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
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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?!

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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.

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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.

 

Getting Healthy

Fiber—The What?!

Another major nutrient that is missing from processed foods is fiber.

 

What is fiber?

Fiber is part of the cellular wall of  plant-based foods—specifically fruits, vegetables grains, nuts, and beans.

According to the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences in 2002, the recommended dietary for men aged fourteen to fifty is 38 grams of fiber per day, while women aged nineteen to fifty require 25 grams of fiber.

However, the typical American person on a typical American diet of primarily processed foods will not even come close to amounts.

Fiber comes in two varieties: insoluble and soluble.

Insoluble fiber is the bulky fiber that does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.

Soluble fiber does dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits—such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears. Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Note that there is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar.

 

 

Getting Dressed, Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Vegan Hair and Skin Care Ideas for Using The Rest of Your Avocados

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Okay, so now we’ve covered about twenty different ways to incorporate avocados into your daily diet, the reasons why you should add avocados to your family grocery list, and the choosing and care of avocados…

But wait…that’s not all…

 

Avocados and Skin Care…Avocados are good for your skin. Avocados are rich in nutrients—such as fat-soluble vitamins monounsaturated fats, various minerals, and essential fatty acids.Avocados have been shown to improve both the health and tone of your skin, as well as  eliminate signs of premature aging. Avocados are especially great for skin that is dry, chapped or damaged.

Many cosmetic manufacturers add avocado to their products for this reason, but given the fact that the avocados that you can purchase from your local grocer or market are relatively cheap, cruelty free, and contain no added synthetic chemicals, why not use real avocados to enjoy the real benefits of using what might be nature’s best moisturizer.

 

 

Avocado Body Scrub…Avocados can be easily paired with many different ingredients to make a healthy body scrub at home. Most of the following scrub ideas can be used not only in the shower as a body scrub, but also as a scrub or mask for your face, depending on the consistency of the second ingredient.

Here are a few ideas…

Almonds….1C smooshed avocado, 1/4C ground almonds…great for dry skin

Coconut…1C smooshed avocado, 1/4C grated avocado…great for healing scars

Coffee…1C smooshed avocado, 3Tbsp coffee granules…great for getting rid of stretch mark

Honey…1/2C smooshed avocado, 1/4C honey…great for dry skin

Lime…1/2 smooshed avocado, juice of 1 lemon, 1tsp baking soda…great for getting rid of tan lines

Oats…1C smooshed avocado, 1C oats…great for acne

Salt…1/2 smooshed avocado, 4Tbsp rock salt….great for exfoliating

Sugar...1C smooshed avocado, 4tsp sugar, 1tsp olive oil…great for acne

Yogurt…1C smooshed avocado, 1C plain Greek yogurt, 1Tbsp salt…great for moisturizing

 

 

Avocados and Hair…Avocados are also great for nourishing dry and damaged hair. The following avocado hair mask include smoothing and moisturizing your locks without weighing down fine hair, adding shine, and restoring natural luster to your hair.

Avocado Hair Mask…1/2 smooshed avocado, 1 egg, 2 drops peppermint essential oil, 2Tbsp olive oil

 

Getting Healthy

Avocados—The Even More “How”

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GuacamoleGuacamole, that traditional Mexican and Central American dip that we are all so familiar with, and that I could eat by the gallons, is another way to incorporate avocado in your diet. Here’s a great recipe to try…Vegetarian Guacamole Recipe by Jamie Oliver

 

Meals…For my non-vegan readers, avocados can be great meal starters. Fill avocado with tuna, shrimp, or chicken. Add avocado slices to hamburgers, tortas, hot dogs, and carne asada. Combine avocado with eggs to make scrambled eggs, tortillas, or omelettes.

These Vegan Enchiladas with Cilantro Avocado Cream Sauce from Oh She Glows have just been added to this week’s menu plan. In addition to serving the sauce over the enchiladas, you can also serve sauces such as this with chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

Pasta with Avocado SauceCook 18oz pasta according to directions. Blend together 1 garlic clove, 1/4C minced basil leaves, 1Tbsp lemon juice, 1Tbsp olive oil, dash pepper, dash lemon zest, 1 ripe avocado, 1Tbsp water, dash salt. Drain pasta. Serve sauce over pasta.

 

 

Salad…Avocados are best eaten along with other fruits and vegetables because avocados enhance the nutrients that are present in whatever fruits and vegetables you serve them with—at least tripling how well your body absorbs carotenoid, an antioxidant which helps protect the body against free radical damage.

Avocado Salad Recipe…Mix chopped onion, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and any other vegetables or meat you desire or that you have on hand. Add salt, pepper, lime juice, and drizzle olive oil over the salad. You may add

 

Salsa…Toss together 3 diced tomatoes, 2 diced avocados, 1 diced red bell pepper, ½ dicerd red onion, 1½C corn, 1 small can sliced black olives, 3 minced cloves garlic, ¼ of a finely diced jalapeno pepper, ¼C chopped cilantro or parsley, juice of one lemon, 1Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper. Refrigerate. Serve with whole grain or bean chips, tacos, burritos, or fresh veggies.

 

Sandwiches/Toast/Wraps…Avocado is a great vegetarian substitute for meat in sandwiches, as well as a better for mayonnaise in any sandwiches.

Avocado “Grilled Cheese” Sandwich…One great sandwich to try would be the following recipe for a vegan grilled “cheese” sandwich…

Lightly toast 2 slices of vegan whole wheat bread. Prepare the sandwich with 2Tbsp vegan mayo, 1/2 of a ripe avocado, 6 very thin slices of green bell pepper, 6 very thin slices of red onion, and 2tsp extra virgin olive oil. Brush sandwich with olive oil. Grill as you would a regular grilled cheese sandwich.

 

Smoothies...Avocado smoothies are a great breakfast treat or post-workout snack.great breakfast treat or post-workout snack. For the simplest avocado smoothie, blend together 1 whole avocado, 1C milk, 1C ice, 1⁄2tsp vanilla, and 2Tbsp sugar….using any milk or sugar substitutes that you choose (more on this later)

 

Soup…Any easy way to incorporate avocado into any other soup would be to use it as a garnish. This will add both flavor and health benefits.

Another option would be to try an avocado soup…such as this hot soup from Healing Tomato, or this cold soup from All Recipes.

 

Sushi…Avocado are akey ingredient in California rolls and other makizushi (“maki”, or rolled sushi). I’ve only tried making sushi once, but I’m seriously thinking about getting my sushi mats back out and trying this recipe from Plant Based U.

So with all these recipes on hand and both my interest and taste buds awakened, I have now added avocados to our family’s permanent grocery list. Not only will these avocado recipes make a filling addition to our future meals and snacks, they will also provide ourfamily with nutritious heart-healthy fats, fiber, folate, vitamin A, potassium and more.

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Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Avocado—The Why?!

  • Antioxidant phytochemicals (such as beta-sitosterol, glutathione and lutein) — To help protect against various diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts, it’s a good idea to eat a diet rich in phytochemicals like avocados. Antioxidant phytochemicals prevent oxidative damage (also called free radicals) that have the power to change DNA and result in cell mutations….
  • Folate — Because of its high supply of the crucial nutrient folate,
    avocado benefits include preventing certain birth defects like spinal bifida and neural tube defects. Research has even suggested that folate-rich foods can help prevent strokes!…Phytonutrients (polyphenols and flavonoids) —
  • Anti-inflammatory compounds like phytonutrients are key to reducing the risk of inflammatory and degenerative disorders that can affect every part of the body — including joints, the heart, brain, internal organ systems, skin and connective tissue.
  • Avocados are a high-antioxidant food that contain lutein, a type of carotenoid that protects eye health and preserves healthy, youthful looking skin and hair. Carotenoids are the group of antioxidant phytochemicals found in veggies like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes that are known for blocking the effects of environmental toxins like pollution and UV light damage….Research shows that dietary carotenoids provide health benefits related to decreasing the risk of diseases, particularly certain cancers of the skin and age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration. (8) Lutein appears to be beneficial for eye disease prevention because it absorbs the type of damaging blue light rays that enter the eyes and skin, changing DNA and causing free radical damage. Research also shows that adding avocado to a meal helps further carotenoid absorption.
  • As you now know, avocados are one of the best fruit sources of fiber. Depending on the size of the avocado, one whole fruit has between 11–17 grams of fiber! That’s more than nearly any other fruit and most servings of vegetables, grains and beans too. High-fiber foods are important for anyone with digestive tract issue because fiber helps shift the balance of bacteria in the gut, increasing healthy bacteria while decreasing the unhealthy bacteria that can be the root of some digestive disorders. Fiber also helps add bulk to stool, makes it easier to go to the bathroom, and helps pull waste and toxins through the intestines and colon.

 

 

One of my goals in this “What Now” section is to begin looking at nutrition labels as an informed consumer, so that that deciding which foods to add and which foods to eliminate from my family Grocery IQ app will be much easier.

I have even made a commitment to actually at least glance at the nutrition labels before actually tossing stuff into my cart, or letting the “resident four year old” do so.

Getting into the habit of always checking the nutritional label, as well as thinking about foods in a way that corresponds to these labels as I plan our grocery lists, will hopefully help me not only make smarter food choices now while I am learning about developing healthier lifestyle, but also make shopping for groceries easier and quicker further along this journey.

But first of all, I need to know what the heck I’m looking at and how to use this information.

So let’s take a quick run-through of the elements that make up the nutrition label, and how this applies to our first added food—the avocado.

1. The Serving Size…The first thing to consider when starting to weed out your pantry or fridge in the game called “What Not to Eat” is the “Serving Size.”
Serving Size cannot be ignored…sad, but true…

Knowing all of the nutritional value in the Serving Size given on the actual package does not do a bit of good if you’re not actually eating the size that they supposedly tell you that you’re supposed to be eating. If you eat the whole entire box of Cap’N Crunch cereal, you have obviously eaten way more calories than the number of calories that they had expected you to have eaten. And not only have you eaten way more calories, you have also jacked up all those other supposedly important nutrient numbers also…

The recommended serving size of an avocado is smaller than you’d expect. One medium avocado is actually considered to be five different servings.

2. Calories…Calories provide a measure of how much energy you get from a serving of this food. Needless to say, far too many Americans consume way more calories than they could ever actually need. Yet they hardly ever even come close to meeting the “official” recommended intakes for the many different nutrients that our bodies need.
As a general reference for looking at calorie content when looking at a Nutrition Facts label, remember that…

  • Any food item containing somewhere around forty calories is considered to be a low-calorie food item.
  • Any food item containing somewhere around a hundred calories is considered to be “average” or moderate.
  • Any food item containing four hundred calories or more is considered a high-calorie food item.

Avocados have a lot of calories. One serving, which is only one-fifth of the typically-sized avocado, has about fifty calories…meaning that if you just ate the entire avocado, you just ate 250 calories.

3. “Limit These” Nutrients…The next section of the nutrition label details the specific nutrients contained in the food item.

The actual specific nutrients listed first are those nutrients that all of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These are shown as a percentage, showing what percentage of the amount of the recommended nutrients that food item contributes to your daily diet.
The nutrients included in this section are carbohydrates, fat, protein, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

a. Carbohydrates...Each day we should strive to eat 300 grams of carbs. One serving of avocado contains three grams on carbohydrates.

b. Fats…No daily recommendation has been formally established by the FDA at this point, so your main goal is to limit “bad” fats and get enough “good” fats…One serving of avocado contains a total of 4.5 grams fat—1 gram “bad” fat, and 3.5 grams of the “good” monounsaturated fat. Avocados and avocado oil are some of the richest sources of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) in the world. These monounsaturated fats have been shown to reverse insulin resistance and regulate blood sugar levels.

Avocados also contain oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that can improve memory and brain activity. Oleic acid in turn helps the body with carotenoid absorption.

c. Protein…Avocados having the highest protein content of any fruit,

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.

d.  Sugar…No set-in-stone daily value has actually been established for sugar either, but obviously it’s important to limit the amount of sugar you consume each day.

The amount of sugar shown will include both any naturally-occurring sugar and those sugars actually added to a food or drink. Check the ingredient list for specifics on added sugars…

Avocados have the lowest sugar content of any fruit, including a very low amount of fructose.

Also, the type of sugar contained in avocado is a specific 7-carbon sugar, which is a relatively rare form of sugar that inhibit the enzyme hexokinase. In newbie-nutrition-nerd language, this fact means that avocados control the way that our bodies process glucose, and as a result protecting the overall health of diabetics.

4.  “Get Enough of These” Nutrients…The nutrients listed next are those nutrients that hardly any of us generally eat in adequate amounts. These nutrients include fiber, vitamins,

a.  Fiber…The recommended daily amount of fiber that each of us should be eating each day is 25 grams.

Fiber helps keep the digestive system running smoothly—bulking up stools, ensuring the smooth passage of food through the intestinal tract, stimulating gastric and digestive juices so nutrients are absorbed in the most efficient and rapid way, promoting healthy bowel function, and reducing the symptoms from conditions like constipation and diarrhea.

Avocados contain more soluble fiber than most foods and help stabilize blood sugar levels, facilitate proper bowel regularity, and maintain proper weight control.

Avocados supply 40% of the daily requirement of fiber per serving, making them a very smart choice for optimizing your digestive health.

Not only that, eating avocados also helps prevent bad breath.

b.  Vitamins…Avocados are a good source of many important vitamins, including vitamins C, B6, B-12, A, D, K, and E—such as 4% of the recommended amount of vitamin C and 6% of the recommended amount of vitamin E.

Vitamin B is important for helping to fight and avoid diseases and infections. For example, pregnant women can avoid the nausea and queasiness of morning sickness by making sure that they get enough Vitamin B6.

Vitamin K…It is important that pregnant women get enough vitamin K in order to prevent vitamin K deficiency-related bleeding (VKDB), a bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in vitamin K that is sometimes seen in newborn babies whose mothers have not taken in enough vitamin K while they were pregnant. Avocados contain a very high amount of vitamin K—almost 40% of the daily requirement per serving.

Minerals…Avocados are also a great source of many essential—such as calcium, copper,  phosphorous, selenium, and zinc—all of which help to improve the density of your bones and lower your risk of getting osteoporosis.

  • Calcium...The recommended daily value for calcium is 1,000mg.
  • Copper…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, copper also strengthens your blood vessels, helps keep your nerves healthy, and boosts your immune system.
  • Folate…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, folate also boosts brain function, and is crucial for cell repair and during pregnancy. Avocados provide 10%DV for folate..
  • IronAvocados provide 2%DV for iron.
  • Potassium…In addition to helping to strengthen your bone density, potassium helps relax your blood vessels and arteries and reduces your risk of circulatory problems—such as blood clotting, heart attacks, hypertension, high blood pressure, strokes. Avocados provide 6%DV of potassium. You would need to eat two bananas to meet the potassium content in just one whole avocado.

Finally avocados prove to be a great source of organic compounds—such as antioxidants, phytosterols, carotenoids, and flavonoids.

a.  AntioxidantsAntioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism. This is important because free radicals are responsible for dozens of serious conditions in the body—including cancer, cardiovascular disease, vision problems, premature aging, and cognitive disorders.

  • Lutein…Lutein prevents problems with your eyes—such as cataracts, eye diseases related to age, and macular degeneration. Lutein also reduce your risk of cartilage defects—such as osteoarthritis).
  • Xanthophyll…Xanthophyll is an antioxidant which studies have shown could possibly help to decrease signs of the aging process on various parts of your body.

b.  CarotenoidsCarotenoids are chemical compounds that give certain fruits and vegetables their bright yellow, orange or red color. Carotenoid benefits include lowering inflammation, promoting healthy growth and development, and boosting immunity, among others. Beta-carotene is one of the most common carotenoids.

c. Flavonoids…Avocados contain antibacterial flavonoids, which help kill bacteria in your mouth that can result in bad breath.

  • improved heart health, hormone balance, better digestive health
Getting Healthy

Facing the Facts and Fiction on Fats

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Despite the common misconception that all fat is bad for you and that fat should be eliminated completely our of our diets, our bodies actually require fat in order to stay healthy.

Fat is actually an important nutrient in a healthy diet, just like protein and carbohydrates.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a diet rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids—the healthy  fats—can help reduce the risk of getting heart disease, the most common cause of death in Western countries today, and also lower both your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

 

Actually when choosing diet to keep or ditch in our diets, not only must we ask “How much fat does a particular food item contain,” but also “What kind of fat does this food item contain?” 

Rather than adopting a low-fat diet, it’s more important to focus on limiting harmful “bad” fats and eating more beneficial “good” fats. This is because “bad” fats increase your risk of certain diseases…while “good” fats can protect your brain and heart health, help you manage your mood, help you stay on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, boost your energy and well-being, help you manage your weight, lower your cholesterol levels, and help your body absorb vitamins.

There are four different types of fat…

  1. Trans fatty acid
  2. Saturated fats
  3. Unsaturated fats 
  4. Omega-3

The first two types of fat—trans fatty acids and saturated fats—are the dangerous type of fat you don’t want in your diet because these fats increase your levels of LDL while decreasing your levels of HDL (more on this to come later), cause you to gain weight, clog your arteries, and affect your health in many other ways also.

  • Good sources of the “good” types of fat that you should think about incorporating into your diet include
  • Avocados
  • Butter—grass-fed butter, ghee (clarified butter).
  • Fatty fish—salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines
  • Fish oil
  • Flax
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews)
  • Oils…olive, canola, peanut, cold-pressed coconut, sesame, soybean and safflower
  • Olives
  • Peanut butter
  • Seeds—sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Soymilk
  • Tofu
  • Walnuts

The last two types of fat—unsaturated fats and Omega-3—can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, lower your levels of LDL while increasing your levels of HDL, prevent abnormal heart rhythms, lower triglycerides associated with heart disease and fight inflammation, lower blood pressure, prevent hardening of the arteries. These fats may also help to make you feel more satisfied after a meal, reducing hunger and thus promoting weight loss.

Sources of these “bad” fats that you should eliminate from your diet include…

  • Anything containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Butter
  • Commercially-baked pastries, cookies, doughnuts, muffins, cakes, pizza dough
  • Fried foods
  • Ice cream
  • Packaged snack foods—crackers, microwave popcorn, chips
  • Red meat
  • Stick margarine
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Whole-fat dairy products

More tips for adding more healthy fats to your diet

  • Aim for a diet rich in a variety of vegetables, fruit, nuts, and beans
  • Consume dairy products in moderation
  • Eat fried or processed meals only occasionally
  • Eat more avocados—such as avocado sandwiches, salads, and guacamole
  • Eat more nuts—such as adding ing nuts to vegetable dishes, using them instead of breadcrumbs on chicken or fish, or making your own trail mix
  • Eat more olives—tapenade, dips
  • Eat two or more servings of fatty fish each week
  • Learn more about following a “Mediterranean diet”
  • Limit how much red meat you put on the menu
  • Make your own salad dressings
  • Substitute beans, nuts, poultry, and fish for the red meat that you just crossed off your grocery list
  • Switch from whole milk dairy to lower fat versions.
  • Use canola oil for baking
  • Use olive oil for stovetop cooking…rather than butter, stick margarine, or lard