Posts Tagged ‘fiber’

How To Read A Nutrition Label

September 21, 2015

 

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Many of us know it is prudent to read nutrition labels to see what exactly our packaged foods consist of. Very few of us really know what all those numbers, percentages and descriptions really mean for our health.

Here is a comprehensive guide to deciphering those labels and why it is important to do so:

Serving size: This denotes how many servings the package contains, according to the manufacturer.  This number can be very decieving, since the entire contents may be easily consumed in one sitting by yourself, yet the package lists it as 3 servings. The FDA sets the serving sizes. All of the information listed on the label refers to one single serving. If you eat the whole package, you must multiply the calories and fat by the amount listed. For example, a bag of potato chips states one serving as 1 oz. and lists the servings per container as 14. If you can get 14 servings from one bag of chips, congratulations! You have amazing will power. For the rest of us, get out your calculator and start multiplying.

Percentage of Daily Value: This is calculated based on someone who eats 2000 calories per day as their normal diet. For most women, this is more than they need to maintain a healthy weight. For highly active women, and many men, this may not be enough. Take this number with a grain of salt, (something we will discuss later in this post.)

Fats: Recent research points out that eating fat doesn’t make us fat. In fact, we need fat in our diet for optimum wellness. Certain vitamins are fat soluable, meaning they need to dissolve in fat to be carried through the body. They also help us maintain our body temperature, and provide insulation for our organs. That said, there are many different types of fat, and choosing the right type is critical to our health. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products, and are known to raise cholesterol, and could also increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. Trans fats are mostly made from processing oils using a method called partially hydrogenating. This makes them more shelf stable, but it also makes them artery cloggers. Trans fats are also attributed to an increase in unhealthy LDL cholesterol, and lower the more desirable HDL cholestoral. Most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Better choices are unsaturated fats, which include many liquid oils, such as olive oil, safflower oil or corn oil. Many fish are also high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Plant based sources of fat, including nuts and seeds and avocado are also good for providing protection to your heart and lower blood pressure. If the label lists a high level of saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, or any trans fats, it is best to put it back on the shelf and explore other choices.

Beware of labels that boast “fat free.” Generally speaking, when the fat is removed, it is replaced by something else, often sugar. Fat free doesn’t equate to calorie free. Just sayin’.

Sodium: Sodium = salt. Pure and simple. It makes our food taste great, but it also raises blood pressure when consumed in high quantities. Our recommended daily consumption of salt is set as less than 2.300 mg. It is suggested that no single food should contain more than 805 mg. per serving. Check the label carefully for how many servings are in the package. Often, there are several, making the facts a bit decieving. High sodium also means highly processed. Most canned or packaged foods have a much higher sodium content than the freshly made counterpart. Look out for canned soups, jarred sauces or lunch meats. They tend to be sodium bombs.

Fiber: When looking at grain based products, such as bread, look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Labels will often describe the fiber as soluable, or insoluable. Sources of soluable fiber include oatmeal, barley and dried beans. This type of fiber can be helpful in lowering cholesterol. Insoluable fiber protects against bowel disease, and is found in whole grains, fruit and vegetables.

Sugars: Sugar can crop up in all kinds of foods which are not associated with being sweet, like crackers, or cereals that market themselves as healthy. It is often listed as glucose, sucrose or fructose, among others. If it ends in “ose,” it is a type of sugar. Sugar substitutes might have the ending “tol,” such as malatol,or sorbitol. These are sugar alcohols and are associated with causing digestive issues. If your artificially sweetened foods send you racing to a restroom, you might want to avoid them in the future.

Protein: Our bodies are made of protein, and it is often referred to as the building blocks of life. We need protein to repair and make new cells. Protein is found in animal products, as well as soy, nuts, and beans among other plant based sources. The rule of thumb, is to eat .45 grams of protein per day, for every pound of body weight. That means a 150 pound person should consume about 68 grams per day.

Total Carbohydrates: This number could come from healthy sources, such as whole grains or even vegetables, or it could come from the “white stuff,”such as processed white flour and sugar. Cross reference this number with the sugar and fiber numbers to get the full picture.

Vitamins and Minerals: This lists the vitamins and minerals that are both naturally occuring, and those that are added. The percentages are often most helpful in determining just how much of these are in any given food. Remember, these are often based on a 2,000 calorie diet. If you only eat 1500 calories per day, these percentages will need to be adjusted accordingly.

Ingredients: This is critical information. All ingredients are required to be listed on the label, in order of quantity. To me, this is the most important information on the label, as it tells me exactly what I am eating. When I began doing my Whole 30 elimination diet, I realized that most packaged foods had lots more in them than one would think. Almond butter for instance, should contain almonds, and possibly salt. Sugar, or additives are uneccessary and can be avoided if you are a savvy shopper. If there is a long list of ingredients on a simple food, it might be one to avoid. If you can’t pronounce some of them, that too is a danger sign that the food might not be very good for you.

Knowing what we are putting into our bodies is key to good health and weight control.

There is a great app from food expert Marion Nestle, called Fooducate, which allows you to scan a food’s barcode and get a letter grade on the healthiness of the product, right there in the grocery aisle. While the foods that don’t contain a barcode or a package are usually the best for us, this is an invaluable tool to help you navigate the vast array of foods available to us.

Photo: Glasshouse Images

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Seaweed Benefits

March 19, 2015

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Seaweed is a staple in the Japanese diet, but did you know it is good for more than just holding your sushi together?

This sea-vegetable is nutrient dense and low in calories. It also is thought to have health benefits that can help you lose weight, or cure a hangover.

Scientists at University of Newcastle have found that a substance called alginate found in seaweed can limit the body’s fat absorbtion by up to 75%.

Seaweed is a great source of antioxidents, calcium and a broad array of vitamins. It is also high in fiber, which helps you to feel full and more satisfied after eating, and aids in proper elmination.

Eating seaweed can also support healthy thyroid function, due to its high iodine content. About 2 sheets of dried nori can give you the recommended daily dose to balance the hormones that the thyroid produces that regulate weight, energy and metabolic levels, and mood. It can also help regulate estrogen and estradiol, hormones responsible for the development of healthy sexual organs, and can be attributed to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer, control PMS and improve fertility issues.

Seaweed also contains a high level of magnesium, which is depleted after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. Snacking on seaweed the next day can replace some of the lost nutrient and help minimize a hangover.

Seaweed is an algae, and comes in a variety of types. Most commonly consumed are the brown type such as kelp and wakame. Nori, the type used for sushi, is considered of the red variety.

In addition to eating sushi, try ordering seaweed salads made of hijiki or wakame, or snack on dried nori sheets, which are available at many specialty foods supermarkets, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

photo: Glasshouse Images

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Turning a New Leaf

January 21, 2015

This year, kale has been touted as a superfood that is nutritionally superior to all others. It’s popularity has reached a fever pitch, to the point that it’s trendiness is starting to wear on us.

kale

kale

For those of your kale obsessed foodies, we have some big news.

The Center for Disease Control just released a ranking of 47 fruits and vegetables based on their nutritional value. The CDC took into consideration the amount of fiber, protein, potassium and vitamins.

I’m sorry to tell you that kale ranked 15th on the list. I know you’re devastated. But, alas, there are even healthier greens to explore. It’s ok. You might find one you like better, and you can start a new trend of your own.

watercress

watercress

Watercress took the #1 spot, with Chinese cabbage, chard, and beet greens coming in next. Spinach ranked #5 followed by chicory, leaf lettuce and parsley. Romaine lettuce is 9th and the #10 spot goes to collard greens. With leafy greens taking the top 16 spots, it seems you can’t go wrong if you go green.
Of the foods tested, 41 of the 47 were classified as “powerhouses”, which are strongly associated with reducing chronic disease.

chard

chard

Those that did not make the list are garlic, onion, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and tangerines. While still healthy choices, they failed to meet the team’s criteria for classification as a powerhouse fruit or vegetable.

See the complete report here.

photos: Glasshouse Images

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Natural Detoxifiers

January 3, 2013

It’s the beginning of a new year, and the end of the period of over-indulgence that spans from late November until early January. Before you do something dramatic, like start a juice cleanse, consider adding some of these naturally detoxifying foods to your diet.

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Broccoli helps the body eliminate toxins while providing a healthy dose of vitamins.

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Cucumbers are high in water content, and flush out the system.

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Cauliflower has anti-inflammatory properties, and is also an anti-oxidant.

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Grapefruit is high in fiber, and helps to prevent the formation of kidney stones, and lower cholesterol. It is also a digestive aid.

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Lentils are also high in fiber, which aids in elimination, as well as lowering blood sugar.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and selenium, which helps the liver filter toxins. They are also known to prevent arterial buildup.

Adding these foods to your diet will kick start a healthy eating plan for 2013!

photos: Glasshouse Images

Tiny Seed; Big Benefits

July 31, 2012

Flaxseed has been around for thousands of years, but its assets are just recently becoming known.

These little seeds pack big benefits, including lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, reducing bone loss, promoting weight loss, increasing immunity and fighting cancer.

Flaxseed is high in vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and manganese, as well as the B vitamins.

It is full of fiber and phytochemicals including many powerful antioxidants.

Flaxseed’s inflammation fighting power comes from being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, flaxseed oil has a significantly higher percentage of plant based omega-3’s, called alpha-linoleic acids than walnut or canola oil.

So, how do you add these little wonders into your diet?

Sprinkle toasted flaxseeds on your cereal or oatmeal.

Add them to salads for a nutty crunch.

Sprinkle a little on your fruit and yogurt.

Grind them up and add them to soups, stews and smoothies.

Mix a little ground flaxseed into homemade piecrusts, or breads.

Keep flaxseeds in an airtight container in the refrigerator for best storage, and introduce them into your diet for better health. You might just find you enjoy the added flavor!

photo: Glasshouse Images

Not So Healthy “Health” Foods

June 27, 2012

Do you ever wonder why you aren’t losing weight, when you feel like you are making healthy meal choices? Chances are, despite their healthy reputation, many of the foods you are eating are packed with hidden sources of sugar, fat and calories!
Our friends at Everyday Health shared the inside scoop on 11 not so healthy “health” foods with us:

Protein bars, or “power bars” are touted as healthy snacks with deceiving labels such as “gluten free”, “low fat” and “natural”, but most of them are just fancy candy bars. Watch out for high sugar content and artificial ingredients. Many protein bars have 300-400 calories, and aren’t as satisfying as whole foods with a similar calorie count.

Granola, the organic, whole grain cereal, dried fruit and nut mix, is actually extremely high in calories, fat and sugar. Consider it a topping to sprinkle on yogurt and not as a meal.

Dried fruits are high in fiber and vitamins, but are also high in calories and sugar, and lack the water content of fresh fruit.  Just one cup of prunes packs over 400 calories, while the same amount of fresh plums has only 76.

Sushi is a great source of lean protein, vegetables and seaweed. However, many of the modern rolls have fried foods, mayo or cream cheese in them. Soy sauce is high in sodium, which can cause hypertension and bloating.

Stick to simple rolls made of fish, fresh raw vegetables and brown rice, and leave off the sauce.

Most Caesar Salads have more calories than a cheeseburger! While the lettuce is a great low-cal base, the croutons, cheese and fatty dressing make it a hidden calorie bomb! Go for a salad with lots of fresh vegetables and some grilled chicken, with a drizzle of balsamic dressing instead.

Opting for the filet of fish sandwich sounds good, but once the fish is breaded, fried and slathered in tartar sauce, it is no longer a healthy choice. Putting it on buttered white bread just adds insult to injury. Next time, try a grilled fish sandwich (open faced on whole wheat) or a simple fish taco with salsa and vegetables instead. Hold the sour cream and cheese please!

Margarine can be a good choice for those watching their cholesterol. Many margarines use trans fats, which is worse for your health than butter. Make sure your margarine is plant fortified, which can help reduce bad cholesterol levels.

Fruit juices often have tons of added sugar to enhance their taste. Even the pure fruit juices miss the fiber and nutrients that are found in the whole food, especially those with edible peels. They can also add up to lots of calories without even realizing it.

Bran muffins sound healthy, but in reality, the sugar, sodium and fat added to the whole grains make them a diet trap. The supersizing of baked goods, adds to the problem.

Flavored waters and sports drinks are either high in calories, or filled with artificial flavorings.  Those touted as vitamin and mineral enhanced often don’t have enough to substantially contribute to your daily requirement. Unless you are really sustaining long, tough workouts, opt for good ‘ole H2O.

Turkey burgers are thought of as a low fat alternative to red meat, but depending on the cut and preparation, they can have more fat than a lean cut of beef. Look for lean ground turkey at the store, and go easy on the trimmings!

Want to know more? Check out the full article and video at Everyday Health!

Photos and information courtesy of Everyday Health

Too Good to be True?

April 4, 2012

Last week was full of great news on the food front. It seems that all my favorite foods were found to have health benefits. How often does that happen?

A new study by the University of Scranton found that the hull of popcorn is rich in antioxidants that have disease-fighting properties and prevent damage to cells.

Of all the whole grains, popcorn is one of the least processed. It is extremely high in fiber, and relatively low in calories…that is until we pop it in lots of oil, and slather it with butter and salt.

Air popped popcorn is the healthiest method of preparation. Microwave popcorn can also be low in calories, but the chemicals in the bags have been found to cause respiratory problems after prolonged exposure.  The “DIY” version is a great alternative. Just put kernels in an untreated brown paper bag, and fold the top over several times. Toss it in the microwave, and zap until the popping slows down.
Season it lightly with sea salt, or some Parmesan cheese.

Caveat: The doctors admitted that further studies were needed to determine if the high fiber content causes the popcorn to pass so quickly through the body that the antioxidants do not have any significant effect.

“Eating chocolate can make you thinner!”

That was a headline that made me look twice.

A study from the University of California at San Diego has discovered that people who eat chocolate regularly have a lower BMI (body mass index) than those who do not.

The team surveyed over 1000 people between the ages of 20 and 85 years old about their eating habits. While the chocolate eating group did not report eating fewer calories or exercising more than their non-chocolate eating counterparts, they consistently had lower BMIs.

The doctors are hypothesizing that there are metabolic benefits to chocolate that would off set the calories consumed “in moderation.” It is speculated that the caffeine in the chocolate could be the cause of the metabolic boost. Dark chocolate is also an antioxidant.

Beware: Most chocolate is very high in fat and sugar, and packs a mean calorie punch. Opt for a tiny piece of dark chocolate, or a bit of Dutch processed cocoa.

I love a little dark cocoa mixed into some Greek yogurt or fat free ricotta cheese as a creamy low calorie dessert.

Red wine has long been touted as a heart healthy drink. A substance called resveratrol is the key ingredient in red wine that has been attributed to lowering “bad cholesterol” and preventing blood clots.  However, the risks associated with drinking alcohol are thought to be much greater than the benefits.  For healthy people, drinking red wine in moderation can be a good thing. For those who are pregnant, have heart problems, take aspirin, or for those with addiction issues, wine is not recommended.

While all of this appears to be great news, the studies admit that their findings are inconclusive. For now, I will stick to the idea that chocolate, popcorn and wine are treats to be indulged in in moderation, and count on my healthy diet and exercise routine to keep me in optimum health.

photos: Glasshouse Images


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