Nutrition Tid Bits

Eat the Stalk

I always felt bad throwing out the stalk of the broccoli, not knowing what to do about it. But now that I know a delicious way to eat it, I’m very happy, because the stalk is very healthy for you.

According to Men’s Health, British researchers found that eating broccoli can protect you from getting diabetes. Eating cruciferous veggies can switch on genes that make enzymes that protect your blood vessels from damages linked to high blood sugar levels. This chemical, called sulforaphane may also increase antioxidants. 

Gonna go buy some more broccoli.

Julia and the Chocolate Factory

I’m a HUGE chocoholic (and I do mean huge). It’s the first thing I put in my mouth when I wake up every morning, and I cannot go to bed without a nice, sweet, rich piece of chocolate goodness melting in my mouth. So I thought it was great news when they started saying chocolate is good for your health.

BUT – not all claims you see on packages tell the whole story. Here’s the scoop on chocolate:

Claim – Flavanols in cocoa powder may protect blood vessels.
Truth – The evidence is still limited. Much research and many studies are sponsored by the chocolate industry, and they don’t always publish the results of studies that were unfavorable or uninteresting.

Claim – Chocolate is an antioxidant
Truth – A research done in England could not find any dramatic effect from chocolate. They say chocolate, at most, only has a mild antioxidant effect.

Claim – Because cocoa solids contain flavanols, the darker the chocolate, the better for you it is.
Truth – To increase the percentage of cacao and thus the amount of flavanols, companies can do one of three things. They can add more cocoa powder (which is good), add more cocoa butter (not that good because it means increased calories and increased saturated fat), or add more chocolate liquor (chocolate liquor is half cocoa solids and half cocoa butter, so adding it can be both good and not so good). Since the consumer (that’s YOU) can’t tell what method the company used to increase the amount of flavanols, it’s hard to tell what’s been added to your chocolate.

Watch out for – Fats! When we think something is “good” for us, we have a tendency to eat more of it! However, it’s important to remember that chocolate is HIGH in calories, and HIGH in fat (what a bummer….. 😦 ) Some studies have even found that cocoa butter MAY raise the risk of blood clots. Also, some chocolates can contain partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil (especially if it has fillings like caramel), and trans fats (BAD).

So just remember – everything in moderation! Chocolate can be enjoyed in moderation. Try to keep your serving size small. Dip some fruit in chocolate to get the yummy flavor, and added fiber. Eat a couple chocolate Kisses, or a square or two of some good quality chocolate.

(I got this information from “Choosing Chocolate, Are Dark Bars Better?” by Jane Hurley and Bonnie Liebman in the Nutrition Action Health Letter)

Chemistry Class

Mmmm… I’m so in the mood for some Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose right now. Oooh, and maybe some Olestra to go with it!

Does that sound like something you’d want to eat? It’s almost impossible NOT to eat packaged foods these days, and danged near impossible to avoid eating chemicals that go along with it. If you’ve ever wondered what those strange, long, mysterious chemicals listed under the ingredients list on your box of cookies were, THIS is a great chart that explains it all. It’s from the May 2008 Issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter. It’s very comprehensive and very helpful.

After reading this, decide for yourself what you’re willing to put in your body.

Low Calorie Snack Options

I know how tempting it is to grab a jumbo muffin from the cafe, or a king sized candy bar from the corner store, but these sugar-laden snacks won’t hold you over, and will most likely just give you a sugar crash in a couple of hours. And these choices can have up to 500 calories! Yikes.

Here are a few smarter snack choices, for about 150 calories each.

  • 1 tbsp almond butter and a medium sized apple
  • 1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese topped with 1 cup strawberries
  • 18 baked tortilla chips with 2 tbsp fat free bean dip
  • 2 tbsp hummus with 10 baked pita chips
  • A reduced fat vanilla ice cream cone
  • 1 chocolate pudding cup with 1 graham cracker crumbled on top
  • 12 ounce nonfat cafe mocha (say no to the whipped cream!)
  • 6 ounces of nonfat yogurt with 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • a pear and 1 string cheese
  • 1 vanilla pudding cup with 3/4 cup raspberries

These snacks won’t cause a sugar crash, are waistline friendly, fast and easy. Happy snacking 🙂

Breads:

I recently took a walk down the bread aisle and was surprised to see how many different kinds there are! I was getting confused with all this talk about whole wheat this and multi grain that, so I complied a guide that might be helpful when choosing the next slice of toast.

1. 100% Whole Grain / 100% Whole Wheat
This means that the bread contains no refined white flour

2. Whole Grain
Breads with this label (note, it doesn’t say 100% whole grain) contain little or no refined white flour.

3. Multigrain
Multigrain does not mean that the whole grain is used. You can have 2,200 grains or just 1 grain. The only important thing to note is whether or not they are WHOLE GRAINS. If the first listed ingredient doesn’t say whole grains, don’t bother.

4. Made with Whole Grains
There are no laws requiring nutrition labels to state what percentage of the flour used is whole grain. Breads that are made with whole grains usually have far more refined grains than its whole counterpart.

5. Good Source of Whole Grains
For companies to make this claim, the product needs at least 8 grams of whole grains.

6. Sprouted Grain
For sprouted grain breads, the wheat is first sprouted (let to grow,) before the kernels are ground up and put into the bread. This can increase a bread’s nutritional content.

7. Light
These breads usually are lower in calories.

8. Heart Healthy
A claim like this is fairly useless, since it is not regulated by the FDA.

Finally, if you are confused about the difference between Whole Grains and Whole Wheat; here’s the deal:
“Whole Grain” means that all parts of the grain are included, including the endosperm, germ, and bran. Wheat is one kind of grain. So a whole wheat bread CAN be a whole grain bread. It is one type of whole grain.
Think of it this way: Whole Grains is like the umbrella category. Under that umbrella, there are many sub-categories like whole wheat, oats, brown rice, and other cereals. To be a whole grain, they all need to contain the bran, endosperm, and germ.
When you buy bread, make sure it says Whole Wheat or Whole grain as the first ingredient.
THIS is a good website if you are still confused. They have a very helpful chart.

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