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    Archive for the ‘vitamin K’ Category

    Beyond Milk: There’s Much More To Bone Health than Calcium and Vitamin D

    Milk is a good source of calcium and vitamin D (though, remember, milk in the US contains vitamin D because it is mandated by law; in many other countries, milk is devoid of the sunshine vitamin), but it lacks many other nutrients crucial for healthy bones.

    Too often, conversations and debates on the nutritional “worth” of milk turn into a “cows” versus “soybeans” face-off or, if it’s slightly more advanced, “cows” versus all the available milk alternatives (soy, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and hazelnut).

    As far as calcium is concerned, fortified foods and beverages contain calcium that is just as absorbable as — and in some cases, more absorbable than — the calcium in milk.  In other words — the added calcium in soy or almond milk is just as good for your bones as the one in cow’s milk (or any other animal’s milk, for that matter).

    In order to truly tackle the topic of bone health, though, we need to go beyond the calcium and vitamin D content of milk and its vegan analogues and instead identify all the nutrients that play important roles in bone health.  In doing so, we find that milk is far from the king of the bone health hill.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Spinach Spaghetti

    41X-iqOQP6L._SS500_Are spinach spaghetti noodles more nutritious than regular ones?

    — Sandra (Last name withheld)
    Columbus, GA

    Slightly.

    Spinach spaghetti (and other kinds of dry pasta) are made from refined flour and spinach powder.

    As a refined grain, it does not offer as much fiber or as many minerals as whole wheat pastas.

    While the spinach powder offers significantly lower levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients than fresh spinach, it does offer quite a bit of vitamin K.

    Of course, a whole wheat pasta dish and with added spinach offers more “nutritional bang for your buck”.  Replace spinach with arugula, kale, or broccoli and you’re looking at an even more nutritious dish!

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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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    There’s More to Osteoporosis than Calcium

    osteoporosis-illustratedThe majority of news articles on osteoporosis never fail to mention that calcium is a key nutrient in slowing down bone density loss.

    While that is an established fact, there are other nutrients and behaviors that are just as important in risk-reduction and management of osteoporosis.

    Here’s a handy cheat sheet:

    • Phosphorus: High intakes inhibit calcium absorption and bone metabolism.  Ironically, dairy products are quite high in phosphorus.  Yet another reason why calcium intake should come from a variety of foods (i.e.: leafy green vegetables, chickpeas, almonds), including dairy (if so desired).
    • Smoking: negatively affects bone metabolism and decreases bone density levels.
    • Sodium: Excessive amounts (not at all uncommon in the “Standard American Diet”) increase calcium losses in urine.
    • Vitamin D: Facilitates calcium absorption.  Note: current guidelines (400 International Units of Vitamin D per day) are too low.  Supplement 1,000 – 2,000 International Units every day.
    • Vitamin K: Helps bind calcium to the bone matrix.
    • Weight-bearing exercise.

    There are also preliminary studies which show that zinc, manganese, and even vitamin A may play important roles as well.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Broccoli Rabe

    i-broccolirabeFrom a nutrition standpoint, are broccoli florets and broccoli rabe the same?

    — Chris Tozer
    (City withheld), TX

    Ah, broccoli rabe.  One of my favorite vegetables.  Sauteed in olive oil and garlic, topped with a few crushed red pepper flakes and a generous squirt of lemon juice… it’s unbridled culinary beauty.

    Now that I’ve wiped off the drool from my keyboard, let’s talk nutrition.

    Broccoli rabe offers three times the vitamin A and calcium, double the vitamin K, and half the vitamin C that broccoli florets do. It’s also an excellent source of potassium and folate.

    While not super high in calcium or iron, the absence of oxalates (which are prominent in spinach) in broccoli rabe indicate that we are able to efficiently absorb the decent amounts of both those minerals that it contains.

    Its slightly bitter taste hints at more good news — it is loaded with unique antioxidants and phytonutrients!  For example, it offers high amounts of isothiocyanates, compounds that fiercely battle carcinogens in the body.  High isothiocyanate consumption has been shown to significantly reduce risk of developing breast, esophageal, lung, and prostate cancers.

    Isothiocyanates affect thyroid function, so individuals with thyroid complications should carefully monitor their intake of broccoli rabe and other leafy green vegetables.

    PS: Broccoli rabe is also known as rapini.  Chinese broccoli is a milder-tasting variety of broccoli rabe.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Cucumbers

    cucumber_marketmore76_organicI always hear that cucumbers help with weight-loss because they are mostly water and low in calories, but I never see them referred to as being very nutritious.

    Are they high in any nutrients?

    — Diana Wegfield
    (Location withheld)

    Cucumbers provide a generous amount of manganese, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K.  To get the highest amount of manganese and potassium, be sure to leave the skin on.

    Compared to other vegetables, their phytochemical and antioxidant content is low.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy cucumbers.  I don’t believe that every single morsel you put in your mouth has to be chock-full of nutrients.

    If, for example, adding sliced cucumbers to a salad helps you eat more dark leafy green vegetables, you’re reaping benefits!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Sea Vegetables

    DulseIn the past, you have written that seaweed is a good source of omega-3 for vegans, but what are the benefits for those of us who already eat fish?

    Is there any reason to eat sea vegetables if you already get omega-3s from animal sources?

    — Tom Emilio
    (Location withheld)

    Absolutely!  Their EPA content (one of the two omega 3 fatty acids found exclusively in fish and seaweed) is only one of their many benefits.

    All sea vegetables are great low-calorie sources of iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin K.

    Another bonus?  Sea vegetables have their own share of unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that help lower risk for heart disease and many different cancers.  This is why I often say that oceans have a very worthy produce section!

    Many people erroneously assume all seaweed is slimy, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

    You can purchase sheets of thin, crunchy nori (wonderful mixed into salads or used to wrap vegetables and avocado), dried chewy dulse (pictured, right), or hijiki (which, when cooked, has a consistency similar to that of rice).

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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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    You Ask, I Answer: Seaweed

    895835I consider myself an adventurous eater, but other than a few sushi rolls when I go to a Japanese restaurant, I don’t eat much seaweed.

    Whenever I am at Whole Foods, I see a pretty good-size chunk of one aisle devoted to different kinds of dried seaweed.

    What are some ways I can eat them?  Do they offer any real nutrition  benefits or are they healthy just because they are low in calories?

    — Joanna MacKay
    New York, NY

    Seaweed — which is literally available in thousands of varieties — offers an array of flavors, textures, and health benefits.

    All varieties are good sources of B vitamins, calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and zinc.

    Most varieties also provide substantial amounts of lignans — the compounds found in flaxseed that are linked to decreased cancer risk AND lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels!

    Nori is the most commonly consumed seaweed, as it is the one used in sushi rolls.  However, many people also like to add a few slivers of nori to salads and soups.

    You can even buy sheets of nori and make home-made vegetable rolls.

    For example, roll up mesclun greens, sliced avocado, sliced mango, and julienned (that’s chef-speak for “thinly sliced”) red peppers in a nori sheet, cut the long roll into round bite-size chunks, drizzle a bit of dressing on top (this peanut-cilantro one complements the flavors fabulously), and you have yourself a fun — and nutritious — lunch!

    In Japan, toasted nori snacks are immensely popular (almost as much as potato chips are in the United States).

    Kombu is a type of seaweed mainly used for stocks, while kelp is often added to soups (like miso) or used in granule form to add fishy flavors to vegetarian items that aim to mimic seafood.

    Arame is used in many savory dishes, including stews and grain-based side dishes, while hijiki is often steamed and consumed as a side dish of its own (one restaurant I frequently establish serves up hijiki as part of a platter alongside brown rice, chickpeas, and stir-fried tofu).

    Dulse is mainly available as granules to add fishy flavors to food, although whole dried dulse can be eaten right out of the bag as a snack or used as a salad topper.

    FYI: most seaweed salads at Japanese restaurants use a combination of seaweeds.  The downside?  They contain a substantial amount of added sugars and oils.  If you want to start your meal with it, keep that in mind and make light entree selections.

    The biggest mistake I come across when it comes to the nutritional aspects of seaweed is the completely erroneous claim that they are a good source of vitamin B12.

    They are NOT.  Seaweed contains B12 analogues — compounds that mimic the vitamin.

    Vegetarians and vegans need to be very mindful of B12 analogues; they attach to B12 receptors in the body, and prevent real B12 in the diet from being absorbed properly!

    Also, since seaweed is very high in iodine, anyone with thyroid issues should first consult with a Registered Dietitian before adding it to their diet on a consistent basis.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Arugula

    arugula1219364897There are few things I love more than arugula salads.

    Is arugula as healthy as other leafy green vegetables?

    — Dan Christom
    (Location withheld)

    I, too, love arugula’s peppery flavor.

    Something else worthy of affection?  Its stellar nutritional profile!

    A cup and a half (the amount typically used as a salad base) offers 15% of the Daily Value of vitamin A and almost half a day’s worth of vitamin K.

    Arugula also delivers decent amounts of folate and vitamin C.

    Remember, however, that vitamins and minerals are only half the tale.

    Arugula is a very good source of many phytonutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin (two powerhouses that fight macular degeneration).

    Another bonus?  Arugula belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family (where it counts broccoli, kale, and mustard greens as relatives).  High intakes of these vegetables (five to six times a week) are associated with reduced risk of cervical, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.

    PS: I often like to add a small amount of arugula to pesto for a unique flavor boost!

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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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    You Ask, I Answer: Tofu Cream Cheese

    brealfastHow does tofu cream cheese stack up against regular cream cheese?

    Is the tofu type any better for you?

    — Ella Biggadike
    Brooklyn, NY

    Dairy and soy-based cream cheeses don’t offer much nutrition.

    Here is what you get in one tablespoon of dairy-based cream cheese:

    • 50 calories
    • 3 grams saturated fat (quite a bit for a mere 50-calorie serving!)
    • 1 gram protein
    • 4 percent of the vitamin A Daily Value
    • 2 percent of the phosphorus Daily Value
    • 1 percent of the Daily Value of: calcium, pantothenic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin K

    Of course, fat-free varieties do not offer saturated fat (and clock in at 35 calories per tablespoon).

    Soy-based cream cheeses have an almost identical nutrient profile (except their fat is mostly polyunsaturated, rather than saturated).

    The bigger nutritional concern is what cream cheese is being slathered on.

    The average bagel, for example, clocks in at anywhere from 400 – 500 calories.  Considering that it takes three or four tablespoons of cream cheese to fill them decently, you are easily looking at a 700-calorie breakfast.

    I recommend using nut butters as bagel fillings.  Their fiber, high protein content, and healthy fats (especially in the case of peanut and almond butters) will keep you full for much longer.

    A half bagel topped with two tablespoons of nut or seed butter is a filling breakfast that adds up to approximately 400 calories.

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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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    Numbers Game: Answer

    raw_pepitas_wA one-ounce, 126-calorie serving of hulled and roasted pumpkin seeds is made up of 85 kernels.

    Great news for visual eaters (those who need to see a lot of food on their plate to not feel deprived)!

    For the record — I verified this figure in my kitchen by counting the number of hulled pumpkin seed kernels (also known as ‘pepitas’) in a one-ounce, quarter-cup serving.

    If you’re keeping track of nut and seed servings at home:

    1 serving = 23 almonds, 49 pistachio kernels, or 85 pumpkin seed kernels!

    Pumpkin seeds make for a great snack, by the way.  They are a great source of iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein, and vitamin K.

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