Category Archives: Nutrition

The Skinny On Alcohol

alcohol various

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram which is quite a lot considering that protein and carbohydrates only pack 4 calories per gram. When you take into consideration that most mixed cocktails contain juice, soda, or both, the calories add up fast.

What is a serving of alcohol?

A standard alcoholic drink is one that contains 0.6 fluid ounces or 14 grams of “pure” alcohol. This equates to:

  • 5 ounces of table wine
  • 12 ounces of a beer or wine cooler
  • 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits such as gin, whiskey, or vodka
  •  8 ounces of malt liquor

If you choose to drink alcohol you should do so in moderation. This means no more than 2 drinks a day for men, and one drink per day for women.  Anything over moderate consumption can be detrimental to your health. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), evidence shows that drinking alcohol increases the risk of liver, colon, rectal, breast, and esophageal cancers. 

The list below depicts the average amounts of calories found in common alcoholic drinks:

alcohol table

And A is for…Apple!

apples

I am sure almost all of you have heard the adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. I was curious to know where this phrase originated from, seeing that it is so common, and permeates through facets of various cultures.  My research led me reason to believe the proverb originated from Wales, where the earliest known example of its use in print was in 1866.

This version of the popular adage reads “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” I find it cheeky, extremely clever, and yet I couldn’t agree more. And here is why.

Let’s talk facts:

Just take a look at their nutritional value. Not only do they contain no cholesterol, or fat, and a negligible amount of sodium (0-2 mg per piece), they are low in calories (about 80 calories a piece) which constitutes only 4 % of the recommended caloric allowance for the day. Apples are also a good source of dietary fiber as they contain on average, 3 g of fiber, which is 13% of the recommended daily value.

Now let’s examine the benefits:

Weight loss

Since apples are filling and are low in calories, they can help promote weight loss if consumed as part of a healthy, balanced, diet. You can begin to incorporate them into your diet by simply substituting them with high fat, high sodium snacks. Also, since they are a great source of fiber, they will help you feel satiated longer.

Quercetin

Quercetin is another beneficial nutrient that is found in apples.  Quercetin belongs to a group of plant pigments known as flavonoids, which give many fruits, vegetables and flowers their color.  It functions as an antioxidant, scavenging free radicals in the body which damage cell membranes. As an antioxidant,  it has the potential to prevent many different types of cancer. It might also be effective in protecting against Alzheimer’s  Disease by combating free-radicals which are implicated in the disease.

Heart Health

Some of the fiber contained in an apple is in the form of pectin, which is a soluble fiber. Numerous studies have shown that soluble fiber has the ability to lower ‘bad cholesterol’ also known as LDL. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is notorious for clogging up arteries. Soluble fiber blocks the absorption of bad cholesterol, and triggers the liver to pull it from your body. In doing so, less cholesterol is left to accumulate in your arteries, which ultimately reduces your chances of developing coronary artery disease, heart attack or stroke.

Immune system

A medium-sized apple, which measures approximately 2.5 -3 inches across contains 8 mg of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that plays a significant role in strengthening the body’s defense against disease-causing germs.  Adequate consumption of Vitamin C will boost your body’s immune system, making you more resistant to infections, such as the common cold.

 Inflammation

The soluble fiber found in apple causes increased production of an anti-inflammatory protein called interleukin-4. These are ‘healing cells’ that help us to recover faster from infection by altering the composition of pro-inflammatory free radicals into healing anti-inflammatory cells. Supplementing a high fat diet with adequate amounts of soluble fiber is said to have a protective effect against inflammatory conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Conclusion

If taken literally, the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” means that as long as you consume an apple daily, you won’t fall ill. It would be wonderful if eating an apple daily could ward off every infection and disease possible wouldn’t it? Although apples cannot prevent all health problems from occurring, they provide a multitude of health benefits, and you definitely can’t go wrong by having one (or two) a day.

Milk Fat Percentages

milk

I’ve been asked quite a number of times by clients, about the differences between skim milk (fat-free milk, low-fat milk (1% milk), reduced-fat milk (2% milk), and whole milk.

The answer lies in the fat and caloric content. Whole milk has more fat and hence, more calories per serving than all the others. They each have the same amount of protein and nutrients.

Milk contains saturated fat, and consumption of too much saturated fat can lead to heart disease. Therefore, it is important for adults to choose milk with a lower fat content as often as possible. Toddlers on the other hand, benefit from drinking whole milk because they need the calories from fat for brain development and growth. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, you can switch your toddler to 2% milk or skim milk after the age of two. The reason being that they do not need the extra fat whole milk provides after this age.

Here is a breakdown of the amount of calories, fat, and saturated fat in a typical serving of various milk types.

milk table

 If you are trying to switch to a lower fat milk, it is best to do so gradually, as the difference in fat content provides a different mouth feel, which may make the switch hard to get used to. It is best to first try 2%, gradually switch to 1%, and eventually try skim.

 

Portion Size Vs. Serving Size

measuring spoon 1

Healthy eating involves choosing the right foods, especially in the right quantities. Most people have no problem with making decent food choices. However, when it comes to figuring out portion sizes, that’s another story.

As a society, the idea of “bigger is better” has been ingrained in our minds, and representations of this ideology can be seen in portion sizes offered at restaurants. These jumbo sized meals are multiple portions and an excess of calories offered in one sitting, making it more challenging for the average person to figure out what an actual serving size equates to.

Well how does one navigate this crazy world of oversized food portions? The first step would be to know the difference between a serving size and a portion size.  A serving size is a recommended standard measurement of food, while a portion is the amount of a specific food eaten, which can contain multiple servings. For example, bagels are often sold in sizes that constitute 2 servings, but most people often eat a portion size of two halves of the bagel under the impression that it is 1 serving size.

To overcome portion distortion, always check nutrition labels, and measure out portions of food so that you can become acquainted to what a serving size of that food item looks like.  You can check out the printable portion size guide here, which is an accurate visual representation of portion sizes of commonly eaten foods.

Here are some general guidelines for the number of recommended daily servings from each food group:

  • Grains : 6 ounces  a day
  • Vegetables: 2 ½ cups a day  
  • Fruit: 2 cups a day
  • Dairy: 3 cups a day
  • Lean meats and beans:  5 ½ ounces a day 

Once you start reading food labels, and in particular paying attention to portion sizes and serving sizes, you are much more likely to consume your calories wisely.

Quick Cooking Guide For Red Meats

Meat

The cut of the meat (the part of the animal from which the meat is derived from), should dictate the method of cooking.

  • Tender cuts of meat are derived from the least used muscles such as the loin and backbone. Examples are pork chop, which is gotten from the loin of the pig, and ribs.
  •  Medium tender meats come from the shoulder, and this cut of meat is known as the chuck.
  • Least tender meats are acquired from the most used muscles of the animal. Examples are flank, brisket, and bottom round.

Methods of cooking:

Meats can be cooked using either the dry heat or moist heat method.

Dry Heat Cooking:

In this process heat is transferred to the food item directly without using any moisture. This method of cooking should be used for tender cuts of meat typically located near the backbone, such as the loin and sirloin.  When using a dry heat method, do not add any liquids during the cooking process. Also, do not use a lid as this would cause steam to develop, and add moisture.

Examples of dry heat cooking are:

  • Frying
  • Broiling
  • Roasting
  • Grilling

Note: Overcooking will dry the meat and make it tougher.

Moist Heat Cooking:

This technique involves the transfer of heat to the food item using moisture such as through steam or water. It is best to use this method of cooking for less tender cuts with connective tissue. During this process, meats become tender through the conversion of collagen to gelatin.

Examples of moist heat cooking are:

  • Braising
  • Steaming
  • Simmering
  • Stewing

I hope you found this helpful. The next time you want to cook meat, consider the cut before choosing the method of preparation. 

Jump Start Your Morning With Breakfast

Berries cereal

Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day. Not only does it give your body a jolt of energy that enables you to function more efficiently, it also provides other health benefits.

Eating a healthy breakfast:

  • Helps manage and maintain your weight by reducing hunger throughout the day, and making you less likely to overcompensate with extra calories at lunch and dinner.
  • Keeps your metabolism revved up. Skipping meals switches your body into ‘conservation mode’, which slows your metabolism.
  • Can help improve your concentration and memory throughout the day.
  • Provides your body with adequate nutrients needed to function optimally. Missing out on breakfast short changes you on important nutrients.

Although it is important to eat breakfast, it is also just as important to be mindful of what you eat for breakfast. Add in whole grains for a high fiber, high energy boost. Go lean with protein, mix in fresh produce, and don’t forget the dairy.

Try some of the following:

  • Peanut butter and banana on whole grain bread
  • Granola and low-fat yogurt
  • Cereal with berries and plant based milk
  • Oatmeal with raisins and walnuts
  • Scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast
  • Breakfast smoothie
  • Greek yogurt and assorted fruit
  • Whole wheat English muffin with  a hard-boiled egg 

Looking for more breakfast ideas? Visit the breakfast recipe page for more variety.

NOT ALL FATS ARE CREATED EQUAL

healthy fat

Dietary fat is essential to your health because it provides the body with energy stores, promotes healthy cell function, and supports a number of body processes such as nutrient absorption, and nerve transmission.

However, not all fats are created equal. Some fats are less healthy than others, and it is important to recognize the difference between fats that can promote health and those that can be detrimental, so that you can choose healthier fats and consume them in moderation.

Saturated fats and trans fats are deemed ‘bad fats’ while Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the ‘good fats’.

Saturated fats:

  •  Comes mainly from animal sources
  • Raises total blood cholesterol levels and ‘bad cholesterol’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level
  • Can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease

Trans fats:

  • Made from partial hydrogenation of unsaturated fats
  • Increases ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL)
  • Also reduces ‘good cholesterol’ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels

fat table 1

Monounsaturated fats:

  •  Helps decrease the levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL) in your blood
  • Increases ‘good cholesterol’  (HDL) levels
  • Can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke

Polyunsaturated fats:

  • Improves blood  cholesterol levels
  • Promotes heart health and brain development
  • Examples are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids

fat table 2

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that the average individual should:

  • Keep total fat intake to 20-35% of calories
  • Limit saturated fats to less than 10% of your calories
  • Limit trans fats to 1% of calories

 

Much Ado About Tea

tea infusions

I’m an avid tea drinker, so much so that almost not a day goes by without having at least a cup full. (And by cupful I really mean a mug full).  See, my early introduction to tea began as a youngin’.  Lipton was a staple in my household.  And then there was Tetley. Bold, stern and dignified.

Growing up, coffee was definitely not an option as far as warm beverages were concerned.  However that did little to stop me from falling in love with its enticing aroma. And no, this post is not about the forbidden warm beverage which I didn’t get to try until I got into college.  That, I will talk about that in a later post. This post is of course about tea.

Now where was I?  Yes, Tea. Tea was always there. Embedded in an almost ritualistic form at mealtimes. Always comforting and warm and sensible and just, charming. However, even with that much awareness and association, I did not realize how fun and adventurous it could be until in my teens when I tried flavored tea. Suddenly, my taste buds were awakened by the zing of lemon infused with herbs, and Hibiscus infused with what have of you (You get the point, I’m sure). And thus my experimenting with different kinds and types of tea, began.

Fast forward to present day and I have an entire section of my kitchen cabinet dedicated to tea. There are just so many enticing flavors out there; coupled with genius packaging that is bound to pique your interest. Personally, whenever I go to the grocery store, I have to will myself not to walk through the tea aisle because it’s almost hard to resist purchasing something new.

Before I got to where I am now, a tea fanatic, I will take it upon myself to enlighten you about the different types of tea out there, and their health benefits.

All types of tea- white, green, oolong and black tea come from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis. Each type of tea has its own characteristics with regards taste, differing health benefits, and even different levels of caffeine which can be attributed to its degree of processing. Let’s explore each.

White Tea

White Tea is known to be the ‘purest’ of all teas. This is because it has undergone the least amount of processing.  It is derived from immature tea leaves that are picked right before the buds are fully developed. Due to this, they have the least amount of caffeine and are a good choice of tea for those that may be watching their caffeine intake. The result is a sweet, light and delicate flavor. Also, due to minimal processing, they contain more nutrients than their black or green counterparts.

  • The abundant antioxidants boost the immune system
  • It consists of flavonoids, a class of antioxidants which inhibit the growth of cancer cells and prevent the development of new ones
  • It has the most potent anti-cancer properties compared to other teas due to minimal processing
  • It contains catechins, an antioxidant that reduces ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL)
  • It promotes healthy, radiant skin

Black Tea

Black tea is made with fermented tea leaves and contains the highest caffeine levels out of all the teas.  Due to this characteristic, this type of tea is fitting for one who may be seeking a boost of energy. It serves as the backbone of blended and instant teas such as Chai and Earl Grey.  It is robust, with a strong flavor.

  • It provides an efficient energy boost
  • It contains flavonoids that promote cardiovascular health by preventing damage to artery walls
  • Polyphenols in tea seem to help in preventing the formation of potential carcinogens
  • It is composed of catechins which studies have shown to help suppress tumors
  • It aids digestion

Green Tea

Green tea originated in China, and it is processed in a variety of ways depending on the type of green tea being produced. It is unfermented, and the tea leaves are usually steamed or heated with dry heat which preserves most of the antioxidants. It has an earthy, bitter-sweet taste.

  •  Green tea extract can boost metabolism to help the body burn fat
  • It has been found to effectively lower levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the body
  • It contains antioxidants that are helpful for warding off aging and cellular damage
  • Green tea has been linked to reduce the risk of several types of cancer such as skin cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is partially fermented, with the taste deeply varied within its subgroup. Flavors span thick and woody to sweet and fruity. Greener oolongs will have less caffeine content and darker oolongs contain high caffeine content. It is full bodied with a flavorful fragrance.

  • It contains significant levels of fluoride, which  helps prevent against the formation of dental carries
  • It combats skin aging
  • It lowers levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL)
  • It aids digestion

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea is made from aged, fermented leaves. It is made either as loose leaf tea, but most commonly, the leaves are pressed into cakes. The process of fermenting the tea refines its flavor and character. It has a rich, dark, earthy flavor.

  • It contains high amounts of flavonoids, which are aggressive in lowering blood pressure and ‘bad cholesterol’ LDL
  • Studies have shown that this tea may decrease body mass and increase metabolism

Herbal Tea

Herbal teas are not ‘true teas’ because they are not made from the leaves of   the Camellia Sinensis plant which the aforementioned teas originate from.  It is sometimes referred to as tisane. Herbal teas can be broken into three categories: rooibos teas, mate teas, and herbal infusions.

Rooibos Tea

This also known as red tea, and is made from South African red bush. It has a high level of Vitamin C and antioxidants, and it is caffeine free. Rooibos teas aid digestion, and help to support your immune system.

Mate Tea

Mate tea is derived from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. It contains caffeine, so this type of tea is ideal for coffee lovers. It also consists of antioxidants, amino acids, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals. It supports cardiovascular health and it boosts the immune system.

Herbal Infusions

Herbal infusions are comprised of pure herbs, flowers, and fruits. Examples are Chamomile, which is purported to promote relaxation and Peppermint, which aids in digestion.

In conclusion, all types of tea have numerous benefits and are a healthy addition to any diet. It is my hope that you will become (1) just as passionately gaga about tea as I am or (2) incorporate it more into your diet.