diet

What’s on the Menu – How Fat Can Be Your Friend

When celebrity fitness trainer Vinnie Tortorich came on the Addicted to Fitness podcast (click here to listen to entire episode) last year, he made a statement that really resonated with me. He said

The worse thing about dietary fat is that it’s called FAT!

That one statement inspired me to look into the low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) lifestyle to determine if it suited me better than the not so low carb lifestyle I was participating in at the time. After subtracting certain items that contain refined carbs from my diet and adding more items that were high in healthy fats, I started feeling fuller, longer and was no longer hangry two hours after a meal.

There is one particular “fatty” food item that has been a part of my diet well before my shift to LCHF. I’ve been hearing about its health benefits for well over a decade and its versatility has made it a staple in Shannon and I’s kitchen. It can be used as a cooking oil, salad dressing, finishing sauce and even a skin care product. The multi-talented food item I’m referring to is olive oil and it’s this week’s menu spotlight.

Olive oil is a broad category of oil made from pressed olives. I realize that isn’t “breaking news,” but I wanted to mention that because the different types of olive oils at the supermarket can be quite overwhelming. If you’re looking for the variety that provides the most health benefits, you’ll want to stick with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Any other variety may use solvents to extract the oil or partially consist of cheaper, inflammatory oils.

Even though EVOO, purchased from a reputable producer, doesn’t contain any protein or carbs, it’s still highly nutritious. One hundred grams, which is about 7 tablespoons, of EVOO contains 72% of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin E and 75% of our RDA for Vitamin K (source), both of which can contribute to preventing cardiovascular disease. The micronutrients contained in olive oil are impressive but it’s the type of fat it contains that really sets it apart from other cooking oils.

EVOO consists primarily of monounsaturated fat. This type of fat is more heat-resistant, which means it is less likely to oxidize when used in cooking applications. This is one aspect of EVOO that makes it superior to other cooking oils like canola or even flax-seed, which consist primarily of polyunsaturated fat. Less oxidation means less free radical production, which can cause inflammation that may researchers believe is responsible for chronic health conditions like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Oh, and EVOO contains a ton of anti-inflammatory phenols and polyphenols to further combat those previously mention conditions (source).

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As you can imagine, I frequently use EVOO to saute veggies and as my go-to salad dressing (2 parts EVOO + 1 part vinegar). I also use it to make my baked sweet potatoes fries nice & crispy, add extra flavor to my fried eggs and add even more monounsaturated fat to my daily avocado snack.

I mentioned it quickly earlier in this post, but it is very important that you purchase your EVOO from a reputable producer to get the optimum amount of health benefits. There are two great books, Extra Virginity Real Food / Fake Food, that describe some of the deception associated with olive oil.

A couple quite tips I’ll give you in regards to purchasing EVOO are buy imported and make sure the container it comes in is NOT clear (light can cause oxidation over time). If you have a brand of EVOO that you swear by, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to share it with us via email (elementaltampa@gmail.com) or snap a pic of the bottle and share it on our social channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) and don’t forget FAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU FAT!

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What’s on the Menu – The Best Smelling Health Food There Is

Most foods produce a distinct smell while cooking, but there is only a select few that elicit the “that smells awesome’ response from me while being prepared. The items that bring my olfactory senses to their figurative knees include:

  • Bacon: I know vegans that even enjoy the smell of cured pork bellies.
  • Coffee: Shannon didn’t drink caffeinated coffee while pregnant, but she loved smelling the beans.
  • Bread: We have a Cuban bakery in our neighborhood that makes me want to go on a carb binge every time I drive by.
  • Shallots: Doesn’t matter what meal is being prepared. If shallots are being used, I’m salivating and THAT’S one of the reasons why they are today’s menu spotlight.

Shallots belong to the Allium genus of vegetables, which also includes onions, leeks, garlic, etc. I’ve already declared my love for garlic in a previous menu spotlight (click here to check it out), and I often cook garlic & shallots together to double up on the mouth-watering aroma. As much as I would like Yankee Candle to carry a shallot scented candle, its perfume isn’t the main reason I love it so much.

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By weight, shallots contain more vitamins and minerals than its larger cousin the onion. Approximately one cup of shallots contains a significant amount of our recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, copper and iron. They also contain more antioxidants, by weight, than any other Allium vegetable (source). Research suggests that one particular antioxidant possessed by shallots can mitigate the damaging effects of several chronic health conditions.

When you chop or crush a shallot, you cause an enzymatic reaction that produces the sulfur containing antioxidant known as allicin. In specific scientific studies (source), this antioxidant has been shown to:

  • Reduce cholesterol.
  • Combat viral, bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Protect against certain forms of cancer.
  • Regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics.

Who would have thought that the onion mini-me would possess so many health benefits. Honestly, shallots taste & smell so good that I’d still use them even if they didn’t have all the health benefits.

Shallot pic

One recipe I frequently add shallots to is my breakfast bowl (pictured above). Besides shallots, the breakfast bowl includes dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.), mushrooms, mini sweet peppers, several eggs and diced tomatoes. I make sure to chop my shallots first because more allicin is produced the longer a chopped/crushed shallot goes uncooked. Next, I saute the mushrooms and peppers till soft (3-5 minutes), chop up a few tomatoes in the meantime, then throw in the greens & shallots for about a minute till the greens wilt.

Using the same pan I cooked the veggies, I fry up several over easy eggs in coconut oil. After the eggs are done, I slid them onto the cooked veggies, add the tomatoes & crushed red pepper and VOILA! Breakfast, lunch or dinner of champions.

If you’re a frequent shallot user, I’d love to hear about which dishes you add them to. Send your favorite recipe that features shallots to elementaltampa@gmail.com or reach out to us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).  I don’t think it will be better than my breakfast bowl, but there’s no shame in being runner-up.

 

What’s On The Menu – Eating Whole Foods On The Go

I’m a man who likes structure. I love scheduling out all my appointments, meetings, training sessions and so on. Hell, I even like scheduling out what food I’ll eat on a daily basis. Unfortunately life doesn’t always allow that to happen.

Regular readers of the blog know that Shannon and I’s schedule the last few weeks was completely rearranged by Hurricane Irma. After I heard Tampa was in the path of potentially one of the strongest storms to make landfall in the U.S., I disregarded any healthy eating habits and focused primarily on fortifying our house. Thankfully, Irma caused minimal damage and allowed us to return to our normal routine rather quickly.

Then, 2 weeks later, Shannon went into labor.

Shannon labor

These two epic life events forced us to eat a lot of prepackaged foods on the go. Fortunately for us, there are some legit prepackaged whole foods available nowadays. Below is a list of several of my favorite whole food items that you can eat on the go:

  • Epic Bars: these “meat bars” are made with high quality protein from sources like buffalo, venison, salmon, wild boar and many more. They also focus on using other whole ingredients that are low in sugar and free of gluten, grain, soy and dairy. The sriracha chicken bar pictured below contains 4 g of fat, 15 g of protein and only 1 g of carbs (click here for more nutritional info).
  • Trail Mix Packs: individual serving packs of raw and/or lightly roasted & salted almonds, cashews, walnuts and even peanuts are a great source of dietary fat, protein and fiber. Just beware of the sugar content of any trail mix packets that are filled with lots of candy or dried fruit. The Go Raw Trek Mix packets from Trader Joe’s contain 14 g of fat, 7 g of protein and 3 g of fiber.
  • Parmesan Crisps: these crispy chip substitutes are so flavorful that you won’t even remember the word Doritos after having them. I usually grab a $3-4 container from Whole Foods when I’m out and about, but you could easily make these at home. According to the Whole Foods website, 4 crisps contain 6 g of fat, 9 g of protein and 1 g of carbs (source).
  • Upgraded coffee: I don’t leave home without my homemade coffee concoction – 12 oz of coffee, 3 tbsp of Great Lakes Collagen and 1/4 cup of heavy whipping cream or canned coconut milk. This creation contains approximately 12 g of fat, 18 g of protein and <1 g of carbs. Click here to read more about Great Lakes Collagen.

Whole Foods Togo

That’s my abbreviated list of whole foods you can eat on the go. If you’ve got an item that you believe fits the criteria please let me know. Drop us a line, and by that I mean email us at elementaltampa@gmail.com or give us a shout on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter).

I believe that the moumental life events are done for the time being. Now Shannon and I are mainly focused on rearing our young, which means we’ll hopefully have time to make some home cooked meals. If you have any ideas for big batch dishes we can munch on during our maternity/paternity leave, feel free to send them our way.

 

What’s on the Menu – A Review of Arbonne Protein Shake Mix

I always promote the theory that a huge component of healthy eating is the utilization of whole ingredients. Whether it be fruits, vegetables, nuts or meat, I believe that the more wholesome you can be with your diet, the better.

However, I know that our go-go society makes eating whole foods somewhat difficult. Being a personal trainer that caters to clients in multiple locations requires me to frequently eat on the go. Unfortunately, whole foods aren’t always the most travel friendly.

I regularly bring tupperware containers full of whole foods with me whenever I can, but sometimes situations arise where having a portable meal replacement option available can be a godsend. I believe that’s one of the main reasons why protein shake mixes and meal replacement bars have risen in popularity over the past 5 years (source). Unfortunately, this rise in popularity has also led to market saturation, in my opinion.

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Ate this “breakfast” in the bank parking lot

The number of meal replacement bars & shakes you have to choose from nowadays is almost overwhelming. Also, most of these items are marketed as “health foods” while certain ones are no better than items you can get at a fast food restaurant (source).  These are the reasons why I love sharing my reviews of “meal replacement” options whenever I try them.

I was recently asked by a friend to try out a protein shake mix from a company called Arbonne (website). Arbonne is based out of Switzerland and it distributes a wide range of beauty & health products. According to their catalog, all their nutrition products are vegan, gluten-free and free of artifical sweeteners & flavors. I want to state that I am not a Arbonne distributor and currently have no plans to be one in the future. Right now, I’m just a taste tester.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, here’s my review of Arbonne’s vanilla protein shake mix:

  • Nutrition stats: 1 packet (~1/4 cup) contains 160 calories, 3 g of fat, 14 g of carbs and 20 g of protein; contains numerous vitamins & minerals, most noteably vitamin B12 (17% RDA) & vitamin E (16% RDA). Click here for more nutritional info on this product.
  • Taste: mixed half the packet with just water – dissolved well, not gritty or chunky – good vanilla flavor & not overtly sweet but I definitely got the stevia aftertaste; mixed remaining powder in a blender with frozen spinach & blueberries – created a super creamy smoothie, but I preferred it with just water.

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Overall, I was pretty impressed by the protein shake mix from Arbonne. The ability for it to dissolve completely in water is a huge bonus and the single serving packets are easy to transport. Sugar cane is the second most abundant ingredient according to the label, which I’m not thrilled about, but it wasn’t super sweet. I would probably add a little full fat coconut milk to my water to get a more satiating “meal”. Either way, if I were in the market for a vegan protein powder, I’d definitely consider Arbonne.

As previously mentioned, I’m not an Arbonne distributor, but if you’re interested in their products, I can connect you with someone who is. You can always contact me via email, elementaltampa@gmail.com, or give us a shout on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). If you do reach out, and I hope you do, make sure to include any suggestions on the next product you’d like me to review.

What’s On The Menu – It’s More Pea Than Nut, But I’m OK With That

Some of you may have guessed from the title what food I’ll be discussing in today’s menu spotlight, but for those who are still trying to figure it out, I’ll give you a hint: it taste DELICIOUS! I’m sure that’s all you needed to realize that I’ll be analyzing the nutrition of peanut butter in today’s post.

My love for peanut butter is borderline extreme. I don’t know if I’ve tasted a peanut butter product I didn’t like. My dedication to this faux-nut runs so deep that I mandated that Shannon eat at least a tablespoon a day while she’s pregnant with the hope that our child won’t be born with a peanut allergy. As silly as that may sound, a recent study suggested that exposing infants, that are at least 4 months old, to peanut products could make them less likely to develop peanut allergies (source). It’s probably a longshot but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the same logic extends to babies in utero.

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Peanut butter is a derivative of peanuts, DUH, which belong to the Fabaceae family, better known as the legume family. Even though peanuts are often used in the same culinary applications as true tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, etc.) they are actually related to peas and beans (source).

Unlike green beans or snap peas, peanuts actually grown underground. This is extremely beneficial to the agricultural process because they can create their own nitrogen, which helps them grow. Then when they die, they release that nitrogen into the soil for other plants to use. This reduces the amount of additional nitrogen in the form of fertilizer the farmer has to use (source).

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But this post isn’t about the agricultural benefits of peanuts. It’s about its buttered version’s nutritional pros and cons. Check out the list below and make up your mind on whether or not peanut butter should be on YOUR menu:

PROS

  • Contains a significant amount of all 3 macronutrients: 100 grams (g) consists of 50 g of fat, 25 g of protein and 20 g of carbs. Also contains 5 g of the pseudo macro fiber (source).
  • Contains a significant amount of micronutrients: 73% RDA of Manganese, 67% RDA of Vitamin B3 and 45% RDA of Vitamin E just to name a few (source).
  • Contains cancer fighting antioxidants: peanut butter contains p-coumaric acid which research suggests could help prevent colon cancer (source).

CONS

  • Peanuts contain aflatoxins, which have been linked to cancer & childhood development issues. It should be noted that the process of turning peanuts into peanut butter eliminates approximately 90% of the aflatoxins (source).
  • Contains a large amount of omega 6 fatty acids. Research suggests that frequent consumption of foods high in omega 6’s can increase inflammation and create a greater risk for cardiovascular disease (source).
  • It doesn’t contain as much as roasted peanuts, but peanut butter does contain oxalate, which can contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones (source).

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After a cursory look at the nutritional data on peanut butter, I can say with all honesty that I’m still a huge fan. I don’t advocate pigging out on it, but it can be a macronutrient dense addition to your diet. Just make sure there is no one in your household that is allergic.

As you can see from the photos above, I’m a big fan of adding a smear of peanut butter to fruits and vegetables. I’d love to hear about which food vehicles you use to get your dose of PB. Please email your go-to recipes/meals to elementaltampa@gmail.com. You an also post your PB creations on any of our social media channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). Let’s all show our love & appreciation for this nut butter imposter!

 

What’s on the Menu – Let’s Talk Turkey

I may be guilty of propagating a myth about one of our nation’s founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin. In the Instagram post (link) promoting this week’s menu spotlight, I suggested that the wild turkey was in a race with the bald eagle to be on our nation’s seal.

I recall hearing that historical tidbit from a reliable source and when I went to find supporting research, I found a source that seemed to confirm my statement. Upon further research, it appears the idea of Franklin championing for the wild turkey to be our nation’s symbol way back in the 18th century isn’t entirely true.

According to excerpts from a letter authored by Franklin, he did believe that the wild turkey was a “bird of courage” more likely to chase off an intruder than the bald eagle, but did NOT suggest that the turkey should be a part of our nation’s seal. It appears that Franklin was somewhat apathetic to the idea of having a bird on our nation’s seal altogether (source). Regardless of the turkey’s moral character, the fact that it provides both significant macro & micronutrients is 100% accurate.

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You won’t find these types of turkeys at your grocery store

The turkey you pick up at the grocery store looks very different from the turkeys Benjamin Franklin was talking about. They may look different but their macronutrient content is very similar. Three ounces of turkey breast, without skin, contain 2 grams (g) of fat, 0 g of carbs and 26 g of protein (source). Not a great source of healthy fat or carbs, but a definite protein powerhouse. No surprise that you find turkey on a lot of meal plans for individuals looking to put on muscle.

Much like other animal-based protein sources, turkey is high in B vitamins, B3 & B6 in particular. B3, also known as niacin, is critical for the conversion of dietary macronutrients into usable energy including the production of glycogen. For those unfamiliar with glycogen, it is an animal starch stored in our muscles as fuel for future physical activity (source). This particular function of B3 is most likely why bodybuilders ingest supplemental forms of it to help them maintain their rigorous workout schedule.

Turkey also contains a significant amount of important dietary minerals. Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and iron are several minerals you’ll absorb eating turkey, but the mineral most abundant in turkey is selenium. A 4oz serving of turkey contains 62% of our DV of selenium, which is known to be a powerful antioxidant. With that said, it should come as no surprise that the consumption of turkey, and other poultry, has been shown to reduce the risk conditions/syndromes caused by oxidative stress like pancreatic cancer (source).

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Turkey doesn’t contain the amount of fat I normally prefer in my animal protein, but that’s an easy problem to fix. Shannon and I love using ground turkey (which does have added fat) to make burgers and I throw a couple slices of avocado on them to up their fat content. The combination of the protein from the turkey and the fat from the avocado makes for one satiating meal.

If you have a go-to turkey recipe that you think trumps my turkey burgers, please feel free to share it on our social media channels (FacebookInstagram or Twitter). You can also email it to us at elementaltampa@gmail.com.

Email is the best way to find out more about Elemental Training Tampa’s online training program. Get that personal training you’ve always wanted at a price that you can afford.

What’s On The Menu – Pasture Raised Chicken: Is It Worth It?

I, like many of you, am faced with a variety of chicken choices when I go to the grocery store each week. Do I buy organic, free-range, pasture raised or conventionally raised? The choices seem to be growing by the year, but is one superior to the other?

Much like beef, I believe that chickens raised in a way that closely resembles the lives their wild ancestors live (e.g. 24/7 access to open pastures & ability to forge for insects and other food sources) provides a better animal welfare situation than that of birds caged in confined quarters.

When looking into potential environmental impacts of pasture raised chickens, the research is mixed. Some individuals contend that pasture raised chickens take more resources to produce (source) while other cite the facts that these chickens eliminate the need for fertilizer and their food sources don’t require any herbicides to produce (source).

Those aspects are important to consider when purchasing your chicken, but the main goal of this week’s menu spotlight is to determine if pasture raised chicken is nutritionally superiority to its conventional counterpart.

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Let’s take a quick look at the macronutrients contained in both pasture & conventionally raised chicken. One cup of a roasted chicken breast contains 231 calories, 43 grams (g) of protein, 5 g of fat and 0 g of carbs. It should be noted that different parts of the chicken, skin-on or skin-off, contain different nutritional values. No matter what part of the chicken you prefer, they all contain a substantial amount of protein.

To determine which one is nutritional superior, were going to have to look at their respective micronutrients. Luckily, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) performed a study in 2013 comparing the micronutritional difference between pasture raised and non-pasture raised chickens. The results of their study showed that pasture raised chickens were higher in vitamin D3 and E, both of which are important to mitigating auto immune diseases.

The APPPA study also discovered that the pasture raised chicken contained an omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio of 5:1 while the standard 6:3 ratio for conventionally raised chicken is 15:1 (source). This is important because recent research suggest that foods containing large amounts of omega 6’s (e.g. vegetable oils & fast food) could lead to inflammatory disease like cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and more (source).

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After looking at the preliminary evidence, I have reached a verdict: pasture raised chicken is nutritional superior. Yes, a pasture raised chicken from the store or a local farmer could cost 2-3 times more than a conventionally raised chicken, but like the old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” If chicken is one of your primary protein sources, and you are interested in optimizing your nutrition, you may want to think about forking over the extra dough.

If you’re a regular consumer of pasture raised chicken, I’d love to hear some of your go to recipes. One of my favorite recipes that uses chicken, pasture raised or not, is chicken pot pie soup (recipe link). I skip the pie crust and do my best to use gluten-free ingredients, but I highly recommed you do yourself a favor and make it tonight! Feel free to send a pic of your delicious chicken recipe to us on social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) or you can email it to elementaltampa@gmail.com.

You can also take advantage of the complimentary fitness consultations we’re currently offering by emailing us. Whether you need advice on nutrition or just want workout tips, I’d be happy to set up an appointment with you to discuss how you can improve your fitness.

What’s On The Menu – More Than Just The Freshmaker

How did mint become the go-to car air freshener scent? Was it good marketing? Did people like how that green leaf looked hanging from their rear view mirror?

It’s visual appeal could be a possible reason but I think it has more to do with how the scent affects our biology. A study performed in the early 2000s found that the smell of peppermint actually affected the amount of anxiety, fatigue and physical demand experienced by drivers on prolonged trips in the car. The study suggested that “periodic administration of (peppermint) odors over long-term driving may prove beneficial in maintaining alertness and decreasing highway accidents and fatalities” (source). Cognitive benefits are just the start to the positive health benefits of this refreshing herb.

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I constantly tell you about the high antioxidant content of certain fruits and vegetables, but I don’t seem to give as much recognition to herbs. Shame on me because mint, which is a broad term for 15-20 different species, contains one of the highest antioxidant capacity of any food. One particular antioxidant contained in mint, rosmarinic acid, has been shown to be an effective natural treatment for seasonal allergies. Also, if you already have the sniffles due to the common cold, menthol contained within mint plants has been long regarded as a natural decongestant because of its ability to break up phlegm and mucus (source).

The benefits of mint not only alleviate cold like symptoms, they can also help prevent you from getting a cold or some other type of infection. Peppermint oil has been shown to stop the growth of certain types of fungus and bacteria including the nasty MRSA. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, which can help improve the performance of our immune system (source). Speaking of performance, mint may be the PED all athletes can use without fear of getting busted.

I already mentioned one study that demonstrated how peppermint enhanced the performance of drivers, but can it do the same for athletes? A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Medicine in 2013 discovered that individuals that ingested a minute amount of peppermint essential oil displayed improvements in exercise performance, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and several other related categories. The researchers believe that these improvements were due to the herb’s ability to relax bronchial smooth muscles, increase ventilation & brain oxygen concentrations and decrease blood lactate levels (source). That means that if you can run and chew gum at the same time, you may have a leg up on your competition.

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I always try to chew gum while working out, except for disciplines that require me to wear a mouthpiece (e.g. kickboxing, grappling, etc.). I’m sure it helps me concentrate but I use it mainly to prevent dry mouth. I use the crappy sugar-free stuff you get at the grocery store, which is peppermint flavored but I doubt has any real peppermint in it. Maybe I’ll perform a little experiment on yours truly to see if ingesting peppermint essential oil has a beneficial effect on my workout performance. Stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear how you like to incorporate mint into your diet. I enjoy throwing a handful of mint leaves into a tall glass of club soda with lime, essentially making a non-alcoholic mojito. Please feel free to share your minty fresh recipes with us on our social media (FacebookInstagram or Twitter) or email them to elementaltampa@gmail.com.

You can also take advantage of the free fitness consultations I’m currently offering by emailing me.

Last but not least, we’d really appreciate it if you vote for Addicted to Fitness for the “best local podcast” in the Creative Loafing Best of the Bay contest. Click the following link to cast your vote. Thanks!