Nutrition Archives - Page 2 of 3 - ig2go

Out with the Pyramid, In with the Pie Chart

Remember that food pyramid they taught you in school? Since 1980, the U.S. government has issued new Dietary Guidelines for Americans every five years, off of which the food pyramid is based. In the 1980’s, when Carbs were King, you had grains and cereals at the bottom, but the pyramid has changed a lot with developing research over the past thirty years. In fact, the pyramid has disappeared in favor of a pie-chart. No, actual pie is nowhere on their chart.

The new Guidelines make an interesting read. They’re more individualized than ever before, with a brochure that includes headings like “Eat the right amount of calories for you” and “Be physically active your way.” As for the dietary suggestions themselves, you can sum them up with:

  • Eat less meat
  • Eat more seafood and beans
  • Stay away from sugar and added salt
  • Drink more water and less soda
  • Choose whole-grain cereals, breads, rice and pasta
  • Ensure fruits and vegetables take up half of your plate

However, the Guidelines still throw Coconut oil under the bus as a bad “solid fat” like palm kernel oil (ignoring recent studies on the many health benefits of coconut oil), and they treat all sugars – whether High Fructose Corn Syrup or Maple Syrup – as equally undesirable. The guidelines make no mention of artificial sweeteners, or alternative sweeteners like stevia or agave nectar, which is a shame.

Just for fun, here’s my idea of a food pyramid – Intelligent Gourmet Style!

Vegetables First Food Pyramid

What is your idea of a healthy plate, pie chart, or pyramid?

 

Summer Superfood: Figs!

Grilled fig rosemary skewers

Figs are practically dropping off their trees by this time in summer – but don’t let the bounty overwhelm you. There are so many ways to use these melt-in-your-mouth fruits to sweeten summer salads, throw on the grill, make jam, or even add an exotic flavor to lemonade!

But first, let’s look at what these summertime superfoods can do for your health.

  • Figs are a rich source of fruit fiber, which not only helps with weight loss, but could also help reduce breast cancer risk.
  • Potassium-rich foods like figs help our bodies balance the salt we eat, helping to prevent or stop hypertension.
  • Figs are also a source of calcium , helping to prevent bone loss.
  • Black Mission figs have poly-phenolic flavonoid anti-oxidants, similar to red wine.
  • Figs contain B-complex vitamins like niacin and folates.
  • Dried figs are more dense with minerals including calcium, copper, potassium, manganese and zinc than fresh figs.

Now, what can you do with figs this summer? I like my figs sweet and simple. 

  • Try tossing fresh figs with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, then roasting them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Use to top a salad, or as an accompaniment to a cheese plate.
  • Fire up the grill and, using rosemary sprigs as skewers, grill your figs and let them infuse with rosemary flavor! This makes an outstanding dessert, especially when served with vanilla ice cream.
  • Blend fresh, ripe figs with lemon juice, sugar and water for a peach-colored lemonade that is as healthy as it is pretty.

Bikini Season Brownies

Cacao

The days are heating up, the layers of clothes are coming off, and all I can think about is chocolate. It’s my theory that life is too short not to eat good food, and if that means a brownie now and then, well, that’s what’s happening.

Fortunately, there is a lot to be said for the health benefits of a good, gluten-free brownie. I like this brownie recipe from Elena’s Pantry, which includes creamy roasted almond butter, 2 eggs, agave nectar, vanilla extract, cacao powder, sea salt, baking soda and chocolate chips. It’s full of good fats, low on the glycemic index thanks to agave nectar, and most importantly, it is full of delicious dark chocolate.

The Power of Cacao

Not all cacao powder is created equal, so if you want the highest quality nutrients, get your chocolate fix from something like organic, raw Arriba Criollo Cacao Powder. Straight cacao, which is undiluted with milk and sugar, is packed with anti-oxidants and Phenylethylamine (a mild stimulant that boosts dopamine, serotonin and other feel-good chemicals). Hey, you already knew a brownie makes you feel better – and now you know why!

5 Health Benefits of Chocolate

  1. Cacao is an appetite suppressant, and it’s low on the glycemic index.
  2. Cacao is an excellent source of iron, magnesium and chromium.
  3. Cacao releases neurotransmitters that help endorphins and serotonin flow.
  4. Cacao is full of flavanoids which, like antioxidants, fight free radicals that damage cells.
  5. Cacao delivers a powerful punch of polyphenols which help fight heart disease and reduce inflammation.

Remember: Eat better, feel better, live better. And everything’s better with chocolate.

The Importance of Iodine (and why you may not be getting enough)

Iodine rich foods, like fish

When the U.S. Government began recruiting troops en masse for World War I, the physical exam doctors started noticing a pattern: young men from the upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions frequently had visibly swollen necks. They nicknamed the region “The Goiter Belt” and quickly discovered the link between the low iodine content in the soil and the increase in thyroid problems (which caused the goiters). On May 1st, 1924, the first container of iodized table salt was sold commercially, and by that fall, Morton Salt Company began distributing it nationally.

Iodine is a mineral found in many foods, including produce grown in iodine-rich soil, animals who eat food grown in iodine-rich soil, and seafood, including fish, shellfish and seaweed. We need very little for our bodies to produce the hormone thyroxin, which is necessary to maintain the metabolism (and thyroid). Even though it’s relatively easy to have enough iodine in your diet, the World Health Organization reports that iodine deficiency is rising in America with more than 2 billion people at risk! Considering thyroxin affects behavior, metabolism, libido, cognitive functioning, and susceptibility to cancer and disease – it’s vitally important to make sure you get those 150 micrograms every day.

Not sure if you’re deficient? There’s an easy test: take regular drug-store red iodine and smear it on a one-inch patch of skin. If you’re still seeing red after 2 days, you’re fine. If it disappears, you need more in your diet.

Here are my top 3 iodine-rich foods:

  1. Seaweed snacks (also rich in iron)
  2. Himalayan Crystal Salt (gray salt with naturally occurring iodine)
  3. Locally grown organic produce – Florida soil has plenty of iodine!

 

 

Juicing Versus Blending: Which is Better?

Green Smoothie
To blend, or not to blend, that is the question. Whether it is healthier for the body to gulp down the slings and arrows of hard-to-digest fiber, or to take arms against a sea of health problems by drinking juice? Okay, while I could write a sonnet to my juicer, I will spare you the rest of the soliloquy. Which is better: to juice or to blend?

Either way, you are getting an incredible wealth of nutrients. The only difference is how much fiber you’re ingesting, and how the fiber or lack of fiber affects your body.

We know that fiber slows digestion, which is great for dieters looking to feel full on fewer calories. But the argument for juicing versus blending is that by removing fiber, nutrients move into the blood stream faster and the body receives nearly instant fuel. The idea is that when our bodies don’t have to expend energy on digestion, it will spend that energy on repair. And, you’ll consume more vegetables in a juice than in a smoothie.

The argument for blending is that, well, smoothies fill you up and help you stay feeling full. Unless your goal is a cleanse (and no cleanse is easy), feeling full is a good thing.

Personally, I prefer juicing. First, because it’s so good for your body and there’s nothing like a juice cleanse to feel refreshed, inside and out. But mostly because… I think juices taste better. There, that’s perfectly scientific, right?

If you’d like to try out a juice cleanse before investing in a juicer, check out our line of fresh raw juices!

Top 5 Health Trends for 2014 – Predictions!

Rainbow chard organic produceFood trends come and go – hey, remember when we were all chugging wheatgrass? But while these trends usually have real merit, it’s the ones that we can incorporate into our everyday lifestyles that really have the power to make a difference in our health. With that in mind, let’s look at some health food predictions for 2014 from Innova Market Insights.

  1. More heirloom vegetables! Who doesn’t love heirloom tomatoes. The big, richly flavored, colorful tomatoes have created a permanent home for themselves in my kitchen. But they’re not the only heirloom vegetables out there, and we’ll probably be seeing more parsnips, artichokes and kale varieties in the coming year.
  2. “New” ancient grains. Quinoa has become a significant part of our diets over the past few years, and other grains are waiting in the wings to be the next big thing. You might start seeing chia and freekeh on store shelves soon.
  3. More gluten-free foods. With gluten free flours coming out in force, expect to see more GF offerings everywhere.
  4. Holistic diets. This is a trend we’ve all been waiting for. A more holistic approach to nutrition that doesn’t demonize entire cross-sections of the food pyramid, but instead respects that each type of nutrition has its place in a healthy, balanced diet. Even our juice cleanses are embracing this trend, since we aim for a more balanced approach than just straight fruit and vegetables (yay for nut milk and hemp protein!).
  5. More alternatives. Remember when soy was the only “other” milk? Not so anymore, and this trend towards nut milks and coconut milk will continue to grow.

What trends would you like to see happen in 2014?

It’s Breakup Time, Sugar

Sugar Loops

We have to have a talk, America. You’re infatuated.  Love-struck.  Beguiled, smitten, and enamored.  But it’s not me you’re captivated by (nice as that would be); it’s sugar. Research has shown that the average American eats as much sugar in a week as the average person living 200 years ago did in a year. That’s a heavy-duty crush you’ve got going (well, okay… that we’ve got going – I’m in love with sugar, too).

We all know that too much sugar can be unhealthy, but it’s not just our waistlines that we should be worried about. Diets rich in sugars and white flours – also called “high-glycemic” diets – can also lead to skin problems (such as breakouts, eczema, and psoriasis) as well as more serious conditions (such as type-II diabetes or heart disease). Suddenly, moving up a notch on our belt seems like the least of our worries.

So how can you eat a healthier, low-glycemic diet? Try to lower your intake of high-glycemic foods, such as fruit juices, breads, starchy foods like potatoes, and baked goods. These tend to lack fiber, fat, and protein, all of which help moderate the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Instead, eat more low-glycemic foods, such as oatmeal, beans, vegetables, and other foods with fat, fiber, and protein. Doing so will help keep your blood sugar constant throughout the day. It will also promote slow, steady digestion, so you’ll feel full for longer.

Maybe we can’t completely end our affair with sugar, but we can at least take our relationship a little slower. See other people/nutrients. For example, I think that cute avocado at the grocery store was checking you out…

Forget the Facial: 5 Foods to Make Your Skin Glow

Salad #2
You don’t need bi-monthly facials to have great skin (though they sure are fun) – all you need is the right nutrition in your diet to look ten years younger. Stock your refrigerator with these five nutrients and you’re already on your way to a fresh, youthful complexion!

1 Brazil Nut a Day Keeps the Wrinkles Away
Brazil nuts are one of the best sources for Magnesium – a nutrient that slows the aging process of skin by maintaining elasticity and moisture at normal levels.

Relax with Flax
Flax seeds, walnuts and salmon all are high in Omega 3 Alpha-linolenic acids that encourage skin cell renewal and reduces the inflammation of acne and puffiness. Flax seeds are easy to incorporate into your morning oatmeal!

Sexy Sundried Tomatoes
Sun-Dried tomatoes, peanuts, chicken, and veal are high in Niacin, which promotes healthy skin, improves moisture, lightens hyperpigmentation, and decreases acne. Oh, and it also helps produce sex hormones, dilates blood vessels, and revs up your heart. You’ll look good and feel, well, really good!

More Broccoli, Less Dry Skin & Wrinkles
Broccoli, brussel sprouts, guava, papayas, strawberries and oranges are terrific sources of Vitamin C – which has been shown to slow free radicals responsible for dry skin and wrinkles.

Nip Zits with Zinc
Eggs, oysters, peanut butter, beans, whole grains, dairy products and red meat are where you find Zinc – possibly the most important mineral to your skincare. Zinc prevents and alleviates inflammation and scarring from acne and helps heal skin damaged from zits. Some research indicates acne might actually be because of too little zinc in your diet!

A WanderFood Wednesday Post

Six Good Mood Foods to Chase Away Everyday Crankiness

Good Mood Foods!

When we were little, we were cranky when we were tired, or hungry. And extra cranky if we were tired AND hungry! As adults, we may be better at masking our crankiness, but it’s still there. But, until workplaces add adult naptime into their policies, most of us will have to regulate our mood with food.

  • Eat every 4 to 5 hours to keep your blood sugar level, unless you have hypoglycemia. If you eat every 2 hours, you end up with too many calories from  grazing all day.
  • Limit foods that spike your blood sugar, like refined sugars, corn syrup, white flour, white rice & white pasta. In other words, walk past the snack machine and eat an apple! What you need to know is that the white stuff (white rice, bagels, many breakfast cereals, english muffins, etc) is that even though it doesn’t say it contains sugar, your body treats it just like sugar because it is metabolized very very quickly. Look for 100% whole grains, and if you see the words “enriched” or “bleached,” stay away! Better yet, eat whole foods. Fruit has sugar too, but in the form of complex carbs that metabolize slowly – you’ll feel satisfied longer and have an even flow of energy to burn.
  • Exercise does more than improve your mood by increasing endorphins – it’s been shown put people in a positive healthy mindset. Most people will follow through with good food choices after having exercised.
  • Combining high quality protein with a high quality carbohydrate will slow the absorption of the carb in your blood stream, keeping your blood sugar from spiking. Spiked blood sugar makes you hungrier, and causes energy-crash, but by eating carbs and protein (the best choice in your vending machine is the Snickers bar), you’ll maintain your energy and your sense of humor.

Best Choices for Feel-Good Food

  • Omelet and fresh fruit – This has that protein and carb balance for even energy.
  • Grilled chicken salad or salad with nuts – A power-packed lunch to keep you awake during afternoon meetings.
  • Beans and lentils – these are high in protein and good carbs, with the added benefit of fiber which slows carb absorption and controls blood sugar.
  • Non-fat Greek Yogurt – has twice the amount of protein as any other yogurt. Mix it with your favorite extracts – try cinnamon and honey, or fresh blueberries.
  • Oranges – are rich in folic acid, and filled with fiber and pectin. These help lower homocysteine levels which support mood and brain health.
  • Dark Chocolate or Cacao (70% or more) is sure to improve the mood of chocoholics!

We ♥ Heart Healthy Eating

Heart Healthy Salad from Intelligent Gourmet

Ancient Egyptians believed the heart contained the soul, and before entry into heaven, a person’s heart would be weighed against a feather. Today, we talk about people having heavy hearts or light hearts, but right now, let’s talk about healthy hearts.

From American Heart Association Research

  • For every hour of walking you can add 2 hours to your lifespan (Bonus! Exercise also increases brain size and memory)
  • For every pound lost you alleviate 4 lb. of pressure from your joints
  • Eating 2 servings of fish a week decreases your risk for heart disease by 23%

My rule of thumb is that if it’s from a box, it’s bad for your heart. Pre-packaged, mass-produced foods are created in labs to produce two outcomes:
1) They’ll last forever, packed with hydrogenated oils, trans fats, saturated fats and preservatives. They have to keep crunchy on store shelves, right?
2) To make you want more. They do this by pumping up the salt content.

Please hold the salt

Up to 75% of the sodium Americans eat comes from processed foods – and Americans are eating far too much. Most restaurants also over-salt their food to appeal to the typical American palate. What does all this salt do?

A healthy level of salt is vital. It helps regulate body fluids and blood pressure, and is necessary for muscle function and nerve impulse transmission. Active people who sweat a lot need more sodium.

Too much sodium (and the ADA says Americans typically eat over twice the daily recommended amount) contributes to high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, and heart disease.

Five Favorite Heart Healthy Foods

  1. Salmon & Sardines are loaded with Omega 3: good fats that help brain function and keep your LDL low and your HDL high. Wild Salmon and sardines are both low contaminate fish, meaning they don’t have PCB or dioxins (which can be found in farm raised fish). An inexpensive way to get Wild Salmon is to buy it canned. Look for Wild on the label, and if it says Alaskan, it is automatically wild.
  2. Oatmeal is a soluble fiber which attaches to cholesterol and escorts it out of the body. Don’t muck it up with too much sugar! Add chopped nuts for more Omega 3’s, berries for cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, and cinnamon – studies show that cinnamon also lowers LDL.
  3. Sweet potatoes help manage your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Sweet potato also contains soluble fiber but with the added benefit of Potassium. The trick to lowering blood pressure is to decrease sodium and increase potassium in your diet – and sweet potatoes are the perfect vehicle.
  4. Nuts are another great source of Omega 3s, but don’t overdo them. They’re calorie-dense, so a few will go a long way. Have a handful of almonds, walnuts, or cashews for a quick healthy snack that won’t spike your insulin (and make you crave more food). And, if you get a can of mixed nuts, know that eating just one of those giant Brazil Nuts fulfills your daily selenium requirement. Research suggests that selenium reduces risk for breast and prostate cancers.
  5. Wine! My favorite way to wash down a heart-healthy meal is with a glass of red wine. Antioxidants in red wine (such as resveratrol) protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. Not a big drinker? Search online for wine flour made from red grape skins (they make terrific brownies).