August 2013

Smoothie Smarts

Who doesn’t love smoothies, especially this time of year when they are quick and refreshing on a busy, hot summer day. But, if you don’t’ watch out, that smoothie could easily pack on the pounds.

The calorie, fat, and nutritional content of a smoothie depends on what you put in it and how much you drink. Smoothies made with only fresh fruit are fat-free and very low in calories. For example, a smoothie made with 1 /2 cup of fresh pineapple, half a banana, two kiwi fruit, and ice fills a 10-ounce glass for only 183 calories, yet is chock-full of B vitamins, vitamin C, fiber, and minerals.

On the other hand, a smoothie made with ice cream, whole milk, peanut butter, or other high-fat items, can supply more than 500 calories per 10-ounce serving. For example, a popular power smoothie for athletes contains milk, cottage cheese, peanut butter, a banana, and honey for a whopping 613 calories and 41% fat calories. You save yourself 83 calories and 11 grams of fat by switching from one cup of whole milk to nonfat milk and from creamed cottage cheese to nonfat cottage cheese! Other calorie crunchers include switching from ice cream to nonfat plain yogurt, fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt, or tofu, and limiting the size of your smoothie to 10-ounces or less.

Smoothies can be very filling. That’s because they combine the two best filler-uppers – water and fiber. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University recently identified an important reason why we feel full after a meal. It’s a weight thing. No, not body weight, food weight. People stop eating when they have consumed a given weight or volume of food, regardless of its calories. Give people different sized servings of beverages that all contain the same calories and the people who drink the greatest volume eat less later in the day. In short, you’ll fill up on say a pound of food; you’re overeating if it’s 2,000 calories in a pound of chocolate, but munching for health if it’s 195 calories in a tall glass of carrot juice.

That brings us back to smoothies. Foods weigh the most when they’re packed with water and fiber, which could be the reason why low-calorie, fiber-rich smoothies made with fruit, nonfat milk, and other low-calorie items fill us up quicker than a bag of rice cakes. Another study from the University of Sydney in Australia, where researchers fed people 38 common foods and measured the hunger/food intake for the next two hours after the meal, found that people consumed fewer calories, yet felt more satisfied after eating fiber-rich foods, such as fruit, than when they ate croissants, cake, doughnuts, and candy.

A smoothie is a great quick-fix nutritious breakfast or snack, just make sure you use low-fat ingredients and keep your serving to the size of a glass, not a pitcher. The basics to whipping up a nutritious, low-calorie smoothie are:

  • Use juice or frozen fruit juice, nonfat milk, or fat-free frozen yogurt as your base.
  • Add fruit, fresh, frozen, or canned in its own juice. Frozen fruit gives a thick consistency. Choices include bananas, berries, mango, papaya, or oranges.
  •  Add flavorings for variety, such as vanilla, coffee (instant or brewed), nutmeg, cinnamon, malt powder, or cocoa.
  • Sweeteners are optional, and include honey, maple syrup, fruit spreads, and sugar substitutes.
  • For a protein and calcium boost, add powdered nonfat milk, fat-free cottage cheese, or nonfat evaporated milk.
  • For texture and more nutrients, add toasted wheat germ, flaxseed meal, or oat bran.
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Just Do This Today

Have one of these smoothies for breakfast or lunch today.

Citrus Splurge: one orange peeled and separated, one banana peeled and sliced, two teaspoons honey, 1/4 cup nonfat milk, two teaspoons lemon juice, 1 /2 teaspoon vanilla extract, ice. (218 calories, 4% fat calories)

Morning Make-up: ½ cup nonfat milk, two tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder, one apricot, 1 /2 banana, 1/4 cup pineapple, two graham crackers, 1/4 cup orange juice, one teaspoon vanilla (optional), ice. (261 calories, 7% fat calories)

The Zinger: In a juicer or blender, liquify the following ingredients: two carrots, 1 /2 red bell pepper, two tablespoons parsley, one celery stalk, 1 /2 apple and 1 /2 large tomato. For more zest, add one or more of the following: one clove garlic, one green onion or a dash of Tabasco. (168 calories, 6% fat calories)

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie: 5 ounces fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1/3 cup nonfat milk, 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice. (169 calories, 2.5% fat calories)

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Fatty Dairy Products Linked to Cancer Recurrence: Women with a history of breast cancer might want to steer clear of fatty dairy products if the results of a study from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California prove true. Women diagnosed with early breast cancer supplied information on their dietary intakes at the start of the study and also six years later. Of the original 1,893 women, almost 350 women had a cancer recurrence at the five to six-year follow-up. Of the 372 deaths during that period, 189 were caused by breast cancer. Results showed that women who ate one or more servings of fatty dairy products each day, such as whole milk, cream for coffee, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and cheese, had a 49% higher risk of breast cancer death compared to women who ate no more than half a serving each day. In addition, the women eating the most fatty dairy foods had a 64% higher risk of dying from any cause compared to women who consumed little or no fatty dairy. The researchers conclude that, “… intake of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was related to a higher risk of mortality after breast cancer diagnosis.”

Kroenke C, Kwan M, Sweeney C, et al: High- and low-fat diary intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2013;March 14th.

 2. Troubled Kids Low in Omega-3s: Adolescent boys with low blood omega-3 levels may exhibit more callous-unemotional and anti-social traits than boys with higher levels of these important fats, state researchers at King’s College London. In this study, omega-3 levels in blood samples from 72 boys with and without a clinical diagnosis of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were compared. Results showed that callous-unemotional (CU) traits were significantly more common in the ADHD group with low omega-3 EPA and total omega-3 levels. The researchers conclude that these results show, “…for the first time that CU and anti-social traits in ADHD are associated with lower omega-3 levels.” Another study from the same authors found that children with ADHD had lower average ratios of omega-3s to omega-6 and abnormalities in processing emotions compared to normal children.

Gow R, Vallee-Tourangeau F, Crawford M, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids are inversely related to callous and unemotional traits in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2013;88:411-418.

Gow R, Sumich A, Vallee-Tourangeau F, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids are related to abnormal emotion processing in adolescent boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  Prostaglandins Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2013;88:419-429.

3.  The Pressure Is Off With Beet Juice: A cup of beet juice every day could keep the doctor away, at least in terms of blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Exeter in the U.K. supplemented the diets of healthy seniors (ages 60- to 70-years-old) for three days with either beet juice or placebos. Blood pressures and plasma nitrite levels were measured before and after the study. Results showed that beet juice, which is rich in nitrates, reduced  blood pressure by about 10mmHg, while raising blood levels of nitrites. The effect was most pronounced 3 to 6 hours after drinking the juice and continued even 24 hours later.

In Perspective: That amount of beet juice provides about 0.2 grams of dietary nitrate, which would be converted to nitrite once in the blood stream and from there to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands blood vessels and improves blood flow. Other good natural sources of nitrates in the diet include: celery, spinach, lettuce, parsley, leeks, endive, fennel, and Chinese cabbage.

Kelly J, Fulford J, Vanhatalo A, et al: Effects of short-term dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure, O2 uptake kinetics, and muscle and cognitive function in older adults. American Journal of Physiology 2013;304:R73-R83.

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Food & Mood Tip – Caffeine Capers

Want to go caffeine-free? How can you tell what are the best “no-caffeine” options? Short of calling each coffee manufacturer and requesting detailed information on the caffeine content of their decaffeinated brands, you can’t. But, it’s really not an issue, since most major brands of coffee live up to their claims, which are that decaffeinated coffee is very low in, but not free from, caffeine.

From Au bon Pain decaf to Sanka, a cup of decaffeinated coffee contains only about 2 to 9 milligrams of caffeine. Starbucks decaf ranks higher at about 33 milligrams per cup, but their decaf espresso supplies only 8 milligrams. That’s quite a drop from the 200 to 272 milligrams in a cup of regular coffee and a lot less than you’d get from coffee-flavored ice cream (about 40 milligrams of caffeine in a cup), a 12-ounce cola (about 45 milligrams), or a cup of tea (50 milligrams). You’d ingest that much caffeine in a little piece of chocolate or a cup of hot cocoa, and a lot more in many over-the-counter drugs, such as Excedrin, Anacin, and, of course, No-Doz, which range from 32 to 100 milligrams per tablet. Some coffee brands, such as Hillsboro, offer 50% decaffeinated coffees. So make sure to read labels and purchase the unleaded stuff.

Of course, if you’re ordering decaf at a restaurant or coffee bar, you could fall victim to the old bait-and-switch routine. A waiter pouring coffee can mistakenly fill your cup with the cranked-up version or the counter help at the coffee bar can accidentally label a regular latte as decaf. I’ve found that asking waiters for their home numbers in case I’m still up at 3am after drinking the wrong brew helps prevent these problems.

Watch out for less obvious sources of caffeine. For example, many soda pops, from Sunkist Orange Soda to Mountain Dew, contain up to 55 milligrams of coffee, the caffeine equivalent of almost 28 cups of Sanka. Dark chocolate has up to three times the caffeine of milk chocolate. And, there are a host of caffeine-charged beverages on the market, from the soda pops Jolt, Surge, and Josta to bottled waters, such as Aqua Java, Java Johnny, and Water Joe.

It is very unlikely that a cup or two of decaf would have much effect on anxiety levels, while your enjoyment of a cup of decaf brew is one of life’s little pleasures you might not want to give up.

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Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week  – Aphrodisiac Antics

Are there really aphrodisiacs that can boost your sex drive? Maybe, but it’s not what you think. Romance has a lot more to do with “chemistry,” lingering glances, and subtle body language than it does with aphrodisiacs and high-potency supplements. Building a fire under your libido must go hand-in-hand with the ambiance of a candlelit dinner of wholesome, nutritious food in order to also fuel your desire.

Common sense combined with food presentation will go a lot farther than a love potion in boosting your energy and health. It also will reduce the chances that you’ll be too pooped to pucker. Basically, all you need is:

1) A nutrient-packed, low-fat diet that supplies all the vitamins and minerals in optimal amounts.

2) A moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.

3) Maintain a desirable weight (not because weight affects passion, but because being overweight lowers fertility and you’re ability to conceive a child).

4) Skip the alcohol, since it may make a person eager, but because it depresses the nervous system, alcohol slows down arousal, making for a clumsy and incompetent lover.

These dietary habits combined with moderate exercise, daily relaxation (chronic stress also interferes with ovulation and fertility), avoidance of caffeine and tobacco, and limiting medications to only those prescribed by a physician may not be as enticing as an aphrodisiac, but will go much further in boosting your desire, energy and imagination. In short, the most important sexual organ and the best aphrodisiac in the world is the imagination.

Yet, the line separating sexual desire and physical hunger is a thin one. We often speak of “eating our hearts out,” “feasting our eyes,” or having “lusty appetites.” We even call a lover “spicy,” “a dish,” “a hot tomato,” or just plain “good enough to eat.” In many cases, all it takes is for a food to look like a sexual organ to get our hearts thumping. It’s called the Doctrine of Signatures, which is the mistaken belief that the Universe reveals the use or virtues of a food by its shape and appearance. Hence, ginseng, because its shape resembles the human body, is considered an aphrodisiac, despite the lack of evidence to prove this belief. There also is no proof that other foods that resemble the male sexual organ, such as cucumbers, bananas, and carrots, boost sexual function. Plants shaped like testicles, such as onions, or the female anatomy, such as figs, ripe fruit, pomegranates and peppers, also were mistakenly thought to enhance sexual potency, desire and fertility.

Rare foods also have gained aphrodisiac status, from dried salamander and fat of camel’s hump to white flour. During Elizabethan times, prunes were considered such a powerful aphrodisiac that they were served in brothels. If an animal is known for being fertile, such as rabbits, then their sexual organs and even their meat is believed to improve sexual potency

Today, proponents of aphrodisiacs mix a little scientific jargon into the promotion of a food or food ingredient, but the same beliefs, myths, and magic are at play.  For example, nutrient cocktails rich in vitamin C are billed as “quick-fix climax-enhancers.” The active ingredients in many of these potions include caffeine or niacin, which appear to be potent only because they give you a temporary flush.

Oyster The belief that oysters increase fertility has a weak scientific basis. Oysters are the richest dietary source of zinc and even short-term poor intake of this trace mineral reduces fertility in both men and women.  Getting 15 milligrams of zinc each day will help sustain a person’s normal sexual function, but consuming larger doses will not produce super-human fertility rates. Besides, it takes more than oysters, or any other food for that matter, to effectively treat serious sexual dysfunctions, such as impotence or frigidity.

The bottom line? There is no scientific proof for any of these “remedies.” In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that no product sold over the counter as an aphrodisiac (from ginseng and licorice to vitamins, chocolate, and choline) is effective.

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Mood-Boosting Recipe

Creamy Hummus Dip with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

(from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

Homemade Hummus doesn’t have to be fussy or difficult to make. It takes only seconds in a food processor. The result is a fresh, tasty hummus unlike its distant relative that comes pre-made. Try it for lunch with pita wedges. It is especially good in the summer with fresh garden tomatoes. One serving of Creamy Hummus supplies almost 3 milligrams of iron and lots of magnesium, folic acid, and B vitamins!

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chick peas), rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thinly (green part only)
salt and pepper to taste
1 large vine-ripe tomato, diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

1) In a food processor, blend garbanzo beans and lemon juice until smooth. Add olive oil, garlic, cayenne, green onions, blend quickly just to mix.

2) Spoon into a festive bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3) Arrange diced tomatoes on top of mixture, sprinkle with fresh basil.

4) Serve with crusty bread, crackers, or toasted pita wedges.  Makes 8 1 /2-cup servings.

Nutritional Analysis per 1 /2 cup serving: 182 Calories; 28% fat (5.7 grams); < 1 gram saturated fat; 17% protein; 55% carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” from Last Issue:

What exactly is a calorie?
Just like a quart is a measurement of volume and an inch is a measurement of length, a calorie is a measurement or unit of energy. The number of calories in the foods you eat is a measurement of the number of energy units that food supplies. Those energy units are then used by the body for physical activity and all metabolic processes (from maintaining your heart beat, blinking your eyes, and growing hair to healing a scraped knee, generating new cells, and building muscle). The body stores calories as:

1) ATP, the quick energy currency of the body stored in the tissues and muscles;

2) Glucose in your blood and tissues, which is used as quick turnover to ATP;

3) Glycogen the storage form of glucose that is packed into the liver and muscle and used to restock glucose levels; and

4) Fat, which is the long-term storage form of energy and the dumping ground for calories consumed in excess of daily needs.

Only four components of foods supply calories: protein and carbohydrates (4 calories/gram), alcohol (7 calories/gram), and fat (9 calories/gram). Vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and water do not supply calories.

What is the lowest, yet still safe, calorie level to lose weight?

Women should not drop below 1,200 calories a day. Diets that fall below 1,000 calories a day (called very-low-calorie diets or VLCD) increase your risk for gallstones and heart problems, so are used only for obese people and must be monitored by a physician. Even a perfect diet falls short on vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals at this calorie limit, so make sure you take a vitamin and mineral supplement to fill in some of the nutritional gaps

Do You Know?

Are calories from fat more fattening than calories from carbohydrates and protein?

Should you cut calories or fat to lose weight?

Check the next issue for the answers…

Label Lingo – Real Food Supplements

Vitamin CAt the health food store, you are told a particular brand of vitamins is the best because it is made from “real food.” These supplements typically cost more, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are any better. The chemical structure of a vitamin is the same whether it is made in the laboratory or extracted from a food. The body cannot tell the difference. Besides, the extensive processing it takes to extract one component, such as a vitamin, from a food hardly leaves that molecule in anything close to a “natural” form. For example, studies show that vitamin C or ascorbic acid, is used in the body exactly the same way as that of a “natural” vitamin C extracted from rose hips.

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Food Finds/Food Fails

Food Finds:
OptiFlow and Langers Tomato Juice Plus: Both these products contain Fruitflow, a natural extract of tomatoes that has been proven in scientific studies to enhance blood flow, one of the four factors in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system (the other three are: keeping cholesterol low, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and reducing inflammation).

Horizon Organic DHA Omega-3 milk in 8-oz shelf-stable containers: What a great idea for school lunches or any brown bag lunch. All the benefits of milk (rich in calcium, protein, vitamin D, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, etc), low-fat, and organic along with helping to meet you and your child’s daily need for this important omega-3. Comes in vanilla and chocolate.

Food Fails:
Bottled Teas: Green tea has antioxidant compounds with fancy names like polyphenols that lower cancer and heart disease risk. Those polyphenols don’t make it into bottled teas in appreciable amounts, if at all. What does make it into the bottle is sugar. Many of these teas have the calorie equivalent of a side order of hashbrowns. And, because they are liquid calories, they don’t fill us up, so it is easy to over-consume calories, which means weight gain. Save your money and brew your own green tea at home.

Toast & Jam All-fruit Jam: Don’t be fooled into thinking all-fruit jam is better than regular jam. They are the same, and some all-fruit jams even have more calories. Both list whole fruit as the first ingredient. The only difference is that regular jam uses corn syrup (a vegetable-based ingredient..hence it can’t be called “all fruit.”) while in all-fruit jam the sweetener is concentrated white grape or pear juice, which is just highly refined sugar extracted from fruit.

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The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 small bran muffin
2 tablespoons almond or peanut butter
1 large nonfat latte made with nonfat milk
1 orange, peeled and sectioned

Mid-Morning Snack:
1 /2 toasted whole wheat bagel topped with:
2 ounces smoked salmon/lox
1 slice red onion
1 thick slice tomato
2 tablespoons alfalfa sprouts
10 baby carrots
Sparkling water

Linguini Marinara:
1 cup cooked linguini pasta
Marinara sauce: Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in cast-iron skillet. Saute 2 minced garlic, 1 /2 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup sliced red bell peppers, and 1/3 cup grated carrot until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Add 1 /2 cup bottled pasta sauce and 1 /2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Simmer until bubbling. Pour over pasta.

1 1 /2 cups fresh green beans, steamed and topped with 1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 serving of Creamy Hummus Dip with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil
1 /2 cup sliced red bell pepper
1 /2 cup baby carrots

Dinner and Dessert:

1 4-ounce chicken breast, skinner and grilled
1 cup broccoli, steamed and topped with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 /2 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups fresh berries
1 cup nonfat milk, warmed and sweetened with 2 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract

Nutritional Analysis for the day: 2001 Calories; 29% fat (64.5 grams); 10 gram saturated fat; 1.1 grams omega-3 fats; 18%  protein; 53% carbohydrate; 47 grams fiber.