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MEGAN MONDAY MySuperFoods Ingredient Spotlight: Fabulous Flaxseeds

flaxseedThe first time I encountered a flaxseed, I thought it was a flea.  No joke.  Don’t let these tiny little powerhouses of minerals (free radical-scavenging manganese, bone-supportive magnesium, phosphorus, and copper), vitamins (energy-producing vitamin B1), antioxidants, fiber, and essential fatty acids (good fats, and “essential” meaning that our bodies do not manufacture them) linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid deceive you.  Flaxseeds, which are also referred to as linseeds, come from flax, one of the oldest fiber crops in the world – known to have been cultivated in ancient Egypt and ancient China and come in two main types – golden flaxseed and brown flaxseed (I eat both kinds; they are pretty much the same in taste and nutritional composition).  Flax was given the name Linum usitatissimum, which in Latin means “the most useful”.  Believe it or not, but flaxseeds ranks the highest out of any healthy superfood for its high omega-3 fatty acid content, with ALA (alpha linolenic acid) topping the charts.

People have been eating flaxseeds for centuries for the known health benefits – dating all the way back to the 8th century, King Charlemagne made his loyal subjects eat the seeds because he believed that flax was incredibly good for one’s health.  No wonder why these ground flecks of wholesomeness are used as a key ingredient in MySuperSnacks – what a great way to incorporate essential nutrients into your children’s snack!  Unlike many other types of healthy fats in foods, the ALA in flaxseed has found to be stable for at least 3 hours of cooking at oven temperatures (i.e. 300 degrees F/150 degrees C), which makes it bioavailable to the body after ground flaxseeds have been added to baked goods like muffins, breads, or things like MySuperSnacks.  Did you also know that modern research has shown that flaxseeds can also help reduce the risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease?  Flaxseeds are also unique in the sense that they offer nutritional benefits that are found across the board, unlike most seeds.

The Many Health Benefits of Flaxseeds:

Antioxidant Properties and Lignans – lignans exhibit great antioxidant qualities, as they are one of the major classes of phytoestrogens (estrogen-like chemical compounds that are able to scavenge free radicals in the body).  The lignans alter the way your body metabolizes estrogens into safer forms.  Among all foods commonly eaten by humans, flaxseed is considered to be one of the best sources of lignans (0.3 g per 100g) according to researchers.  Sesame seeds come in second, but contain only one-seventh of the total lignans as flaxseeds. To give a few further examples, flaxseeds contain about 350 time more lignans than sunflower seeds, 475 times as many lignans as cashews nuts, and 3,200 times as many lignans as peanuts.  When flaxseeds are compared with other commonly eaten foods in terms of their total polyphenol content (polyphenols are one very important group of antioxidants), flaxseeds rank 9th among 100 commonly eaten foods. Flaxseeds turn out to be significantly higher in polyphenol antioxidants than fruits like blueberries or vegetables like olives.

 

Oxidative stress (which is often related to deficient intake of antioxidant nutrients) and excessive inflammation (which can also be related to deficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients) are common risk factors for a wide variety of health problems.  Consuming about 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds per day has proven to help offset these health concerns.

Fiber – flaxseed is rich in both soluble fiber (which dissolves in water) and insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve in water); in fact, 2 tablespoons provide about 4-5 g of fiber!  According to the Mayo Clinic: “soluble fiber dissolves with water and creates a gel-like substance that helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.”  Whereas insoluble fiber “absorbs water which adds bulk to your digestive tract and helps to move things through quickly.”  Flaxseeds have a high mucilage (gum) content (translation: “mucilage” refers to water-soluble, gel-forming fiber that can provide special support to the intestinal tract. For example, gums can help prevent the too-rapid emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine, thereby improving absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine, which is always a good thing, especially in growing bodies!).

Omega-3 fatty acids – these essential acids are only obtained by eating the right foods (the body cannot produce them) and are considered to be “good fats” that are beneficial for the heart.  The primary omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseeds – the shorter chain omega-3 called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) can be helpful to the cardiovascular system in and of itself because it’s the building block for other molecules that help prevent excessive inflammation (but should not act as a replacement for fish or fish oil supplements that contain DHA [docosahexaenoic acid] and EPA [ecosapentaenoic acid]).  This is important to help protect the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.  When flaxseeds are consumed, two other omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to increase in the bloodstream, namely, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), which then helps provide even more inflammatory protection.

Have you ever seen eggs or other animal products touting the claim “animals fed flaxseeds for added omega-3 benefit” on their labels?  There are numerous studies on the content of beef, chicken, and eggs that reflect significantly increased omega-3 content in these foods when flaxseed meal and/or flaxseed oil are added to the diets of cows and chickens.  For individuals who enjoy these foods in their meal plan on a regular basis, this increased omega-3 content can really add up.  Next time you are in the store, keep your eye out for this claim on the labels of some manufacturers of beef, chicken, and eggs.  Consumption of certified organic animal foods in which flaxseed was added to the animals’ feed can be an effective way of increasing your omega-3 intake.

Protecting against cancer – consuming flaxseed may help protect against prostate, colon, and breast cancers due to their antioxidant properties and anti-inflammation properties (breast cancer and prostate cancer are included in the list of cancers known as “hormone-related” cancers; their risk reduction may be more closely related to flaxseed than risk reduction for other cancers due to the high lignan content of flaxseed).  The lignans provided by flaxseed have also been shown to spark increased activity by certain detoxification enzymes that are responsible for deactivating toxins in the body, which in turn supports the detox process and may help prevent accumulation of toxins that might otherwise act as carcinogens and increase cancer risk.  Additionally, flaxseed is thought to prevent the growth of cancerous cells because its omega-3 fatty acids disrupt malignant cells from clinging onto other body cells.  The lignans in flaxseed have antiangiogenic properties – meaning, they stop tumors from forming new blood vessels.

Cardiovascular Health and Cholesterol-Lowering Benefits – researchers at Iowa State University found that cholesterol levels lowered among men who included flaxseed in their diet.  One researcher noted that flaxseeds are a safe alternative for statin drugs like Lipitor (which have their own slew of health concerns now).  Intake of flaxseeds has also been shown to decrease the ratio of LDL-to-HDL cholesterol in several human studies and to increase the level of apolipoprotein A1, which is the major protein found in HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol). This HDL-related benefit may be partly due to the simple fiber content of flaxseeds.

Decreased Insulin Resistant and Improved Blood Sugar Levels – there is strong evidence to suggest that consuming flaxseed everyday improves glycemic control in obese men and women with pre-diabetes, according to a study published in Nutrition Research. The strong fiber content, antioxidant content, and anti-inflammatory content of flaxseeds make them a natural here.

Protecting Against Radiation –researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that a diet of flaxseed may protect skin tissue from being damaged by radiation due to its strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Some Things to Take Note of When Consuming Flaxseeds:

Flaxseeds can be purchased either whole or already ground, and in many cases, I find products like cereals or nutrient bars/snacks that are made with flaxseeds are left whole.  While the two different forms offer distinct benefits, I greatly feel that ground flaxseeds are best due to their digestibility and way in which your body can utilize the nutrients.  In all honesty, I feel that eating whole flaxseeds just pass through your system, as your body cannot digest or break them down easily, if at all.  Additionally, consider the fact that because flaxseeds can be very difficult to chew, grinding of the seeds before consuming greatly increases their digestibility.  However, some people feel that grinding at home takes time, and pre-ground flaxseeds can have great convenience.  As great as pre-ground flaxseeds are, while more convenient, also come with a shorter shelf life as whole flaxseeds.  I actually recommend that you buy whole flaxseeds and spend the extra minute to grind them yourself.  If you do buy pre-ground flaxseeds, please note that even when carefully packaged in a gas-flushed, light-protective pouch and refrigerated after opening, will typically only last about 6-16 weeks.  Whole flaxseeds, on the other hand, will typically last for 6-12 months when stored in an airtight container in a dark, cool dry spot.  If directly refrigerated, they may last for 1-2 years.  The reason for all of this extra precaution is simple: once flaxseeds are ground, they are much more prone to oxidation and spoilage. Similarly, if you are grinding whole flaxseeds on your own at home (for example, in a small spice or coffee grinder), you’ll want to store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. If using glass, you may also want to use a darkened glass as that will lessen exposure of the ground flaxseeds to light.

Grind flaxseeds in a coffee, seed, or spice grinder in order to enhance their digestibility and therefore their nutritional value.  I personally use a Cuisinart spice grinder to easily and quickly grind my flaxseeds (I’ll grind several tablespoons at once and store the rest in a glass container in the refrigerator for the next day or two to save me time).  If adding ground flaxseeds to a cooked cereal or grain dish, do so at the end of cooking since the soluble fiber in the flaxseeds can thicken liquids if left too long.

Ground flaxseeds are usually available both refrigerated and non-refrigerated. If you are purchasing ground flaxseed that is sitting on the store shelf at room temperature, it is highly recommended that the flaxseed be packaged in a gas-flushed, vacuum-sealed bag. If you are purchasing ground flaxseed that is found in the refrigerator section, it’s not essential that vacuum-sealed packaging be used, but it can still be helpful from a food quality standpoint. Regardless of the form in which you purchase your ground flaxseeds, you should keep their container in the refrigerator after opening. When looking to buy flaxseeds, whole flaxseeds are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the flaxseeds are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure their maximal freshness.  Whether purchasing flaxseeds in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture. If you purchase whole flaxseeds, either store them in an airtight container in a dark, dry and cool place or place their airtight container directly in the refrigerator.

You may have even seen flaxseed oil available for purchase in the store.  Because of the high-oxidative rate of flaxseed once ground, flaxseed oil is especially perishable and should always be purchased in opaque bottles that have been kept refrigerated.  Look out for spoiled flaxseed oil – which happens often if not stored properly.  Fresh flaxseed oil should have a sweet nutty flavor and nothing along the lines of being bitter.  It is never recommended to use flaxseed oil in cooking, since it is far too easily oxidized and can become “damaged” by heat, which in turn, makes it an unhealthy oil for you to consume.  However, it’s fine to add flaxseed oil to foods after they have been cooked because the heat is not enough to raise the temperature enough to cause damage.

As wonderful as flaxseeds are for our health, there are a few side effects associated with their consumption, as noted (and these are most common due to the high fiber content and/or if whole flaxseeds are consumed versus ground [or not ground well enough]):

Despite a huge backing of scientific research, consuming high doses of flaxseed (4 tablespoons or more per day) when pregnant has raised some concerns due the estrogen-like properties of the seed which doctors believe could affect pregnancy outcome.  This is not saying that flaxseed is bad for pregnant women – just be sure not to over-indulge in it daily!

In addition, due to the high fiber content and ability to help the body make bowel movements, people suffering from a bowel obstruction should avoid flaxseed to help prevent further complications in the digestive tract.

One last area of concern is a random study from Canada that highlighted the concern of flaxseeds and the cardiovascular system involving 30 children and teens (ages 8-18), all previously diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) and given added flaxseed in their diets over a period of 4 weeks.  The flaxseed amount was 2 tablespoons, and the form was ground flaxseeds incorporated into breads and muffins. In this study, blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol did not significantly change, but blood fat levels (in the form of triglycerides) increased and HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) decreased.  Since these changes in blood lipids would be deemed to be unwanted, it is regarded that this study raises some preliminary questions about the role of daily flaxseeds in amounts of 2 tablespoons or above in the diet of children and teenagers who are already known to have high cholesterol.  Much more research is needed in this area, but if you are the parent of a child or teen who is already diagnosed with high cholesterol, it is recommended that you consult with your healthcare provider about the pros and cons of incorporating flaxseeds into your child’s meal plan on a daily basis in any substantial amount.

Recommended Intake Amount

Based upon research and public health recommendations, a combination of nuts and seeds, including flaxseeds (that adds up to 3 tablespoons [1.5 ounces, or 42 grams]) per day is a dietary step well worth taking for most people.

Nutritional value of Flaxseed per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 534 kcal
Carbohydrates 28.88 g
– Sugars 1.55 g
– Dietary fiber 27.3 g
Fat 42.16 g
– saturated 3.663 g
– monounsaturated 7.527 g
– polyunsaturated 28.730
Protein 18.29 g
Thiamine (Vit B1) 1.644 mg (143%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.161 mg (13%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 3.08 mg (21%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.985 mg (20%)
Vitamin B6 0.473 mg (36%)
Folate (vit. B9) 0 μg (0%)
Vitamin C 0.6 mg (1%)
Calcium 255 mg (26%)
Iron 5.73 mg (44%)
Magnesium 392 mg (110%)
Phosphorus 642 mg (92%)
Potassium 813 mg (17%)
Zinc 4.34 mg (46%)

Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Wondering What to Do With Flaxseeds!??! A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

  • One popular technique is to incorporate ground      flaxseeds into your muffin, cookie, or bread recipes.
  • Sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto your hot or      cold cereal.
  • Add ground flaxseeds to smoothies to pump up      their nutritional volume.
  • Sprinkle ground flaxseeds in with plain yogurt      and some fresh fruit to make a healthy and homemade low-sugar treat packed      with nutrient goodness.
  • To give cooked vegetables a nuttier flavor,      sprinkle some ground flaxseeds on top of them.

How do you use your flaxseeds?  Share your ideas here!

REFERENCES:

–          University of Maryland Medical Center

–          McKinley Health Center

–          Iowa State NWRC

–          Medical News Today

–          The World’s Healthiest Foods (www.whfoods.com)

–          Victoria Maizes, MD

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching (of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC).  Megan educates and empowers men, women, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials.  Visit her website today to learn more: www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: megan@empowerhealthcoach.com.

                       

                  

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SCENTED HOMEMADE PLAY DOUGH!

Play dough

I read dozens of blogs posts every week and while I pin, save, print many of the craft ideas that I come across, I seldom actually do any. Raising three kids under 4 and running a business keeps the crazy in my schedule at a steady level. I come across homemade play dough at least twice a month, and while I think it’s cute, we have an arsenal of it, so it didn’t excite me. But then, I came across scented home made play dough and I was instantly transported back to the scratch n’ sniff stickers on my childhood (I don’t even want to know what kind of toxins we were sniffin’). Soooo, I decided to give it a try.

I knew the kids would love dunking their hands in a gooey messy glob of flour and water and oil, and if it worked, it may keep them happy for a good 15-20 minutes. I set it up at the kitchen table to contain the mess, gave everyone a bowl (even the 18m old), measuring tools, and allowed them to pick a color.

Ingredients (Good for 5 balls of play dough)

4 cups flour + 1.5 cups salt mixed in large bowl
1 1/4 warm water
2.5 tblspns veg oil
food coloring or washable poster paint
spices or oils for scents, such as cinammon, nutmeg, ginger, peppermint oil, etc.

Set up 5 small bowls and one large bowl. Mix the flour and salt well in large bowl. In small bowls, pour 1/4 cup warm water, 1/2 tblspn veg oil, few drops of food coloring or good squirt of paint and spice or scented oil. Then add 1 cup of the flour/salt mixture to each bowl. Mix with hands or spoon (we used hands) and dust with flour if sticky. Once you form a ball, knead the dough until smooth. Play! When done, place each one a ziploc bag with as little air as possible. Voila!

Yes, it was a little messy, but the kids absolutley loved making it and playing with it afterwards. They smell awesome (unlike real play dough) and would make great gifts for friends too!

source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ytbSa3mPg

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MEGAN MONDAY: Organic Produce from Other Countries – Is It the Same?

banana organicFor those of us making a concerted effort to buy organic produce and food products whenever possible, some of the first things we look for are the USDA Certified Organic label, a produce SKU# starting with the number 9, or just the term “Certified Organic” anywhere on the package.  For some, the validation stops there; for others (like myself), further investigation as to where the product’s place of origin is and/or any other processing or treatment has been conducted.

OK, so what does all of this have to do with the title and worrying about organic produce from other countries?  Well, many times, I have clients tell me they go to buy organic produce in the store and see that it is from another country like Mexico, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, etc…. and not only does it raise concern over how fresh it could possibly be if it had to travel so far, but how safe it was.  Questions frequently arise along the lines of: “How did this produce arrive here?”  “If something from another country is labeled ‘organic’, how do I know that it is reliably organic?”  “Can I trust that ‘organic’ produce from another country is safe to eat?”  “Who produced this ‘internationally organic’ produce, how long ago, and under what conditions?”

 

Does “organic” from other countries mean the same as US organic standards?  Are there other pesticides, pollution, fertilizers, and other things that exist in other countries that we need to be worried about if buying produce?  I find this to be a completely reasonable concern, as unlike my fortunate opportunity to actually see where most of my organic produce came from when we lived in California (by driving by the plethora of organic farms nearby), it can be disconcerting to know you are buying something that traveled literally across the globe to reach you just because it’s marked organic.  Is it that much better?  Are all of those added natural resources used to get this produce here from a faraway place worth it when there are conventional options that came from a much shorter distance?  First off, we import many organic produce items from other countries depending on the growing season.  While many things (like grapes, apples, kiwi, avocados, bananas, etc.) may not be even native, not to mention in season here in the US, they are grown in plentiful amounts elsewhere around the world, and to many people’s surprise, to the same USDA standards (if not stricter) used here to certify foods.  In regards to how far and long produce needs to travel to reach US shelves, that may still be a concern for some, but with advancements in shipping and transport modes, most produce can arrive within a few days, which is phenomenal if you ask me (and worth it to avoid the pesticides used on conventional US produce).

In fact, many countries are working in sync with the US to have synonymous certification standards to mainstream the process to cut back on paperwork, time spent clearing standards, etc. to ensure a more rapid import/export timeframe.  According to FoodSafetyNews.com:

“…the organic certifying programs in the United States and Europe Union are now considered equivalent.  The new partnership between the two largest organic producers in the world means that products certified organic under one certification scheme can be sold as organic in the other without additional certification and paperwork….The partnership recognizes that while the certification standards are compatible, there are some differences that need to be addressed.  As a general rule, all products that meet the terms of the partnership may be traded and labeled as certified organic produce, meat, cereal, or wine.  The major difference comes in the use of antibiotics.  Under the agreement, U.S. apples and pears produced using antibiotics (to control fire blight) may not be exported to the EU, and EU meat and milk derived from animals treated with antibiotics may not be exported to the U.S.  The terms of the partnership require the U.S. and EU to have regular discussions and to periodically review each other’s programs to ensure that the partnership agreement is being met.”

As I peruse the aisles in any store that sells organic produce, I am seeing an increasingly large number of fruits and vegetables from Mexico.  From our southern-bordering country, the organic farming movement is taking off in strides to meet the growing demand abroad – namely from the US – which is a short trip across the border in many areas.  While our governments may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, which raises concern for some shoppers, one thing to know is Mexican organic produce is being grown with stringent standards that meet USDA Certified Organic clearance.  A great article from a 2011 edition of The Sound Consumer, author Lolla Millholland writes:

“Americans may not realize how extensively Mexico contributes to our fruit and vegetable consumption. In 2007, we imported 3.2 million metric tons of vegetables and 1.8 million metric tons of fruit from our southern neighbor1.

 

The organic foods we import from Mexico can be divided into three categories: tropical products (such as coffee, cacao [chocolate], vanilla, agave, mangoes, bananas and avocados, which are cultivated minimally, if ever, in temperate climates), vegetables and fruits (such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, melons and grapes, which supplement our supply when domestic production slackens), and labor-intensive crops (such as sesame seeds)….

 

For a food to be sold as certified organic in the United States — whether grown in the United States, in Mexico, or anywhere else in the world — it must meet all the requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. It must be produced without the use of toxic synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or irradiation.  Perhaps most important, it must be certified by a USDA-accredited agency.

 

Certification includes inspection of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping of what inputs were applied to the land, and, if there’s cause for concern, soil and water testing. Currently, at least 15 organic certification agencies operate in Mexico3.  The National Organic Program (NOP) has been enforced since October 2002, when the United States implemented the Organic Food Production Act. In February 2006, the Mexican government published its own Law of Organic Products and is issuing regulations soon4.  The credibility of the certified USDA organic label stems from ongoing oversight that can and has penalized lawbreakers. On-farm audits and regular border inspections are vital components of organic certification and food safety testing….Covilli (a Mexican family-run organic farm that supplies produce to the US) has taken food safety precautions very seriously. The farm is certified organic and for food safety by Primus Labs, a company based in Santa Maria, Calif., with offices throughout North and South America. It conducts microbiological testing for E.coli and salmonella and chemical testing for pesticides.  Joe Hardiman, PCC’s produce buyer, says, ‘I would have surgery in one of their warehouses. It’s that anatomically clean.’  The USDA has begun more regular and extensive testing at border inspections to combat food safety threats. Most Mexican produce travels to the United States via truck and when a truck is set aside for scrutiny, you can’t move the product until the lab results return.”

 

To see a complete list of the countries we have organic trade and standards agreements with, the USDA website has a great handout that specifically lists everything in an easy-to-read format (please check it out!): http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5089061

 

To further one’s understanding of where your food is grown and the standards in which are followed, on the flip side of international organic import and exports, many times, you can find produce at local farmers’ markets that is just as good as certified organic, but the small-scale farmer cannot afford the USDA certification process to have it labelled as such.  The best way to know the quality of this type of produce is to know the farmer, the farm, the location of the farm, and if there are any pollutant concerns in the immediate farm area.  I bring this up because many times, you can save tons of money on local, freshly picked organically-raised produce that is also supporting local farmers…a majority of these farmers follow the stringent organic guidelines that the USDA requires, but find it economically stifling to have the USDA approve their organic status.  That’s not to say that there are some farmers out there who claim to be “organic” and really do not follow true USDA organic standards (to see a full list of what standards go into USDA organic standards, click on this link: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=ORGANIC_CERTIFICATIO).  So again, it’s best to know the farmer and ask questions about whether the produce is grown using ANY spraying at all, synthetic fertilizers, source of irrigation, surrounding environment of the farm (is it near a highway, waste plant, commercial area, etc.?).  When we lived in California, we drove by many of the farms that grew organic produce but did not have it labelled by the USDA and I was completely comfortable buying from these farmers (as we also got to know them).  While I know this is not a possibility for many, it’s something to consider if the opportunity arises for any of you.

My hopes are that this article debunked any myths you heard about the quality of imported organic produce from other countries when considering it as an option at the store or market.  Sometimes these fruits and veggies are priced fairly or provides us with a healthy food when it normally cannot be grown here in the US.  While buying as local as possible is best, it’s not always an option, and I’d rather go with something organic and from far away than more local and conventional in the literal sense (a.k.a. pesticide-ridden and non-sustainable, with the exclusion of local, organically-raised produce from genuine farmers you know and trust who cannot afford the USDA certification label).  It may seem like a paradox, and I’m definitely weighing the odds with fossil fuels used for transport, sustainability, etc., but that’s just me, and it’s totally fine if you decide otherwise.  In fact, I try to buy only available organic from the US as much as possible, but sometimes imported is all that’s available.  It’s never an easy decision to make, as we have all experienced at some point along our “healthy” journeys, but as long as you are making a well-informed decision based on facts and credibility (mixed with some of your priceless gut-intuition), then all you can do is what you can with what you have (as cliché and easier-said-than-done as that may sound).

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

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Homemade Pizza Night – A Family Favorite

Like most kids, mine love pizza.  Even though we do call in an order from our favorite spot in town on occasion, I always feel better when we make it at home ourselves.  Lately, I have frozen whole wheat dough on hand for such an occasion.  Although it does require more planning than picking up the phone and waiting 30 minutes (the saving grace of the pizza order, after all) it takes just about as much time once the pieces are pulled together.  And my girls are chomping at the bit lately to help me make dinner almost every night, making this an easy one to let them jump in on.

pizza claire

In this case, I set the oven to 350 degrees and gathered:

whole wheat dough (taken out of the freezer in the morning)

homemade sauce (that I had made the week before from my CSA ingredients) – but jarred works just as well

mozzarella – any form will do.  This time, we used small balls, which were fun for the girls to “plop” down.  (smaller than bocconcini, traditionally the size of an egg)

Once I sprayed the baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil, I spread the dough out evenly (letting the girls press out the corners) and then gave them each a spoon to distribute the sauce and cheese

pizza girls 2

About 30 minutes later, we were pulling out a delicious pizza from the oven and the girls were excited to dig into “their creation”.  Someday they make even let me add veggies on top.  (For now, I’ll remind them that the sauce is full of tomatoes, onion, garlic and zucchini)

Bonus with the balled mozzarella, is they melt into “ghosts” for Halloween.  Check it out!

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September is National Childhood Obesity Month

water kidOne in three children and teenagers in the U.S, more than 23 million, are obese or overweight.  One third of children and teenagers are at risk for Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.

Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity and weight gain are tied to diet and exercise.  Working hand in hand, finding a healthy balance of both are beneficial to kids and adults.

Here are three steps to get and keep your kids (and families) healthy for good:

1. Be physically active!  Don’t set yourself up to fail.  Promising to work out 30 minutes every day when you normally don’t can be hard.  Start with an after-dinner walk as a family, park your car far away from the store, find a neighborhood playground and create an obstacle course for the whole family.

2. Drink WATER.  All day, during activities, with meals.  Make it fun with slices of cucumber, oranges or strawberries.  Make this the primary beverage your family drinks.  Everything else is occasional.

3. Start the day with a healthy breakfast.  Smoothies, muffins, whole grain waffles.  Check out more ideas here.

For more ideas, see our post from this time last year.  Good ideas, not fads, stand the test of time.

SOURCES:

http://www.healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org/about/

http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2013/09/national_childhood_obesity_awa_1.html

http://www.healthfinder.gov/NHO/Septembertoolkit.aspx

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MEGAN MONDAY: Amazing Amaranth

amaranthHave you perused the ingredient list on the back of a MySuperFoods’ MySuperSnack Granola Bite pouch and come across that intriguing amaranth flour?  While I’m definitely not trying to over-stereotype, I bet I could envision a few puzzled looks and some funny pronunciations – as I recall the first time I ever heard of amaranth several years ago when I was studying nutrition.  “Ama-what? Ah-mah-ranth?  A-mar-ranth?”  It’s actually pronounced: “am-uh-ranth” and it’s packed with insanely nutrient-dense awesomeness, which is why MySuperFoods uses it in their products, of course!

Amaranth actually describes a genus of an herb that has over 60 species, has been around for centuries, originated in South America and Mexico, and interestingly enough, much of the world considers it a weed.  Yet that does not stop those who know about its health powers to consume it as a grain, vegetable, and cereal.  Amaranth shares many of the same nutritional values as quinoa, so many people have turned to this alternative as another option during meals.  Grain amaranth is very palatable and is easy to cook and include in snacks and dishes.  Like Swiss Chard, amaranth is grown and consumed as a leafy vegetable in many countries around the world.  It is commonly boiled, steamed, or included in soups and stir-frys.

Here are some health facts that you should know about amaranth to understand its greatness and versatility:

Rich in Vitamins – Amaranth is full of essential vitamins, specifically a good source of vitamin A, C, E, K, B5, B6, folate, niacin, and riboflavin.  These act as antioxidants, raise energy, control hormones, and much more.

Hefty on Minerals – Amaranth includes numerous minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, magnesium, and especially manganese.  It is also a good source of zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. These build strong bones and muscles, aid hydration, boost energy, and are vital in thousands of processes.  When comparing the mineral content of calcium, iron, and magnesium in common foods, amaranth is much more like Swiss chard than wheat. It contains about four times as much calcium as wheat and twice as much iron and magnesium.  That’s quite the difference!

Protein Powerhouse – Amaranth contains large amounts of complete protein (meaning that it contains a complete set of amino acids, therefore you do not need to consume different sources of proteins to obtain the recommended daily value), and weighs-in at up to 30% more protein than wheat flour, rice and oats.  Notably, amaranth’s rich protein content is also very bioavailable and more digestible than other grains (it has been compared to the digestibility of milk protein).  According to Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, “The Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama in Guatemala conducted a comparative study between the protein in amaranth and cheese protein.  Researchers concluded that the protein in amaranth is among the most nutritious vegetable-based protein and can be considered on-par with protein from animal-based products.”

Naturally Gluten Free – amaranth lacks gluten, which is a problematic protein contained in many true grains.

Full of Fiber – Amaranth is a high fiber food, making it filling and aiding to one’s digestive health, cholesterol, and blood pressure.  An added bonus is that it slows the absorption of sugars to let the body keep up with energy production.  Cooked amaranth is 90% digestible.

 

Amino Acids and Lysine – as mentioned earlier, amaranth contain essential amino acids, including lysine, which vegetables and grains tend to lack.  Most cereal grains, like wheat, are relatively low in this amino acid.  Alternatively, amaranth is relatively rich in this amino acid, containing approximately twice as much lysine as wheat on an ounce-for-ounce basis. Lysine is of interest because it has clinically shown potential for cancer treatment and helps the body absorb calcium, build muscle, and produce energy.

Boost Immunity – Due to the potent array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, amaranth may boost immune function according to some studies.

 

Fight Inflammation – The anti-inflammatory properties in the peptides (short chains of amino acids, which ultimately make up proteins) and oils of amaranth can ease pain and reduce inflammation. This is especially important for chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, where inflammation erodes at health on a daily basis.

 

Cancer and Disease Prevention The same peptides in amaranth that protect against inflammation may also help prevent cancer.  The antioxidants in this grain may also help protect cells from damage that can lead to cancer.

According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, molecular biologists in Mexico set out to study the properties of amaranth and in 2008, were the first to report presence of a special peptide that closely mirrored one that has been previously identified in soybeans and is widely thought to have cancer-preventive benefits as well as possibly blocking inflammation. 

Heart Health and Cholesterol Control – The oils and phytosterols in amaranth have been shown to help prevent and treat those with hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  Regular consumption of amaranth can reduce cholesterol levels, including LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and lower blood pressure. The fiber and phytonutrients in amaranth lower blood pressure according to some recent studies.  According to the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, “Russian researchers used a 1996 study conducted on chickens as a model to determine whether or not amaranth would also show benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Patients who presented with coronary heart disease and hypertension not only showed benefits from the inclusion of amaranth in their diets, researchers also saw a decrease in the amounts of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL significantly.”

 

Grey Hair Prevention – as odd as it may sound, some research has even shown that grain amaranth shows promise in prevention of premature greying of the hair, suspecting that the high mineral content has a role in this.

A Word of Caution With Leaves of Amaranth – Amaranth’s (not the grain) moderately high content of oxalic acid inhibits much of the absorption of calcium and zinc.  It should be avoided or eaten in moderation by those with gout, kidney disorders or rheumatoid arthritis.   Reheating cooked amaranth leaves is not recommended, particularly for consumption by young children, because the nitrates in the leaves can be converted to nitrites, as in spinach.

Uses for Amaranth:

  • Grain amaranth can be simmered like other grains and has a porridge-like texture. It can be combined with other grains if you desire a more “rice-like” dish.
  • Grain amaranth can also be popped in a skillet like popcorn, which gives it a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.
  • You can easily make amaranth flour by taking dry amaranth grain and running it through a Vitamix blender or a nut/seed blender until you have a fine powder/flour that you can use in many recipes for a healthy, gluten-free alternative to wheat flours.
  • I normally eat grain amaranth at breakfast, where I make a hot cereal out of it.  I buy amaranth grain in bulk and it’s inexpensive and easy to store in glass jars.
    • I rinse my amaranth off first before cooking.
    • In a stovetop pot, I combine about 1 cup of amaranth grain to about 3 ½ cups of water and bring to a boil.  You can cover it and let simmer until it thickens up; stir frequently.  This will make enough for left-overs for yourself or for about 2-3 people.
    • I like to add chopped walnuts or pecans to my amaranth with some raisins or dates and even a little cinnamon.  It’s delicious and will hold you over for awhile.

Here is a great summary on how to cook amaranth by the Whole Grains Council:

“Cooking amaranth is very easy – measure grains and water, boil water, add grains, gently boil with the occasional stir for 15-20 minutes, then drain, rinse, and enjoy!  Yes, it’s really that simple.

Cooked amaranth behaves a little differently than other whole grains.  It never loses its crunch completely, but rather softens on the inside while maintaining enough outer integrity so that the grains seem to pop between your teeth.  In fact, the sensation of chewing a spoonful of cooked amaranth grains has been compared to eating a spoonful of caviar (without the salty fishiness, of course).

None of our culinary experts reported any success when trying to prepare amaranth for a pilaf, but the cooked grains can be spread on a plate or other flat surface to dry a bit, then sprinkled on salads, added to cookie batters, or stirred into soups.

In fact, there’s only one real rule to follow when cooking up a batch of plain amaranth – don’t skimp on the water!  We suggest at least 6 cups of water for every one cup of amaranth, not because the little grains will absorb that much liquid, but because of what happens to the water that’s left.  Our experiments with the average amount of liquid (about 2 cups) left us with about two inches of excess water that was goopy and viscous, in part due to starch being released by amaranth as it cooks.  The grains hadn’t gone bad or anything, and they were fine after a brief rinse in a fine-mesh strainer, but it was a bit of a surprise.”

Here are some more recipes:

Reference:

US Department of Agriculture, Whole Grains Council, and World’s Healthiest Foods.

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Health & Nutrition Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

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Kale Chips: Success…finally!

kale“Hello, my name is Katie and I can’t make kale chips.”

…is something I never have to say again.  I did it!

I know. I know. For those of you that can make kale chips with your eyes closed, this seems ridiculous.  Well, guess what?  Making kale chips with your eyes closed is dangerous!

All joking aside, I’ve tried and failed to make kale chips in the past and was always embarrassed.  Silvia even posted a recipe to make kale chips last December (which is what inspired my first failed attempt)  But I got over it and tried again.  Boy, am I glad that I did!

I had an abundance of kale in my CSA box this week and thought, “Ok.  Kale is amazingly nutritious.  Even though I failed miserably at this last time, I’m going to try again.”  Then, I let the kale sit in my fridge, taunting me for 4 days.  Finally, I took the plunge yesterday.

Admittedly, I’ve only tried to make kale chips twice in the past.  But I failed so miserably that it was easier to say that I couldn’t do it than fail again.  (Are you picking up on the perfectionist tendencies yet?)  The earlier problem was that I never seemed to distribute the olive oil evenly enough.  Some pieces of kale were smothered, while others were dry.  Once they hit the oven, I wasn’t able to find the perfect about of time to burn off the oil from those that were smothered before completely destroying the dry ones.  Eventually I would end up shaking the pan around to try and spread out the oil like fake flecks of snow in a glass globe.  I would reset the timer at five minute intervals until I lost all patience and gave up.  I hope my daughters weren’t watching this epic display of perseverance.

Yesterday, I tried again.  I set my oven at 375 (since it typically requires 25 MORE degrees than the recipe calls for), cleaned off the kale and patted it COMPLETELY dry with a paper towel.  I used a large baking sheet and covered it with wax paper.  I spread out the kale evenly across the pan and reached for the extra virgin olive oil.  Hand shaking, I started like I had before, slowly….slowly pouring out tiny droplets of oil across the leafy greens.  One minute and 17 tiny drops of oil later, I was verging on the same failed path as before.  I even picked up the pan and shook it.  Mostly in frustration.  Then, it hit me.  Use the olive oil sprayer!  I got a great one from Bed Bath and Beyond years ago and it is exactly what was missing from success.  Since I only put olive oil in the sprayer (as a replacement for non-stick spray, like PAM) it was a great tool to evenly distribute olive oil across the kale without pooling the oil in only one location.

As I sprayed the leaves, they began turning a deeper shade of green.  It had to be a good sign.

Once I was satisfied that each leaf had been covered with a light mist of oil, I put the pan in the oven for 18 minutes, slightly more than the recipe called for, out of fear that it wouldn’t be enough like the last time.  The timer went off a short time later and I pulled out the pan with oven mitts.  With the pan safely on the stovetop, I reached out and touched the first leaf.  It felt crispy and perfect.  Slightly brown on the edges.  I did it!

Next step, figure out how to make enough so that we don’t eat the whole pan in one sitting.  Can you say delicious??!!

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OUTSTANDING OATS!

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 12.50.40 PM

 

Let’s Hear It for Outstanding Oats

I thought it would be a neat idea to showcase some of the great ingredients that are used in MySuperSnack Granola Bites, and what better way to kick off the series than with highlighting one of my favorites – oats.  Since I’ve been a little kid, I have heard time and time again how eating oatmeal is one of the healthiest ways to start your day.  Many heart patients and individuals seeking to lower their cholesterol and add fiber to their diets are encouraged to eat oats daily.  As a health coach, I suggest oats to most of my clients, as I feel they offer so many nutritional benefits – there’s really no reason NOT to utilize this gift from nature.

As parents, we are always seeking ways to feed our families and ourselves quick, easy, and healthy options, and oatmeal has to top the charts for versatility and ease.  Thanks to versions of “quick cooking” oats now available, offering oatmeal in the morning to our families is a great way to get nutritious goodness into everyone while allowing the kids to get creative with what they can add to the oatmeal for flavor – fresh fruit, spices, a pinch of maple syrup or other natural sweetener… not to mention all of the recipes you can make with oatmeal.  From pancakes to breads to cookies – you can make a plethora of great things…even gluten-free options for those sensitive or allergic to wheat, barley, or rye.  We love putting uncooked oatmeal into our Vitamix to add to smoothies in the morning for added energy, fiber, and substance.

 

 

Here are some interesting facts about oats (SOURCE: The World’s Healthiest Foods) –

  • Oats (scientific name: Avena sativa) are a hardy cereal grain crop that can withstand poor soil conditions, are harvested in the fall, but can last throughout the year if stored properly.

 

  • Oats originally came from Asia and slowly migrated to parts of Europe before making their way to the Americas by traders and explorers.  People have been cultivating oats for over two thousand years for food and medicinal purposes.

 

  • Unlike many other grains, oats do not lose their nutritional power once hulled.  This process does not strip away their bran and germ, thus keeping their high fiber and nutrient content intact.

Amazing Health Benefits of Oats –

  • Oats are great sources of FIBER.  Check out the chart to see how much is packed into a 1 cup serving:

Food

Fiber Content in Grams

Oatmeal, 1 cup 3.98
Whole wheat bread, 1 slice 2
Whole wheat spaghetti, 1 cup 6.3
Brown rice, 1 cup 3.5
Barley, 1 cup 13.6
Buckwheat, 1 cup 4.54
Rye, 1/3 cup 8.22
Corn, 1 cup 4.6
Apple, 1 medium with skin 5.0
Banana, 1 medium 4.0
Blueberries, 1 cup 3.92
Orange, 1 large 4.42
Pear, 1 large 5.02
Prunes, 1/4 cup 3.02
Strawberries, 1 cup 3.82
Raspberries, 1 cup 8.36

 

  • High in nutrients magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese and selenium, oats help us round out our nutritional needs from whole food sources rather than manufactured vitamins.

 

  • Why is selenium important, in particular?  The selenium present in oats poses as a necessary “cofactor” or helper of the important antioxidant, glutathione peroxidase.  What this means is selenium works with vitamin E in numerous vital antioxidant systems throughout the body, which in turn, make selenium helpful in decreasing asthma symptoms and in the prevention of heart disease. In addition, selenium is involved in DNA repair and is associated with a reduced risk for cancer, especially colon cancer.

 

  • It’s a low-calorie food that boasts high levels of protein (combined with fiber), which means that it will keep you fuller longer, your body will burn it better over time, and it will help stave off cravings, especially for sweets.  As the soluble fiber of oats is digested, it forms a gel, which causes the “thickness” of the contents of the stomach and small intestine to be increased. The gel delays stomach emptying making you feel full longer which helps with weight maintenance. New research suggests that children between ages 2-18 years old who have a constant intake of oatmeal lowered their risk of obesity. The research found that the children who ate oatmeal were 50% less likely to become overweight, when compared to those children that did not eat it.  This is perfect for starting our young ones off to a healthy start!

 

  • People eat oats to help LOWER CHOLESTEROL.  According to researchers, “Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Since 1963, study after study has proven the beneficial effects of this special fiber on cholesterol levels. Studies show that in individuals with high cholesterol (above 220 mg/dl), consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (an amount found in one bowl of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant since each 1% drop in serum cholesterol translates to a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease.”

 

  • Help ward-off HEART DISEASE with oats!  According to a study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition, “Oats, via their high fiber content, are already known to help remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream. Now, the latest research suggests they may have another cardio-protective mechanism.  Antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides, help prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.” 

 

  • BOOST IMMUNITY with oats! In laboratory studies reported in Surgery, beta-glucan significantly enhanced the human immune system’s response to bacterial infection. Beta-glucan not only helps neutrophils (the most abundant type of non-specific immune cell) navigate to the site of an infection more quickly, it also enhances their ability to eliminate the bacteria they find there.  Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal may boost your immune response in addition to your morning energy levels.

 

  • BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR AND HELP FIGHT TYPE-2 DIABETES – Studies also show that the aforementioned beta-glucan in oatmeal has beneficial effects in diabetes as well. “Type 2 diabetes patients given foods high in this type of oat fiber or given oatmeal or oat bran rich foods experienced much lower rises in blood sugar compared to those who were given white rice or bread.” Starting out your day with a blood sugar stabilizing food such as oats may make it easier to keep blood sugar levels under control the rest of the day, especially when the rest of your day is also supported with nourishing fiber-rich foods.  Additionally, oats are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including those involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin secretion.

 

  • OATS CAN HELP CHILDHOOD ASTHMA!  Research conducted by the International Study on Allergy and Asthma in Childhood found that increasing consumption of oats, whole grains, and/or fish could reduce the risk of childhood asthma by about 50%.  With the American Lung Association reporting that almost 20 million Americans suffer from this harrowing respiratory disease, which is reported to be responsible for over 14 million lost school days in children, and an annual economic cost of more than $16.1 billion, I would think families would be thrilled to know that eating oats could help combat this risk.  What about oats that could attribute to this health benefit is the numerous anti-inflammatory compounds found in fish, oats, and whole grains, notably, the omega-3 fats supplied by cold water fish and the magnesium and vitamin E provided by whole grains.

 

  • Do you need to watch GLUTEN in your home due to a sensitivity or CELIAC’S DISEASE?  While some individuals and healthcare providers will caution to avoid oats if there is a gluten issue, it is becoming more widely accepted and encouraged for CLEAN-SOURCED oats (those NOT prepared in a facility or on machinery that also processes wheat, barley, or rye) to be added to the diet.  Many times, oats are prepared on such “contaminated” machinery, which is why they have been cautioned against, not to mention their close relativity to whole grains.  Oats can also contain gluten from nearby wheat field contamination and processing facilities.

 

Scientifically speaking in regards to gluten issues, oats lack many of the prolamines (proteins) found in wheat (gluten) that causes reactions in sensitive individuals.  However, oats do contain avenin, which is a prolamine that is considered toxic to the intestinal mucosa of avenin-sensitive individuals, so please use caution if you know you are avenin-sensitive.  Many studies have shown that many celiacs can consume wheat free oats with no problems.

Recent studies of adults have shown that oats, despite the small amount of gluten they contain, are well-tolerated.  Research states that “a double blind, multi-center study involving 8 clinics treating 116 children newly diagnosed celiac disease suggests oats are a good grain choice for children with celiac disease as well. The children were randomly assigned to receive either the standard gluten-free diet (no wheat, barley, rye or oats) or a gluten-free diet with some wheat-free oat products. At the end of the study, which ran for a year, all the children were doing well, and in both groups, the mucosal lining of the small bowel (which is damaged by wheat gluten in celiac disease) had healed and the immune system (which is excessively reactive in celiac patients) had returned to normal.” While this is great news for those whose diets are restricted due to gluten issues, be sure to clarify with your healthcare provider first before deciding to incorporate oats (and careful selection of the “cleanest” type of oats is a must).

Types of Oats to Look Out For:

You may have seen different types of oatmeal or oat products lining the shelves in stores.  Confused by what you see?  Here is a simple break-down of common types of oat products and what they are used for –

  • Oat groats: un-flattened kernels that are good for using as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing.
  • Steel-cut oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them.  Steel cut oats take longer to cook than traditional oats or quick-cooking oats.
  • Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
  • Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling allowing them a faster time to prepare.
  • Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Oftentimes, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product, so be careful when selecting.  I always read the ingredients and sugar content on the package before selecting.
  • Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
  • Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread, cakes, or cookie-type products.
  • If you purchase prepared oatmeal products such as oatmeal, look at the ingredients to ensure that the product does not contain any salt, sugar or other additives.
  • When cooking all types of oats, it is best to add the oats to cold water and then cook at a simmer. The preparation of rolled oats and steel-cut oats require similar proportions using two parts water to one part oats. Rolled oats take approximately 15 minutes to cook while the steel-cut variety takes about 30 minutes.
  • When storing oats, take special caution to ensure their freshness.  It’s recommended to buy small quantities at a time since there is a chance of oats going rancid over time (like ground flax seed) due to its slightly higher fat content than other grains. While buying a container or a box of small packets of oats is readily available, it may be cheaper to buy oats in bulk.  If buying in bulk, make sure that the bins containing the oats are covered, free from debris, and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness.  Smell the oats to make sure that they are fresh. Whether purchasing oats in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure there is no evidence of moisture.

Store oatmeal in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place it they will keep for approximately two months.

 

Oats- Complete Nutrient Listing

amount

1 cup cooked

 
total weight

234.00 g

 
BASIC MACRONUTRIENTS AND CALORIES

nutrient

amount

%Daily Value

Protein

5.94 g

11.88

Carbohydrates

28.08 g

9.36

Fat – total

3.56 g

5.48

Dietary Fiber

3.98 g

15.92

Calories

166.14

9.23

MACRONUTRIENT AND CALORIE DETAIL

nutrient

amount

%Daily Value

Carbohydrate:
Total Sugars

0.63 g

 
Monosaccharides

0.05 g

 
Disaccharides

0.58 g

 
Soluble Fiber

2.34 g

 
Insoluble Fiber

1.64 g

 
Other Carbohydrates

23.47 g

 
Fat:
Monounsaturated Fat

1.02 g

4.25

Polyunsaturated Fat

1.31 g

5.46

Saturated Fat

0.73 g

3.65

Trans Fat

0.00 g

 
Calories from Fat

32.01

 
Calories from Saturated Fat

6.53

 
Cholesterol

0.00 mg

0.00

Water

195.65 g

 
MICRONUTRIENTS

nutrient

amount

%Daily Value

Vitamins
Water-Soluble Vitamins
B-Complex Vitamins
Vitamin B1

0.18 mg

12.00

Vitamin B2

0.04 mg

2.35

Vitamin B3 (Niacin Equivalents)

0.53 mg

 
Vitamin B6

0.01 mg

0.50

Vitamin B12

0.00 mcg

0.00

Biotin

— mcg

Choline

17.32 mg

4.08

Folate

14.04 mcg

3.51

Pantothenic Acid

0.73 mg

7.30

Vitamin C

0.00 mg

0.00

Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Vitamin A (Retinoids and Carotenoids)
Vitamin A IU

0.00 IU

0.00

Vitamin A RAE

0.00 RAE

 
Retinol RE

0.00 RE

 
Carotenoid RE

0.00 RE

0.00

Beta-Carotene

0.00 mcg

 
Lutein and Zeaxanthin

421.20 mcg

 
Lycopene

0.00 mcg

 
Vitamin D    
Vitamin D IU

— IU

Vitamin D mcg

— mcg

 
Vitamin E    
Vitamin E Alpha-Tocopherol Equivalents

0.19 mg

0.95

Vitamin E IU

— IU

 
Vitamin E mg

— mg

 
Vitamin K

0.70 mcg

0.88

Minerals

nutrient

amount

%Daily Value

Boron

— mcg

 
Calcium

21.06 mg

2.11

Chloride

— mg

 
Chromium

— mcg

Copper

0.17 mg

8.50

Fluoride

0.17 mg

5.67

Iodine

— mcg

Iron

2.11 mg

11.72

Magnesium

63.18 mg

15.79

Manganese

1.36 mg

68.00

Molybdenum

— mcg

Phosphorus

180.18 mg

18.02

Potassium

163.80 mg

4.68

Selenium

12.64 mcg

18.06

Sodium

166.14 mg

6.92

Zinc

2.34 mg

15.60

INDIVIDUAL FATTY ACIDS

nutrient

amount

%Daily Value

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

0.04 g

1.67

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

1.27 g

 

 

 

Need Some Creative Ideas and Recipes for Ways to Incorporate Oatmeal?

  • A great way to start your day—add your favorite nuts and fruits to a piping hot bowl of oatmeal.
  • Healthy versions of oatmeal cookies are a favorite for every one of all ages.
  • Add oat flour or whole oats the next time you make bread or muffins.
  • Sprinkle oat bran on your hot or cold cereal.
  • Oat groats make a great basis for stuffing for poultry.
  • You can make your own oat flour!  Simply add oats to a Vitamix or food processor and blend on high until you have a smooth flour.  Be sure to store in an air-tight container.

Here are some great oatmeal recipes already featured on MySuperFoods:

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/zoe-lucas-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-cookies/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/oatmeal-date-and-apple-muffins/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/pumpkin-pie-oatmeal-with-pumpkin-cream/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/pumpkin-oatmeal-muffins/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/chocolate-peanut-butter-oatmeal-balls/

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/08/18/baked-honey-oatmeal-with-raspberries-and-pistachios/

 

 

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Marketing Food to Kids – Friend or Foe?

karen le billionA couple weeks ago, Fooducate guest blogger Karen Le Billion reported on the evils of marketing to kids in “Food Marketing to Kids: What Every Parent Should Know”.  As a mom, I was predictably annoyed and frustrated.  At the top of my frustration list?  The reported 40,000 food ads that will reach my daughters this year.  Needless to say, these ads are powered by big food companies who easily fund million dollar fantasies about the merits of sugar, salt, chocolate covered, icing dipped hard-to-pronounce “food”.  The same food companies that we at MySuperFoods Company are up against in the stores.  The same food companies that ultimately inspired us to start a company of our own.

Le Billion, the author of French Kids Eat Everything is an advocate of banning “vending machines, fast food, and food advertising of any kind” (in all schools).  This is a noble cause and one that I would ultimately get behind as a mom and a business owner.  However, we have a long way to go before even small changes are made.  So, in the mean time, I want to be a part of the process that turns the current mindset around.  Lessening the effect of the one that lures our kids in with flashy messages delivering empty calories and dialing up another that educates, empowers and nourishes.   Not enough people are teaching kids about nutrition.  Who better than a nutrition-minded food company?

Let me acknowledge a few things to avoid the obvious counter argument:

1. Yes, we sell products to make money.  But we also have a larger goal to educate and excite parents and kids to eat well.  As a new company, it’s easy for us to say we support banning food advertising in schools because…we don’t have much money to advertise anywhere.  We know it’s not that simple.  The point is that instead of banning everything, we would rather be a part of the process of spreading the good word about food.

2. Yes, we make packaged food that will never be better than 1 ingredient, real, whole food.  We can’t compete with sliced apples dipped in natural peanut butter.  As moms, we found a need for on-the-go, nutrient dense food in our own families and learned others felt the same.  Whole grains, oat bran, flax seed, amaranth flour and real fruit provide excellent nutritional benefits.  And even though I love and eat apples with peanut butter regularly, when I forget a snack for my daughters as I’m pulling out the driveway, I need something I can grab.  Fast.

3. Yes, we used a cartoon likeness of our own super kids to appeal to you and yours.  We started this company because of our kids and it was a natural synergy.  But we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we know what attracts kids.  Bright, fun colors and characters don’t just belong on the other stuff.  Good food can (and should) be fun too.  We know the competition.  We had to make an entrance.

super team

4. No, I don’t think this will be easy or as rose-colored as I’ve made it sound.  But we’ve never had a problem being the underdog.

So, although the mom in me supports the ultimate goal behind a movement for stricter kids food regulation, I will for now proceed ahead, focused on raising awareness of nutrient dense options and ways to actually teach kids that what they put in their mouths matters.  Hopefully encouraging something fun in the meantime.

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Teaching Kids About Nutrition

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Megan Monday Goes Into Teacher Megan Mode – Some Awesome Books, Games, and Learning Ideas to Teach About Nutrition and Healthy Habits

I’m going to switch gears from my usual teachings and lectures about topics that probably make you want to crawl under a rock and hide from everything that exists (just kidding) and take a walk down memory lane from my teaching days (while they were not so long ago).  I loved researching great books to use in the classroom to teach or expand upon a topic.  Kids could interact with books and each other while reading them; they could explore the meaning behind them and engage in fun activities that branched off of the main topic.  Best of all, it was a different way to expose children to not only love literature, but to help them integrate important topics and lessons about life other than sitting in a desk and feel like they were held captive under a lecturing spell.  Books and fun activities allow kids to come alive.  Even as an adult in my nutrition and health studies, I read countless books on every subject imaginable – and I got lost in each one, thinking of great things I could do with everything I was learning.

With the start of school already in full swing for some and the first day of school nipping at everyone else’s feet, I figured what better time to share some of my great book finds to read with kids to bolster their love and understanding about healthy eating and living?  There are also some fun activities and games you can play at home to include children in learning about making healthy choices rather than receiving a discerning look or being told, “You have to eat that because it’s healthy and I told you so!”  It’s so much more rewarding to see kids “get it” through their own exploration and fun.

Book Suggestions:

  • “Eat Lots of Colors!  A Colorful Look at Healthy Nutrition for Children” by Helen Marstiller.  In this quick read, I love the vibrant colors and illustrations, in addition to the quirky rhymes that give it an upbeat rhythm.  Not only will your kids learn about healthy food choices (arranged by color and why they are healthy), but they will firm-up their colors knowledge, learn some new savvy vocabulary, and gain an appreciation for rhymes, poetry, and creative writing.  The book even comes with a handy chart organized by day of the week and color to help kids track as many healthy “color” fruits and veggies they can eat daily and weekly.  (You can make photocopies of this section to use over time.)  Ages – appropriate for all ages, while most suitable for younger ages and grades (however, I learned as a teacher, you can teach some poignant lessons to older kids using even the easiest picture books).  Learn more at: www.eatlotsofcolors.com

 

  • “The Monster Health Book – A Guide to Eating Healthy, Being Active, & Feeling Great for Monsters & Kids!” by Edward Miller.  This book is awesome.  It’s alive with color, pictures, charts, diagrams, and the friendly monster character seen throughout.  This book geared towards kids in grades 3 and up (while through some crafty re-wording, younger kids would get a real kick out of the pictures and message) breaks everything down in simple, easy-to-understand sections covering everything from serving size, the five food groups (with a section dedicated to each one), nutrients, deciphering food labels, healthy eating habits and smart suggestions for how to eat throughout the day, how being active is important for your health, educating about disease, avoiding unhealthy habits, the food-mood connection, self-esteem, and weight issues, to finally a page dedicated to resourceful webpages kids can research on further.  Visit www.edmiller.com to check out the author’s other books.
  • “Gregory, the Terrible Eater” by Mitchell Sharmat.  This easy read takes readers on an imaginative and creative journey about a goat who does not like to eat healthy (he actually is eating everything in his house!) and the sick ways he feels as a result.  By cleaning up his act and diet, Gregory turns things around.  Thumbs-up for this super cute story to reach out to kids who may be your typical “challenge” eaters. 

 

  • “The Vegetables We Eat” – by Gail Gibbons.  This easy, non-fiction read is chock-full of gorgeous illustrations of eight groups of vegetables (categorized by the part of the plant that is eaten) that will make anyone of any age appreciate their beauty.  It provides a very visual way for readers to know where food comes from, how it’s harvested, and where you can find healthy choices.  It also has a neat section in the back explaining where our most popular crops come from across the globe.

 

  • “Good Enough to Eat – A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition” by Lizzy Rockwell.  While this looks like an easy read geared towards younger grades, the content is actually packed with tons of relevant info for all ages.  I really love the simple way in which the author breaks down and explains how our bodies use signals to let us know when and why we’re hungry and how eating healthy affects all kinds of body functions.  Its illustrations are captivating and brilliant; there is even a section that shows the different parts to digestion and then a section showing how much of each nutrient you should be getting daily (and throws some math/measurement in there, too – always a good thing!).  It embeds some really cute and easy “experiments” kids can try to illustrate how certain food systems work.  It does an awesome job breaking down the key nutrients in a very visual and easy-to-grasp manner.  Bonus – there are two pages dedicated to some yummy, healthy, kid-friendly recipes they can try!  I also liked the back page that was dedicated to illustrating the calorie (nutrient)-density of certain foods by showing how much of one thing you could eat that would equal the same amount in calories; it even focused on showing what type and how long of a particular physical activity one would need to do to burn off a certain amount of calories.  I really enjoyed reading through this book and find it appealing to kids (and adults)! 

 

  • “Eat Healthy, Feel Great!” by Dr. William Sears, Martha Sears, R.N., and Christie Watts Kelly.  This book is definitely geared towards younger readers, but written by the acclaimed Dr. Sears, it is very family-focused and can be enjoyed by all under the same roof.  It takes the reader from birth to adult age and all of the important nutrients (and the foods that provide them) a growing body needs to thrive.  Its text structure is super easy to read, is visually-appealing, and the charismatic illustrations that focus on families is very engaging.  I like how it talks about “green light foods” – those being the healthy choices like vegetables and fruits – to be ones you can eat large quantities of.  Then it explains foods that should be limited more or completely avoided because they don’t offer anything healthy for your body or can actually be harmful (“yellow light foods” and “red light foods”).  It mentions food allergies, unhealthy ingredients that kids should be aware of (and the foods that contain them), how to be a label detective, the importance of staying hydrated and balancing all of your nutrients.  There are recipe and craft ideas for kids, and a list of resources in the back for parents and caregivers to check out.  My favorite part?  A pull-out mini-poster of “red light, yellow light, green light” foods to eat that you can hang anywhere to act as a visual reminder for everyone in the house.  Check out more: www.askdrsears.com

Game and Activity Suggestions:

  • The Lunch Box Game by Orchard Toys.  Ages 3-7.  This is a fun, easy, and portable memory game to play that reinforces making healthy selections to fill a lunch box.  The game’s educational guide notes that the game reinforces observation skills, developing personal and social skills, and bolstering early learning goals while teaching about making healthy food choices.  I say you can also use the picture cards to keep handy and teach about the different foods illustrated, in addition to allow kids to “shop” with the pictures or categorize into similar groups.

 

  • Crunch and Color – The Healthy Eating Game by Tiny Green Bee.  Ages 4+.  Designed and created by a mom who wanted to make mealtime fun and healthy for her family, this game gives kids points for eating a balanced and colorful plate of veggies, fruits, proteins, and grains.  Bonus points are given for good manners and trying new foods.  I like how the goal of this game is to not only teach kids about nutritious foods, but to teach them how to choose nutritious foods for themselves.  Portion of sales from this game even goes to non-profit children’s nutrition programs.  How much cooler can you get?!?  The cards are standard playing card size (all recycled materials…score!) and come in colorful designs and pictures.  The box is sturdy and easy to transport, making this a great travel game!   

 

  • Crunch and Color – Conversation Starters by Tiny Green Bee.  Ages 4+.  Designed by the same aforementioned awesome mom who created The Healthy Eating Game, this product was created to bring the whole family together at mealtime by inspiring creative thinking and healthy debates.  There are 104 conversation starter cards geared with questions ranging from all kinds of topics, not just nutrition (for example: “If a genie appeared and granted you one wish, what would you wish for?”  “If you were a vegetable, which one would you be and why?” “What makes food different colors?” “If you could invite a favorite character to dinner, whom would you pick and why?”).  What I like about this activity is that it 1) brings everyone together at dinner, no matter what your family structure is 2) it forces everyone to “unplug” and engage with each other…not a piece of technology 3) it sets the precedence that mealtime is not only a time for choosing to eat healthy, but that it’s a time to engage in rich interactions and 4) it keeps everyone engaged in fun, constructive conversation, so the focus may be on a great discussion rather than whether or not the kids like Brussels sprouts (and the battle that can ensue from that point on….).  When mealtime is fun and full of great memories, eating can be a positive experience for all rather than a stressful battle. 

 

  • Websites – Here is a list of some websites that offer games geared towards healthy eating and lifestyle choices:

 

Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Health and Nutrition Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching of Exponential Health and Wellness, LLC: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us

 

 

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