Main Nutritious Intent Website

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Going Over the Plethora of Nut Butter Choices?

Nut butters have gained more shelf space in your grocery store and trying to find the healthiest choice may be a bit daunting.

 Here’s what’s in my grocery store: Peanut, Almond, Hazelnut, Cashew, Sunflower and Soy butter (and yes, I realize that soy and peanuts are really legumes adn sunflower is a seed, but nutritionally they can all fall into the "nut" butter category). They are all fairly close nutritionally, generally varying in only a gram or two variation in nutrients. For example:

·      Almond and sunflower have 4 grams fiber  per serving and peanut has 3.  
·      Sunflower is high in fiber but low in protein.  
·      Peanut and Soy butters are higher in protein since they are legumes and legumes generally contain more protein than nuts or seeds. 
 So how does one navigate this delicious yet nutty world of butters?  Here are some guidelines:
  1. The fewer ingredients the better.  Natural has less added to it than organic.  You only need nuts, not extra sugar or hydrogenated fats. (If you don't like the oil that separates out of natural peanut butter - store it upside down)
  2. Watch your serving size.  Although 2 Tbsp. is the serving size listed on the label, feel free to cut that in half - 1 Tbsp. of nut butter goes a long way with half the calories of a traditional serving size.
  3. Pair it with another healthful food.  An idea paring would be fresh fruits or whole grains such as whole wheat breat or crackers.  Why not up your snack's nutrition by adding more fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals with a whole grain?
  4. Follow your taste buds.  Food should be enjoyed, not consumed as a chore, so choose nut butters that taste good to you and GO NUTS!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies

I wanted to try a different type of post today and review a cookbook that is recently on the shelves of your favorite virtual bookstore.  Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies has the kind of grabber title that appeals to the populace, but the common sense and grounded science that comes from experts in the field of nutrition.
Here's what I liked about the book:
  • All three authors are RDs (Registered Dietitian).  Just as you wouldn't consider someone who simply has an interest in surgery to take out your appendix, so you shouldn't seek nutritional advice from someone merely interested in nutrition.  Go with the credentials.
  • Excellent instruction on the science behind the premise before you get into any specific eating plans.  I think it is critical that people educate themselves when making changes to their diet and health.  Knowledge is power, and power means change.
  • Not a one-size fits all.  There are different levels of recommendations depending on your health, motivation and ability to change.  
  • Large variety of recipes.  I love food and love to cook and because of that, I'm always seeking out something new and delicious.  The book is loaded with recipes that cover varying dietary restrictions from vegan to gluten-free.
  • Bonus cooking tips.  At the end of the book, there are some tips and recommendations listed on spices and cooking gadgets.  They really are trying to equip the reader not only for health, but culinary success.  
  • Avoidance of the "d" word.  I love that these dietitians recognize the dangers of a diet mentality and address the importance of long-term, lifestyle changes rather than quick weight loss that is doomed to fail.  
So if you're looking for some motivation, more knowledge, or simply a different source of healthy eating information, you might consider giving Flat Belly Cookbook a longer look.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Chocolate: Unraveling the Ancient Obsession

Chocolate has been around for thousands of years.  Some of the earliest evidence of chocolate dates back to 1900 BC.  And interestingly enough, it was used exclusively as a bitter drink.  Not until the mid 1800s was chocolate made into the sweet bar form we know and love today.  So what is the real scoop on chocolate - are there really any health benefits or is it all just hype?

There are three main categories of chocolate: milk, semi-sweet/dark, unsweetened.
  •   Milk chocolate has the least amount of cocoa solids or cacao –containing 20% – 34%. 
  • The semisweet/dark category ranges from 35% in the lightest semisweet – to 99% found in the darkest bittersweet chocolate.
  • Unsweetened chocolate contains 100% and contains pure chocolate liquor mixed with some form of fat.  (Cocoa powder also falls into this category though it is not mixed with another fat to become solid, but left as a powder)
This cacao or cocoa solids are the component of chocolate that provide the health benefits you’ve probably heard about.  It contains flavonoids that provide antioxidant benefits, sulfur, magnesium, essential fatty acids and even fiber.  These compounds may help with cholesterol levels or help reduce the damaging effects of free radicals in the body.  Darker types of chocolate contain more of those compounds and less sugar than the lighter milk chocolate.  The higher the percentage of cacao, the more fiber the chocolate contains.  However, regardless of the type of chocolate you prefer, it is best to remember that chocolate fills a cameo role in balanced, varied diet.  

Tip: the higher the percentage of cacao, the higher the price tag seems to be.  So try making your own bittersweet chocolate by combining equal parts by weight of semisweet chocolate chips and unsweetened baking chocolate.
Combine both kinds of chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.
Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds, stir, then repeat until chocolate has completely melted. Frequent stirring is crucial to prevent burning.
You now have a lovely, liquid, bittersweet chocolate that is between 70-75% cacao.  Try using it to dip fruit, or stir in some nuts, spread it out onto waxed paper and let cool, then break into bark pieces.