Brown vs White. The Rice Debate

 

So, which one should you eat? Brown or white rice? The quick and dirty answer? Whichever one you prefer the taste of and it works best for you. Seriously.  There are pros and cons to both of them.

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Brown or White? Which is the better choice?

I can hear the protesting now. But wait a hot second! Isn’t brown rice healthier?! No way, white is healthier, brown rice has arsenic! Hold on, white rice causes diabetes! But brown rice pokes holes in your intestines!

If you want the more in depth answer, then keep on reading.

But wait a second, brown rice is the healthier choice. Right?

Brown rice is a whole grain. With white rice the bran and germ have been removed.  Many nutrients are found in the bran and the germ (other things are also found in the bran and germ, but we’ll get to that in a bit).  When you line them up side by side, brown rice does have a smidge more macronutrients then white. However, white rice is higher in some micronutrients too.

Brown Rice Vs White Rice

based of info from nutritiondata.com

Brown rice is higher in niacin, B6, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. While white rice has more thiamin, folate and iron. Brown rice also has a more fiber and a bit more fat then white.

Hold up! But I read that brown rice has arsenic in it!

Sadly, yes. In 2010 and then again in 2014, consumer reports tested 60 different varieties of rice and rice based products.  They found measurable levels of inorganic arsenic in almost everything they tested (To read their original report go here)

Arsenic is a heavy metal that is toxic. Long term exposure may increase risk for chronic diseases.  Regular exposure to small amounts of arsenic increase your risk for multiple different cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  While arsenic is naturally occurring in nature, it is believed that we are seeing an increase in our food supply due to pollution.

Not all rice is the same. Brown rice has 80% more inorganic arsenic then white rice. While white basmati and white sushi rice have the lowest amounts.  Interestingly, white rice from California, India or Pakistan is the lowest, with 38% less arsenic then the same type grown elsewhere.  Any type of rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas has the highest amounts of arsenic.

If you are eating rice often, are pregnant or are feeding a small child, this is something to keep in mind. (FYI, babies should not eat more than 1 serving rice cereal per day and children under 5 should not drink rice milks instead of dairy milk due to the unsafe amounts of arsenic. Just one rice cake, has a child’s weekly limit of arsenic in it).

If you are just consuming white Basmati or sushi rice, you are safe to eat one serving per day. However, keep in mind if you also consume any  rice based pastas, rice cakes, rice cereals and rice based baking mixes as those contain arsenic, too.

The good news is, they have found that rinsing the rice very thoroughly before cooking it, and cooking it with a much higher water to rice ratio helps to reduce the amount of arsenic. (The recommended amount is 6 cups water to 1 cup rice, and draining the excess water off once the rice is cooked)

But doesn’t white rice cause diabetes?

There is a study that found those who eat 5 or more servings white rice a week may have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. [1] Keep in mind that is 5 or more servings a week, and these studies did not account for lifestyle or other food choices. Over consuming any carbohydrate will increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. 

The same study also noted that people who consumed white rice were more likely to have a family history of diabetes and those who consumed more brown rice were more likely to live a healthier lifestyle.

Doesn’t white rice cause your insulin to spike?

Some foods can cause our blood sugar to rise very fast.  This is measured by the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a number, from 0 to 100, and it is based on how fast that food will raise your blood sugar after eating. The higher the number the faster it will cause your blood sugar to rise.  Brown rice has a glycemic index of 50 while white has one of 72.

The glycemic index is not a marker of how healthy a food is, just is effects on blood sugar.  For example, pizza has a very low index number, but that does not automatically make it a healthy food choice. When you also consume fat or protein along with the rice, that will lower the GI index slightly.

The glycemic index can be important tool not only for those who are trying to control their blood sugar but also for those who are very serious about their workout nutrition.  It can be, slightly, more advantageous to consume high glycemic index carbs in the 2 hours following a strenuous workout.  The high GI carbs cause a spike in insulin which both decreases muscle breakdown and increases protein synthesis.  This is why many tout white rice a a perfect after workout carb source.

White Rice

White rice does have a high glycemic index, which can make is a great post workout carb source.

I read on the internet that brown rice is bad for you because it pokes holes in your gut and causes all kind of diseases??

Well, yes, no and maybe. First quick background.  Our intestines are supposed to have some permeability.  That way nutrients can pass to our blood supply.  Sometimes things go wrong and our gut allows things that it supposed to be keeping out cross. You’ll hear this referred to as leaky guy or increased gut permeability or intestinal hyperpermeabilty.

Leaky gut has been linked to food sensitivities, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, autism, skin conditions, and thyroid problems.  Leaky gut is not an official medical diagnosis.  They are only starting to study it and understand it. However, just because there is lack of research and evidence does not mean it does not exist.

Back to brown rice. Brown rice contains lectins. Lectins are a type of protein that we are unable to digest.  Since we cannot digest them, they damage the lining of our GI tract as they pass through.  Now keep in mind all food damages our GI tract as it passes.  Normally our bodies repair the damage fairly quickly.  With lectins, however, this process may be slowed.

With repeated over exposure (key words here repeated over exposure!) many believe this can lead to increased permeability.

Keep in mind lectins are also found in many other foods like dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shell fish.  The good news is the effects of these lectins on our GI tract lasts only as long as they are in the body.

In the end, really only people with autoimmune issues or digestive issues really need to be concerned with the amount of lectins they are consuming.

Rice can be part of a healthy diet.  Special populations may need to choose wisely though.

  • Those who consume a lot of rice based products (like rice based pastas, cereal and baking mixes) should look into white basmati and sushi rice grown in California.
  • Those who are at risk of developing type II diabetes or attempting to lose weight would do best to limit their carbohydrate intake all together and choose brown rice when acceptable.
  • Those hoping to gain muscle mass with no other health issues, can choose as they wish.
  • Those with autoimmune conditions or GI disease may need to limit their intake of brown rice.

For everyone else, weigh your options and pick as you wish.

 

 

References

A., P. (1993, Oct). Dietary lectins are metabolic signals for the gut and modulate immune and hormone functions. Eur j Clin Nutr. , 47(10), 691-9.

Dr. Qi Sun, M. S. (2010, Jun). White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women. Arch Intern Med., 961-969.

Vasconcelos IM, O. J. (2004, Sept). Antinutritional properties of plant lectins. Toxicon, 44(4), 385-403.

 

BrownRice

Is This Food a Carb, a Protein or a Fat?

How to tell what the major macronutrient of a food is.

Eat more carbs in the morning. Eat more protein. Eat less fat after a workout.  How many times have you heard dietary advice like that?  The problem is when you do not know which foods are high in carbs, protein or fat.

Knowing which macronutrient is the main constituent of a food is imperative when trying to follow dietary advice. (A macronutrient, also referred to as macro, is either fat, carbohydrate or protein)

You may think you know the answers, but what about foods like nuts, beans and even eggs?  Would you say they are a high protein food?  Here’s the thing, they are not.

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Salty crunchy roasted garbanzo beans are a legume, but are the considered a high protein food?

The first step to figuring the main macronutrient of a food is to read the label. Or if it doesn’t have a label, look it up online. This is my favorite site here.  Whatever the highest macronutrient is your answer.   This tip will work majority of the time, but not all the time.  There are some foods that need to be considered “mixed”.

To better understand what I am talking about here is a very brief lessons carbohydrate, fat and protein. I’ll break down each one, tell what their serving size is and give an example of some common foods that fit into each category.

Fat

Every gram of fat provides 9 calories. Each molecule of fat is made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms, joined together in long chain.  There are 3 main different types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  There is more information on fat in this article. One serving of a fat is generally 1-2 Tb or 1-2 thumb sized servings.

Typical Fat foods:
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Oils
  • Avocado
  • Olives
Carbohydrates

Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories. Carbs are made up of a carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecule.  Structurally there are 2 types, simple and complex.  Simple carbs are smaller, made up of only 1 or 2 sugar molecules.  Complex carbs are more than 2 sugar molecules.  While each type has a different effect on the body, ALL CARBS we eat are digested into simple sugars.  A typical serving size of carb food varies from one cupped hand (approximately ½ cup) to 2 fists (2 cups) depending on the person and the type of carb.

Typical carb foods
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Rice
  • Pastas/bread
  • Barley
  • Amaranth
  • corn
  • Starchy vegetables: yams, sweet potatoes, white potatoes
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Pancakes
  • Cereal
  • Crackers/pretzels
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit drinks/Soda
Protein

Protein is a molecule made up of amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks for our body. There are 2 types of amino essential and nonessential.  Essential aminos our body cannot make and we must get them from the diet.  Nonessential aminos our body can make. To learn more about protein including how much you need go here.  Each gram of protein provides 4 calories (just like carbs).  A general serving size is 1-2 palm sized servings or 4-6 oz.

Typical protein foods:
  • Lean meats
  • Dairy products
  • Fish/shell fish
  • Deli meats
  • Egg whites
  • Powdered protein supplement (Read the label! A lot of these can contain A LOT of carbs and or fat)

But what about those nuts, beans and eggs?  Aren’t they good sources of protein?

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Delicious and tasty almonds. Are they a good source of protein?

Awe Nuts.

Everyone wants to consider nuts a high protein food.  One ounce of mixed nuts contains 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs and 5 grams of protein.  Nuts are a high fat food.  Yes, they do contain protein, but most of their calories come from fat. 77% of their calories come from fat.

Beans, beans…

You often hear that beans are a great source of protein.  1 cup of black beans contains 41 grams of carbohydrate and 15 grams of protein.  While they do contain protein, but they contain substantially more carbs then protein. With 72% of their calories come from carbs while 26% comes from fat. If you do not consume any animal products, then yes they are a decent source of protein.  If you do eat animal products (dairy, leans meats, etc.) then it is most beneficial to think of beans as a carb source.

Eggs

Yes, yes. Eggs are still an excellent source of protein.  Keep in mind however, one large egg as 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.  That is 24 calories from protein and 45 calories from fat.  34% of their calories come from protein and 63% comes from fat. I find it best to think of them as a fat and protein food.  It will be hard to eat your needed amount of protein without over doing it on fat if you are consuming whole eggs.  It can help to cut your it with another lean protein source (either egg whites or a lean meat like turkey or ham).

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Eggs.  Eggs are usually one of the holy grails of high protein foods, but over 63% of their calories come from fat.

Understand that not all foods will fit into these nice neat little boxes.  This whole article is an overgeneralization. There are a lot of foods (like eggs and higher fat meats) that need to be consider mixed macros.  However, classifying foods this way this is a great starting point. It can help you follow dietary advice.

 

 

 

Holiday Survival

Here in the US, Thanksgiving is 3 days away and I have been hearing from a lot of people how nervous they are about this holiday season.  So, I thought I’d write up a quick post, with some tips on surviving the holiday season.

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  • If you do over indulge.  It is ok. Seriously, it’s ok!  Tomorrow is a new day. If you do gain a couple pounds, so what.  It’s not permanent.  Is it optimal? No, but it is not a reason to let it completely derail your overall progress.  So, stop fixating on your mistakes.
  • Holidays are about enjoying time with the ones we love. You do not have to be the person who brings their own food to Grandma’s dinner.  You can do the best with what is offered.  Load up the majority of your plate with meat and vegetables. Struggling with portion sizes for starchy carbs?  Use your hands.  1 cupped hand is 1 serving size for most women, and 2 cupped hands is a serving size for most men.
  • Eat a little something before you go to your holiday feast.  Showing up starving is a recipe of disaster.  It is incredibly difficult to make healthy choices and determine healthy portion sizes when we are very hungry.
  • Pick your poison. If you plan to have alcohol, be responsible.  Wine and clear liquor are your best choices.  (Watch those mixers for the liquor, they can add up! Water, club soda, lime juice and diet sodas are the best choices.) As you know alcohol can impair judgments, but that also means it makes it harder to make good decisions around food.  People are more likely to binge eat when they have been drinking.
  • Pumpkin pie your thing? Or maybe is mashed taters? Or stuffing?  Cool! Make sure you have some.  Seriously.  Do not deprive yourself, that can lead to binges later on. So, have a small slice of pie or put some gravy on those mashed taters.  And truly enjoy them.
  • Easy come easy go. If you do happen to gain weight, its ok!  Don’t freak. And absolutely do not let that be the reason you quit your healthy lifestyle.  That is where the real damage happens.
  • Move your body.  If you can get to the gym, great.  If not, go for walks. Wrestle with your nephews.  Just move your body.  There also are a lot of bodyweight based exercises out there that you can do in your own home with minimal equipment.  Just remember exercise IS NOT a punishment for what you ate.  So do not think, I have to run X miles to burn off this pie. Not only does not work this way, it is a horribly unhealthy relationship to have with food and exercise.
  • Try eating a little something before you go to your holiday feast.  Showing up starving is a recipe of disaster.  It is incredibly difficult to make healthy choices and determine healthy portion sizes when we are very hungry.  Just make sure it has some protein in it.
  • Try to stop eating before you are full. I know, it’s incredibly difficult on a holiday that is centered around stuffing ourselves.  But here is the thing, it takes at least 20 minutes for the signals in our guts to tell our brains that we are full and need to stop. So, technically you were full 20 minutes before you actually felt full!  In order to do that, eat slowly, taste every bite.  Put the fork down between bites.  If you stop eating and 20 minutes go by and you still feel hungry, then have some seconds or hit up the desserts.

If you do over indulge.  It is ok.  Tomorrow is a new day.  And remember food isn’t the bad guy. Eat the turkey. Have some pie.  Most importantly, enjoy the time with your loved ones.

If you are still feeling nervous about the holidays, shoot me an email at steph@stephhayes.com and we can work through this together.  For a limited time, I am offering an email only support for surviving the holidays.  From now till January 2nd, you can have daily email access to me (Monday through Friday).  I will answer any nutrition or mindset related questions and provide accountability.  My highest tier nutrition coaching can run over $200 a month, but this Holiday Survival will be only $25.

 

Raising Healthy Eaters

Lately, I have been having a lot of people tell me that their children are the reason that they cannot eat healthy.  “I can’t eat that because my child won’t eat it” or “My children have to have the goldfish. And I just can’t control myself when those snacks are in the house”.  Part of our jobs as parents is to help our children become healthy eaters. Having two picky eaters myself, I know how unbelievably frustrating it can be to get them to eat healthy.  Now, while we cannot make our children be healthy eaters, but we can help them learn to make healthy decisions. Instead of letting our children keep the whole family from eating healthy, let’s make this a family affair and work on eating healthy together. Below are some tips for encouraging your kids to make better food choices and in turn eat better yourself.

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No Clean Plate Club

First off, absolutely DO NOT make your children finish their plate. I know how tempting it is to tell them they need to eat all their food, especially when you just spent the last hour making it.    When we force a child to finish their plate, however, they do not learn proper self-restraint around food. Researchers found preschoolers, whose parents forced them to clean their plates, did not learn self-control of food amounts.  One study showed that children who had been made to clean their plate at home, would request twice the amount of food when away from home.[1]  Trying to use force to get kids to do things sets us up for a power struggle. The last thing you want is to be part of a bartering match at the dinner table.  Anyone who has attempted to barter with a child knows it’s hard to win.  Instead, ask them to check in with themselves while reminding them once this meal is over, there will not be food again till the next snack or meal time.  For a younger child you might ask “Check in with your tummy.  Is it full? Remember once breakfast is over, we won’t have food again till we get home from the library.” They may get it wrong sometimes and not eat enough, but that is ok. That is how they will learn their own internal fullness cues.

No Bribes.

Do not use food bribes to get your child to eat other food.  None of the “I’ll give you dessert/ fruit if you eat all your whatever it is that you clearly don’t want to eat.” Instead just encourage them to taste the offending food.  Explain they do not have to eat it; they just have to taste it.  For young children you can ask them to lick or kiss the broccoli (or whatever the offending object might be).  Generally, the sillier you make it, they more likely they will give it a go. The more exposure they get to different foods (even ones they do not like now) the more likely they are to eat them later on.

Things do taste different to them.

Ever wondered why things you hated as a kid you like now?  Things really do taste different to children.  Children can have up to two times more taste buds then adults. This makes food taste stronger to them. Keep this in mind when you are flabbergasted that they don’t like your delicious dinner.  So be respectful, encourage them to taste it and leave it at that. Just because they do not like something now, doesn’t mean they will always dislike it. Keep offering the offending foods and one day you may be surprised.

Offer something they do like.

When you plan dinner, make sure it has at least 1 thing that everyone likes.  Include one food option that you know each child will eat. That might mean there is chicken for Betty, sweet potatoes for Sam, and peas for George, or whatever the dynamic in your house is. In our house this means there is always sweet potato or white potato, plain meat, a bland veggie and plenty of ketchup. Worst case scenario, there is at least one thing for each of them and everyone will eat something even if it isn’t the balanced perfect meal you envisioned. Remember though, keep offering different foods.  If they hate broccoli now, do not quit offering broccoli.  A lot of children do not like to try new or unfamiliar foods.  (Which is good thing, anthropomorphically it kept us surviving as a species. Imagine if our early ancestors’ children ate anything and everything they came across? Poisonous berries or mushrooms? Uncooked meat?) Kid’s preferences can change.  Just because they don’t like something today doesn’t mean they will continue to dislike it down the road. My kids commonly go through an “only meat phase”, or the ever painful “it has to be orange phase”, but these phases pass and they move on (sometimes to an even more annoying phase).  Just no fuss when they do turn up their nose at something, which is difficult when you just spent all afternoon making what was once their favorite food.

The Snack time hold out.

Some kids will learn that they are given more exciting foods at snack time and will hold out for them.  Ever notice your kid is never hungry at mealtimes but when snack time come around they can pack it away? The easiest fix for this? Get rid of the snacks. This is especially key if your child’s snacks are a trigger food for you.  (A trigger food is a food that you have a hard time controlling yourself around.) For the snack time, you can try offering what was left over from the prior meal. When they don’t finish a meal wrap it up and put it aside.  When “snack time” rolls around, offer them the previous meal.  Only do this, however, if you know the meal offered was something they like. You don’t want to try and trick your kids into eating foods they don’t like.

Kids will not starve themselves.

Studies show anywhere for 10 to 50% of parents believe their child is a picky eater, however majority of those children continue to grow and mature at a normal rate.[2] If, however you are worried there are red flags, go meet with your pediatrician express your concerns and have them show you your child’s growth curve.  Most likely your Dr. will reassure you that your child is still growing ok.

Keep them involved

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A brave shopping trip with my youngest and the “cart of doom”.

Let the kids help pick out the meals.  Ask them if they have any requests for meals. Then let them help make the meal.  They can assist you in finding the ingredients at the grocery store. I know, shopping with kids is a nightmare, so you might as well give them a job to do and keep them occupied. If you are feeling really patient, let they use those miniature kid carts (or as I call them the “the miniature carts of doom”) Also, let them assist in preparing the meal.  Depending on the age they can help up put together a salad, stir, add ingredients to a pan or bowl, or even start chopping food. Not only will they enjoy spending time with you, but they also are more likely to try the foods if they had a hand at helping to make them. Just stock up on a lot of paper towels and have the broom nearby.

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My kids helping make a salad for dinner.  They didn’t eat it much of it, but they tasted it.

Don’t let them see you sweat.

While they can’t really smell fear (or can they? Mine seem like they pick up on my apprehension quickly) they are watching us like a hawk. Children learn from observing us. They learn how much to eat, what to eat, if they should try new foods, and how fast they should eat.  Make sure you are setting the best example you can.

Food is not love.

Feeding our children is nurturing act, and the line between food and love can get blurred.  Sometimes, parents give children extra food and treats in order to obtain affection.  You may also see this when extended relatives, like Grandparents, visit. This can lead to a very unhealthy relationship with food. Both the child and the parent can become dependent on this relationship of giving extra food and treats to get more affection. Love is love. Food is not. Use empathy and affection to show love, not food and treats.

Healthy eating is a lifestyle not a diet. By involving the whole family everyone is more likely to succeed in the long run. Not only will you raise healthy eaters but you will maintain your goal of living a healthier lifestyle.  Plus, you are setting up your child with important food skills that will last them a lifetime. By involving everyone in the planning and prep, by not pushing or bribing, by respecting taste differences and offering different foods you are setting your children up with a lifetime of healthy habits.  When the whole family is on a mission together everyone is more likely to succeed.  It won’t always be easy, but really what about parenting is easy?

References

[1] Brian Wansink, P., Collin Payne, P., & Carolina Werle, P. (2008). Consequences of Belonging to the “Clean Plate Club”. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med., 162(10):, 994-995.

Brown CL, P. M. (2016, Nov – Dec;). Maternal Concern for Child Undereating. Acad Pediatr., 777-782.

Christina Ong, K. Y. (2014, April). Managing the ‘picky eater’ dilemma. Singapore Med J.(55(4)), 184–190.

Robert A. Pretlow, R. J. (Br J Nutr., September). Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model. Br J Nutr., 116(5): , 944–949.

[2] Wright CM, P. K. (2007, october). How do toddler eating problems relate to their eating behavior, food preferences, and growth? 120(4, 1069-75.

Chicken with strawberries, basil and goat cheese.

This protein packed recipe is  great when you are short on time. It is also family friendly.  My littles (age 5 and 2 love it).  The whole recipe takes only 30 minutes to throw together.  The combination of the strawberries, goat cheese and basil go really well together.  It’s easily adaptable to different family member’s tastes. For example, I leave the balsamic off my 2-year old’s plate, and I don’t add the goat cheese to the 5-year old’s.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamin C, A and K.  Make sure you choose berries that are dry and firm.  Smaller berries tend to have more flavor then the larger ones. Typically, the larger berries contain more water so, their flavor is diluted.

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While boneless skinless chicken breasts are a great lean protein source they can be tough to cook.  They easily become chewy or dry.  This is a quick cooking method, so there is less time for them to dry out. Make sure you do not use more than 1 tablespoon of oil when cooking them though.  It just needs to be enough to lightly cover the bottom of the pan. We are pan frying these guys, not deep frying! The easiest and cleanest way to pound the chicken is to place it in a gallon zip lock, and smack the crap out of it with a heavy skillet or pan.  Great way to get your aggressions out and the ziplock keeps all the chicken germs from flying around your kitchen.

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The Ingredients

4 Chicken breast, boneless skinless.

1 Tb cooking oil. (I like coconut oil)

Salt and pepper

2 Lbs green beans, washed and trimmed

1 Tb oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

kosher salt

black pepper

16 strawberries, washed hulled and chopped

2 Tb basil, chopped

2 oz goat cheese crumbles (feta would be great here too)

Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400. Trim the green beans.  Toss with oil and salt. Place on a cookie sheet/pan. (Make sure they are dry 1st).  Roast for 20-25 mins, shaking the pan every 10-15 mins.  They are done when wrinkly and brown in spots.

Meanwhile, pound the chicken thin.  You’ll want them to be uniform in thickness.  Heat oil in skillet to medium high.  Season chicken with salt and pepper. Once oil is hot, place chicken in skillet and cooked undisturbed for 3- 5 mins per side.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  (If you are making all 4 breasts, you may need to cook 2 at a time.  Do not crowd them in the pan)

To serve: Place chicken breast on top of 1.5 cups green beans and top with ½ cup chopped strawberries, ½ oz crumbled goat cheese, a sprinkle of basil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

 

Nutrition (with 1.5 cups green beans, 4 oz chicken and ½ oz goat cheese):

Calories:377 carbs:16  fat:14  protien:41

Fat is good

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It is not secret around here that I am a huge nut butter fan.  Addict even.  Weekly my kids and I make homemade nut butters.  Peanut butter, almond butter (a chocolate coconut by my gal, Emma, over at Better With Cake is my all-time favorite!).  I am big fan of other fats too.  Avocados. Eggs. Coconut. Lard (Yes lard! Have you ever had potatoes roasted in duck fat? No? you haven’t lived till you have roasted potatoes in lard!)

Fats are good for you. Great even. Fats have gotten bit a bad rap.  Yes, there can be too much of a good thing (that applies to most things in life!) and some fats are better than others. Fats support your metabolism, hormone production, immunity and the absorption of other nutrients. Our brains, nervous system and cell membranes are all made up of fat.  In fact, our brain is actually 60% fat!

More important than your total intake of fats is the balance between the different types of fats, like polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats.  In today’s average diet, it is easy for our fats to be out of balance. Typical diets tend to be very high in saturated and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats and low in monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fat.

The Different Types of Fats

Monounsaturated

Monounsaturated fats are found in macadamias, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds olives, olive oil, pumpkin seeds and avocados.

Polyunsaturated

Polyunsaturated fats are found in fish oil, hemp seeds, algae oils, safflower oil, peanuts, canola, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds.  There are 2 main types of polyunsaturated, omega-3 and omega-6.  Both are essential fatty acids, meaning our bodies cannot produce them. Generally, we get plenty of omega-6 in our diets but are lacking in Omega-3.  Omega-3s can be found in fish and algae oils and plant based sources like flax, hemp and chia. We typically cannot get all the benefits from the plant sources, so it is best to get it from marine sources. Typical diets tend to be very low in omega-3s, hence why hear a lot about supplementing with fish oil.  I am not a huge advocate for supplements, EXCEPT when it comes to fish oil.

Saturated

Even Saturated fats are not completely bad.  However, in the typical American diet (a diet high in processed foods and animal fat) we tend to get too much saturated fat in relation to the other fats. Saturated fat is found in animal fats (butter, meat) and tropical oils (coconut). We can make these fats healthier by choosing pasture raised meats, dairy and eggs. Newer research shows that saturated fat alone is not bad for our health, but it is when diets high in fat are combined with diets high in refined carbohydrates that there are problems.  [1] [2]

The only truly ugly fat, trans-fat

Trans-fat is found in margarine, fast foods, coffee creamers, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza and commercially baked goods.  Trans fat is made when a liquid fat is turned into a solid.  Like with margarine. These fats can raise our LDL (bad cholesterol) while lowering the HDL (good cholesterol), increase inflammation, contribute to insulin resistance. Research for the Harvard School of Health found that for “every 2% of calories from trans fats, their risk of heart disease rises by 23%” [3]

The great news is, we are aware of how bad trans fats are and they are being phased out of most of our foods.  However, until they are gone, we still need to keep an eye out for them.  The nutrition label may not state if a product contains trans-fat if it has less then 0.5 grams per serving, so look for the phrase “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient list.

So what a guy or gal to do?

Don’t over think it. Remember keep it simple. Work on getting a balance of each type of fat.  Include nuts, seeds, fatty fish and pasture raised meats and eggs in your diet.  Avoid the processed fats typically found in fried foods, snack foods, chips etc.   Take a fish or algae oil supplement. Optimally you would want 1/3 of fat intake to come from each category saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (with most of that coming from omega 3s).  Right now there is a study for and against every type of fat.  Until more research is done, there is no need to avoid any one type (except for trans-fat) and just work on getting a balance of the different types.

References:

[1]Volek J., Forsythe C. The case for not restricting saturated fat on a low carbohydrate diet. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2005; 2: 21. Published online 2005 Aug 31.

[2]Siri-Torino P, Sun Q,  Hu F, and Krauss R. Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar; 91(3): 502–509.

[3]Mozaffarian D, Katan MB, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Trans fatty acids and cardiovascular disease. N Engl J Med. 2006 Apr 13;354(15):1601-13.

 

Tiny Balls of Energy

My oldest son (age 5) and I made these recently for our mom and son time.  We made 2 flavors, a “regular” kid friendly chocolate chip and a mom inspired pumpkin spice. I had wrongly assumed that the pumpkin spice ones would be all mine, however, they ended up being a hit with everyone.

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Dark Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Spice Energy Balls

These balls are a delicious and portable snack, while still managing to pack a healthy punch.  The oats, flax and pumpkin are full of healthy carbs and fiber, that helps to keep you feeling satisfied and providing fuel for your day. Not to mention the pumpkin provides lots of micronutrients, like vitamins A, E, C, K and potassium and magnesium.

Now, don’t freak when you see the fat content. There is a healthy dose of monounsaturated and omega-3s (aka healthy fats) from the pumpkin seeds, flax, chia and nut butters. We need healthy fats in our diet. Look for an article later discussing the importance of healthy fats, but the short of it is: there are many body tissues (hello, our brain!!) made up of fat. (EDIT: updated article on Fat is here.) This makes the type of fat we consume pretty important.

Pair these bad boys them with some lean protein (maybe some cottage cheese? Or how about a latte with skim milk?) and you have a nice balanced snack.

The Pumpkin Spiced Energy Balls

  • 1 1/2 cups Oats (Use old fashioned or Rolled.  Do not use instant or quick)
  • 1 cup Pumpkin (look for pure pumpkin, not pie filling. I like Libby’s brand, it doesn’t taste as vegetal)
  • 2 Tb Unsweetened Shredded Coconut, toasted
  • 6 Tb Ground Flax Seeds*
  • 1/3 cup Maple syrup (Use the real stuff!)
  • 1/3 cup Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. Chia Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup Dark Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup Pumpkin Seeds

Mix all ingredients.  Then place in fridge for ½ hour.  After they have gotten nice and chill, roll into balls.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and freeze.  Once frozen, transfer them to whatever you plan to store them in (I use a freezer baggie)

I keep them in the freezer and defrost what we plan to eat. They defrost quickly and will keep for probably 1 week in the fridge.

Makes about 20-24 balls (depending on the size and how much sampling happens.) *Depending on the consistency of your Peanut butter you may need more or less ground flax.

Nutrition info:  Calories: 153 Fat:9 Carbs: 15  Protein:6

Pumpkin Spice not your thing? No problem! Try this regular chocolate chip variety.

Chocolate Chip Energy Balls

  • 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats (again no quick or instant here)
  • 2/3 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut, toasted
  • 1/2 cup Almond Butter
  • 1/3 cup Maple Syrup (use the real stuff!)
  • 1 Tb Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Flax Seed
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chip
  • 1 tbsp Chia Seed

Mix all ingredients.  Then place in fridge for ½ hour.  After they have gotten nice and chill, roll into balls.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment and freeze.  Once frozen, you can transfer them to whatever you plan to store them in (I use a freezer baggie)

I keep them in the freezer and defrost what we plan to eat. They defrost quickly and will keep for probably 1 week in the fridge.

Makes about 20-24 balls (depending on the size and how much sampling happens.) *Depending on the consistency of your Peanut butter you may need more or less ground flax.

Nutrition: calories: 133 Fat:10 carbs:11 protein:3

Adapted from Clean Food Crush and Gimme Some Oven

 

 

My Why.

keep-itI have been sitting here with writer’s block for days.  How do I put “why I started this business” into words?  Then I remembered my motto, “Keep it simple, don’t over complicate.” It applies to nutrition, to writing, to parenting, to everything really.

So, here is my why, and it is simple. . . I like it. I like helping people (INFJ here!) I thrive on it.  I want to help others not only reach their physical goals, but also learn to love themselves in the process.  There is no hating yourself lean here (spoiler alert, that doesn’t work anyways). Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the geeky science stuff too.  More than that, however, I enjoy applying the geeky science stuff to the everyday and then teaching that to others.

There is so much information out there, and now with the world at our finger tips, it is easier than ever to get overwhelmed and confused.  Most of the time what works for one person (your BFF, blogger on your newsfeed, or guru on the morning talk show) may not work for you.  We are all different with different needs and different genetics. I want to help people navigate through the over supply of information and work with them to find out what work for them.

Most diets and lose weight quick schemes fail.  They fail because not only are they unsustainable for a long period of time, but also because they are addressing only one piece of the puzzle.  By learning new healthy eating habits, one at a time. You will learn how to choose the healthiest option and not hate it.  This is a lifestyle, not a diet.

I have taken my knowledge and applied it to how you can eat to reach your goals. This can be done without removing entire food groups from your diet. You still get to eat the foods you love (just in moderation).   Your goals are achievable without crash diets, tons of supplements, or working out till you puke. And, for the record, I do not believe in bad foods.

By learning some healthy habits and the proper mindset you can not only achieve your goals but maintain them. And I want to help you do that!

So, that is my why.  What is yours?