What Makes Broccoli and Kale Superfoods?

Broccoli and kale are often touted to be “superfoods.” And, yes, they really are amazingly healthy for you.

If you’re wondering what exactly is in these green powerhouses that makes them so “super,” I’ve dived into the research to give you some nerdy reasons to make these a staple in your diet. So get ready to get your geek on.

To start, they’re both considered cruciferous vegetables related to each other in the Brassica family. This family of super plants also includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.

These superfoods have a ton of nutrition, and other health-promoting compounds, they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to cook too!

Super nutrition

Broccoli and kale are full of nutrition: vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. They’re both considered to be nutrient dense which is a measure of nutrients per calorie – and these both have a lot!

100 grams of broccoli (about 1 cup, chopped) contains:

  • 34 calories
  • 8 g protein, 0.4 g fat, 6.6 g carbohydrates, and 2.6 g fiber
  • Good source of B vitamins (when eaten raw)
  • >100% of your daily vitamin C
  • Almost 100% of your vitamin K
  • Good source of manganese
  • Traces of all the other vitamins and minerals

One cup of loosely packed kale contains:

  • 8 calories
  • 7 g protein, 0.2 g fat (including omega-3), 1.4 g carbohydrates, and 0.6 g fiber
  • Contains pre-vitamin A (beta-carotene)
  • Several B vitamins, including B1, B3, B5, B6, and folate (B9)
  • Rich in vitamins C and K
  • Lots of minerals including manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, sulfur, copper, phosphorus, and calcium

As you can see, these two contain a lot of nutrients. (more…)

Thickeners – What You Need to Know

Thickeners are one of many ingredients added to processed foods. And they do just that: thicken. They absorb water and form a gel-like consistency. They’re often used to make foods thick and creamy, without having to add a lot of fat.

Thickeners also tend to emulsify and stabilize foods they’re added to. Emulsification allows fats and water to mix better and prevents them from separating (i.e., oil/vinegar salad dressing versus a thicker or creamier emulsified dressing). And “stabilizing” helps the product have a longer shelf-life before the “best before” date.

Thickeners are often found in canned dairy-free milk and any milk that comes in a carton, baked goods, soups/sauces/gravies, puddings/ice cream, etc. Some are even added to dietary supplements!

These thickeners are polysaccharides, which means they’re long chains of many (poly) saccharides (sugars). They are typically difficult to digest, which makes them similar to dietary fiber. And this also means they can help you feel fuller longer without providing many calories or any nutrients.

They’re naturally-derived but are heavily processed to extract the compound. (Did I say “heavily?”)

NOTE: food additives are considered anti-nutrients because they reduce the absorption of dietary minerals like calcium. (more…)

What to Eat if You Get Constipation

Let’s just get this out of the way right away. No one likes talking about this topic but it can be a problem for a lot of people.

Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea – it’s when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often, it’s drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.

Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.

Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times, the cause is unknown.

Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated. (more…)

What Makes a Food Processed?

The world of food can be so confusing at times, right?. There was a time when it was clear what food was – it came directly from nature – whether scavenging, hunting, or farming. Now there are so many things we eat that don’t resemble a natural food.

Michael Pollan has a famous quote, he said: “Eat Food – Not too much – Mostly Plants.” And in his famous book, In Defense of Food, he defines what food should be. He says, “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

And, we can all agree that some things are obviously not recognizable by our great-great-grandmothers. You know like candy bars, fast food, and energy drinks.

We can also say that many of the common health issues we face today: heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, cavities, obesity, etc. didn’t exist at anywhere near the rates before industrially processed foods became available.

But, where do we draw the line? How do we define processed? How processed is processed? And what the heck is ultra-processed?

Allow me to let you in on the internationally recognized classification system. And we’re going to go through it step-by-step with an apple. (more…)

Intermittent fasting: What is it and will it help me lose weight?

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.

It’s limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of its appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.

Some would say that it’s a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time.

There are lots of variations on this theme. They include:

  • 16/8 which is 16 hours of fasting and eating only within the other 8 hours (often 1:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m.)
  • 5:2 days of fasting, where you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days.

Is intermittent fasting effective for weight loss?

Intermittent fasting can help to lose weight because it can help you to eat fewer calories and burn more calories too.

Lots of people say they have success with it. But what do the studies say? (more…)

Low Carb Diet 101

Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame, maybe even longer.

But what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits (or risks) to eating fewer carbs?

Let’s see.

What is a carb?

A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.

Carbohydrates come in three main types:

  • Sugars
  • Starches
  • Fiber

Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).

Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.

Fiber, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fiber passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.

Because fiber isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.

How we metabolize carbs

When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken-down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body may release insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.

This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.

But our bodies are a bit more complicated than that! (more…)