Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Black Strap Molasses—The Why?!

Since I started this journey toward creating a healthier lifestyle for my family, I have begun actually looking at nutrition labels before chunking anything and everything into my grocery cart, especially processed foods. My goal has been to create a Master Grocery List based on what I have learned as I go along.

Just like I did in a previous post on why we should all be eating avocado, this post will highlight the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses in a way that corresponds to these labels.

For years blackstrap molasses has appeared on almost every list of superfoods and been sold on health food store shelves for its many health benefits—including relieving PMS symptoms, stabilizing blood sugar levels, improving bone health, treating symptoms of ADHD,  preventing blood clotting, relieving menstrual cramps, maintaining the health of uterine muscles, combatting stress and anxiety, boosting skin health, promoting the growth of healthy tissues, serving as a natural wound healer, and helping you maintain clear and healthy skin.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the nutritional benefits of blackstrap molasses based on the elements that make up the nutrition label before we all place blackstrap molasses on our Instacart grocery lists.

 

1. The Serving Size…Obviously blackstrap molasses is actually an ingredient or condiment, not an actual food in and of itself…so you can’t really say what a typical serving should be…but the following statistics are based on 100 grams, or about 1/2C.

 

2.  Calories…One hundred grams of blackstrap molasses contains 290 calories, making it a food with an “average” or moderate caloric content.

 

 

3. Basic Nutrients…Now as for those specific nutrients contained in blackstrap molasses—such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar—that all of us typically eat in adequate amounts….blackstrap molasses provides the following percentages of these recommended nutrients to your daily diet…

 

 

a.  Fats…Blackstrap molasses contains zero fat.

 

b. Protein…Unless a food item makes a claim regarding its protein content—such as being “high in protein” or is marketed specifically for infants and children under four years old, this nutrient is often now shown. This is not a big deal because studies show that most of us actually do get enough protein in our diets already…zero protein

 

c. Fiber…Blackstrap molasses contains no fiber.

 

4.  Vitamins and Minerals…Blackstrap molasses has been sold as a dietary supplement for years and finds its way on almost every “official” list of superfoods…because one tablespoon of blackstrap molasses provides up to  20% of the recommended daily value of many important nutrients—including iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B, and manganese.

 

a.  Iron…Blackstrap molasses contains 95% DV of iron per 1/4C. Not having enough iron in your red blood cells can make you feel tired, weak, crabby, lethargic, unmotivated, depressed, and anxious…definitely not something you want to be when you’re fifty years old chasing a “resident four year old.”

 

b.  Calcium…Blackstrap molasses contains a large amount of calcium, which is vital for maintaining strong and healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis.

 

c.  Copper...Copper is important for strengthening  your bones and blood vessels, keeping your nerves healthy, and boosting your immune system.

 

d. Magnesium…1/4C blackstrap molasses contains approximately 68% DV of magnesium. Adequate levels of magnesium are also crucial in preventing diseases like osteoporosis and asthma along with others that can affect your blood and heart

 

e.  PotassiumTwo teaspoons of blackstrap molasses contains 10% DV of potassium. Potassium important for strengthening bone density, helping your blood vessels and arteries to relax, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, cleansing your liver, keeping the body hydrated, and reducing your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes.

 

f.  Vitamin B6…1/4C of blackstrap molasses provides 34% DV of Vitamin B6. This is important for helping to fight and avoid many health conditions—including morning sickness, depression, fatigue, stress,

 

g.  Chromium…Blackstrap molasses also contains a high level of chromium—an essential nutrient involved in controlling insulin, blood glucose, and cholesterol levels.

 

Finally blackstrap molasses proves to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, lactic acid, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a. Antioxidants…Blackstrap molasses contains many antioxidants, substances that help neutralize the effects of free radicals that have been linked to various health conditions—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

b.  Anti-inflammatory…The anti-inflammatory properties in blackstrap molasses are important for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

 

So does blackstrap molasses earn a spot in my grocery shopping app, or not?!

Definitely…Blackstrap molasses is definitely a more nutritious alternative to refined sugar.

Blackstrap molasses has a low glycemic index, which is very important for people with diabetes. Blackstrap molasses helps stabilize blood sugar levels, increases glucose tolerance, balance blood glucose levels, and give us stable energy.

Blackstrap molasses has also been proven to help treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD…which is very important when you have a “resident four year old” to take care of.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Blackstrap Molasses—The What?!

Blackstrap molasses is another available sweetener substitute that I have been told might be good for diabetics. Blackstrap molasses is about two-thirds as sweet as refined sugar and has the consistency of a thick syrup.

Blackstrap molasses was a very common sweetener in the Americas before the 20th century.

In fact, blackstrap molasses was much more affordable than refined sugar in those days, because blackstrap molasses has been imported from the Caribbean Islands since the time of the first settlers.

 

 

Blackstrap molasses is a byproduct from the sugar making industry.

 

After sugar cane is harvested and stripped of its leaves, the juice is extracted—usually by cutting, crushing, or mashing—and boiled to help promote sugar crystallization.

The initial boiling session is called “first syrup.” This “first syrup” has the highest sugar content of each of the three different types of syrup that will be made before finally getting to our blackstrap molasses. Most of us know the first syrup as cane syrup, instead of molasses.

The second boiling session creates a “second molasses” that has a slightly bitter taste.

Finally, the same sugar cane juice is boiled a third time to make blackstrap molasses, a dark highly-concentrated molasses known for its robust, bittersweet flavor.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Barley Malt Syrup

Barley Malt Syrup—The What?!

Barley malt syrup is an all-natural dark brown, thick and sticky liquid sweetening product that is only half as sweet as sugar and with its own strong distinctive flavor. The consistency of barley malt syrup is similar to molasses and golden syrup.

Barley malt syrup is made by drying and then cooking sprouted barley malt, and then filtering and reducing down the liquid that has developed until it reaches the desiered consistency.

Barley malt syrup is not refined in any way. Nor does barley malt syrup contain any chemicals. The enzymes that turn the carbohydrates in the barley into sugar are found already in the grain, instead of having to be added.

Any store specializing in wine or beer making is likely to sell barley malt syrup, but be careful to make sure that you only get the true barley malt syrup, not high fructose corn syrup with flavoring added.

Barley Malt Syrup—The Why?!

Even though barley malt syrup contains almost no fructose or sucrose, it contains about sixty percent maltose. Maltose, also known as malt sugar, is much less sweet than sucrose, so it will take more barley malt syrup to make a food taste as sweet.

One tablespoon of barley malt syrup contains sixty calories, sixteen grams of carbohydrates, eight grams of sugars, one gram of protein, and sixty-five milligrams of potassium…at the same time, barley malt syrup contains none of the following—fat, sodium, fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron.

Barley malt syrup does contain some minerals and vitamins, but is not a good source of minerals and vitamins in general, as compared to some of the other sugar substitutes available.

Barley malt syrup is also a good source of soluble fiber, and does have a glycemic index of about forty, which is lower than table sugar.

Barley Malt Syrup—The How?!

Barley malt syrup has a nice flavor and goes well in certain recipes—such as barbecue sauces, raw desserts, baked beans, and cakes. As far as “home remedies” are concerned, barley malt syrup is useful in treating irritable bowel syndrome…(very important at our house for my spouse).

Barley malt syrup is sometimes used as an ingredient in home brewing wine or beer. Barley malt syrup is also a common substitute for molasses or honey on bread or pancakes.

Speaking of bread and beer, later in the post there is a whole-grain bread recipe that I found that involves using barley malt syrup in combination with beer—combinations of sweeteners being used along with barley malt syrup being quite common is baking, by the way.

Barley Malt Syrup—Grocery IQ Master List or Not?!

As far as my choosing barley malt syrup as the new healthy alternative sweetener in our house, I don’t think that this is a good idea.

My husband is a type 2 diabetic, and barley malt syrup is not the ideal sweetener for helping to control your blood sugar because of its high maltose content. The health risks associated with a high consumption of barley malt syrup clearly outweigh its potential health benefits.

Also because barley malt syrup is less sweet than table sugar, we would have to use more of it, which affects not only blood sugar levels, but our food budget perhaps.

Finally, note that barley malt syrup also contains gluten, making it unsuitable for those following a strict gluten-free diet.

Malted Guinness Beer Bread

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup malted wheat flakes
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 ounces Guinness Stout, at room temperature
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup

Topping:

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon malted wheat flakes

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan.

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly pour in the Guinness and add the barley malt syrup. Use a wooden spoon to stir until no dry patches remain.

Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Pour the melted butter over the top, then scatter the malted wheat flakes over it.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the crust is browned and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes; turn the loaf out of the pan and finish cooling.

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Agave Nectar

Once I learned that my husband had been diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes, my first thought…well, not my first…but anyway…I immediately felt like adding agave nectar to my instacart order from Sprouts…

But what I’ve been reading lately has made me wonder about adding this agave nectar to my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List altogether…and to get consume any agave through tequila instead.

 

What is agave nectar anyway?!

The agave plant is native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, and some tropical areas of South America. The plant is sometimes referred to as the “century plant” because the plants must grow to heights of about thirty feet before ever blooming. But once an agave plant does bloom, it will produce several pounds of edible flowers. After this, the plant will die.

When an agave plant has been growing from seven to ten years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, the pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.

There are many different species of agave, but the most common one is the blue agave. Blue agave is the species of agage used to make tequila. In order for a tequila to be classified as a 100% blue agave tequila, the tequila must be made only from the Agave tequilana ‘Weber’s Blue’ agave plant and only in certain Mexican states, according to an agreement made in 2001 between the Mexican Government and European Union.

The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods. The Aztecs and Navajo Indians have used every part of the agave plant—including the flowers, the leaves, the stalks, and the sap for just about everything–including meat, drink, clothing, and writing materials.

  • Flowers…The flower head can be baked and then boiled to make an edible paste used by itself or made into soup. The flower heads can be baked and sundried to extend the shelf life. Dried slices of the flower stem can be used to make all-natural razor strops.
  • Leaves…The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating and making sisal or hemp. The expressed juice of the leaves lathers in water like soap. The leaves are also used to make a tea that is used specificaxlly for treating constipation and arthritis.
  • Stalks…The stalks can be roasted and chewed right before the flower blooms to extract the sweet sap, called argamiel, much like sugarcane. The stalks can also be dried out and used to make didgeridoos.
  • Sap…The sap from the flower shoot is often collected, fermented, and distilled to make alcholic drinks called mezcal, which we Americans mostly know  in the shot glasses called tequila. The sap can also be boiled to make a sweetener that the Mexicans refer to as miel de agave.

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the sap of the agave plant

 

Agave Nectar—The Why or Why Not?!

Agave sweeteners come from the blue agave plant, the same plant that you get tequile from. Agave nectar is said to be about 1.5 times sweeter than sugar….and is often used instead of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. Many people who do not like the taste of honey find agave a more palatable choice. It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners.

Agave has about sixty calories per tablespoon, compared to forty calories for the same amount of table sugar. But you should be able to get the same effect from less agage nectar because the agave is sweeter.

Agave claims to be an especially good sugar replacement for diabetics because it is low on the glycemic index. But at the same time, agave nectar has an extremely amount of fructose. And the agave nectar that you find as a consumer has been highly processed, much like high-fructose corn syrup.

Sweeteners containing fructose, as opposed to those containing glucose, can claim to be “healthy” or “diabetic friendly” because they typically have a very low GI and do not  raise your blood sugar or insulin levels in the short-term.Yet the high amount of fructose found in agave nectar can be detrimental to your health. For one thing, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize significant amounts of fructose. Eating, or drinking, an extreme amount of  fructose causes the liver to work too hard, resulting in kidney disease and cirhossis of the liver seen in many alcoholics

The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or “honey water.”

Even though Mexicans boil the sap to make a sweetener referred to as miel de agave, the agave nectar sold on American shelves has very little in common with this traditional sweetener made by the Mexicans because agave nectar that is sold on our shelves has been made by treating the sugars with heat and enzymes, which destroys all the beneficial health effects of the agave plant…resulting in a highly refined, unhealthy syrup–just as the processing does to any other fruit or vegetable.

In its original, natural form extracts from the agave plant contain strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but none of these beneficial elements are present in the agave that we see in the stores.

To make the agave nectar as we know it, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars.

Even though agave nectar has been targeted as a healthy sugar alternative for people concerned about their blood sugar levels, agave nectar contains very high levels of fructose….and fructose, even though found in whole foods that are on my permanent shopping list, actually can have long-term effects on our health—including heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Agave nectar is about 85% fructose, which is much higher than plain sugar.

Consuming too much fructose can also cause your body to become resistent to insulin, causing major increases in long-term blood sugar and insulin levels and strongly raising your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Agave actually contains more fructose than the supposed demon called high-fructose corn syrup that we all know that we should be avoiding

Agave is not healthier than honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), or any other type of sweetener. Agave syrup (nectar) is basically high-fructose corn syrup masquerading as a health food.

So my verdict on using agave nectar as a substitute for table sugar, based on what I have been reading, is a definite no….

 

Let’s all just shoot blue agave tequila instead!!!

Sw

  • highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener on the market
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Find a Healthy Sugar Substitute

 

One of the best places to start swapping refined foods for more natural products is by swapping out refined sugars—such as white and brown sugars—and cutting back our sugar consumption to the ten  percent of our daily calories as suggested by the FDA’s daily recommended values.

Refined sugars can affect out health in many ways, including…

  • affecting pancreas and liver
  • causing allergies, both seasonal and food allergies
  • feeding fungus, bacteria, viruses, and other parasites that stress the whole body
  • radically lowering the body’s immune system

A new term that I have had to learn ever since my husband was diagnosed as having diabetes is “glycemic Index.” From what I have learned over the last few months since this diagnosis, the glycemic index shows how much glucose is released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. The more quickly a food releases glucose  the higher that food is according to the glycemic index.

Foods that rank lower on the GI scale release glucose slower and more steadily, without causing a sudden spike of glucose in the blood, which in turn results is a large release of insulin, resulting in the excess glucose being stored as fat instead of causing us to have more energy….not to mention often resulting in a rapid drop in blood sugar and making us hungry.

So recently I have been trying to find the best natural sweeteners that I can use,  both for baking or cooking, as well as adding to my morning coffee.

I have been trying to find sugar that will be easier for to digest and process, and have the most health benefits….something to replace the “regular” sugar that I normally use…the sugar that  actually comes from genetically modified beets and GMO corn…which means they’re processed in and of themselves.

Some of the best natural and “healthier” sweeteners that I have found to be recommended include…

 

  • Acesulfame Potassium (Acesulfame-K or Ace-K)…
  • Agave
  • Apple Juice
  • Amazake
  • Aspartame
  • Barley Malt Syrup
  • Black Strap Molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Coconut Palm Sugar
  • Date Sugar and Dried Dates
  • Equal
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Lactitol
  • Maltodextrin
  • Lactose
  • Maple Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Organic Sugar
  • Raw Sugar
  • Refined Table Sugar
  • Saccharin
  • Splenda
  • Stevia
  • Sucralose
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar Alcohols or Polyols—such as maltitol, maltitol syrup, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
  • Sugar Cane Juice
  • Sweet N’ Low
  • Turbinado

Join me in this next set of posts about some of these sugar options, and which ones we should keep on our grocery list and which ones we should completely cross off…and then wait for my Muffins and Magnolias Master Grocery List in the Making…

It will be sweet…

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sugar Ain’t So Sweet After All

Another problem with processed foods in that the main ingredient in most of this processed food is a whole lot of sugar. The typical American today consumes seven tablespoons of sugar a day in processed foods, more than half as much as thirty years ago.

Grocery store shelves are crammed with all sorts of foods that contain way too much sugar. Yeah, these foods—such as sugary snacks, refined grains, pizza, canned soup, fruit drinks, canned foods, and sweetened yogurt—might taste better than healthier choices…(no, not might taste better…most actually do).

But are the possible health risks of eating too much sugar really worth that moment of decadence.

For years, nutritional guidelines have focused on saturated fats and cholesterol, but perhaps this has been one huge mistake.

We have found that in order to meet consumer expectations as far as fat content, food companies have added more and more sugar in order to make their foods still taste good. Some of these foods get about 25 percent of their calories from added sugars.

In fact, at least forty percent of the money—more than $1 trillion annually—that we as Americans spend on  healthcare each year are spent treating diseases that are directly related to the overconsumption of sugar. The sugar epidemic in the United States has gotten to the point that the FDA has set an “official” recommendation that we should all be limiting our daily sugar intake to a no more than ten percent of our daily calories.

There are actually many health risks associated with eating too much added sugar. These include…

  • Cancer….Sugar is responsible for an estimated 500,000 cancer cases worldwide each year.
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Obesity

And remember, just because the ingredient list on any food item that you might be looking at doesn’t actually contain the word “sugar,” there may be tons of sugar in that product anyway.

Food manufacturers like to avoid the taboo word “sugar” by listing ingredients such as…

  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated Cane Sugar
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Lactose
  • Sucrose
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fiber–The How-Nots

So now that we have looked at exactly what fiber is, why we need it, and some of the best sources for getting the fiber that we all need, let’s finish this series of posts by looking at a few ways NOT to try to get the fiber that you need.

 

Taking a fiber supplement

Many people think that taking a fiber supplement is a quick way to reach your recommended fiber amount each day, but this is not the best solution. Sure a supplement can be used to start gettomg the fiber that you need, but fiber supplements will never take the place of real foods.

Fiber supplements come in a variety of forms—including powders you that are dissolved in water or added to food, chewable tablets, and wafers.

More drawbacks to getting your fiber from supplements instead of actual fiber-rich foods include…

  • not getting the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients offered by high-fiber foods….
  • not helping you manage your weight because they don’t offer the same feeling of being full as  high-fiber foods\
  • possible interactaction with certain medications—such as certain antidepressants, cholesterol-lowering medications, and warfarin, as anticoagulation drug

 

Fast Food

Fast food may seem like a cheap and convenient way to eat (and not have to cook), but most fast food meals are packed with calories, sodium, and unhealthy fat with little or no dietary fiber.

Even a seemingly healthy salad from a fast food restaurant is often light on fiber. In fact, iceberg lettuce provides less than one gram of fiber per cup. (Remember always choose the darker greens).

Here is some advice to making a “healthy” fast food run…

  1. Choose a veggie burger if available. Veggie burgers usually contain two or three times more fiber than a beef patty
  2. Choose nuts or salad instead of fries or potato chips.
  3. Choose whole wheat breads or buns
  4. Look for salads that include other vegetables, nuts, and legumes
  5. Select beans as a side dish

 

Processed Foods

Many manufacturers, no, make that most manufacturers are way more interest in profit margin instead of the health of their customers. These food companies try to project a healthier image for their products, even though the foods themselves are actually not healthy at all.

For example, just how healthy to you think that foods marketed as high-fiber alternatives—such as a Kellogg’s To Go Milk Chocolate Breakfast Shake, FiberPlus Antioxidants Chocolatey Peanut Butter Chewy Bar, Fiber One Double Chocolate Cookie or 90 Calorie Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Weight Watchers Chocolate Crème Cake, or a Skinny Cow Chocolate Truffle ice cream bar—really are…especially when compared to clean food alternatives.

Many food items that claim to contain high amounts of fiber—such as Fiber One bars, cereals, instant oatmeal, pasta, and English muffins—actually have added fiber in them that aren’t good fiber sources at all.

The food industry claims that these additives are beneficial for getting the fiber that each of us needs, but these additives will never replace the nutritional value of fiber-rich foods.

And we all know that simply adding one of the following fiber doesn’t exactly turn cookies, brownies, bars, and shakes into beans, bran, berries, and broccoli.

A few of the additives that the Food and Drug Administration is currently studying that are commonly added to processed foods that are available on grocery store shelves include…

  • Bamboo Fiber
  • Calcium Polycarbophil
  • Gum Acacia
  • Inulin
  • Litesse
  • Maltodextrin
  • Methylcellulose
  • Modified Starches
  • Polydextrose
  • Resistant Wheat Starch
  • Retrograded Corn Starch
  • Soluble Corn Fiber
  • Wheat Dextrin
  • Xylooligosaccharides
Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fiber—The How Else?!

IMG_4473-1

Okay, now we know specifically which fruits and vegetables can help us reach our DV of fiber, but what else can help us reach this daily goal, or the goal of getting seven to ten grams of fiber at each meal.

Let’s take a look…

Legumes

Black Beans...Black beans are a nutrient-dense legume that contain fifteen grams of fiber per cup, as well as other important nutrients—such as protein, thiamine, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, flavonoids, and antioxidants.

Chickpeas...One cup of chickpeas contains 12.5 grams of fiber per ½ cup, (but also 400 calories), as well as other important nutrients such as protein, copper, folate, manganese, omega-6 fatty acids, and omega-3 fatty acids. Chickpeas provide 84 percent of your daily recommended amount of manganese per cup. Manganese is important for helping you have the energy you need each day.

Edamame...Edamame contains four grams of fiber per ½ cup.

Green Peas...One cup of cooked peas contains 8.8 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as vitaminC, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamine, manganese, folate, vitamin A, protein. Green peas are also packed with powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and phytonutrients.

Kidney Beans…Kidney beans contain 5.7 grams of fiber per ½ cup. Kidney beans also contain 7.7 grams of protein…(more on protein later)…

Lentils...Lentils contain 15.6 grams of fiber per cup, as well as other key nutrients such as protein, iron, manganese, phosphorous, and folate. If fact, lentils are one of the top 10 high-folate foods. Folate is essential for pregnant women, individuals with liver disease and people on certain medications.

Lima Beans…One cup of lima beans contains 13.2 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as copper, manganese, folate, phosphorous, protein, vitamin B2, and vitamin B6. In addition to the outstanding fiber per serving, lima beans offers nearly 25 percent of the daily recommended iron for women.

Navy Beans...Navy beans are by far one of the best sources of fiber—containing over nineteen grams of fiber per cup, which is 34 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake.

Refried Beans…Refried beans contain 4.4 grams of fiber per ½ cup.

Split Peas…Split peas contain sixteen grams—over half of the recommended intake—of fiber per ½ cup, as well as a third of the folate recommended daily, and many other important nutrients as well—such as protein, thiamine, folate, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids…(and, no, split peas are not simply green peas that have been split).

Sugar Snap Peas…Sugar snap peas contain four grams of fiber per cup.

Nuts and Seed

Almonds…One cup of unroasted almonds contain 11.6 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as protein, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, riboflavin, and omega-6 fatty acids. Be sure to choose  almonds that are labeled as raw, natural, or unroasted to get more fiber for your calories.

Flax Seeds…Whole flaxseeds offer up to seven grams of fiber per two tablespoons.m as well as other important nutrients—such as protein, thiamine, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Chia Seed…One ounce of chia seeds contains 10.6 grams of fiber, plus many other important nutrients—such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids..

Pistachios…One ounce of pistachios contains 2.8 grams of fiber, along with 6 grams of protein.

Walnuts…One cup of walnuts contains 7.8 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as protein, manganese, copper, omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. Walnuts have been shown to improve verbal reasoning, memory and mood and are believed to support good neurologic function.

Okay, as a newbie nutritional novice, I didn’t exactly see whole grains on my food pyramid, but who in their right mind would bypass any benefit that could be attained from the one category of food that probably got us in the most trouble in the first place—BREAD and PASTA!!! So…here’s the “whole” story…

Whole Grains

Barley…One cup of Okaybarley contains nine grams of fiber.

Brown Rice…Brown rice contains four grams of fiber per cup.

Bulgur…Bulgur contains four grams of fiber per 1/2 cup.

Cereal—Cereals such as Bran Flakes, Fiber One, and All-Bran can at least six grams of fiber to your diet. When shopping for a good cereal that contains fiber, look for cereals that have at least 6 grams of fiber per serving. For example, Fiber One contains 14 grams of fiber in each 1/2 cup…All-Bran contains 10 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup. One cup of Bran Flakes contains 7 grams…One cup of Shredded Wheat contains six. Finally one cup of cooked oatmeal contains four grams of fiber.

You could also try adding a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal. Dry wheat bran contains six grams of fiber per 1/4 cup.

Also try adding crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes, and cookies.

Psyllium Husk...Start adding psyllium husk to gluten-free baked goods, such as breads, pizza dough, and pasta….(more on this later)…

Whole Grain Bread…When shopping for a good cereal that contains fiber, look for cereals that have at least 6 grams of fiber per serving

Whole-Grain Crackers

Whole-Grain Flour-–Start substituting whole-grain flour for half or all of the white flour, since whole-grain flour is heavier than white flour. In yeast breads, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer.

Whole-Wheat Pasta…Whole wheat spaghetti contains four grams of fiber per cup.

*****

 

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Fiber—The How?!

In order to get the fiber that each of us needs, it is important to eat a well-balanced diet that includes delicious whole foods that are naturally rich in fiber—such as fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains and nuts.

 

But before we take a look at what foods provide you with the most fiber, here are two important things to keep in mind…

  1. When starting a high-fiber diet, it is important that increase to the recommended amount of fiber in your diet slowly and gradually in order to give your body time to adapt. If you increase your fiber intake too quickly, you may experience a bloated feeling and abdominal cramps.
  2. It is also important that you drink plenty of water and non-caffeinated beverages, especially if you’re taking fiber supplements instead of getting your fiber through real foods, because supplements contain none of the liquids found in high-fiber foods.

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Now, let’s talk about food…one of my favorite topics…using the Raw Foods Pyramid as a guide.

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Leafy Greens…The bottom…no, make that the next to the bottom tier, if you count water as a “food”…is leafy greens. A good rule of thumb is to always choose the darkest colored greens because the darker the color, the higher the fiber and overall nutritional content.

  • Broccoli...Not exactly sure if broccoli counts as a leafy green or a vegetable, but one cup of broccoli contains 5.1 grams of fiber….making broccoli one of the highest fiber sources from the vegetable, or leafy green, food group.

 

 

Fruits and Vegetables…The second-to-the-bottom tier is the fruits and vegetables tier. This group is important because most fruits and vegetables are high in fibe

Now let’s take a look at a few of the better sources of fiber from the produce section…

But first a few tips about adding fruits and vegetables to your diet…

  1. As soon as you come back from your farmer’s market, grocery store, or wherever you buy your produce, go ahead and wash and cut the fruits and vegetables that you could eat for snack foods—such as carrots and celery, Keep these available in your fridge so that you always have a healthy snack to nibble on when those midnight hunger attacks happen.
  2. Choose recipes that feature the high-fiber ingredients shown on this list.
  3. Eat a piece of fruit for dessert.
  4. Eating whole fruits and vegetables, as opposed to drinking fruit or vegetable juice, allows you to get more fiber and at the same time get fewer calories. For example, one medium fresh orange contains about 3g of fiber and only 60 calories…An 8-ounce glass of orange juice contains almost no fiber and about 110 calories, while
  5. Keep the peel on. Peeling fruits—such as apples and pears—reduces the amount of fiber, as well as many other nutrients.
  6. Show them off. Make sure to keep your fruits and vegetables at eye level, where you can easily see them and are more likely to reach for them when sweet cravings kick in.
  • Apples…One medium apple, with the peel lefton, contains 4.4 grams of fiber.
  • Asian Pears…One medium Asian pears contains 9.9 grams of fiber…as well as  Vitamin C, vitamin K, omega-6 fatty acids, and potassium.
  • Avocado…One medium avocado contains 10.1 grams fiber per cup…as well as Vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, potassium. As we already saw in earlier posts, avocados are also packed with healthy fats that help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Remember that Florida avocados—the bright green, smooth-skinned variety—have significantly more insoluble fiber than California avocados–the smaller, darker and dimpled variety.
  • Banana…One banana has a little over 3 grams of fiber, as well as a high amount of potassium, an essential nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Blackberries…One cup of blackberries contains 7.6 grams of fiber—twice as much as other berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, as well as other important nutrients—such as Vitamin C, vitamin K, omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Coconut…One cup of coconut has 7.2 grams of fiber, four to six times the amount of fiber as oat bran—as well as other important nutrients such as manganese, omega-6 fatty acids, folate, and selenium.Coconut flour and coconut oil are two great ways to add healthy natural fiber to your diet. For most baking recipes, you can substitute up to 20 percent coconut flour for other flours.
  • Dried Figs…One-fourth of a cup of dried figs contains 3.7 grams of fiber. Each fig contains nearly one gram of fiber and about 20 calories.
  • Figs…One large fig contains 1.9 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as pantothenic acid, potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6. Because  figs have a nearly perfect balance between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, they are associated with lower blood pressure and protection against macular degeneration, in addition to the benefits of the fiber.
  • Oranges…One medium orange contains 3.1 grams of fiber.
  • Pears…One medium unpeeled pear contains 5.5 grams of fiber.
  • Pomegranate Seeds…The seeds in one half of a pomegranate contain 5.6 grams of fiber.
  • Raspberries…One cup of raspberries contains 8 grams of fiber, the highest amount of any fruit, as well as many other nutrients—such as  Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, and manganese.

Vegetables

  • Artichokes…One-half of a cup of artichoke hearts contains 4.8 grams of fiber. One medium artichoke contains 10.3 grams of fiber, which is nearly half of the recommend fiber intake for women and a third for men. Artichokes also contain other important nutrients—such as Vitamins A, C, E, B, K; potassium; calcium; magnesium; phosphorous.
  • Brussels Sprouts…One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 4 grams of fiber, as well as many other important nutrients—such as vitamins C, K, B1, B2, B6; folate, and manganese. As well as being one of the better high-fiber foods, Brussels sprouts also contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that support healthy detox and may reduce the risk of some types of cancer.
  • Butternut Squash…One cup of baked butternut squash contains 6.6 grams of fiber.
  • Canned Pumpkin…One half of a cup of canned pumpkin contains 3.6 grams of fiber.
  • Carrots…One cup of carrots contains 3.6 grams of fiber.
  • Okra…One-half of a cup of okay contains 2 grams of fiber, as well as many other important nutrients—such as Vitamins A, C, K; riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, and protein.
  • Parsnips…One cup of parsnips, a close relative of the carrot family, contains 7 grams of fiber.
  • Russet Potato…One medium Russet potato that has been baked with the skin still intact contains 4 grams of fiber.
  • Sweet Potato…One medium sweet potato baked with the skin still intact contains 3.8 grams of fiber and only 160 calories.
  • Turnips…One cup of turnips contains 3.1 grams of fiber, as well as other important nutrients—such as Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Getting Healthy

Fiber—The Why?!

  • Okay, now that we know what fiber is, why do we need fiber in the first place?

 

Fiber, especially soluble fiber, is important for many reasons, including…

 

1. Acne…Fiber—especially psyllium husk, a type of plant seed, can flush toxins out of your body, improving the health and appearance of your skin.

 

2.  Diabetes. A diet high in fiber—particularly insoluble fiber from cereals—can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes, eating soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar, regulate your blood sugar levels, and help lower cholesterol.

 

3.  Digestive System…Soluble fiber can also help treat many cases of constipation,

Fiber functions as a prebiotic, feeding the friendly bacteria in the intestine and shifting the balance of bacteria, increasing healthy bacteria, while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive problems

Fiber also provides bulk in the intestines, while helping balance the pH levels in the intestines. It promotes regular bowel movements and helps prevent or treat problems—such as constipation, diarrhea, diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestine), hemorrhoids, gallstones, kidney stones, irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disorder, and ulcers.

 

4.  Heart Disease…Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is an important element of any heart-healthy diet. Failing to get enough fiber in your diet will cause your digestive tract to not work efficiently or effectively (not sure which word should be used here)…which in turn could lead to high cholesterol levels and eventually heart disease.

 

5. Immunity and Risks…High-fiber diets may help lower your risk of certain diseases—including diverticulosis, irritable bowel syndrome, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

 

6.  Nutritional Value…Soluble fiber creates a gel in the digestive system because it bonds with fatty acids. This gel causes food to stay in your stomach for a longer amount of time, allowing for better absorption of nutrients.

 

7.  Obesity…Fiber is a key factor in both losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and helps us feel more satisfied with fewer calories.

Also, high-fiber foods—such as fruits and vegetables—tend to be low in calories.

Finally, because fiber works to regulate blood sugar levels, fiber can help you avoid insulin spikes that leave you feeling drained and craving unhealthy foods.