Ingredients on the Blacklist

12 May

Rule: If you’re wondering whether to purchase a certain product in the grocery store, read the list of ingredients. If you can’t purchase everyone of those ingredients to re-create that same item- don’t purchase. I’m an ingredient reader and although my list could take up about three blogs, I’d like to share 5 ingredients that you should absolutely avoid.

Sodium Benzoate: A preservative used to prevent food from molding. In a lot of foods- salad dressings, sodas, juices, cake mixes, to name a few. When mixed with vitamin C, sodium benzoate turns into benzene, a known carcinogen and DNA damager. Studies are also showing it may cause hyperactivity in children. Used very often in the U.S., but banned as an ingredient in Europe.

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole ): Used frequently in processed foods that have a long shelf life to prevent food from spoiling. Although the FDA has it in the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) category, it has been shown to cause cancer in animals. So, whats it doing to humans? Check labels, if your consuming processed foods (number one- limit or cease that) your most likely taking in BHA.

Potassium Benzoate: A close cousin to sodium benzoate, it can form benzene, a carcinogen when combined with vitamin C, the ascorbic acid in juice and soda. Potassium benzoate shows up in places least expected like apple cider, low fat salad dressings, and jams. SO, once again, read labels.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): Chinese food put MSG on the map but it doesn’t stop there. MSG is regarded as safe in small quantities (but us Americans don’t know the meaning of small) but it does cause adverse reactions like increased appetite (something else Americans don’t need), sweating, rapid heartbeat, swelling, abdominal pain, and numbness. Enough said.

Hydrogenated oils: Hydrogenated oils have been linked to diabetes, coronary disease and obesity. Hydrogenated oils turns into trans fats. Trans fats increase the “LDL” bad cholesterol while decreasing the “HDL” the good cholesterol. That combination increases your risk for heart disease. The real problem is that if a food has less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, it’s not required to be on the label. And if you consume multiple serving sizes, the amount of trans fat you take in can rack up.

Simply put, avoid these harmful ingredients from ever being in your pantry — cook more and avoid processed foods.

Rise and Energize

19 Feb

If breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, why do one out of four adults skip it and one in six adults never eat it? In my practice, I’ve heard it all…not hungry, too lazy, no time, nothing in the house, not a morning person…sounds familiar?

Prior to my profession, I fell into the above no breakfast excuse category. Now, I am a proponent of breakfast. Not necessarily eggs benedict with a side of bacon, but a little something to get you going. Here’s why:

Break-the-Fast:  The word breakfast itself means to break the fast (from the night before). Skipping breakfast only slows the metabolism making it harder to shed those pounds. Fasting eventually puts the body in fat storage mode (not what we want with bikini season next in the seasonal line-up).

Eat more, weigh less:  Skipping breakfast only makes you more hungry at lunch (or before lunch, equaling mindless snacking), thus overeating and/or eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat. This is so very true (from personal experience and what I see in my office daily). Same theory for not going to the grocery store hungry.

Boost your mood: Eating in the morning improves your mood and may make you happier throughout the day. Going long periods without food (we all do this throughout the evening, during sleep) lowers your blood sugar which often has a negative effect on mood.

Increase Daily nutrients: Breakfast foods are excellent sources of nutrients such as calcium, iron, B- vitamins, fiber, and protein. Think about adding veggies to omelettes, whole grain cereals and steel cut oatmeal with berries and chopped nuts, or whole wheat toast with almond or peanut butter (my personal favorite- it’s perfect in terms of nutrition and as a bonus it’s quick when I’m rushing out of the house to get the kids to school).

Take two minutes to make breakfast or plan ahead the night before. Bring food to the office in the beginning of the week so your covered for the week. Eat a turkey sandwich if you’re not the breakfast type, but eat something! I refuse to believe you don’t have the time to coordinate breakfast yet the time to snack excessively.

White Hot Veggies

15 Oct

We certainly all know how important vegetables are in the diet (our parents have only been drilling it into our heads since we were kids). I’m no exception, I push them for my kids and clients as well. Vegetables, all kinds and colors, are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants.  (Just as a refresher, phytochemicals have protective or disease preventative properties and  antioxidants fight the pesky free radicals floating around in our bodies that contribute to numerous ailments and diseases).

Though colors like  green, red, and orange are often highlighted, the white vegetables have become the step-child. Studies show that we may be missing out.  Increasing the intake of white vegetables helps increase the intake of key nutrients (often lacking) in the diet like potassium, magnesium, and fiber….and it doesn’t stop there. Studies are finding that the white’s may help reduce the “bad” cholesterol promoting heart health and cancer protection.

Below are some of the more popular white vegetables I give the thumbs up to:

Cauliflower packs a punch with fiber, vitamins C & K, and glucosinates. May help boost immune system and lower inflammation levels protecting against cancer. I roast cauliflower at home and shave parmesan cheese just before serving. Big hit!

White Mushrooms may have multiple medicinal qualities by aiding in autoimmune disorders and improving immune defense. Their star nutrients are riboflavin, niacin, copper, vitamin D, and selenium. I make a mushroom soup with sautéed onions and shallots with vegetable stock. You would be surprised at how rich and creamy it is…without any of the cream!

White Potatoes have a bad reputation thanks to all the low carb diets. But in fact, they aid in cancer prevention and autoimmune  protection thanks to fiber (in the skin), riboflavin, niacin, selenium (an antioxidant), and vitamin D. Instead of forgoing potatoes, why not try eating one smaller than the size of a football.

Turnips, the less popular vegetable, have vitamin C (an antioxidant), fiber, and glucosinates. You can bake, steam, sauté, or mash them.

White Corn is my personal favorite. I love to grill it — brings out the sweet and smokey flavors. Aside from how great they taste, they contain a powerhouse combination of thiamine, folate, and vitamin B6. Corn may protect against heart disease and exhibits anti- inflammatory properties.

So, as a big Miami Heat fan (during basketball playoffs for the non-sports enthusiasts), go WHITE HOT…with your vegetables!

Evolutionary Eating

3 Jul

My Instagram blows up daily with photos of food. Lately, the hashtags are touting the latest “hunter-gatherer”  diet creations- chicken sausage with spinach and eggs, bef stews, filets with sauteed mushrooms and other animal proteins encompassing the majority of our 12″ dinner plates.

Ancient eating is certainly on the rise (mostly due to Crossfit- the gym concept that swept America faster than the Macarena).  The Caveman, Paleo, Stone Age, and Warrior diets are some of the most popular. Proponents believe that eating foods during Paleolithic era such as wild meats, fish, shellfish, nuts, vegetables (mostly root), and fruits is biologically and geneticaly how we should eat to bring us closer to optimal health, in terms of ideal body weight, and reduction in chronic diseases.

Is this just another diet d’jour? Or could there be some truth to evolutionary eating? Here are my thoughts.

caveman

The Industrial Era, including the introduction of refined foods, processed sugars, and fatty meats made a steep (negative) impact in the quality of our eating habits, compared to the minimally processed foods of our ancestors. Our ancestors also ate a wider variety of whole foods compared to our current highly processed (mostly corn) selections. I do believe that our bodies are not designed to process such low quality foods. Are the caveman diet lovers just loving the justification to eat more meat? It’s important to note that the meat of our ancestors were much lower in saturated fat and much leaner compared to todays feed lot, muscle lacking animals.

While I don’t fully condone the diet of our ancestors, we can take a few lessons regarding their diet pattern to incorporate into our modern diet. First, move more, much more (enough said). Second, there is enough evidence supporting a mostly plant based diet for better overall health (our ancient ancestors ate a wider variety of plants). Third, include more Omega 3 fatty acids (fish, nuts, seeds). Fourth, purchase grass fed meats. Lastly, avoid any and all processed foods – whole is the way to go.

Java Buzz

9 Mar

pantherHow about some morning coffee talk?  Scores of studies have investigated the health benefits of coffee and while none truly promote picking up the java habit (if you haven’t already), some certainly give java drinkers a reason to perk up. I’m a coffee

drinker- just one cup in the morning but it’s non-negotiable. Since it’s something I do religiously, I thought

I’d do a little research and blog about it.

One promising area of research is focused on coffee’s effect on type two-diabetes. Coffee seems to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the intestines slowing the progression and maybe even preventing the onset of diabetes.

The relationship between cancer and coffee is another important area of research. While there may be a negative effect on some cancers (leukemia and stomach) there seems to be a potential protective effect on liver, colon, and rectal cancer. Its been suggested that the rapid transit of coffee and fast passage of stool aids in eliminating carcinogens from food as well as bile acids.

Like green and black tea, coffee has its share of antioxidants that show promise towards protection against certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. (Antioxidants are components in food that protect cells from damage caused by oxidation). One study found that coffee may be the leading source of antioxidants in the American diet.  Not because it’s the best source of antioxidants, but because we’re drinking so much of it.

Nutritionally speaking, a coffee cup label would look like a bunch of zeros. No fat, calories (too little to mention), cholesterol, sodium, or carbohydrates. There are trace minerals in coffee, for example, potassium, magnesium, manganese, thiamin, and niacin, all essential in varying amounts.

Coffee today is a mere shadow of what we were once filling in our travel mugs. The specialty drinks we now call coffee are loaded with extras like excess sugar, cream (including whipped) and any of the plethora of syrups at your request. Often closing in at 500-700 calories (not to mention the saturated fat) per drink and negating any possible health benefits. Dieters beware.

Coffee has almost as many terms attached to it as eggs do. Fair trade-certified coffee ensures environment sustainability and that the farmers were paid fairly benefiting their community and local environment. Organic coffee is grown with out pesticide, herbicides or any other chemicals.  Shade grown coffee is grown under existing trees protecting the environment and uses little to no chemicals.

Before you set your coffee machine on a 24-hour auto drip remember that caffeine is not advised for pregnant women and caffeine may exacerbate the effect of certain medications. Check with your doctor.

Americans love affair with coffee may turn out to be beneficial, but it’s definitely not a health tonic, despite health claims. Feel free to enjoy your morning buzz, in moderation of course.

Zucchini Patty

24 Jan

1  15- oz can chickpeas (salt-free) drained and rinsed

1 cup plain whole wheat breadcrumbs

1 zucchini, grated (I recommend organic)

1 small red onion

1 egg, lightly whisked

1 tsp corse salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup low fat Greek yogurt- for dipping

1. Mash chickpeas in a bowl until smooth. Stir in breadcrumbs, zucchini, onion, egg, and salt. Form into small patties.

2. Saute the patties in olive oil until golden brown and crisp. 2-3 minutes per side.

3. Dip in yogurt

Per serving (2): 275 calories, 8 g fat, 26 mg cholesterol, 40 g carbs, 12 g protein, 8 g fiber

Meatless Mondays

24 Jan

The Meatless Monday movement is here. Forcing us to take stock in the notion that we may really be what we eat.

The Health benefits are numerous: reduce cancer risk, reduce heart disease, fight diabetes, curb the obesity epidemic, live longer, and improve overall health.

The environments benefits are staggering: Reduce carbon foot print - it’s estimated that the meat industry generates one fifth of the man-made green house emissions accelerating climate change. Minimize water usage - an estimated 1800-2500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef. Soy tofu produced in California requires 220 gallons of water per pound. Reduce fossil fuel dependence - it takes about 54 calories of fossil fuel to produce 1 calorie of protein from beef compared to 2 calories of fossil fuel from 1 calorie of protein from soy.

Los Angeles became the largest city to embrace the movement. If the spiritual home of the hamburger (In & Out Burger) and the health conscious fanatics can do it- we can all do it. No excuses.

Most of us end up cooking the same old reliables week after week. Performance anxiety prevents us from thinking outside the box to even give meatless Monday a try.  And NO, Meatless Mondays does not mean rice cakes and carrots.

And while we’re on the topic, not every meal needs to be laden with animal protein. Beans, tofu, quinoa offer lots of protein with out  the saturated fat. Plus most Americans consume double, even triple amount of their daily protein requirements (because our portions are too large).

A dietary overhall isn’t necessary- we’tre talking one day a week. Chefs generally don’t work Mondays, so eating out is sub-par, fish never arrives at the market on Mondays, so who wants to purchase days old fish, and you have most likely come off the weekend pushing the calorie-alcohol-splurge envelope.

Below are some of my house hold favs to get you started:

- Zucchini and garbanzo bean fritters along with a salad

- Roasted seasonal veggies with quinoa

- Tofu and asparagus stir fry

- Whole wheat pizza (you can even buy the dough at Whole Foods – all you have to do is roll it out)  topped with a little cheese and roasted or grilled veggies. Accompany with salad.

- Bean and corn whole wheat burrito with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and small portions of cheese.

*For recipes check out my recipe tab

 

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