Sunday, February 24, 2019

Add some whole grains to your day

Are you eating whole grains?  Can you name 3 whole grain cereals, name 3 whole grain crackers?  In the class I teach, it is amazing how few students eat whole grains until they learn how very important whole grains are to their health.  How can you add more whole grains to your day and why are whole grains so important to good health? 
  1.  What are whole grains?

The Whole Grains Council provides excellent guidance on whole grains and even have a tutorial,  Whole Grains 101.  We are all familiar with grains – wheat, corn, oats, barley, quinoa, spelt, rye, rice.  It is interesting that all grains start out as “Whole Grains”.  It is only in refining that parts of the grain are removed, the healthiest parts.  When a grain is refined, it is no longer a “whole grain”.  Whole Grains include ALL 3 Parts of the grain – the bran (rich in fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins), the germ (rich in B vitamins, some protein and many minerals, some healthy fat) and the endosperm (rich in starch, some vitamins and minerals). 

  2.   What are refined grains?

Refined Grains in white bread, white rice, white flour- contains the endosperm but not the bran and wheat germ.  Refined grains are so depleted in nutrients that the government mandates some nutrients are added back.  If you read the ingredients of white bread, many cereals and many crackers, you will see the word “enriched”.  Following “enriched” you will see a listing of the few vitamins and one mineral added back including B-1, B-2, niacin, folate and the mineral iron.  Refining a grain removes about a quarter of the protein in a grain, and half to two thirds or more of a score of nutrients, leaving the grain a mere shadow of its original self.  Enriched grains are low in fiber as the bran has been removed and fiber is not usually added back to enriched grains. 

3.  What foods are considered “whole grain”?
Whole grains – whole grain bread, whole grain crackers, whole grain cereals:  Look at the ingredients and you should see the word “whole” such as whole wheat, whole corn, whole rye. This means the food contains all 3 parts of the grain. 
  •  Whole Grain Cereal:  All General Mills cereals are whole grain so look for the big “G”.  Cheerios are often a favorite.  Not only are they whole grain but the oats are a heart healthy grain.  Let the kids enjoy the Honey Nut Cheerios or one of the many General Mills cereals including Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, Total, Wheaties.  Yes, some cereals have added sugar but you and the kids are getting a good serving of whole grains.  Oatmeal is an excellent choice – a super healthy cereal.  If you like the instant oatmeal, fine.  Even if it has some added sugar, oatmeal is a heart healthy choice.   One daughter doesn’t like whole grains – especially whole grain bread. But she will eat Kellogg’s Mini Wheats.   Kellogg’s Mini Wheats are whole grain.  Yes, they have some added sugar but she is still getting the nutritional benefits of whole grains.   But skip the Pop-tarts as the first ingredient is often sugar.  For a kid's snack bring some Honey Nut Cheerios in a baggie.
  • Whole Grain Crackers – so many to choose from.  Look for Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Special K Quinoa Crackers (not 100% whole grain, but mostly whole grain), Ritz Whole Wheat crackers (enriched 1st ingredient but it does have some whole grain).  Multi-Grain Crackers by Crunchmaster are 100% whole grain.  For kids there are Whole Grain Goldfish crackers.  Breton has a multigrain cracker that provides 15 grains and 8 grams of whole grains.  These crackers would be a good way to get different whole grains into you.  
Whole Grain Goldfish

  • Most crackers are not whole grain.  Switching to whole grain crackers is a great way to add some whole grains to a snack.  The daughter who hates whole grain bread also doesn’t like whole grain crackers.  But she will eat some Ritz Whole Wheat.  These crackers aren’t 100% whole wheat but they do add some whole grains to her day. 

Breton Whole Grain Crackers
  • Rice and Quinoa
 Going to Chipotle?  Order the brown rice for better nutrition.  Brown rice is whole grain while white rice is refined grain.  Quinoa is whole grain.  I like the Quinoa and Brown Rice mix by Seeds of Change.  A packet heats up in the microwave in 90 seconds.

      4.  How many whole grain servings do you need each day? 
MyPlate and the Whole Grain Council recommend we “eat at least half our grains as whole grains”.  Adults should have 6-8 grain servings a day so 3-4 of these servings should be whole grain.  School age kids should have 5-8 servings per day depending on age so 3-4 servings of whole grains a day.  Most Americans need to up their intake of whole grains as WebMD states that most Americans are not even eating one serving of whole grains a day. 

      5.   Why are whole grains so healthy?
The health benefits of whole grains are very significant.  Not only do whole grains provide needed vitamins and minerals, and fiber but also those good phytochemicals that help your body stay healthy.  Eat more whole grains and reduce your risk of stroke, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, reduce your risk of heart disease.  People who eat whole grains are better able to maintain their weight as the fiber in whole grains helps to fill you up.  WebMD notes that whole grains can “reduce your risk of death from all causes.. by 15%”. 

What works for you?  How can you add some whole grains to your day?  If not cereal, try some whole grain crackers or brown rice.  Next week we’ll look at what chips and snacks are whole grain. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Are nut butters healthy?

How healthy are nut butters?  So many nut butter options to choose from.  Who didn’t grow up with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?  A staple in most of our school lunches.  But today rather than peanut butter there are many nut butter options to choose from.  The Berkeley Wellness has a good article on “10 Questions About Nut Butters”.  

Which nut butters offer the most nutrition? 
Since all nut butters are good for your health, choose the flavor you like best.  Why are nut butters so healthy?  They provide protein, a healthy fat, and many vitamins and minerals.  

Don’t nut butters have a lot of fat?
Nut butters do provide a lot of fat, but the fat in nut butters is a heart healthy fat as it is made up of mono- and polyunsaturated fats.  These are the fats that help lower your cholesterol, not raise your cholesterol levels.  These heart healthy fats also lower your risk of heart disease when you replace the nut fats for saturated fats like bacon.

Why are nut butters nutritious?
The nutrient value of the nut butter depends on what flavor you are choosing.  Each type of nut has different nutritional benefits. Overall, nut butters offer protein, fiber, some calcium and healthy fats.
Walnut butter – this nut butter is a good source of the heart healthy omega-3 fats and many antioxidants.  It is also known for “its anti-inflammatory properties”.    
Almond butter- this nut butter offers the benefit of adding some calcium to your day.  

What about sugar?
Most nut butters aren’t loaded with a lot of added sugar.  Read the label and you might see 2 grams of added sugar which would be only 8 calories from added sugar.  But even if some sugar is added, you are still getting the health benefits of the nut butter. 

What is the liquid layer on top of nut butters?  Should I pour it off?
The liquid on the top is the healthy fat.  You don’t want to pour it off and if you do you will have a very hard to spread nut butter left.  So, mix it in well.  After mixing, you can store the nut butter in the fridge and then it shouldn’t separate again. 

What about reduced fat peanut butter or reduced fat nut butter?
Don’t be fooled by this.  The manufacturer may take out some fat but then add in sugars, corn syrup or another type of sugar.  The calories may not be reduced as sugar replaces the good, heart healthy fat.  So, buy the real thing not reduced fat nut butters.

2 T.
Total Fat grams
Saturated. Fat grams
Almond Butter
Cashew Butter
Hazelnut Butter
Macademia Nut Butter
Peanut Butter
Soy Nut Butter
Sunflower Seed Butter

What are some highly rated nut butters?  and Everyday Health have rated the best nut butters.  Here are a few they like:
  • Barney Butter Smooth Almond Butter – good taste and not gritty like some almond butters.  But it does have some added palm oil which isn’t very heart healthy. 
  •  Sun Butter – sunflower seed spread – good for kids who have a peanut allergy.  No added oils, and the added sugars are only 3 grams or 12 calories.  They also have a no sugar added Sunflower Butter.  This nut butter is a good source of vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese.  A healthy choice.
 Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter – Health says this nut butter tastes like vanilla frosting.  Has some added sugar (not sure how much is added, 24 calories from sugar).  Palm oil is added which is not a heart-healthy oil.  
  • Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter:  a healthy choice as the only ingredient is peanuts and some salt.  Total sugars are 2 grams from the peanuts or only 8 calories with no added sugar. 
  • Artisana Organics Cashew nut butter – they advertise no added sugar, no added oils and no added salt.  So, a healthy choice.  They also say it is great for cooking. 

Any nut butter is a pretty healthy choice.  Now that the kids are grown, we like the Natural Peanut Butter.  But when the kids were growing up, it was Jif Creamy or Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter.  Now, one of my daughters loves nut butters and enjoys going to the Farmer’s Market in the summer to try different nut butters flavors.  Find a nut butter that works for you and your kids.  Sample different ones as they have different tastes and textures.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

What Are Some “Toxic” Foods That Aren’t Toxic at All?

How often have you heard of a person cutting out a food or group of foods because they read something on Facebook or saw an ad on the internet?  I actually saw a headline that read “The Reason You Should Never Eat Bananas”.  So untrue.  Luckily, the Doctor who posted this article dispelled this myth and admitted to eating 2 bananas a day. I eat a banana every day – as bananas are so good for one’s health.  Yet, so many people are confused about such claims.  Some articles on Facebook or the internet tell you to ban a healthy food like bananas, or even ban an entire food group.  Some dietitians in Vancouver wrote a great article, “7 ‘Toxic” Foods That Aren’t Actually Toxic” that helps explain some of these myths about foods that some people have labelled “toxic” to your health.  What is the nutritional truth about these foods?

  1. Gluten – you can’t go to the grocery store, a restaurant or open up a magazine without seeing the words “GLUTEN FREE”. 
a.       Facts – yes, there are some people who have a real reason to avoid gluten in foods.  These people have celiac disease or may have a true allergy to wheat. 
b.       Fiction:  going gluten free if you don’t have celiac disease or you haven’t been diagnosed by a physician with a wheat allergy or other health condition, is not healthy.  Wheat products like whole grain bread, whole grain cereal (shredded wheat, Wheat Chex) are super healthy and add many vitamins and minerals to our day as well as fiber.  The Vancouver dietitians note: “gluten-free products (such as gluten-free bread) often have extra sugar, fat, and salt added to them to make them more palatable.” 
c.       What if you “feel better” after giving up gluten?  You may indeed have an allergy or be sensitive to wheat, but to be sure go to an allergist and be tested.  Or, you may have celiac disease or another health condition.  But rule out these conditions before you start to self-diagnose and go on a gluten-free diet.  

  2.  Dairy – many people and parents of children have little dairy in their diet.  Some because parents and others don’t realize how important dairy foods are to our health.  (Note:  dairy means “comes from a cow” so be sure to include “real” milk in your diet.)  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 3 dairy servings every day for those 9 years of age or older.  That includes low-fat or non-fat milk and other dairy foods.  For 4-8 year old kids, 2.5 servings of dairy a day are recommended and for kids 2-3 years of age it is 2 servings of dairy every day.  Having dairy at every meal is good for your health.  Many parents are giving their kids water, soda, Sunny D, sweetened tea at meals and have forgotten how important real milk is for a child’s growth and development.  And many adults aren’t including dairy in every meal. 
a.     Fiction:  some people have cut out dairy in their diets as they think dairy foods lead to inflammation.  Or, some think they are lactose-intolerant and just give up milk and all dairy foods.  (Lactose is the natural sugar in milk that some people do indeed have trouble digesting.)  Rather than causing inflammation, dairy foods such as yogurt have been shown to be anti-inflammatory.   
b.     Fact:  Dairy products like real milk, cheese, yogurt provide important vitamins and minerals to our day.  MyPlate has the dairy food group as an important part of every meal.  If you don’t include a dairy serving at every meal or in your day, then your diet could be low in important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.  Milk and dairy also provide an excellent source of protein. 
c.    What if drinking milk does cause digestive problems?  Digestive problems are probably due to the lactose in milk.  However, there are many ways to cut back on lactose, but not totally cut out dairy foods.  If you do, you may be cutting important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D out of your diet.  (Read more about recommendations for those with lactose intolerance at:  lactose intolerance.)
  • Hard Cheeses – many hard cheeses are low in lactose and less likely to cause digestive problems (see lactose content of some cheeses.)  Try  some Mozzarella, Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Brie or Blue cheese.  
  • Yogurt – Many people bothered by milk can eat yogurt.  Why?  The bacterial cultures in yogurt help digest the lactose.  And since yogurt is a semi-solid it is digested a little slower than liquid milk.
  • Chocolate milk – my daughter who has been bothered by regular white milk has found she can drink a full glass of chocolate milk and it doesn’t seem to bother her stomach.  For some reason yet unknown, it does seem that chocolate milk is better tolerated than plain, white milk. 
  • Milk and Milk alternatives:  There is a lactose-free milk that some people drink in place of regular real milk.  Or, try small amounts of milk at a time such as small amounts of milk on cereal or in coffee. 
3.  Eggs – for years eggs have been given a bad reputation because of the cholesterol in the yolk.  Indeed, at one time the American Heart Association placed restrictions on how many eggs we could eat a day or a week. 
a.       Fiction:  limit eggs because eggs cause heart disease.  This is old news and the latest research no longer supports this.
b.       Fact:  Rather than cutting out eggs, to reduce heart disease risk we should focus on cutting back on saturated fat and trans fats in our diet.  Eggs are loaded with good nutrition including a high-quality protein, iron, Vitamin D and Vitamin A and eggs are low in calories.  So, enjoy your scrambled eggs, frittatas, and hard-boiled eggs once again.
So, before you cut a food or food group out of your diet, know the facts.  And get your information from reliable sources and not from some ad or Facebook post from someone not trained in health or nutrition.  Next week we will look at more myths about foods we commonly eat in our diets.

Cookie + Kate’s frittata recipe.   (Kate offers great instructions and suggestions for making the “perfect frittata”.) My younger daughter loves to make frittatas in muffin cups.  My sister also makes frittatas in muffin cups and freezes some for a quick breakfast.

         12 eggs, (use a whisk and blend egg yolks and whites until just blended)
         3 tablespoons full-fat dairy (whole milk, half-and-half or yogurt)
         3 cups cooked and seasoned vegetables or other add-ins
         1 cup (4ounces) grated or crumbled cheese
         ½ teaspoon salt.