5 Big Fat Nutrition Lies (Part One)

Nutrition research is ongoing and therefore nutrition advice is constantly changing.  Mixed study results can be confusing and leave you wondering who and what to believe.  This is where registered dietitians (like myself) come in. We receive extensive training in research and stay current in order to provide our clients with high quality information that is grounded in science and evidence based. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, in magazines or see on TV- including Dr. Oz ! As with just about everything else in life, there are major politics involved with food. There are several big players in the food industry with a lot of money to spend on manipulating consumers. Please make sure your information is coming from validated sources – be skeptical!  To provide an example – the TV commercials that sing the praises of high fructose corn syrup saying it’s “natural” and “healthy” are funded by corn growers with an ulterior motive-money! My only motive is to improve your health. In fact, I believe it is the passion and expertise of every dietitian out there. With that being said, here are a few big time lies of mainstream nutrition that I want to take a moment to clear up:

Lie No. 1: Eggs are Unhealthy

Fact: Eggs are among the most nutritious foods in the world.  Eggs have been demonized for years because of their high cholesterol content. It used to be believed that a diet high in cholesterol would result in an increase in blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor in developing heart disease. Recently, however, it has been proven that dietary cholesterol does NOT contribute to increased cholesterol in the blood.  In fact, eggs in particular help raise the “good” cholesterol which is linked to a reduced risk of many diseases. Eggs absolutely do NOT cause high blood cholesterol or heart disease. What’s more? Eggs are insanely nutritious. They contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need. Each whole egg contains 7 grams of high quality protein, 5 grams of healthy fat, and a boat load of vitamins, minerals and important antioxidants. In fact, eggs are often called “nature’s multivitamin.”  Now go eat some eggs and feel good about it!

Lie No. 2: Low-fat Foods are Good for You

Fact: Low-fat foods are typically highly processed foods loaded with harmful substances.  Fat is flavor. When natural fat is removed from a food, it tastes terrible.  In order to compensate for lost flavor, manufacturers add sugar, artificial sweeteners and other unwanted additives that are harmful to our health.  Low-fat dairy (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt) can be an exception to this, but always, always, ALWAYS read your labels to be sure!  Use the guidelines in my blog post Identifying Hidden Sugar and opt for the full fat version if the low-fat food contains these or any other unwanted extras.

Lie No. 3: A Calorie is A Calorie

Fact: Not all calories are created equal. Many people believe that the only thing that matters when it comes to weight loss is calories in vs. calories out. This is simply not true. Different foods go through distinct metabolic pathways in the body and affect hunger, hormones and health differently. While calories do matter in weight loss, they aren’t the only things that matter. The types of foods we get our calories from are equally important. You will often hear me say “count nutrients, not calories.”

Lie No. 4: Vegetable Oils are Good for You

Fact: Most vegetable oils are highly processed and refined products, which lack in essential nutrients and pose several health risks. Vegetable oils include, but are not limited to: canola oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sunflower oil. Vegetable oils do not exist in nature, rather they are industrially made using harsh chemicals and toxins. They also tend to contain significant amounts of harmful trans fats. Several high quality studies suggest that the consumption of vegetable oil can raise the risk of both cancer and heart disease. But because vegetable oils are very inexpensive, the majority of food manufacturers and restaurants (who both prioritize profit over your health) use them in food preparation. This is yet another reason why I recommend avoiding processed food and eating at home as often as possible. Healthy and natural oil options are extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and avocado oil. Choose these to cook with at home.

Lie No. 5: You Can “Make Up” For a Bad Diet with Supplements

Fact: The majority of your nutrition needs to come from whole foods. The reason for this is because whole, healthy foods contain tens of thousands of phytochemicals, proteins, fiber, and fats that work together as a whole. This concept simply cannot be replicated into a pill or supplement form.  Supplements were designed to help close a nutritional gap and treat deficiencies – for instance someone who is lactose intolerant may need to take supplemental Calcium + Vitamin D or someone who is vegan should take Vitamin B12 to supplement their diet. The bottom line is that a poor diet made up of processed foods, refined sugar and grains CANNOT be counteracted with supplements. There are no short cuts here…eat whole, natural, nutrient dense foods.

These are 5 of MANY lies told by mainstream nutrition. Because I know this kind of information is easier to digest in small doses, I’m stopping here. I plan on following up with Part Two this week so stay tuned!

Avoid These 8 Common Dieting Mistakes

Do you feel like no matter what you do, you can’t seem to drop unwanted pounds? Despite your best intentions to lose weight, you may be sabotaging yourself with a number of dieting mistakes. Here are a few dieting don’ts that may be destroying your health and weight loss efforts:

1. Not Eating Enough

Don’t starve yourself or follow a “crash diet” out of desperation to lose weight quickly. This absolutely kills your metabolism and puts your body into starvation mode, which actually encourages it to hang on to more body fat and increases your chances of gaining weight back in the long run.

2. Drinking too Much

The average cocktail will cost you anywhere between 150 and 750 “empty” calories (aka calories unaccompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients). Alcohol also stimulates appetite and lowers inhibitions, which leads to overeating and unhealthy food choices. This can result in consuming hundreds of surplus calories.

The average person underestimates how often and how much they drink. Try challenging yourself to go 30 days without drinking or keep a diary of every time you do and you may surprise yourself! There are many ways to cut back on alcohol consumption. Make a conscious effort to limit yourself whether it be to only drink one night per week or to set a two drink maximum for yourself. The results can be dramatic and your liver will thank you! When you do choose to drink, avoid cocktails made with cream, simple syrup, sour mix, fruit juices, soda, and ice cream as these tend to be higher in sugar and calories.

3. Eating “Diet” Foods

This marketing hoax is one that makes my blood boil. “Diet” foods are bars, shakes, entrees, desserts and snacks that are packaged and marketed to the health conscious consumer as being “skinny” or low-calorie. Not only are these foods typically highly processed and packed with unwanted additives, they just aren’t filling or satisfying! And let’s face it, added sugar, dyes, and chemicals aside, 100 calories of cookies and crackers are of no value to us nutritionally. Instead of reaching for a tiny bag of processed snacks, focus on eating fresh, whole foods. Nature came up with convenient 100 calorie snacks far before food manufacturers did: fruits and vegetables. Not only are they low in calories, but they are high in water and fiber leaving you full and satisfied. They are also packed with valuable nutrients and are free of unwanted and artificial ingredients. An ounce of nuts, a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese are also good snack options. If that’s not enough motivation to ditch the “diet” foods, check out this fun fact: a study conducted in 2010 found that individuals burn about 50% MORE calories metabolizing whole foods versus processed foods.

4. Losing Track

You may stay on track at meal time, but there are many in between nibbles that can be easily forgotten: mindless snacking at your desk, grabbing one of the cupcakes brought in for a coworkers birthday, a lick of your daughters ice cream cone…it all adds up. Keep a diary to log all of the food you eat. Studies have shown that being conscious of what you’re consuming automatically helps you make healthier choices and consume fewer calories. There are several websites and smart phone apps that make keeping a food diary quite simple. My Fitness Pal is one app that I frequently recommend. If you choose to count calories and are unsure of what a realistic calorie goal should be for you, talk to a dietitian.

5. Skimping on Sleep

If you’re sleeping less than 5-6 hours per night you may be hurting your weight loss efforts. Insufficient sleep can slow your metabolism, cause undesirable hormonal changes and lead to eating more throughout the day. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

6. Avoiding Fat

Eating fat does NOT make you fat! I would hope by now that this concept has been hammered in, but I still hear my clients refer to “low-fat” this and “fat-free” that as the automatic healthier option. While fat does contain more calories per gram than protein and carbohydrates, that just makes it a denser source of energy. A small amount of fat can help you feel full whereas twice the number of calories in carbohydrate can leave you feeling empty. So stop fearing fat! Just pay attention to how much and what type of fat you eat. Avoid trans fats at all costs, but saturated fat from natural sources and unsaturated fats (mono- and poly-) are an essential part of a healthy diet. Keep in mind that fat = flavor. When an item is low-fat or fat-free it is typically loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients to compensate for flavor lost. Low-fat foods (like dairy) can still be part of a balanced diet, but make sure you read your labels to avoid unwanted additives.

7. Eating Out Often

Restaurants are in the business of making money, plain and simple. They often use lower quality and cheaper ingredients, specifically factory-made oils that are detrimental to our health. Although there are ways to make smarter decisions when ordering out, the bottom line is that you’re never really sure what‘s in the food you‘re eating. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing and ordering a salad, the dressing can be loaded with sugar and it‘s calories can far exceed that of a juicy one pound bacon cheeseburger. Focus on preparing your own meals and try to limit how often you eat away from home.

8. Wimpy Water Consumption  

Water is essential for burning calories. Drinking water can also help you manage your appetite. In fact, often times when an individual feels hungry, they are really just thirsty. Studies have also shown that drinking 1-2 glasses of water prior to a meal can help individuals consume fewer calories. Drink more water and avoid high calorie drinks like sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee drinks, juices, other sweetened beverages and soda (yes, even diet!). These offer nothing nutritionally and are empty calories that will not leave you feeling full at all. They are counterproductive to any and all of your health and weight loss efforts.

 

Take home message: Not all calories are created equal. Focus on making the right food choices rather than just eating the fewest amount of calories possible. Eat healthy fat. Avoid “diet” foods. Nourish your body with fresh, whole, minimally processed foods. Drink more water and less alcohol. Consume fewer soft drinks. Eat at home when possible. Exercise for wellness. Love yourself.

5 Reasons Red Cabbage Rocks

There is a reason why I encourage people to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. The distinct vibrant hues of fruits and vegetables indicate an abundance of various nutrients and health benefits they have to offer. The more colorful your diet, the bigger variety of nutrients in it and the wider range of health benefits you will receive. When it comes to cabbage, this concept is no different. The bright purple hue of red cabbage speaks to some of its most valuable health benefits:

Cancer Prevention

Red cabbage is very rich in phytonutrient antioxidants. These are what actually give cabbage its purple color. As you know, antioxidants help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Red cabbage is also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, which aide in the prevention of chronic inflammation, and therefore cancer. There are also nutrients called glucosinolates found in cabbage, which can be converted into compounds that prevent several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer, bladder cancer, and prostate cancer. The combination of ALL THREE of these cancer fighting compounds gives red cabbage a one-up on several other fruits and vegetables when it comes to cancer prevention.

Digestive Health

Glucosinolates, antioxidant polyphenols, and glutamine found in red cabbage provide health benefits for our stomach and digestive tract lining. Red cabbage is also high in insoluble fiber, which helps prevent constipation, lowers the risk of developing diverticular disease and helps relieve the symptoms of GI conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Weight Loss

Red cabbage (like most other fruits and vegetables) is high in dietary fiber and very low in calories.  Fiber is what helps you feel full and feeling full for less is always beneficial when trying to lose weight. Red cabbage is also very nutrient dense, providing a wealth of important vitamins and minerals at the expense of very few calories.

Lower Cholesterol

The ability of red cabbage to lower cholesterol has been proven scientifically in a number of studies. There is even a study that compares the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed cabbage with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine and red cabbage stands up!

Eye and Skin Health

Red Cabbage is an excellent source of Vitamin A, which is extremely important for maintaining eye health. Vitamin A can also prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. In addition to being beneficial to your eyes, Vitamin A is a godsend for your skin. It provides protection from sun damage and improves skin elasticity. The antioxidants in red cabbage also fight common signs of aging skin such as wrinkles and age spots by keeping your skin fresh, tight, and flexible.

My favorite way to enjoy red cabbage is in a fresh, crisp coleslaw. Recently I discovered this red cabbage slaw recipe with a tangy carrot ginger dressing to die for! Shout out to fellow food lover Nom Nom Paleo for this insanely good recipe.

Identifying Hidden Sugar

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There are 600,000 food items in the United States and 80% of them have added sugar. Yikes! Before we begin, take a look at the food label on your left. This is the actual Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list of a well-known breakfast bar.  The name of it alone leads consumers to believe it’s a seemingly healthy choice. Since we are talking about sugar today, go ahead and read this label and see if you can identify any sugar in this product.

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< Sugar always shows up here

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< but the ingredient list is where the cold hard facts are. Read the entire thing top to bottom and see if you can find sugar.

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Okay, what’s your verdict? Sugar-laden treat or seemingly healthy breakfast bar?

I counted sugar 9 TIMES on this ingredient label. (not to mention other chemical and artificial additives) 7  of the times that sugar was listed on this label, it was disguised under names unfamiliar to the average consumer. By the end of this post you will be able to identify sugar hidden in foods and my hope is that you will choose to avoid it!

If you didn’t already know, sugar consumption is a HUGE concern in the United States and according to research, here are 15 very good reasons why:

1. Sugar provides “empty calories” aka calories that are unaccompanied by vitamins, minerals, fiber and other important nutrients. This not only adds calories to your diet, but it leaves less room for healthier foods in your diet.

2. Sugar can suppress your immune system and decrease your ability to fight off infectious disease.

3. Sugar contributes to overweight and obesity.

4. Sugar can lead to an increase in bad cholesterol as well as a decrease in good cholesterol.

5. Sugar can increase your systolic blood pressure.

6. Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.

7. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of several cancers including lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, rectum, biliary tract, pancreatic, stomach and gallbladder.

8. Sugar can weaken eyesight and cause cataracts.

9. Sugar can cause premature aging.

10. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis.

11. Sugar causes many problems with the GI tract including indigestion, decreased nutrient absorption, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

12. High sugar intake can contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

13. Sugar increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, appendicitis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, gallstones, polio, gout, depression, yeast infections, food allergies, headaches and migraines.

14. Sugar can cause cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.

15. Sugar is addictive.

So if sugar is in 80% of the foods we eat…

How on Earth Can We Avoid It?

1. Sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas, fruit drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks are by far the biggest sources of added sugar in the average American’s diet. One can of soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar. This alone exceeds the daily recommendation for sugar intake. Do everything in your power to kick this habit! Drink water or unsweetened teas. La Croix or other flavored sparkling water is an excellent alternative to soda. You can also flavor water or sparkling water yourself with fruit or 100% fruit juice.

2. Sugar lurks in the obvious sweets such as donuts, pastries, cookies, cakes, pies, cobblers, ice cream and candy. Consume these products sparingly.

3. Sugars are added to foods during processing or preparation.  These are the sugars I want to talk about today because they show up in foods that the average consumer would never guess contain sugar.  Items like pasta sauces, salad dressings, dips, spreads, yogurt, cereals and granola bars are all common places to find added sugar.  The only way to avoid these is to READ YOUR LABELS!! Check the ingredients for sugar.

Unfortunately, as you saw in the food label above, there are many disguises for sugar in our foods. There are well over 50 words for “sugar” on ingredient labels, but they all fall into a few categories which make them easier to locate. Take a look at How to Identify Sugar:

Words ending in -ose

  • lactose
  • saccharose
  • dextrose, Anhydrous dextrose, or crystal dextrose
  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • fructose, fructose sweetener, or liquid fructose
  • galactose
  • maltose
  • pentose
  • xylose

Syrups

  • Syrup
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Rice syrup, ribose rice syrup, or rice syrup solids
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Raisin syrup

Sugars

  • Beet Sugar
  • Cane Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Coconut sugar, or coconut palm sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Palm sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Turbinado sugar

Words of or related to “cane”

  • Cane Crystals, or cane juice crystals
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice

Words of or related to “malt”

  • Maltodextrin
  • Rice malt
  • isomalt
  • malted barley
  • malts, or malt syrup

Words ending in -ol

  • carbitol
  • erythritol
  • glucitol
  • hexitol
  • inversol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • mannitol
  • glycerol (or glycerin)

Miscellaneaous

  • Corn sweetener
  • Dextrin
  • Fruit juice concentrate, or concentrated fruit juice
  • Nectars, agave nectar, peach nectar, or pear nectar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Treacle
  • diglycerides, disaccharides, or  fructooligosaccharides

Crazy isn’t it? Don’t let this list discourage you. Revisit the ingredient label at the top of this post and see if the hidden sugar stands out to you now.  The more you familiarize yourself with these names, the easier label reading will become. Still, the easiest way to avoid added sugar is to buy fresh, whole, natural foods that are minimally processed. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store and avoid the inner aisles.  Anything that is packaged or preserved and shelf stable is likely to have added sugar in it. Anything labeled low-fat or fat-free usually contains added sugars as well. Opt for the full fat version in this case- rather than the low-fat one that is loaded with sugars.

4 Tips for Health-Conscious Grocery Shopping

An exclusive look at the inside of a dietitians refrigerator! (And the produce pile in the corner of my kitchen) 

A few days ago I was asked to provide education for children and their families at a local supermarket as part of their annual health fair. I was excited about this opportunity because I believe a key part to following a healthy eating plan is learning to make smart food choices at the grocery store. I offer supermarket visits as a one-on-one service to my clients for this very reason. Although there is a lot of ground to cover at the supermarket, here are 4 basic tips for an all-around healthier shopping experience:

1. Don’t Shop Hungry

Make sure you eat something before heading to the grocery store. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to making unhealthy food choices and over-buying in general.

2. Make a List (and stick to it!)

Planning ahead is a key component to following a healthy eating plan. The same goes for having a successful shopping experience. Before you go shopping, take the time to plan your meals for the week. Sit down to make a list of all the things you need. Then, when you’re shopping try your best not to deviate from your list.  Buying items that were not pre-planned is what I like to call making impulse purchases. Impulse purchases are usually made in response to the very intentional product placement and marketing strategies of large food companies in supermarkets. They also tend to be less healthy choices.

3. Shop the Perimeter

Did you know you can hit all 5 major food groups by just shopping the boundary of most supermarkets? Most foods for a health-conscious eating plan like fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy and grains tend to be on the outer perimeter of supermarkets, so start there. Foods located on the shelves that line the inside of the store tend to be refined, highly processed and high in ingredients like sugar and chemical additives to enhance their appearance and shelf life. After perusing the perimeter, use your shopping list and visit only the aisles you need to balance your fresh choices.

4. Read Labels

Or better yet, buy foods that don’t even need one (like fresh produce)! When browsing packaged foods, take the extra time to read labels. Ignore what the front of the package says. The claims made on the front of any package are for marketing purposes only and can be very misleading to the average consumer. Instead, turn it over and read the ingredients. Choose products with few and simple ingredients. The first three ingredients listed make up the majority of the food so avoid foods that list any of the following as one of its first three ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, dextrose, fructose, maltose, sucrose, anything else that ends in -ose, MSG (monosodium glutamate) or partially hydrogenated oil-of any kind. Then look at the Nutrition Facts and compare nutrients using the % Daily Value to the right of the Nutrition Facts panel. Five percent or less means the product is low in that particular nutrient– try to aim low in sugar, trans fat, and sodium. Twenty percent or more is high – try to aim high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Aisle-by-Aisle Tips

  • Produce: buy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a lot of them! Try buying something in every color (this is a fun way to get kids involved)
  • Breads, Cereals, Pasta and Grains: opt for whole-grain and whole-wheat versions, choose cereals with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving and with whole-grain listed as its first ingredient, choose brown rice and quinoa and avoid pre-seasoned boxed rice and pasta dishes (*if kids won’t budge on their favorite sugary cereal, allow them to choose one box and have it occasionally as a treat or on Saturday mornings only)
  • Canned and Dry Foods: buy a variety of nuts and beans for an added source of protein and fiber; choose fruits canned in water or juice, not syrup; choose tuna canned in water instead of oil, choose low-sodium or no added salt versions; *remember fresh and frozen still tend to be better options
  • Dairy: eggs, milk, cottage cheese and yogurt can all be part of a balanced diet- choose Greek yogurt for twice as much protein as traditional and read yogurt ingredients to avoid added sugar (especially in low- or non-fat versions)
  • Meats: Choose lean meats like chicken and turkey (buy skinless), buy salmon or white fish to incorporate 1-2 times per week; choose bison or beef that is at least 85% lean and choose lean cuts of pork and beef like round, top sirloin and tenderloin
  • Freezer: choose frozen fruits and vegetables without sauce or added sugar; when purchasing frozen meats, avoid anything breaded or fried- also avoid meats with added sauce and make your own instead; choose frozen yogurt instead of ice cream
  • Snack foods: purchase sparingly; be weary of granola and “health” bars- always read the ingredients! Choose baked chips instead of traditional versions
  • Condiments: READ LABELS!! choose fruit preserves, jams, nut and seed butters without added sugar; always read ingredients on salad dressings as these are often loaded with sugar and chemical additives (especially in low-fat and fat-free options)- better yet opt for oil and vinegar or make your own dressings at home
  • Beverages: avoid soda (it is honestly one of the worst things you can put into your body), avoid sweetened beverages in general (like kool-aid, sweetened lemonades, coffee drinks, juice drinks and iced teas), choose 100% juice, unsweetened teas, or just drink water! Opt for teas and coffee for caffeine instead of high-sugar energy drinks

Take home message: always, always, ALWAYS read your food labels. It may sound petty and time-consuming, but commit yourself to it. Reading labels is the only way to truly know what you are putting into your body. Once you do this a few times, you will begin to identify with certain products and brands that meet the criteria you are looking for and your shopping trips will become much faster and easier, not to mention healthier!

How and Why You Should be Eating Artichoke

Artichoke has been recognized by the USDA for containing more antioxidants than any other vegetable. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, magnesium and chromium. Artichokes are also a good source of VItamin C, Vitamin A, folic acid, biotin, potassium, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and manganese. If that isn’t reason enough to indulge in this delicious vegetable, here are 4 more reasons you should be adding artichokes to your diet:

Healthy Liver Function

Artichokes have been used for years in alternative medicine to treat liver ailments. Antioxidants cynarin and silymarin found in artichokes help protect the liver against toxins and infection.  Studies have even found that they may help regenerate liver tissue that has been subjected to harmful toxins. Cynarin also boosts the release of bile (bile helps move toxins out of the liver) and therefore has the ability to improve the digestion of fats as well as improve conditions such as jaundice or even liver failure. Although it hasn’t been proven scientifically, artichokes have been rumored to treat alcohol-induced hangovers because of their positive effects on the liver.

Lower Cholesterol

Artichokes are high in antioxidants and fiber (one artichoke provides about 1/4 of recommended daily fiber intake). Many studies have shown cynarin and luteolinis found in artichoke leaves are effective in reducing LDL and total cholesterol levels and can decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Digestive Health

Research shows artichoke leaf extract can help improve the symptoms of dyspepsia (indigestion) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Also, as mentioned before, cynarin found in artichokes promotes the creation and release of bile in the liver, which can help us better absorb fats and fat soluble vitamins from the foods we eat.

Cancer Prevention

It’s high antioxidant concentration gives artichoke cancer-fighting properties. Specifically antioxidants quercetin, rutin and gallic acid have been known to prompt apoptosis, or cell death, thereby having the ability to decrease the spread of cancer cells.

Alright, now HOW on earth do you eat these things?

Most people consume the meaty “hearts” of artichokes, but it is actually the leaves of an artichoke that offer the majority of it’s health benefits. Luckily, there are ways to prepare an artichoke so that you can consume both.

If your only encounter with artichoke has been in the form of cheesy spinach and artichoke dip, then you’re missing out! When cooked right these vegetables are DELICIOUS on their own. Preparing and eating a whole artichoke may seem intimidating, but it’s really quite simple. When a whole, fresh artichoke is steamed, boiled or roasted you can pull off each individual leaf. At the bottom of each leaf, there is a tender meaty flesh that can be scraped off using your teeth. As you work your way to the center of the artichoke the leaves will have more “meat” on them and eventually you will be able to bite the whole bottom of the leaf off. The center of the artichoke, or the “heart” is entirely edible and a tasty reward at the end of all your leaf peeling.

My favorite way to prepare an artichoke:

Boil the whole artichoke for about 10 minutes. Remove the artichoke from the water and allow to cool or cool under cold running water. Then slice the artichoke in half length wise from the tip to the stem and remove the small flowery center using a spoon. (Be careful not to remove too much of the artichoke heart during this step). Grill the artichoke for 5-10 minutes on each side, or until the outside of the artichoke begins to brown. The charred flavor it gets from the grill is unbeatable. While grilling, I brush the artichoke with olive oil and garlic or a homemade garlic mayo, but you may season it however you like! Mmmm Mmmm (*expert tip: using lemon juice during preparation will help prevent your artichoke from turning brown, which is a natural reaction artichoke has when it is cut and exposed to air- you can boil it in lemon water, or simply squeeze lemon over it before cooking)

Enjoy!

Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

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Identified as one of our earliest remedies, apple cider vinegar has medicinal qualities that date back to Hippocrates. It’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties account for it’s many health benefits, but apple cider vinegar has been known to serve a variety of purposes including ones in beauty and housekeeping too.  Supported by both science and folk wisdom, Apple Cider Vinegar is rumored to cure everything from diabetes to dandruff. The following are some of the many benefits and uses of Apple Cider Vinegar:

Improve Skin appearance

The malic and lactic acids found in apple cider vinegar help balance the pH of your skin. They also soften and exfoliate your skin, reducing the appearance of blemishes.  This combined with it’s anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties gives apple cider vinegar the ability to help fade bruises and blemishes, clear acne, treat psoriasis, eczema, dandruff and dry skin. Simply apply apple cider vinegar to affected area using a cotton ball.

Fight Bacteria-related Illnesses

Most bacteria cannot survive in the acidic environment of Apple Cider Vinegar.  Adding 1-2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to warm water and drinking it can soothe a sore throat, clear a stuffy nose, treat bacteria-related diarrhea and soothe an upset stomach.

Prevent Indigestion & Treat Acid Reflux

1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in warm water before a trigger meal can help prevent indigestion. 1-2 teaspoons per day can treat acid reflux. (*fun fact: most people who suffer from acid reflux are prescribed an antacid, which reduces the production of acid in your stomach, but what most people don’t know is that you can suffer from acid reflux because of the opposite problem – you don’t have enough acid! so an antacid is actually making it worse. A squeeze of lemon or a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar each day could be a natural and alternative fix to your reflux problems)

Lose Weight

Apple Cider Vinegar contains acetic acid, which can help suppress your appetite, increase your metabolism  and reduce water retention; hence it’s valuable role in weight reduction. This should of course be balanced with a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Lower Cholesterol and High Blood Pressure

Several studies with rats have shown that apple cider vinegar can aide in lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. More research is being done to prove this is applicable to humans as well.

Control Blood Sugars

The acid in apple cider vinegar gives it an anti-glycemic effect. Several studies have linked the consumption of apple cider vinegar to reduced blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 Diabetes (who were not taking insulin).

Freshen Mouth

Using a swig of apple cider vinegar (diluted with water if preferred) as a mouth rinse can help control bad breath and whiten teeth.

My Favorite Way to reap the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar? In a morning cocktail!

FullSizeRender (9)Simply add the following ingredients into 8-10 oz of hot (almost boiling) water:

2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

2 shakes Cinnamon

1 Lemon wedge, squeezed

(*Optional: add 1 Tbsp honey to sweeten)

I have gotten in the habit of drinking this every morning, because I love the way it tastes. It is also the perfect energy and metabolism boost to start your day. The time you absolutely NEED to try this miracle health tonic though is when you wake up with a sore throat and you feel a cold coming on. This will soothe your sore throat almost immediately and help fight your cold too.  Enjoy!

3 Ingredient Chocolate Almond Truffles

I’ve been watching nutrition bars grow in popularity with what seems like dozens of new versions hitting the shelves (or at least my instagram page) by the week!  I think it’s great that nutrition bars are beginning to cater to smaller niches of the population who are following gluten-free, paleo and whole30 diets.  Also, in this day and age you simply cannot beat the convenience of a healthy grab-n-go snack.  The downside? Most of these bars are selling for roughly $2 a pop! Using ingredients we always keep in the kitchen, my husband and I decided to make our own. They turned out so rich and decadent we decided to rename them “truffles”.

Below is the recipe of our go-to favorite.  From here, I encourage you to have fun experimenting with different ingredients. Raisins, dates and other dried fruits become sticky when blended and act as the glue that holds these bites together, but beyond that the possibilities are truly endless. We have tried making these with several different combinations of nuts and nut butters and it’s always fun adding ingredients like coconut flakes, seeds or cinnamon for a new and different spin!

Ingredients:

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup raisins

4 Tbsp cocoa powder

Directions:

Put almonds and raisins into food processor for about 2 minutes or until ground fine (see picture below). Then add cocoa powder and pulse until well combined. Dump mixture onto a plate. One handful at a time, press mixture together forming 1-2″ balls.  Refrigerate for 1 hour to “set”. Enjoy!

Get the Facts on Trans Fats

My philosophy on food has always been to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible: minimally processed, whole, natural foods. As you may know, trans fats do not exist naturally: they are man-made. Trans fats are produced industrially when vegetable oils (which are already highly processed and chemically treated) are partially hydrogenated. Sounds harmless right? Nope! The bottom line is that there is nothing natural about trans fats. Our bodies do not recognize them or metabolize them properly, which makes them detrimental to our health. Health risks associated with the consumption of trans fats include, but are not limited to: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, an increased risk for coronary artery disease and the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

BUT I’m assuming that if you are reading this you haven’t been living under a rock and are aware of the health risks that trans fats pose. The reason I am writing this post is to inform you of something you may NOT know about trans fats:

You are most likely consuming trans fats without even knowing it!

dun dun dun

“But the box of crackers says ‘trans fat-free!’,” you say.  Am I trying to tell you those ‘trustworthy’ food manufacturers are deceiving you? Yes, that’s exactly what I am telling you.  For several years now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required food manufacturers to list trans fats on Nutrition Facts panels of their food products. HOWEVER there are thousands of foods on the market today that contain trans fats and can claim that they are “trans fat-free”.  How is this possible? In the United States, if food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, the Nutrition Facts panel can read 0 grams trans fat. In addition to the panel reading 0 grams trans fat, the manufacturer will most likely boast that their product is “trans fat-free” loud and proud in big bold letters on the front of its package so you can really be assured that you are purchasing a quality product (NOT!).

So how do you know if food that is claiming to be “trans fat-free” does in fact contain trans fats? Simple: read the ingredients.  For an example I snapped a picture of a Nutrition Facts panel on the back of a popular coffee creamer when I was at the supermarket yesterday. Side note: there is an entire wall of that stuff at the grocery store! They practically have an entire aisle dedicated to coffee creamer (and trans fats!). So if you take a look at this label, you will notice that there are 0 grams trans fats listed. Now before you jump up and down screaming  “Hooray! My beloved coffee creamer is trans fat free!” take a look at the ingredients. (I’m going to ignore the fact that the second ingredient is SUGAR which is an issue I’ll have to address another time.)  Now, take a look at the third ingredient/s: “Vegetable oil (high oleic soybean oil and/or partially hydrogenated soybean and/or partially hydrogenated cottonseed)” Any time partially hydrogenated oil – of ANY kind – is listed as an ingredient, the product contains trans fats. It’s as simple as that!

Many of you may be wondering: “Does less than 0.5 grams of trans fats really matter?” The answer is YES. This hidden trans fat can add up quickly, especially if you eat several servings of multiple foods containing less than 0.5 grams a serving.  For instance a serving size of coffee creamer is 1 Tbsp. I know several people who fill 1/3 of their mug with coffee creamer! A less than 0.5 gram trans fat containing snack cracker may have a serving size of 6 crackers. So if you eat half the box in one sitting, you better believe you are consuming a harmful amount of trans fats. Even though you will hear me (and most dietitians) preach “everything in moderation” it is truly best to avoid trans fats all together… at all costs.  The good news is that they ARE avoidable and I’ve just taught you how to avoid them!

Now that I’ve probably just ruined the one thing that gets many of you out of bed in the morning, let’s talk alternatives:  You can buy coffee that is already flavored: I have seen everything from hazelnut coffee to chocolate fudge caramel swirl brownie coffee. Drink your coffee black or switch to caffeinated tea. Flavor your coffee with coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk or cream. Add cinnamon, nutmeg or other spices and if you really can’t live without sweetened coffee creamer, there are coffee creamers on the market that are trans fat free. I know Nestle has a line called “natural bliss” because my mother-in-law uses it.

*tip: manufactured food products that often contain partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) are as follows: snack chips and crackers, microwave popcorn, fried foods, baked goods that contain shortening, baking mixes, ready-made frosting, refrigerated dough (cookies, biscuits, pizza crust, cinnamon rolls, etc), creamer, margarine and shortening.*

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE: ALWAYS READ INGREDIENTS and look for partially hydrogenated oil! If you find it, safely return the product to the shelf and walk away.

Coconut Crusted Tilapia

Easy does it. This recipe is almost impossible to screw up and takes less than ten minutes to make.  And let me tell you, it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I just devoured two 4 oz filets myself and my mouth is still watering just writing about it.

What you’ll need:

4 Tilapia filets (approx. 4 oz each)

1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut flour (you can substitute for another flour if you’d like)

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

4 Tbsp cup coconut oil

1 egg

1 Tbsp water

Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Set up a three bowl “breading station”: Bowl 1: place 1/2 cup coconut flour. Bowl 2: mix egg and 1Tbsp water using a whisk or fork until blended. Bowl (or plate) 3: Add the coconut flakes + 2 Tbsp coconut flour. (*tip: I purchase large flaked coconut, so I pulse my coconut flakes in my food processor for a few seconds prior to this step)

2. Take each piece of Tilapia through the breading process: One filet at a time, you will want to cover both sides of the Tilapia in flour, dip in egg wash and then press coconut topping onto both sides. Place breaded Tilapia on a plate until ready to cook.

3. Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan on medium-high. Place each Tilapia filet into the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side. Coconut crust should brown (if not, turn your heat up). Remove from pan and season with salt to taste.

4. Enjoy!