Tag Archives: unprocessed

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.

Beet That Holiday Bulge

IMG_4117

Pureed beet pizza sauce

If you haven’t caught on by now, part of what I love about cooking is the chance to experiment! Because so many people find eating healthy to be flavorless and boring, I embrace the challenge of finding new, and I admit sometimes unusual, recipes to satisfy their cravings without leaving them saddled with guilt and love handles.

If the eggnog and holiday cookies got the best of you, and even if they didn’t, try this yummy pizza recipe that is loaded with flavor… and vegetable superpowers : )

Instead of regular tomato sauce, this recipe uses pureed beets. Like most vegetables, beets have numerous health benefits. The nutrient, Betaine, found in beets has been shown to prevent inflammation and protect cells from environmental stress. If you are an athlete, consider making beets a part of your training regimen as they have been shown to improve performance by increasing tolerance for high intensity exercise and decreasing the oxygen cost of low intensity exercise. The effect of drinking beet juice 2-3 hours before workouts is not minor. According to Runner’s World, performance is increased 12-14% which translates to a 1-2% decrease in race time. For more details on the ergogenic properties of beets, click here. Or, ask Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall who is reportedly a fan of the juice.

To make this pizza, I made a homemade crust out of 100% Whole Wheat flour and pre-baked the crust before topping it. Directions for making the crust can be found here. For the sauce I pureed 1 can of beets in a food processor with 3 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp olive oil, juice from half a lemon, and a dash of salt. Next I piled on spinach, organic shredded cheddar cheese, diced mushrooms, and olives. Bake for 10-12 minutes @ 350 degrees and enjoy!

Buy a Better Bar

If you have the time, it’s always better to eat real food than something out of a package, but IMG_0937unfortunately everyone is busy and we do not always have that luxury. When you are in a pinch, here are my favorite, virtually-unprocessed energy bars.

** Lara bars– There are several flavors and varieties. My favorites are the original Lara bars (mostly dates/nuts) and the Uber Lara bars (sweet& salty fruit and nut combinations). All are very pure, made from a range of dried fruits and nuts. I hope you like dates because that is one of their staple ingredients! There is also ALT, which is more of a protein bar but still made from fruits and nuts. Visit the Lara bar website here.

** KIND bars– Kind bars are similar to Lara bars, but I would describe them as being more nut -based, whereas the Lara bars are more fruit-based. Here is the website for you to check out yourself.

How to choose a healthy packaged snack:   Read the label!

  • Look for products with as few ingredients as possible
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup and added sugars, which may appear on the ingredient list as: agave nectar, cane sugar/crystals, evaporated cane juice, glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, molasses, malt syrup, sucrose, or honey. Many bars may include these ingredients, which is okay in moderation, but consumers are just not aware when reading the label- now you know what you’re getting when you check the ingredient list!
  • Aim for at least 3 grams of protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer. An exception would be if you are about to workout, in which case you would want to limit protein and fiber because they can be more difficult to digest. Instead, choose energy bars that are more carbohydrate-dense for quick energy. An example of a source of quick energy from carbohydrate would be dried fruit.
  • Keep sugar under 18 g- closer to 18g pre-workout, but lower if you are simply grabbing a bar as a snack to get you through the afternoon. Added sugar provides excess calories, without any nutritional benefits, and has been linked to obesity and heart disease. Limit intake, and favor real fruit, both fresh and dried, for something sweet.
  • 100-200 calories
  • No saturated or trans fats
  • Ingredients are listed by weight, so ingredients listed first are present in the highest amount