November 2015

Autumn Super Foods

Summer, with its watermelon, berries, and veggie gardens, usually gets all the press when it comes to healthy foods, but Fall has its fair share of nutritional gems, too. And, with the stress of holidays and cold weather upon us, these foods might just be the ticket for helping you stay calm, lean, and healthy.

Healthy Food #1: Beets

Beets have been standing in the wings for sometime, but recently have made it into the nutritional limelight. These antioxidant goldmines are packed with nutrients, such as vitamin C, as well as B vitamins. The potassium helps with blood pressure, but even more are the nitrates in these vegetables that relax blood vessels and help lower blood pressure. Those nitrates increase blood flow to the brain, which might help lower dementia risk, and enhance blood flow to muscles, which is beneficial for exercisers. Beets also contain a compound called alpha-lipoic acid that helps lower blood sugar levels; a benefit for anyone at risk for or who has diabetes. A cup of beets has only 58 calories, so they also are a great addition to a weight-management plan.

How much? 1/2 cup roasted or boiled

Healthy Food #2: Parsnips

These relatives to carrots are sweet and tasty. A cup has only 100 calories, yet supplies up to 6 grams of fiber, some of it soluble fiber which is especially good at lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, thus lowering heart disease and diabetes risk. You also get 25% of your day’s need for potassium and a hefty dose of vitamin C.

How much? 1/2 cup cooked

Super Food #3: Pumpkin, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potatoes

Even a small serving of deep-orange vegetables, such as pumpkin, supplies five times the Daily Value for beta carotene, an antioxidant that protects the brain from damage. The more richly-colored vegetables you eat, the more brain protection you get and it’s hard to get more colorful than pumpkin. Bright orange veggies also supply hefty amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and iron, and more fiber than a slice of whole wheat bread or a bowl of oatmeal.

Besides, the more colorful fruits and vegetables you eat, the sharper your mind and the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off. Ask anyone successful at permanent weight loss and they will tell you, the absolutely, tried-and-true habit along with exercise is to load the plate with produce! The more produce you include in the daily diet and the longer you eat that way, the longer you will live healthy and the sharper your mind. If that doesn’t make you happy, nothing will!

How Much?  1+  cup a day.

Super Food #4: Greens: Kale, Chard, Collards

As a dietitian, it’s difficult to understand how anyone can be happy without dark green leafies in the daily diet. From spinach, chard, and collards to kale and broccoli, these are the very best sources of the B vitamin, folate. Your brain cells won’t turn on without it. It’s no wonder that poor intake of folate increases the risk for depression, fatigue, poor memory, and possibly even more serious mental problems like schizophrenia. People battling the blues who boost their intake of greens say they feel better and happier as a result. People who are clinically depressed only respond  to antidepressant therapy if their blood levels of folate are high. Need I say more?

Packed with vitamins and minerals, one serving of dark greens supplies an entire day’s requirement for vitamin A, more than 3 milligrams of iron, almost a third of your daily need for folate, and hefty amounts of calcium and B vitamins, all for about 20 calories. A one-cup serving of cooked Swiss chard supplies more than half of a woman’s daily recommendation for magnesium, a mineral that helps her cope with stress, curbs symptoms of PMS, and aids in sleep. Phytonutrients, such as sulforaphane in broccoli and the carotenoids in kale, clear toxins from the body and strengthens your resistance to colds and infections.

How Much?  2 servings a day (1 serving is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked)

Brussel SproutsHealthy Food #5: Brussels Sprouts

These little cabbages are members of the broccoli family and they are surprisingly high in protein (almost 4 grams/serving). They are high in blood- and bone-healthy vitamin K, immune-boosting vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin A, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, and more. They also are powerhouses of antioxidants, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, the two carotenoids so important for protecting your eyes from vision loss, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Brussels sprouts also contain sinigrin, a compound that might lower colon cancer risk.

How Much? 1/2 cup cooked.

Photo credit: V.T. Polywoda via Compfight
Photo credit: Jeff Turner via Compfight

Do One of These Diet Do’s Today

Beets: Toss into salads, blend in smoothies. Grate into slaws. Serve with lemon juice and chili powder.

Parsnips: Add to soups and stews (excellent substitute for potatoes). Steam with carrots for a side dish. Cook until soft and add to mashed potatoes. Grate into salads. Add shredded parsnips to stir frys.

Squash, Sweet Potatoes, or Pumpkin: Microwave and top sweet potatoes with maple syrup and pecans. Puree cooked pumpkin and add to soups as a thickener. Use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes in salads. Slice sweet potatoes into wedges, salt, and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes for golden fries. Cook, mash, and use winter squash instead of noodles or rice as a base for any dish. Add roasted butternut squash cubes to canned soups. I roast butternut squash cubes and toss into salads. Or steam and use pumpkin or squash as a base for risotto.

Greens: Replace head lettuce in salads and sandwiches with leaf lettuce or spinach, layer greens into lasagna, use large spinach leaves instead of a tortilla to wrap around cheese, beans, and salsa. Lightly steam chopped collards and mix into mashed potatoes. Add greens to stir frys, soups and stews. Saute them in a little olive oil and garlic.

Brussels Sprouts: Steam or roast. Grate into salads.

The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News

I Walked, I Deserve a Treat:
Eating “on the go” leads to overeating later in the day, according to a study from the University of Surrey in England. The study involved three groups of dieting women who were tested while engaged in various forms of “distracted” snacking, such as walking, watching television, or while having a conversation. Dieters who walked around a corridor for five minutes ate substantially more later in the day compared to dieters who watched TV or had a conversation while eating. In fact, they ate five-times more chocolate compared with the other dieters. The walkers didn’t need those extra calories, since the activities they engaged in required a minimum of energy. The researchers suspect that the walkers assumed they had “earned” the right for more calories.
Ogden J, Oikonomou E, Alemany G: Distraction, restrained eating, and disinhibition. Journal of Health Psychology 2015: August 20th.

You May Be Older Than You Think:
Three out of every four American adults have a heart that is much older than their chronological age, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That aging heart is at high risk for heart attack or stroke. The report used risk factor data from every state and information from the Framingham Heart Study. Results showed that half of all U.S. men and almost half of U.S. women have a heart age that is five or more years older than their chronological age. The average adult man has a heart age eight years older than his chronological age. The good news is, Americans can turn that clock back if they attain and maintain a desirable weight, engage in daily exercise, eat well, maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and not smoke.
CDC’s Vital Signs: Predicted Heart Age and Racial Disparities in Heart Age Among U.S. Adults at the State Level. September 1st, 2015.
Coconut Ginger Fried Rice with Seared Mahi Mahi

Boost Mood With Fish:
People who include seafood several times a week in their diets are at lowest risk for depression, according to a study from the Medical College of Qingdao University in China. In this meta-analysis of 26 studies involving 150,278 people, the researchers found that those who consumed the most seafood had up to a 17% lower risk of depression compared to those who ate little or no fish. The researchers speculate that the omega-3 fats, DHA and EPA, in fish might change the structure of brain membranes or alter the way neurotransmitters work. Depression affects 350 million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization. As our eating habits took a nose-dive in the past few decades, the rates of depression skyrocketed. An American born 100 years ago had a 1% chance of depression in her/his lifetime. Today there is a 2000-fold increase in that, with a rate of 19%.
Li F, Liu X, Zhang D: Fish consumption and risk of depression. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2015;September 10th
Photo credit: Bobbi Bowers via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip-

Nutrition Before, During, and After Stress
What you eat or don’t eat can influence how good you feel and how calm you stay during stress. Stress increases requirements for several nutrients, including the B vitamins, the antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc. A diet low in any or all of these nutrients only escalates stress-caused damage to the body. For example, low vitamin C further raises cortisol levels, aggravating the stress response. In contrast, diets loaded with vitamin C-rich foods lower cortisol levels and help people cope. The same chicken-and egg scenario plays out with magnesium, a mineral flushed out of the body during stress, yet aggravates the stress response when low. Magnesium also is important for normal sleep patterns. In short, if want to cope better, stay healthy, and keep lean,  then eat well prior to and during stress. Beyond single nutrients, stress is damaging to the body. The only way your body can fight and help prevent that damage is if it has all the building blocks it needs to boost immunity and cell defenses. The ONLY place your body has to get those building blocks is your diet. Eat junk and you’ll build a body on junk. Eat well and your body will have what it needs to do what it is designed to do…protect and defend itself.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month-

Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
For the rich flavor of this traditional pie, there is no substitute for real whipped cream. The trick is to pack a small amount of whipped cream with extra flavor so a little goes a long way. You can make the crust ahead of time and refrigerate. For variation, add finely-mince crystallized ginger or toasted chopped pecans to the filling. Lemon zest instead of orange zest can be used in the crust. This revised pie is 35 percent lower in calories and has half the fat of traditional pumpkin pie.



1 cup powdered pie crust mix (such as Krusteaz)

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons water



1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

½ cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Splenda

2/3 cup fat-free half & half

2/3 cup fat-free evaporated milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon rum extract

2 whole eggs

1 egg, separated into yolk and white

Whipped Cream:

½ pint carton of heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon rum extract

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

1) In a medium bowl, place pie crust mix, orange zest, and water. Mix with a fork until dough is moistened. Pat together with hands to form a firm ball. Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour and roll dough into a circle, two inches larger than an inverted 9-inch pie pan. Fold dough in half, then into quarters. Place tip of folded sheet in center of pie pan and unfold. Press gently into pan and trim dough to 1-inch from edge of pie pan. Fold under and pinch to form fluted edges. Set aside.

2) In a large bowl, blend all filling ingredients from pumpkin puree through to rum extract.

3) Place 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk in a small bowl and whip. Add to pumpkin mixture and blend thoroughly.

4) Whip remaining egg white with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into pumpkin mixture until no white streaks remain. Pour pumpkin filling into pie pan and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce heat, and bake for 50 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick inserted into middle of pie comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for at least 2 hours.

5) In a medium, deep bowl, whip cream with a mixer on high speed. When cream begins to form peaks, add powdered sugar and extracts. Continue to whip until firm peaks form.  Dollop 1 tablespoon of cream on top of each piece of pie (with left-over whipped cream). Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving of pie: 208 Calories; 33% fat (7.6 grams); 2 grams saturated fat; 12% protein; 54% carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber.

Nutritional Analysis per tablespoon of whipped cream: 26 Calories; 89% fat (2.6 grams); 1.6 grams saturated fat; 2%  protein; 9% carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber.

Your Nutrition Questions Answered

How harmful to our bodies are GMO foods?

While the threats to the environment in the long run appear serious, there is no body of research yet to support claims that GMOs increase allergies or disease in humans. Up to 80% of the processed foods in the grocery store contain genetically modified ingredients and have been there since the early 1990s. However, if you still want to steer clear of these foods, the good news is that the same foods that are GMO-free, like fresh fruits and vegetables, also are the foods that help manage weight and boost health. We all would be better off eating a lot less processed foods, GMOs or no GMOs, which are always higher in fat, salt, sugar, and calories and lower in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients compared to Mother Nature’s real food.

Is it better to cut calories or fat to lose weight?

Excess calories are what pack on the pounds, but it’s much easier to over consume calories from fat, since fat is more than twice as calorific as protein or carbs. For example, a mixing bowl serving of salad has fewer calories than the two tablespoons of dressing on top. A baked potato has about 160 calories, but pile on the butter and sour cream and the calories more than double. In addition, saturated and trans fats increase the risk for a host of diseases, from heart disease and colon cancer to dementia. In short, you can eat a lot more food if it’s low fat and you do your body a favor by cutting back on the “bad” fats even if you don’t need to lose weight.

See Next Month for Answers to These Questions:

Do the fats in olive oil and other healthy fats convert to trans fats when heated on the stove?

Does eating extra protein build muscle?

Label Lingo-

 What does “Good Source of…” Mean?

The front label of a bag of baked potato chips says it is “A good source of vitamin C.” What does that mean? It means one serving has 10% of your daily requirement for vitamin C or about 7 milligrams if you are a woman. Never use that promise as an excuse to buy any processed food. There are 40+ essential nutrients and 10% of any one of them is so ridiculously small it doesn’t make a dent in your daily optimal nutrition needs.

Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:

1. Eat Well Embrace Life Zesty Sriracha Carrot Hummus: This hummus is delicious! Spicy, flavorful, and good for you. You will recognize all the ingredients (except the last two, which are there to preserve freshness and rest assured you’re not OD’ing on sugar. Use as a dip for baby carrots, pea pods, red pepper strips, or jicama.

2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil: While the “bad” fats – that is saturated fats and the trans fats – increase blood cholesterol levels and your risk for heart disease, mono-unsaturated fats in olive oil are healthy fats. These fats lower total cholesterol and the “bad” cholesterol called LDLs, while holding constant or even raising the good cholesterol, called HDLs, thus lowering heart-disease risk.  In addition, the mono-unsaturated fats also protect LDLs from damaging compounds called free radicals that otherwise make them sticky and more prone to clog arteries. They also reduce blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke, and they possibly lower the inflammation in the arteries associated with heart-disease risk. In fact, following the Mediterranean-style diet that includes the monounsaturated fat, olive oil, can lower heart disease risk by up to 70%! Extra-virgin is the most flavorful, but those flavors also breakdown quickly with heat. This type of olive oil is best used in salad dressings, as a dip for bread, and drizzled over already cooked foods, where it isn’t heated. The pure olive oil or virgin olive oil is a more all-purpose oil that can be used for sauteing and in cooking. The light olive oil has no flavor, so it works well even in baking. You might want to aim for 3 bottles of olive oil in your cupboard: the inexpensive light for cooking and baking, the virgin oil for cooking, and the extra-virgin for salads and other delicate dishes where it will add flavor.

Food Fails:
Desserts1. Reser’s Rainbow Parfait: There is nothing in this product that even slightly resembles food. A serving supplies 5 teaspoons of sugar, which makes sense, since after water, high fructose corn syrup, then sugar are the second and third ingredients followed by a long laundry list of chemicals. Do your body a favor and skip the 100 calories in this junk!

2. Fresh Foods Market Thai Style Chicken Coconut Curry Soup: The only claim to fame here is that the front label claims it is “made with white chicken meat.” Never mind that it gets more than half its calories from fat, and 20% from artery-clogging saturated fat, or that one cup supplies more than half your recommended sodium allotment. The woman standing next to me in the grocery store was excited that a serving contained 10 grams of protein, but that is one nutrient most Americans already get enough of and certainly does not justify the fat and sodium in this product.

This Month’s Menu Ideas:

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 cup cooked oatmeal, cooked in 1 cup low-fat 2% milk and topped with 1 Tbsp. slivered almonds and 1 Tbsp. brown      sugar
Smoothie made with: 1 cup calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice, 2 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ, 1 banana, 1      cup fresh or partially-thawed strawberries, and 1 Tbsp. lime juice

Cheese, Bean and Veggie Pita: 1 whole wheat pita stuffed with: 1 ounce grated cheddar cheese,  1 /2 cup black beans, 1 diced tomato, and 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 medium orange
Sparkling water

5 ounces salmon fillet, topped with lemon juice and dried dill and baked for 20 minutes or until cooked through, but      not dry
15 steamed asparagus spears
1 cup sliced zucchini or summer squash sauteed in 2 tsp. olive oil, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked couscous (prepare according to package)
1 serving Pumpkin Pie with Rum Whipped Cream
Nutrition Analysis: 1,996 Calories, 25 % fat (55 g: 20 g saturated), 57 % carbs (284 g), 18 % protein (90 g), 42 g fiber, 1,169 mg calcium, 860 mcg folate, 434 mg vitamin C,  14.3 mg iron

What has Elizabeth been up to?

She was on AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland on October 12th

She will be on AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland in November. Topic: Vices That Are Good For You