Main Nutritious Intent Website

Monday, January 30, 2017

Death, or Rather, Health by Chocolate

Did you know. . .

  • Revolutionary War soldiers were sometimes paid in chocolate.
  • Chocolate syrup was used for the shower scene in Psycho.
  • Average American consumes 51 chocolate bars each year.  
  • Scent of chocolate in a bookstore made people 40% more likely to buy cookbooks or romance novels.

Quiz time:

  1. Which country consumes the most chocolate? Swiss eat 22 pounds per person per year, Australians eat 20 lbs.  and USA is 11th place at 12 pounds per person per year.
  2. Which country produces the most chocolate? Ivory Coast
  3. Which state is the only one to commercially grow cacao beans in the US? Hawaii
  4. In which state was found the earliest signs of chocolate in America? Utah – near Canyonlands
  5. What health benefits does dark chocolate provide? Decreased blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, decreased inflammation, and can reduce the risk of heart disease.

What to look for on a chocolate label: 
            10 – 35 % cacao = milk chocolate
            35 – 55 % cacao = semi sweet or dark
            55 – 90 % cacao = bittersweet or extra dark

Health benefits of dark chocolate start showing up at the 70% (bittersweet range).  Semi sweet is usually closer to %50, but the labels and numbers get very murky.  
If you have a hard time finding a nice dark bittersweet chocolate, try making your own by melting equal parts of semi sweet and unsweetened baking chocolate.  

Always check the ingredient order and fiber content. Unsweetened chocolate should top the ingredient list.  The higher the fiber, the darker the chocolate, and the more accompanying health benefits it will provide.

Chocolate in small portions can be part of a healthy diet.  The darker the chocolate, the more health benefits it has, but sometimes buying bittersweet chocolate can get a little expensive.  An easy way to make your own, is to take equal parts of semi-sweet chocolate chips and unsweetened baking chocolate.  Microwave for 30 seconds and stir, repeat until melted and smooth.  This gives you an easy inexpensive way to make your own 72 -75 % cacao bittersweet chocolate which you can then use as you wish. 

One of the nutritional benefits of dark chocolate is that it often comes with other healthful food such as fruit and nuts. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

All About Bread

Considering the fact that the average American eats 53 pounds of bread per year, choosing bread can be a weighty issue.  Which ones we should be eating and which ones we should be avoiding?  The question of bread itself can be a tricky one as recent diet fads have brought bread in and out of food-fashion.  Here are a few answers to common bread-related questions:

Should I even be eating bread at all when I hear so much about cutting it out of one’s diet?

Yes.  Labeling any one food or food group as a nutritional villain should raise some red flags.  Considering that every culture has its own version of bread,  it’s no surprise that bread has been a nutritional mainstay for millennia.  It’s more important to look at the overall balance of foods you eat than to inaccurately put the blame on one food item.

What nutritional benefits am I getting from bread?

One of the main nutritional benefits that bread provides is fiber.  Whole grains and whole wheat are an excellent source of fiber for America’s pathetically low-fiber diet.  Bread is also a source of complex carbohydrates which serves as an ideal fuel for our bodies.  Bread provides B vitamins which play a key role in metabolism or the way our body uses and converts fuel into energy.  So whole grain breads are well suited to help maintain a healthy metabolism.  Bread also provides essential minerals such as iron and magnesium.

How do I choose between breads?

Look past the marketing to the nutrition facts label.  The ingredient list should be reasonably short and understandable with whole grain topping the list.  Rule of 3s: Check to make sure that your bread is providing at least 3 grams of fiber per serving (slice) and no more than 3 grams of sugar.  Don’t be too rigid in your bread choices.  Remember that a healthy relationship with food means that we have variety and that food is enjoyable.  So if grilled cheese or french toast on wheat bread doesn’t quite fit the bill, then choose a low-sugar white or sourdough bread for those occasional menu items.  When whole grain is your routine, its fine to enjoy the occasional white bread item. 

Fun bread facts:
Egyptians used bread as currency.
Sliced bread was introduced in 1928.

Among the simplest recipes are artisan bread recipes:

So try making a loaf to wow your friends and family this weekend. 

Realistic Nutrition Resolutions

Losing weight is by far and away the most common New Year’s resolution.  However, it is also the most commonly broken resolution as well.  Why all the failure?  Unrealistic expectations.  

Losing 20 pounds may sound good to you, but it may not be realistic and can even cause more harm than good if it sends you down the roller coaster of weight cycling.  Instead, here are some realistic, maintainable goals that will give you more life-long health. 

Step away from the scale.  Your body may not be on board with the arbitrary number of pounds you want to lose.  If you really want a numerically based resolution, resolve to learn your own numbers.
  • Get your blood pressure checked.
  • Have a blood panel done to check levels like cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.
  • Check your resting heart rate.
  • Calculate your waist to hip ratio (men .95 or less, women .8 or less)
  • Count how many pushups, sit-ups or burpees you can do.

In other words, shift your focus from weight to actual health.

Small and steady wins the health race.  Simple changes over a long period of time can really make a big difference when it comes to your life-long health. 
  • Swap one eat-out lunch for a brown-bag lunch once each week.  (Not only saves 5,000-10,000 calories over a year’s time, but also saves $200-$400 annually)
  • Swap out one can of soda a day for a bottle of water.
  • Always take the stairs.
  • On the weekend, wash and bag up your produce in convenient single serving bags you can easily grab on the way out the door.

Choose a few small health changes and then let your body enjoy the improvements in health.  It may not show up on the scale, but it will make a difference somehow – possibly reflected in lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, etc.

Avoid subtraction and add in the positive. 
  • Instead of giving up chips or snack foods, add in a handful of nuts for your nightly salt-crave.
  • Instead of giving up all fast food, add a crockpot night to your weekly routine or write 5 dinner ideas down for the week.
  • Instead of giving up all sugar or junk food, aim to eat a bunch of bananas each week, or start the habit of going through a bag of salad each week. 
  • Instead of eliminating all TV time, add in a walk around the block.

The small, healthful habits will gently nudge the less-healthy ones out of prominence.  Avoiding deprivation is key to maintaining change and the smooth transition will be so much easier to live with the rest of your life. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trend Watch: What's New in the Grocery Store in 2017

Plant Proteins. 

Look for plant-based proteins popping up everywhere from creative uses for lentils and legumes to plant butchery (plant-based foods styled to resemble meat in taste and texture such as meatless BBQ ribs). And as ever, nuts and seeds will continue to take a leading role in healthy snacks.

Good Fats.  

Fats may be coming back into fashion.  Again, nuts and seeds fit this bill perfectly, but other foods that we are used to seeing low-fat will start reverting back to their full-fat predecessors.  Conjugated Linoleic Acid found in dairy fat may lower the risk of heart disease and prevent the growth of some cancer cells.  So watch for full-fat versions to show up in the dairy case.  

More Ethnic Flavors.  

As the world becomes more mobile, people take their foods and flavors with them.  Look our especially for more Middle Eastern and Eastern cuisine.  Anywhere from the spice aisle to the bakery to the frozen food section.


While not a new grain by any means as anyone who has driven through the midwest can attest, this whole grain may seem to be the new kid on the gluten-free-grain block.  High in fiber and protein, this may be a grain that starts showing up in breakfast cereals, chips and popcorn alternatives. 

Online Grocery Shopping.  

Traditional grocery shopping is far from obsolete, but nonetheless, traditional shopping is trending down as online, and delivery grocers are on the rise. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Take Dieting Off Your New Year's Resolutions

Before you make that habitual New Year's Resolution to go on a diet, chew on this food-for-thought first:
The average dieter in America goes on an average of 4 diets per year. 
Dieting is a good predictor of weight gain. Two-thirds of those who diet will regain more than they lose.
Chronic, repeated or 'yo-yo' dieting causes some serious, long-term damage. Here are a few of the risks you take when you decide to embark on yet another diet:
1.    Your body retains more fat when you go off the diet and resume eating.
2.    Each time you diet, the rate of weight loss slows.
3.    Your metabolism is negatively affected. 
4.    Your cravings & tendencies to binge increase = guilt.
5.    You may more sleep disturbance, bone loss and fatigue as a result of extensive dieting.
6.    You lose touch with your body's natural hunger and fullness signals.
7.    Dieting is the greatest risk factor for developing eating disorders.
8.    Your example most likely will negatively affect your family's relationship with food and body image.

If you aren't going to sustain the regimen happily for the rest of your life, don't start it at all.
I can't emphasize enough the power of your example to younger people within your influence. Young girls especially pick up on those subtle, destructive cues that teach: body size, shape and self-worth are inextricably linked. Just say no to that right now with your personal example of a healthy, non-diet lifestyle. Truly, if you cringe at the thought of an 8 or 10 year-old girl imitating your "diet", that should be a huge red flag. This advice does not just apply to parents. If you have nieces, nephews, neighbors, students, etc., please think about the message you send every time you go on another diet.

So, before starting another "miracle" diet, ask yourself if you're up to ending the year with more guilt, more girth and less health than you started. If that doesn't sound so appealing, you might want to consider a healthful, life-long, non-diet approach. Contact a registered dietitian and break the addictive cycle of dieting permanently.