of pretty accesories.

    First we have the vitamin factor, clearly thrown in to compete with Diet Coke Plus.

    Tava offers 10 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamins E, B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), and a trace mineral known as chromium.

    What’s the chromium fortification all about? Personally, I think it’s just part of the “exotification” of Tava.

    Don’t get me wrong; chromium is an important mineral. It teams up with insulin to help cells take up glucose and thereby maintain blood sugar levels.

    Some recent research also suggests possible links between chromium and heart health.

    The good news is that chromium is easily available from whole grains, vegetables, raisins, legumes, nuts, chicken, seafood, and dairy.

    Since it is found in many foods and a trace mineral, chromium deficiency is extremely rare.

    It is mainly seen in hospital patients on tube feedings, pregnant women, and people whose diets are very high in processed foods.

    People eating a variety of foods do not need further supplementation.

    Then there’s the three flavors.

    We’re treated to “exotic” names like Mediterranean Fiesta (black cherry citrus), Brazilian Samba (passion fruit lime), and Tahitian Tamure (tropical berry).

    In an attempt to class up the joint, Tava’s website offers “suggested food pairings” for all its drinks.

    For instance, if you’re sipping on Mediterranean Fiesta, you’re suggested to do so while nibbling on dark chocolate truffles or BBQ spare ribs.

    But wait, there’s more! Tava comes with a grassroots focus as well.

    The website features emerging artists and musicians, and displays “inspirational” messages reminiscent of those often seen on Senior yearbook pages like, “sometimes it’s okay to think inside the box, ” “set your mind to shuffle,” and “what if what if didn’t exist?”

    Oh, and if you’re wondering what Tava means, the Frequently Asked Questions page proclaims that the name was created to “evoke feelings of possibility and discovery.”

    Do you think Tava will be a hit in Pepsi’s roster or a beverage bomb like their Crystal and Blue varieties?

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    Everything that Sparkles Is Not Gold

    Diet Coke Plus — the current “it” drink among the young Hollywood crowd, if you believe the Coca-Cola PR wizzes — will soon appear in a supermarket or convenience store near you.

    And don’t you dare call it a soda! According to the marketing gurus, Diet Coke is a “sparkling beverage”.

    Jumping on the Vitamin Water bandwagon about five years too late, Coca-Cola will now offer their classic diet soda with 15% of the recommended amounts of niacin, B6, and B12, and 10% of the magnesium and zinc daily values per each eight ounce can.

    Despite a massive push by vitamin companies, most of us do not need extra dosages of vitamins and minerals if we eat in a balanced and healthy fashion.

    I would only really advocate extra dosages to people with absorption deficiencies or, in the case of Vitamin D, to people whose exposure to sunlight is limited (we can’t rely on food alone to get our Vitamin D needs).

    It is very rare for healthy adults to be deficient in the vitamins and minerals present in Diet Coke Plus.

    Niacin, by law, must be added to all bread products, a staple in most everyone’s diet. B6 and B12 are mainly found in protein-rich foods, and given the protein overload in the United States diet, there is little reason to worry about these two vitamins.

    Zinc is found in many animal products and is also added to nearly all ready-to-eat cereals, which millions of people have for breakfast.

    Keep in mind, too, that you can get the same amount of zinc in Diet Coke Plus in just one ounce of pecans, or a cup of yogurt.

    Ironically, Diet Coke still contains phosphoric acid, which, as I explained in issue two of Small Bites, decreases our blood calcium levels. Now THAT’S a mineral many people, especially women, are not getting enough of.

    If you enjoy Diet Coke, feel free to continue to have it once in a while. However, do not for a second think this new product is a health food.

    If you’re a Pepsi fan, you too can have unnecessary extra vitamins and minerals when their very own Tava drink is released later this year.

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