The Fermented Food Buzz

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

As registered dietitians, we’ve had an influx of clients inquiring about fermented foods. They’re curious about all of them—from kombucha, kefir, and kimchi to miso and sauerkraut—they want to know if they’re worth all of the hype.  Originally, it was only “raw diet” followers who were interested in fermented foods, but a number of popular books and articles praising the foods and their probiotic health benefits have created a lot of buzz in the mainstream.

Here’s our fermented food low-down:

From a health perspective, fermented foods provide the friendly bacteria, also known as probiotics that your body needs in order to crowd out the harmful bacteria that naturally exist in your digestive tract.  Probiotics may improve your digestive and immune health– goodbye bad bacteria, certain digestive woes and accompanying diarrhea.  Plus, choose fermented foods and you’ll get more of certain vitamins and minerals than from the same foods that haven’t been fermented.   Thanks to the probiotics that “pre-digest” your food for you, fermented foods also help you absorb more nutrients.  For example, if you’re eating fermented cabbage, also known as sauerkraut (when you add Russian, Polish or Yiddish seasonings) or kimchi (when you add Korean seasonings), the probiotics in the cabbage are hard at work breaking down the plant cell walls so you can absorb more Vitamin C from the cabbage to boost your immunity while improving your skin.  Thank you fermented cabbage!

There are a lot of fermented foods out there—and you may eat them without even realizing.  Tempeh, kimchi, pickled fruits and veggies, fermented cheeses, buttermilk, sour cream, soy sauce, cider, vinegar, yogurt and bread, and even beer and wine (but it’s not a reason to start drinking them willy-nilly) are all fermented.  However, when it comes to fermented foods, our clients just want to know if they should eat them and whether teas like kombucha really stimulate the immune system, prevent cancer, and improve liver function like many advocates claim.

Our take:

Although, there’s no scientific evidence to support that fermented foods have miraculous health and curing powers, the probiotics they contain do benefit health.  That being said, we don’t tell our clients to force themselves to eat fermented foods if they don’t like them.  Personally, we enjoy eating yogurt and it’s an easy way to get some probiotics.  And many of our clients go for kefir.  While yogurt is fermented with only lactobacillus bacteria, kefir is fermented with this and also with yeasts so it has additional probiotics.  Although we like the flavored kefir, we prefer not to get all of the extra calories from the flavoring.

As for store bought kombucha, just be careful—many store-bought products are high in sugar (about 8 grams in an eight ounce serving) and contain about 60 calories a bottle.  We typically suggest avoiding beverages that contain calories to help prevent excess calorie consumption.  Another drawback: in order to keep the probiotic benefits, the kombucha tea must not be pasteurized; this means it increases the risk of contamination.

Bottom line:  If the majority of your diet is healthy and you prefer to get your probiotics from a supplement, go right ahead.
 
For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

The Best Weight Loss Snacks

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

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For more than fifteen years we’ve been working with weight loss clients and one of the questions that we get asked the most is “what should I eat for a snack?”

There is a secret (actually, a few) to choosing the best weight loss snacks!

  • Keep your snacks to less than 200 calories.  If it’s more than this, suddenly you’re eating a meal, not a snack.  Do this on top of already eating three full meals and before you know it you’ll have to undo your pants button and use a rubber band to tie it closed (or you’ll have invest in bigger clothes).
  • The winning snack combines energy-revving,  high-fiber, quality carbohydrates (think fruits, veggies, oatmeal, high-fiber whole grains, etc.) with lean proteins (like egg whites, non-fat or low-fat yogurt or cheese, poultry breast, hummus, tuna, nuts, etc.) which will extend the energy boost of the carbohydrate and keep you feeling satisfied longer.
  • Eat your snack before you get too hungry. For most of our client’s this is about 2-1/2 hours after lunch-time.  If you wait too long, your 200 calorie snack won’t fill you. You’ll gobble up those bites and be ready to take on the next few in the time it takes to tear the lid off a hummus container.   We’re talking from experience!

Great Snacks!

  • A baked potato (with skin) topped with nonfat/ low-fat cheese.  (A baked potato is extremely satiating and the key is to stick to a 3.5 ounce potato [100 calories worth] and 1 ounce of cheese.)
  • 30 pistachios with a piece of fruit (pistachios are known as the “Skinny Nut” since you get 30 pistachios for 100 calories; most other nuts you can only eat 10-12 of them for 100 calories.  Plus, the pistachios are a good source of both protein and fiber for a long lasting boost.)
  • Nonfat Greek Yogurt with a piece of fruit (If you are like our clients, this snack will be a staple for you; everyone seems to love the creaminess of Greek yogurt and that it feels like a real splurge.)
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal with one-half cup low-fat cottage cheese.  Despite not being steel cut oats, it’s still the whole grain and much healthier than other options and a satisfying snack to boot! We also recommend the low-sodium cottage cheese since the regular variety tends to be high in sodium.
  • A piece of fruit and a low-fat cheese stick or a hard-boiled egg (Our clients love those hardboiled eggs that come in packages so they can keep them at work, stink free!  We love Eggland’s Best eggs so much that we even work with the company!)
  • Fresh vegetables (carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes) dipped in ½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt (try mixing the yogurt with chives and garlic powder) or in hummus.  (You can NEVER get too many veggies– trust us, we wrote The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure based on the research supporting this! 🙂  Veggies are so low in calories and packed with nutrients– they’re the perfect food to fill up on!  Plus, they’re crunchy and refreshing in the summer time.)
  • A veggie burger on one-half whole wheat English muffin.  (This sandwich feels like a real meal and our clients love that they can eat this for less than 200 calories!)

As members of Pistachio Health’s Consumer Advisory Board, The Nutrition Twins help people to make healthy, nutrient-dense snack choices without breaking the calorie bank.
 
For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

Simple Sugar Swaps

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

Lately a lot of our clients have expressed interest in cutting their sugar consumption from unnaturally occurring sugar sources.  Most of them want to start by cutting the sugar that they add to their foods themselves in coffee, tea, oatmeal, et cetera. For those clients, we suggest using natural flavor-boosters instead of adding refined sugar (including honey and agave, which are still processed sweeteners—sorry!) or sugar substitutes. For example, a dash of cinnamon adds a surprisingly sweet taste, and a small serving of fruit  sweetens food naturally while adding vitamins, minerals, water, and fiber.

However, aside from ditching the sugar you add to food yourself, there are easy swaps you can make that will save loads of sugar without sacrificing flavor. Check these out:

Breakfast Swap 1: Instead of breakfast cereals packed with added sugars, opt for healthier alternatives with little added sugar.

  • Sugary Snack: Frosted Flakes (12 g sugar per cup)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: Post’s Shredded Wheat Original (1 g sugar per cup). Or try plain oatmeal—our personal favorite–which contains less than a gram of sugar per serving.
  • Savings: 11 to 12 g of sugar

Breakfast Swap 2: Instead of flavored yogurts packed with added sugars choose a plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries

  • Sugary Snack: Strawberry Yoplait original (26 g sugar)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: Fage fat-free plain yogurt (7 g sugar)
  • Savings: 19 g sugar

Afternoon Snack Swap 1: Instead of a nutrition bar full of added sugars, choose a naturally low sugar snack bar.

  • Sugary Snack: CLIF Banana Nut Bread bar (21 g sugar)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: KIND Nuts & Spices bar (4 to 5 g sugar)
  • Savings: About 17 g sugar

Afternoon Snack Swap 2: Trade a can of soda for a carbonated, naturally flavored sparkling water. We’re obsessed with doing this and even have our own seltzer making machines!

  • Sugary Snack: Coca-Cola 12 oz. can (39 g sugar)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: Poland Spring flavored sparkling water (0 g sugar)
  • Savings: 39 g sugar

Dessert Swap 1: Instead of slice of fruit cobbler have a bowl of fresh berries drizzled with a 1 tsp honey, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, powdered sugar, or maple syrup.

  • Sugary Snack: Slice of Mrs. Smith’s Apple Pie (18 g sugar in 1/6th of a pie)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: Small bowl of blueberries and strawberries with 1 tsp of honey (5g added sugar) or chocolate sauce (4 g sugar)
  • Savings: Up to 13 g sugar

Dessert Swap 2: Instead of a piece of chocolate cake select a small piece of dark chocolate. 

  • Sugary Snack: 1 slice of Pepperidge Farm 3-Layer Chocolate Fudge Cake (26 g sugar in 1/8 of a cake)
  • Sugar-Slashing Swap: Two Dark Chocolate Godiva Gems (5g of sugar each) 
  • Savings: 16 g sugar

Have you tried to cut added sugar out of your diet?  What did you cut?  Did you switch to a natural sweetener?  Let us know in the comments!

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

 

In Search of a Weight Loss Magic Bullet…Could Raspberry Ketones Be The Answer?

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Written by The Nutrition Twins

As holiday goodies seem to stare us in the face everywhere we go, the thought of being able to indulge without watching our waistlines grow is heavenly.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something we could take that would burn off a few of those extra calories?   We’re with you if you’d love to dive into that extra decadent brownie at the holiday party without having to pay the price later.

If you’re like many of our clients, you may have seen a guest on the Dr. Oz show touting the weight loss benefits of raspberry ketones and you’re probably curious about them.

Here’s the low-down on raspberry ketones…

If you’ve ever been at the market and smelt the sweet smell of a nearby container of raspberries, it’s actually the raspberry ketones that you smell —the main aromatic compounds found in raspberries. Raspberry ketones chemical structure has some similarities with synephrine, which is a stimulant, and compounds that have the ability to “speed you up” are continuously being looked at for weight loss.  After all, if something “speeds you up” (makes your body burn more calories while you’re sitting still), who wouldn’t want it?

The good news is that raspberry ketones have been studied.   The bad news is that they haven’t been studied very much.  In fact, there have only been three very small studies and they weren’t performed on humans.  Nor were they published in major respected medical journals.  And there’s a good chance they were funded by an organization that had a vested interest in the success of raspberry ketones.

But let’s go back to the point that the three studies done on raspberry ketones were conducted on rodents and not humans because there’s one thing that’s certain;  humans certainly aren’t rodents and don’t necessarily respond the way rodents do.  Perhaps this explains why some of our new clients have come to us disappointed after having tried raspberry ketones hoping to see some results.  They simply didn’t.

In the studies done on the rodents, the rodents did gain less fat and raspberry ketones helped the rats to breakdown fat.  This is interesting and we’d love to see some studies performed on humans.  After all, how can we know which dosage to give humans if it’s only been tested on rodents?  Perhaps this may also be a reason that our clients who have tried raspberry ketones haven’t seen success.    And we do have to keep in mind that even if researchers knew how much to give humans, since supplements are not regulated or enforced by a governmental agency like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they may not contain ingredient amounts that the label may claim they do.

As registered dietitians, it would be irresponsible of us as professionals to recommend raspberry ketones to our clients at this time.   However, we look forward to seeing more research on the subject.   For now, we’ll stick to eating raspberries and other healthy foods and to getting plenty of exercise and we’ll continue to recommend that our clients do the same.

However, if you decide you’d like to try raspberry ketones, we suggest that you read the ingredient label carefully as many other stimulants are often added to help “speed you up” and feelings of shakiness and heart palpitations are possible.  Also remember that no reliable clinical research has evaluated this supplement for safety or adverse reactions.  And if you’ve tried them please let us know your experience!

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

Is Organic Produce Worth the Price?

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As registered dietitians, we always get asked about whether organic fruits and veggies are really worth the extra money.  We completely understand why this is such a popular question, as we’ve personally experienced shell shock after having to pay nearly $5 for a single organic bell pepper (versus less than$1 for a non-organic one). Should you save your cash and go with conventionally grown produce? After all, if you pass on the organic produce, you’ll have more money to spend on the cute Lululemon outfit you’ve been eyeing.

The truth  is sometimes going organic is worth the hefty price tag and sometimes it’s not. One of the big reasons people purchase organic produce is to limit their exposure to pesticides, which are used to protect the plant and kill the pests that eat it.  Unfortunately, many pesticides also pose health risks to humans and have been linked to a variety of issues,such as hormone disruption, skin, eye, and lung irritations,and cancer.  So obviously, lowering the risk of your pesticide exposure is ideal.

There are two questions that you should ask yourself to determine if you should buy organic.  First: “Does this fruit or veggie contain a lot of pesticides?” You’ll find your answer in the Environmental Working Group’s 2012 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, which ranks the most highly and least highly contaminated produce. Keep in mind that the produce was washed before being tested for pesticide residues, so even if you scrub these items as hard as you can, it’s not going to change this list. If you can afford to buy the entire Dirty Dozen in the organic variety, go ahead.  Otherwise, ask yourself the second question: “How often am I eating this produce?”  If you’re eating it only occasionally, save yourself money and buy conventional. For example, if you just have celery (#4 on the Dirty Dozen List) as a sidekick to your monthly splurge on buffalo wings, there’s no need to worry about pesticides.  On the other hand, if you chow down on red peppers (#2 on the Dirty list) like we do, you should invest in the organic variety.  Or if you’re blueberry obsessed like many of our clients who eat blueberries with every meal, it’s a good time to go for the organic variety, since this fruit is the third highest in chemical residues.

Luckily there are some foods you don’t need to worry about at all. For example, we eat a ton of red cabbage (we like to think it’s because we have Hungarian ancestors so our taste buds naturally crave it). Cabbage, along with 14 other produce items, made the EWG’s Clean 15 List, (those lowest in pesticides). So if you’re a cabbage- lover like we are, don’t feel obligated to buy the organic variety. We certainly don’t. 

That being said, from the thousands of scientific studies we’ve read, we can confidently tell you that one of the best things that you do for yourself is to eat more produce, organic or not. (We wrote The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure for this very reason!).  Bottom line: if you want to lower your risk of obesity,  heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, eat more fruits and vegetables.  See you at the salad bar!

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!

Think You’re Eating Healthy at Brunch? Maybe Not…

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Although you may assume that healthy menu items like oatmeal and veggie omelets are the way to go for morning meals, they may actually secretly sabotage your waistline. The key to keeping your choice low-cal is to know how to order it. Even we–a couple of experts trained to recognize possible food pitfalls–have noticed how easy it is to get tricked. Here’s how to avoid getting hoodwinked by two seemingly healthy choices.

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1. Oatmeal and a Hard-Boiled Egg

What makes it great: Oatmeal is high in fiber and low in fat. It’s heart healthy and is an unprocessed whole grain that’s a great source of energy revving carbohydrates.  Coupled with some protein from the egg, you’d think you can’t go wrong…  

Why it can sabotage: Large portion size and preparation method
Last weekend Lyssie strayed from her usual veggie egg white omelet order in lieu of this. When her meal came, the portion was so large (about 2-1/2 cups of oatmeal–more than twice as much as a standard serving) that the calories soared above 500.  Add the hard-boiled egg and it was a 600 calorie breakfast, roughly three times higher in calories than the serving of oatmeal and egg you’d have at home. You could have had two pancakes with syrup and butter for fewer calories! Keep in mind that if the brunch restaurant uses whole milk and butter, or sugary toppings, the number of calories only grows.  

How to keep it lean: Request a small cup of oatmeal rather than a bowl, or don’t be afraid to ask for a doggy bag and take half of it home. Also request it be made with skim or 1% milk.

2.   Veggie and Egg-White Omelet

What makes it great: This is our personal brunch go-to meal, and we love it! One egg white is only 15 calories and 4 grams of protein.  So you can get a large, satiating protein-packed egg dish for less than 150 calories. The veggies add nutrients and fiber to help to fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied.  We opt for a side of fruit or a slice of whole grain toast to round out the meal with healthy, energy-boosting carbohydrates. This meal is a power meal—and all for about 250 to 300 calories.

Why it can sabotage: The preparation method and ingredient add-ons
Restaurants cook omelets in oil or butter—and they often sauté the veggies in oil or butter too before adding them to the omelet. Just 2 tablespoons of oil pack 250 calories. It’s not uncommon to get 300 or more calories from the oil or butter alone—more than the meal itself!   Another possible saboteur? Cheese.  Skip it and the 300 or more calories it adds.  Instead add a teaspoon of grated parmesan on top for 20 calories.

How to Keep it Lean: Ask that your eggs are cooked “dry, without butter or oil”.  Request that they use spray in the pan or nothing—usually there’s plenty of oil on the grill left behind from the person’s meal before you that they don’t need to add any grease. Note: It’s okay if you prefer to have the whole egg rather than just the egg white, just know you’ll get anywhere from 100 to 300 calories more depending on how many eggs they use. 

Tell us: What do you order at brunch?

 

For more like this you may like…

For a Get Healthy Guide, check out The Nutrition Twins Veggie Cure!