Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are You Truly Eating WHOLE Grains? (Part 1 of 2)

You may have heard the term “whole grain”, but do you really know what these words mean? When I ask clients if they eat whole grains, the response I often get is “Sure, I eat whole wheat bread and pasta.” Not exactly. While these foods may be made from whole grains, they are not themselves whole grains. Read on to demystify this some more…

In order for something to be considered a whole grain, it must not have anything added or removed. The entire edible portion must be intact. Let’s look at a common whole grain as an example: brown rice. Just like any whole grain, brown rice has three parts – a germ, bran, and endosperm. If any of these parts are removed, then our brown rice is no longer, and is now considered a “refined” grain (or refined carbohydrate). To sum up, brown rice is turned into white rice when the germ and bran are removed. Same thing with wheat, spelt, rye, etc.

Why do we care about the bran and germ?
These are the parts of the whole grain that contain most of the nutrients and fiber. The endosperm is largely the starchy part of the grain.

When we whole grains on a regular basis, we may experience the following benefits:
• We’ll feel more satisfied with less food. (The fiber in whole grains fills us up!)
• We receive steadier, longer-lasting energy from our food because whole grain takes longer to be digested than a refined grain, which quickly turns into sugar in the body and can produce blood sugar spikes.
• Lower cholesterol.
• Reduced risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease.
• Improved elimination

Sounds good, yes? Next time you go food shopping, buy some whole grains. I recommend buying a few and experimenting a new one each week. A suggested list of whole grains to try:
• Brown rice or wild rice
• barley (hulled)
• buckwheat (kasha)
• quinoa
• millet
• amaranth
• wheat berries
• oat groats or steel-cut oats (these are whole oats that are cut up for easier cooking and digestion

Note that some of the whole grains listed above (such as buckwheat, quinoa, millet, and amaranth) are not technically grains; they are seeds or berries. From a culinary perspective we consider them grains because of how they are cooked and eaten.

So, now you understand that when you eat whole wheat (or whole grain) bread, crackers, pasta, etc., you are in fact NOT eating a whole grain. You are most likely eating a product that was made from flour that was made from whole grains. But once those grains were milled into flour, and then processed or cooked with other things (yeast, sugar, salt, flavorings, etc) they are no longer whole. While this sounds like semantics, or a technicality of sorts, it in fact is not. And you can be assured your body knows the difference!!

Another technicality can be observed in food labeling or packaging. Food manufacturers realize that health-conscious consumers want to eat more whole grains, so they add them into their products. This is a good thing, but not all “whole grain” products are created equal. Remember, a true whole grain won’t have an ingredient list; it contains only one ingredient: itself!! When buying whole grain flour products, you need to be a label detective and read carefully! Even if that bread looks brown, if it doesn’t say 100% whole wheat (or spelt, or rye, etc), it may have refined flour added to it.

Stay tuned for part 2: practical tips for incorporating more whole grains into your diet, tips for preparation, and some easy, tasty recipes. Coming soon…

Ready to make changes to your diet but need more support? Are you on board but dealing with less-than-enthusiastic family members? A transition to a healthier diet doesn’t have to be a struggle. I can help. Call today to set up an appointment: 054 204 4773.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How To Survive the 9 Days Without Meat

Think you’ll wither away and starve? Think again. The 9 Days are a great opportunity to bring more awareness to your food choices, and perhaps create lasting change in your daily nourishment. And since you won’t be doing any laundry, you’ll have plenty of time to try new recipes, right?

For the next 9 days, halacha instructs us to refrain from eating meat, including chicken. The number one question I get during this time, and also from those wanting to transition to a meat-free diet, is “How will I ever get enough protein?”

Please don’t worry. Yes, it’s true that protein is the basic building block of the human body, helping our bodies form muscles, organs, skin and hair. It’s also true that protein requirements differ from person to person (a concept that’s part of a larger idea called bio-individuality). If you know you need more protein, or you’re a pregnant or nursing mom, then you will need to take extra care to keep your protein intake sufficient during the 9 Days. But most of us consume way more protein than our bodies need. So, don’t fret that your muscles will turn to mush after 9 Days with out meat. Meat is not the only source of protein, and Baruch HaShem, there’s plenty to eat!

Check out the tips below to help you enjoy your meat-free days. As always, please feel free to comment. I love to hear how you’re implementing these tips!

1. Experiment with vegetables. This week, challenge yourself to try a new vegetable each day. Most people eat the same 3 or 4 veggies every week. Mix it up a little! Try veggies with a high water content, like kohlrabi or celery, or leafy greens such as mangold (chard) or spinach. Starchy vegetables like pumpkin or potatoes, or even eggplant, can be the centerpiece of a meal.

If you already eat tons of veggies, try preparing one of your regulars a new way. If you usually cook your veggies, eat more raw foods and salads. A guideline I love is to include several colors of the rainbow in each meal. Bright magenta beets, orange peppers, juicy red tomatoes and thinly sliced purple cabbage over a bed of green romaine lettuce is a rainbow right on your plate!!

2. Easy on the dairy and bread. Face it: many folks use the 9 Days as an excuse to eat pizza every night. Don’t get me wrong- pizza can be a great meal; with a whole grain crust, homemade sauce, sautéed veggies and a sprinkle of good quality cheese, you’re looking at a decent nutritional profile. But the nutrient-void white bread, sugary tomato sauce and plastic-like cheese which often passes for pizza isn’t going to leave you feeling very good the next day. And while some dairy products are cooling to the body (natural yogurt and labane, for instance), eating tons of dairy products in the heat of the summer can contribute to excess mucus and dampness in the body (the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.) Decide on a reasonable amount of dairy for you and your family, and stick to it. Otherwise it’s quite easy to turn the 9 Days into a dairy deluge.

3. Bring on the beans! Beans and legumes are an excellent source of protein and are so versatile; you can make soups, cold salads, and pates or dips with them. They also marry well with fresh herbs and spices, so you can create a variety of tastes. If you think you don’t digest beans well, try preparing them yourself (versus buying canned). Soak them, and then cook them with a piece of kombu seaweed (found in most health food stores). Kombu reduces the gassiness of the beans by tenderizing them (thereby reducing the starch). When making bean dips or pates, broaden your palate beyond hummus. You can make a great white bean dip by cooking the beans and pureeing with some olive oil, plenty or garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley and rosemary.

One word of caution around beans: Avoid or minimize soy products. Although soy is often touted as a wonderful health food, it is extremely difficult to digest, and is one of the most common allergens. Additionally, most soy products are highly processed and artificially flavored, often with MSG. Come on, how do you think they get tofu or textured vegetable protein to look and taste like meat? It doesn’t exist that way in nature, that’s for sure!

4. Go nuts!! While nuts are rich in fat, they contain the “good fats” that we
need to fuel our brains. They also contain protein and antioxidants. Choose raw nuts; if you must have the salt, roast and salt them yourself. You can also flavor them with savory spices like curry powder or zatar. For easier digestion and maximum nutrition, you can soak the raw nuts for 1-6 hours (soaked nuts must be refrigerated afterwards if not consumed immediately). Try making pates or spreads with nuts and seeds; this also eliminates the choking hazard factor for the kiddies.

Here’s a simple, nutritious pate you can make quickly in a food processor:

• 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked
• ½ onion, chopped
• 2-3 stalks celery
• ½ tomato or red pepper, chopped
• Juice of ½ lemon
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• Salt or tamari to taste
• Pinch of pepper
Puree till smooth and enjoy on crackers or pita!! Will keep in the fridge for up to a week

5. Seek out new recipes. Swap cookbooks with a friend. Ask for ideas at the park. Look online! There are tons of websites with wonderful vegetarian and vegan recipes. Here’s a link to one of my favorite sites (101 and one of my favorite dishes on the site:

Observe how your body responds to these new foods, and the absence of meat.
You might find you really do need to eat meat to feel your best. Or not. You might discover that you feel more energetic when you eat more raw foods. That beans keep you full for a loooooong time. That you love spinach, etc, etc.

Share your discoveries with me; I love to hear them. As always, if you want support around your eating, or are struggling to make food choices that give you the healthy body and vibrant energy you deserve, I can help. Call today to set up an appointment: 054 204 4773.