Tag Archives: nutrition

Teff- ‘The New Quinoa’

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My kitchen-sink Teff muffins pack a healthy, hearty, nutritional punch. Guilt-free nibbling encouraged : )

Ethiopian born Tirunesh Dibaba is one of my favorite female distance runners. If you have seen her effortlessly smooth and swift kick at the end of a long distance race, passing other ELITE competitors as if they are jogging, then you know why I admire her so much. She has won 2 olympic gold medals in the 10,000M (First woman to win back-to-back 10,000M olympic races- in 2008 then again in 2012), and a gold medal in the 5000M. She holds the women’s world record in the 5000M- 14:11.15. In 2014, she ran her first ever marathon in London, where she placed 3rd in a time of 2:20:34. How does she do it?? What super food is she eating to fuel her high level of training? While we know there is no secret diet or specific food that will transform our health and performance, it is still fun to learn about what our favorite athletes eat.

For thousands of years, a major food staple in the diets of Ethiopians has been a tiny grain that resembles a poppy seed, called Teff. The naturally gluten-free grain is a nutritional powerhouse often hailed as a superfood for it’s ample supply of minerals including Calcium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Copper, Thiamin, and key for distance runners- IRON. Just one serving of the grain (1/4 Cup dry) supplies 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and 20% of the Daily Value for Iron. The grain also provides 8 of the 20 essential amino acids necessary for growth and repair within the body. Unlike other grains, Teff supplies Vitamin C, which improves Iron absorption.

In Ethiopia, Teff is ground into flour then fermented to make a sourdough flatbread called Inerja. The bread, thin like a tortilla, soft, and porous, serves as an edible platter for all dishes. Pieces of the bread are torn off and used to roll up bites of vegetables or other foods being served on it. According to an article by The Washington Post, the Whole Grains council estimates that up to 2/3 of the protein in Ethiopian diets comes from Teff. Ethiopian distance runners credit the grain with their energy and health.

Teff can be cooked on the stove like quinoa as a side dish at dinner, or it can be used as a breakfast porridge. Mix the grain into a salad for an added textural element. Teff flour, made by companies like Bob’s Red Mill, can be used to make pancakes, breads, and cookies.

I had to try Teff for myself so I experimented by concocting an original recipe of my own. I call them my Teff kitchen sink muffins because I threw in pretty much whatever I had in my pantry- miraculously, especially considering the difficulty of cooking with Gluten-free flours, the muffins were a yummy and satisfying success! Here is the recipe:

Dry ingredients: 1C oats, 1C Teff flour, 1C coconut flour, 3 tbsp freshly ground golden flax, 3 tbsp chia seeds, 1/2 tbsp ground ginger root, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking power

Mix dry ingredients then make a well to pour the pre-mixed wet ingredients into.

Wet ingredients: 2 mashed bananas, 1/3 C honey, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 C goat milk (coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid and requires more egg), 1/2 C plain kefir, 1 tbsp melted butter, 3 eggs

Stir everything together. Top with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and diced pecans. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields 12 muffins.

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Melissa’s Take on Bacon… And Other Forms of Fat

photo (2) The word ‘bacon’ grabbed your attention, didn’t it? People love to talk about bacon and how much they love it, but what about bacon makes it so desirable to many people? On a psychological level, a hankering for a hot, dripping slice of crispy bacon goodness is probably tangled up in its ‘forbidden fruit’ status for those trying to lose weight or keep a healthy heart. Physiologically, the craving is related to the fact that we require a certain amount of fat in our diets to regulate countless essential functions within our bodies. Considering that I enjoy bacon as much as the next person, I have been intrigued by the increasing number of recent reports rejecting low-fat diets and re-considering the role of fats, including the previously frowned upon saturated fats, in the diet.

A few decades back when Americans started realizing that they were gaining weight at about the same breakneck pace as reality TV was skyrocketing in popularity, they desperately searched for a way to trim back their diets. Fats (9kcal/g), being twice as dense as carbohydrates (4kcal/g) or proteins (4kcal/g) in caloric value, were denounced as the cause of expanding waistlines, heart disease, and other chronic diseases. By cutting the fat out of a food, the total number of calories can be decreased. Conventional wisdom says that weight management depends on the careful balance of calories in versus calories out, but it seems that there is in fact more to the equation. Cutting out fat also means cutting out flavor, as well as fat’s important role in providing satiety. To improve flavor, food manufacturers add sugar, sugar substitutes, and salt. By acting like engineers, taking things out and adding other things in, food becomes increasingly processed and distant from its natural, most nourishing state.

While monounsaturated (olive oil, canola oil, avocado) and polyunsaturated fats (sunflower and safflower oil) have been fairly well accepted as heart healthy, the reputation of saturated fats (bacon, cheese) has been less favorable. Information sources including Harvard Health, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post reveal that previous studies warning about the dangers of saturated fat were based on only a few shaky studies. Harvard Health characterizes saturated fats as ‘in-between’ fats that are not tied to ill health in moderation. Further, they seem to be neutral in their effect on blood sugar (insulin) levels, which is crucial to weight management and prevention of chronic diseases, like Type 2 diabetes.

Those who fear fat, consider this. Fat plays a critical role in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. Ever seen someone restricting their diet who’s skin was cracked and dry, hair and nails brittle and dull? A diet rich in mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, with moderate amounts of saturated fats makes hair shiny and silky smooth, skin clear and radiant, and nails strong. It’s not about a vain interest in appearance, these outer indicators are directly correlated to the health of the body below the surface. Fat also plays key roles in building cell membranes, sheaths around nerves, and in hormone regulation.

So does this mean that you should start gorging on bacon everyday? Eating all the ice cream and pizza that you want if fat is okay? No! That is not what I am recommending. I am saying there is no need to be fat-phobic. Fat should be one part of a healthy diet along with high quality carbohydrates and proteins. Avoid fat that comes from processed food items. Make your own nourishing versions at home instead.

Reading about and ruminating over the fat debate reminded me what we all tend to forget sometimes- there is not one singular nutrition rule that will keep us in good health and at an appropriate weight. Let’s do away with the disjointed and archaic fat-free, low-carb diets of the past. It’s all about real food. Embrace all unprocessed, whole foods- fresh fruits, vegetables, full fat meat and plain whole milk dairy products, whole grains, nuts/seeds, even some treats in moderation. When possible, choose organic, sustainably farmed, non-GMO, and animal products from humane farms. Take the time to sit down and enjoy your meals with people you care about. Commit yourself to a holistic approach to health. It’s nourishing in more ways than one.

Notes: Some of you may notice that my views on nutrition are constantly evolving as I talk to more professionals in the field of food, nutrition, and wellness. I am always striving to learn more about health and deliver the best, most informed information to my readers that I can. What remains constant is my belief in unprocessed, real, whole foods, as close to their natural state as possible.

Today’s topic was inspired in part by Elyse Kopecky, a food writer and whole foods chef. Check out the awesome new cookbook she is writing with her friend and olympic marathoner, Shalane Flanagan: http://www.runfasteatslow.com/#cookbookproject

Title for this article was inspired by Christine.

FUEL: Poached Halibut with Kiwi Salsa

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I was absentmindedly flipping through some OLD magazines my mom found lying around the house last weekend when I came across this exceptional & runner-approved dish. Not only does it take a mere 20 minutes to prepare, it is high-on nutrition and offers a unique meal to try for those of us who tire of eating the same foods day-in and day-out. So, thank you Running Times from March 2011!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 oz filet of pacific halibut
  • 2 kiwi
  • 1 jalapeno
  • juice from 1 lime
  • cilantro

Directions: Combine vegetable broth, lemon juice, thyme, and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Next, turn off the heat and place the halibut filet skin-side down in the saucepan. Keep covered and let stand for 10 minutes. Once it is cooked, the skin should easily fall away from the fish. For the salsa, dice the kiwi, jalapeno, and cilantro. Mix in a small bowl and squeeze lime juice over mixture. Plate halibut on a bed of spinach and top with salsa. Quick and easy- and you just learned how to poach something! :   )

Nutritional notes: Halibut has a negligible amount of saturated fat, while packing in omega-3s, protein, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 aids in immune and nervous system function, as well as protein metabolism! This fish is a great choice for those who are wary of seafood because of it’s mild flavor and meaty texture.